$27,000 fees and no time: 7 Aussies on what it's like to be stranded overseas right now.

Borders are closing, flights are grounded, and countries around the world are sending out a clear message to their citizens: ‘come home now’.

As Australia prepares to close its borders to non-residents on Friday at 9pm, Australians abroad have been left scrambling, scared that ruling will soon apply to them.

But ‘coming home’ is proving easier said than done for some, many of whom are cutting holidays short and losing thousands of dollars trying to board flights home. Others living abroad are being left jobless, and there are some families facing the prospect of leaving wives and husbands behind for months on end as the world waits out the COVID-19 pandemic. 

WATCH: Your COVID-19 questions answered. Post continues after video.

Video by Mamamia

Our government is urgently trying to arrange a rescue flight for over 100 Australians trapped in Peru.

The Peru government declared a state of emergency because of the coronavirus, announcing it would shut down all international flights within 24 hours for at least two weeks on Monday, leaving many tourists stuck.

Brisbane couple Donna Parkin and Mike O’Connor forked out $28,000 for the last seats on a plane out of Santiago in a desperate dash home, as Chile closed its borders.


“Presently attempting to drink $28k worth of wine in business class lounge,” wrote Mike on Facebook.

“The ACCC will be my first stop when we get home,” he added.

It’s a story being told by Aussies stuck in countries around the world.

Here are just seven more from the Mamamia community:

Lauren McIlvenie, 36.

“My mum is stuck on a boat in South America.

“Their boat has been in Antartica since early March, they have been denied access to all South American ports and are taking a slow 28 day sail to France.

“Who knows what happens after that. They are currently enjoying free food and booze though and are trying to entertain themselves.”

Jenna Cunningham, 34.

“We left Australia (Canberra) to visit my mum for her 60th as a surprise in early March.

“We are so very aware that Australia is advising us to come home soon. Yet our airline is uncontactable. With three sons five and under, I have sat on hold for hours, to not get through.

“Online we attempted to change our flights to find that charges were as high as $27,000 to change our dates to a sooner flight.

“Our airline states online that fees are all waived, but we cannot speak to them to check the correct information. The other charges for flights over the weekend for example sat between $15,000 and $19,000 for a family of five.


“Our hope is that our flight next week will go ahead. We’re in Scotland currently. My absolute worst-case scenario is that we get stuck in Dubai. Best-case scenario we get home to isolate for two weeks.”

Marnie Johnston, 28.

“We live in the UK, but were planning to come home in May for three weeks, with our baby girl to meet the rest of her family for the first time. And for me and Dan to get married at my childhood home.

“We’ve had to cancel it all and while I’m devastated about the wedding, I am even more devastated that I have no idea when Ada will get to meet the rest of my family.”

Serena Paramananthan, 50.

“My partner and I are in week two of our US holiday. The trip was to celebrate turning 50 last year and surviving a divorce a few years back.

“We started in Seattle and drove down to San Francisco, and at first there was a lot of media about COVID-19, but on the ground it was business as usual. On our way into San Francisco two days ago, we stopped for lunch in Sausalito and everything was fine. By the time we drove into San Francisco 20 minutes later, the city was in lockdown.

“The minute DFAT told us to come home, we tried to ring Qantas to change our flights. We waited four hours on the phone only to be told all flights out of San Francisco and LA to the east coast of Australia were full.

“I was stressed about being stuck here after the DFAT announcement. But sense soon prevailed. So we are just biding our time until we can get home tomorrow [Friday] on a flight.


“I have lost money for tours booked to Alcatraz etc, but I expect to be refunded.”

Bree Baldwin, 35.

“I came to Calgary, Canada, eight months ago on a two-year work visa.

“Calgary recently shut down schools, enforced strict border rules and advised no gatherings of over 50 people. Gyms and most restaurants have been closed for over a week now. It’s a ghost city.

“I had recently left my job two weeks early (when COVID-19 was just occurring elsewhere) and I had two amazing career job offers I was deciding upon. Last week both offers were revoked due to recruitment freezes.

“I quickly realised it was happening for most roles as people were being laid off rather than being newly hired.

“Flights were being reduced in and out of the country and the Canadian prime minister earlier this week advised their citizens abroad to come home.

“Speaking to my mum and sister a few days ago back home, I was frustrated that COVID-19 in a way was forcing me to decide. My mum really wanted me home, however my sister wasn’t so sure. I couldn’t decide.

“I could bunker down and stay and hope for a job which could be a few months away, or come home and possibly have a better chance. I also looked into whether my $2500 travel insurance included pandemics. It doesn’t and that was another concern I had about my health.

“I’m fortunate to have a supportive family who I’ve borrowed money off for my $1700 flight home. I’m packing up my life here (cutting rent short, giving away all my belongings that won’t fit into two suitcases). So much to quickly pack up and sort out whilst having trouble getting around and accessing shops that are open.


“My sister is trying to buy me enough groceries for my return when I go into 14 day isolation at a vacant family unit, which is difficult because she can hardly buy enough for her household. I feel like a burden.

“I was initially angry about coming home, although I knew it was the right decision for me and my personal circumstances.”

Alyssa*, 32. 

“We are an Australian diplomat family in Yangon, Myanmar, hoping to return to Australia on Saturday (if international flights are still happening).

“I, like so many diplomatic families, will have to leave behind a spouse (essential embassy staff) for an indefinite amount of time and travel with small children back to Australia.

“Many of us are returning to no homes/cars and food/ supplies for 14 days of isolation. Many difficult decisions, many selfless Aussies staying behind to assist and run embassies that support so many Aussies abroad too. In a different way we are front-line workers too – our spouses at the embassies are working tirelessly to assist Aussies in hospitals, airports, and prisons worldwide.

“So many will make the exact same decisions as us – do we stay and risk limited medical assistance or fly home and leave one family member behind?

“There are some really incredibly selfless and brave people in our embassies abroad.


“[We are] stuck but strong.”

Carol*, 52. 

“I’ve lived in Singapore for almost 13 years now and I took my older girls out of their boarding school in Brisbane and flew them back to Singapore this week to be with us.

“I also have two younger kids in Singