Hotel quarantine survival guide

Photo of a girl in hotel quarantine

In March 2020, the Morrison Government introduced mandatory hotel quarantine for all residents returning from overseas. Whether the drastic measure is considered effective or a costly overkill is hotly debated, and it looks like it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. 🏨

After looking on from afar for months, it’s now my turn to do my time in quarantine. Following a string of flight “cancellations” due to caps on international arrivals, it seemed like the least of my worries. ❌

Note: this is based on my personal experience as a single in Brisbane; check out this great guide for families. There are also a number of variations between hotels and jurisdictions.

At the airport

On arrival, you will queue (observing social distancing) and continue to wear masks. There may or may not be Wi-Fi; Sydney provided it, Brisbane did not.

First, you’ll follow standard e-passport customs clearance and baggage collection. If you need to pee, go now! 🚻

We also queued for a sniffer dog check.

Next you’ll speak to the police and have the Quarantine Direction read out to you and be informed of your hotel name and address. You’ll also receive a bunch of paperwork, so carry a pen and a document sleeve.

Afterwards, you’ll be ushered to a waiting area until everyone has been processed.

Finally, you’ll be called to board the coach under military supervision. They will load your bags while you have your attendance checked before you board. There’s a police escort to the hotel and more military waiting at the other end.

Ah, great to be home circa 1788. ⛓️

At the hotel

Photo of empty food delivery paper bag

Check in was quick as we’d filled out our forms at the airport. Plus, hotels have been going through the motions for months now.

You’ll be informed of your room number and handed a welcome pack containing details about meals, room facilities and services, as well as who to contact if you feel unwell or need help.

Some people get lucky, but chances are your room won’t have a window that opens or a balcony. I find setting air-conditioning to 23Β°C is tolerable but you may struggle to adjust initially. 🀧

Three meals are provided per day and you cannot opt out of this service, nor the cost. Food intolerances are accommodated, but overall meals are hit and miss. There will be limited kitchen facilities (if any) in the room; I have a kettle and a coffee machine, and I do dishwashing in the bathroom basin.

Your room will resemble a studio flat and will most likely feature a desk, futon, large bed (or two), cupboards, shower and probably a separate bath.

You’ll receive calls every other day from both the local health department and the Australian Red Cross. This is to see how you’re coping, check whether you’ve developed any Covid-19 symptoms, and to ask for your consent to do testing.

I advise that you opt into testing (which occurs on the 4th and 10th day), as failure to do so will mean you stay an additional 10 days at your own expense. πŸ’Έ

Getting ready

Photo of a person typing on a laptop

Knowing what to expect can take the edge off the experience, especially in the first days. But being prepared is even better. This is what made a big difference for me:

  • Bring Vitamin D supplements β˜€οΈ
  • Pack travel adapters for all your electronic devices from overseas or a power board, which would only require one
  • Pack a HMDI cable or Chromecast to stream from your devices to the TV
  • Bring cutlery, a bowl and plate. Hotels provide disposable cutlery and packaged food. So unless you want to cut steak with a plastic knife or pour cereal directly into your mouth, BYO
  • If you don’t have an Australian SIM card, see if you can pick one up at the airport or order online
  • Bring snacks and a bottle of alcohol. Hotels sell both at marked up prices, as you’d expect
  • Pack resistance bands for easy weight training. They’re cheap, effective and are light to carry
  • Bring 2-3 sets of activewear to tide you over in-between laundry service
  • Join groups to see how others are managing quarantine. You can also keyword search threads: Australians in quarantine facilities, Hotel Quarantine Australia, and Mandatory 14 day Hotel Quarantine chat Group.
  • Check out my story highlight “Quarantine” on Instagram for a blow-by-blow of what happened at The Westin Brisbane!

Survival guide

Photo of a hotel bedroom

So now you’re “home sweet home” for the next 14 days. Before you throw your arms up in despair, try this:

  • Arrange for a friend to deliver a care package. Reception accepts “reasonable” deliveries and will check it for contraband and excessive alcohol first. Aside from snacks, I requested air freshener, chewing gum and paracetamol
  • Set a routine. Each day I set aside time for productive tasks like life admin and exercise, as well as “me time” and calls
  • Make video calls fun by playing games online and host a trivia night or weekend brunch virtually
  • Exercise regularly, especially if you find yourself confined to the bed or sofa all day. There’s plenty of no equipment/limited space exercises you can try via an app or on YouTube
  • Walk around when answering calls to help stay active
  • Treat yourself to food delivery from time to time. It’s tough trying not to be wasteful but, let’s be honest, quarantine meals don’t win Michelin stars
  • Draw a bubble bath, sing in the shower, or paint your nails. Take this time to yourself while you have it. πŸ›€

What happens next

Discharge is like a cliff edge after such a challenging experience. Some choose to walk away and never look back, and that’s fine. Others continue the narrative. If you’re the latter, you can:

  • Challenge paying the invoice. No doubt the costs of even getting this far have been crippling, and having to fork out for this biosecurity measure imposed on us by the government is such a slap in the face. If you can demonstrate financial hardship, you might as well try
  • Share your story online and to reporters. Keeping the pressure on politicians and continuing to raise awareness locally and globally will help fellow Australians still struggling to come home
  • Consider joining a class action.

Australia survival guide

Photo of an Australian koala

As an Australia expat living in the UK, I often get asked by friends and colleagues “how did you survive?!” to which I respond: if my dog Jack can handle it, I’m sure you can!

We may be home to some of the world’s most venomous snakes and spiders, but you’re much more likely to be stung by a “bloody mozzie” or by a random breath test. πŸš“

That being said, there is a thing or two to know before you go. πŸ‘‡

Beachgoer basics

Photo of swimmers between the red and yellow flags

Australia is known for its sandy beaches, sunshine and surf for good reason! β˜€οΈ

To make the most of your time at our world famous beaches, keep these tips in mind and you won’t find yourself thrown into the deep end.

  • Swim between the flags at beaches patrolled by Surf Life Savers. The flag system protects us from rips (powerful currents)
  • Shark attacks are rare, so to keep it that way by swimming at patrolled beaches alongside other swimmers and avoid sunrise and sunset when sharks are most active
  • Box jellyfish and the blue ringed octopus are the ones to watch out for in the water
  • The ozone layer is thin over Australia, so remember to slip, slop, slap to avoid getting sunburnt in a “sunburnt country”
  • Temperatures can soar, especially in summer, so always keep hydrated and seek shade where possible.

Wrestling reptiles

Photo of an Australian saltwater

Crikey! If you’ve ever enjoyed the famous Crocodile Hunter series, you’ll recall the take home message that when you respect nature it respects you back. 🦎

  • Crocodiles inhabit the northernmost part of Australia. Attacks are rare, but when in croc country follow steps to be crocwise and only swim where there are designated safe swimming signs
  • Snakes are more scared of you than you are of them and only strike when they feel threatened. Stick to the path when bushwalking, and keep your distance if you spot one at home and call a professional
  • Of Australia’s 10,000 spider species, only two types should be of concern: the Sydney funnel-web and redback spider. If you encounter one, call a professional to have it safely removed: pest control, the Australian Reptile Park or the Poisons Information Centre (13 11 26).

Cute critters

Teeth and scales aside, Australia is home to some of the most unique and adorable critters on the planet; koalas, kangaroos and smiley quokkas come to mind. Cute, yes, but looks can kill:

  • Kangaroos are colour coded! Grey kangaroos are smaller and mild-tempered compared to their red cousins, so keep this in mind when approaching one for a photo 🦘
  • Tasmanian devils appear cute and cuddly but are skittish and feisty, so heed their guttural growls and keep your fingers out of reach
  • Dingoes may look like a family pet but respect this rust-coloured wild canine like you would a wolf
  • You’re unlikely to spot a duck-billed platypus in the wild, but if you do admire it from afar as their toxic stingers can be painful.

What Australians actually fear

Photo of a kookaburra and a magpie in an Australian backyard

While crocodiles and sharks won’t really bother you, magpies in swooping season certainly do. And nothing is worse than the sting of a bluebottle at the beach, or the sight of a huntsman spider scurrying up the wall. 😨

If you’ve ever wondered what Aussies actually fear, it’s the dreaded email alert from MyGov in your inbox signalling tax return time…

So now that you know the basics, enjoy your time Down Under!


Ever heard of the infamous drop bear? Share some of the “scariest” things you’ve heard about Australia in the comments! πŸ‘‡


More in Sydney

Photo of Bondi Beach ocean pool

Sightseeing in Sydney

Hotspots around Sydney that offer a truly memorable experience for locals and visitors. ⛴️

Sightseeing in Sydney

Photo of Bondi Beach ocean pool

I spent six years living in Sydney before I moved to London. From postcard destinations to uncovering local gems, I savoured every minute of this harbourside city. ⛴️

Visitors often experience choice overload when it comes to exploring, and trust me its the same story for Sydneysiders when it comes to weekend planning.

Here ‘s my shortlist of hubs around the city that offer a truly memorable experience for locals and visitors. Each area boasts stunning scenery, good transport connections and great food options. πŸ˜‹

Circular Quay

Photo of a Sydney Ferry

Circular Quay epitomises a Sydney postcard and it hosts the most spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks in the country. πŸ₯³

Within walking distance, you can easily access the iconic Sydney Opera House, view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.

A day in Circular Quay will keep you busy, but food options tend to be overpriced. The Rocks is just a stone’s throw away and has better dining options, or you can organise a picnic in the gardens with a view.

Transport: Circular Quay is well connected and serviced by rail, light rail, buses and of course the classic green and yellow Sydney Ferries.

The Rocks

Photo of people walking at The Rocks in Sydney

A short stroll from Circular Quay and at the doorstep of Sydney Harbour Bridge is The Rocks – a heritage district from the settlement days with cobbled lanes and home to one of Australia’s oldest pubs.

Enjoy the famous markets at the weekend; this is where you’ll find the perfect souvenir! Christmas in July is a particularly fun time to visit. 🎁

Weather is pleasant year round, but if you’re after something special then check out Vivid Sydney in May and June when the city becomes a festival of light and sound where art meets technology.

Transport: a short walk from Circular Quay and its many transport connections, and the area is also directly serviced by buses.

Lavender Bay

Photo of the North Sydney Olympic Pool

Cross the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge to the Lower North Shore home to Lavender Bay! There area is much more than just getting your adrenaline rush at Luna Park Sydney. 🎑

Easily spend a whole day exploring this peaceful paradise. You can enjoy scenic walks from Lavender Bay to Milson’s Point, stop by Wendy’s Secret Garden, and swim at the North Sydney Olympic Pool by sunset. If you have energy to spare, return back to the city via the pedestrian walk across the bridge.

Also be sure to check whether the Kirribilli Markets happening this weekend – you never know what you might find! πŸ’Ž

Transport: the area is serviced by buses and ferry or a short walk from Milson’s Point train station.

Balmoral Beach

Balmoral Beach isn’t for surfers. It’s actually one of Sydney’s quieter beaches in terms of crowds and the waves. 🌊

Situated in the harbour, Balmoral Beach offers leisure activities like swimming, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkelling or strolling down the boardwalk with gelato in hand.

Rocky Point Island is the perfect picnic spot which is accessible via an idyllic bridge, and there are plenty of eateries around to satisfy everyone’s tastes and budget. Personally I recommend getting fish ‘n’ chips takeaway from the famous Bottom of the Harbour.

Transport: the area is serviced by buses, or you can drive but parking prices can be steep.

Spit to Manly walk

Photo of a water dragon lizard

This 10km bush walk offers stunning coastal views and the opportunity to spot some wildlife (the non venomous variety, if you stick to the trail!). You can take your time or power walk your way through, so it’s perfect for all fitness levels.

Technically you can start from either end, but most people start from The Spit Bridge in Mosman and finish up in Manly. This is probably due to the variety of food options awaiting you at the finish line.

Along the route you’ll come across ancient Aboriginal rock carvings, sub-tropical bushland, secret beaches and more. The path itself consists of paved walkways, boardwalks, bush trails and stretches of sand to cross. 🐚

Transport: buses to The Spit Bridge in Mosman, and both buses and ferries to and from Manly.

Manly

Speaking of Manly… While Bondi is more widely known across the globe, Manly is frequented more by locals and visitors alike.

Its tree-limed promenade is perfect for watching surfers and beach volleyball players, and off to the side is its quieter counterpart Shelly Beach which is perfect for snorkelling. 🐟

If you don’t fancy getting your hair wet, you can also explore its many eateries and bars as well as retail stores, boutiques and markets. It’s also a hub of thriving nightlife, so don’t be in a rush to leave.

Transport: ferries from Circular Quay or frequent bus services.

Palm Beach

Palm Beach – aka “Summer Bay” from Home and Away – is situated at the farthest reaches of the Northern Beaches. Its stunning scenery and quiet privacy often attracts celebrities as their choice location for a Sydney getaway.

Its other claim to fame is the iconic view from Barrenjoey Headland. Standing alongside a picturesque lighthouse, you can take in sweeping views of the peninsula flanked by beaches on both sides. If you can turn your gaze to the opposite direction, you can see as far as the Central Coast region!

There’s two pathways to the summits; a long winding trail and a short steep path. I recommend taking the short route uphill for a bit of exercise and taking it easy on the way down.

Transport: regular buses or accessible by ferry from the Central Coast.

Bondi Beach

Photo of Bondi Beach in Sydney

No Sydney sightseeing listicle would be complete without covering Bondi Beach, home to Bondi Rescue, Bondi Vet and my favourite Italian pasticceria!

Bondi Beach is where you’ll show off your Sydney holiday on Instagram: gelato in one hand, a cocktail in the other, sand between your toes and saltwater in your hair. 🀳

Top sights and activities in Bondi are the graffiti wall, Bondi Icebergs ocean pool, weekend markets, open air cinema in summer, and Sculptures by the Sea outdoor exhibition during every October.

Transport: the area is serviced by buses, or you can walk 15min from Bondi Junction train station.


Know a secret spot or local gem that everyone should experience in Sydney? Share your insider tips in the comments! πŸ‘‡


More in Sydney

Photo of an Australian koala

Australia survival guide

From crocodiles and sharks to a nasty sunburn, here’s how to survive a visit Down Under. 🐨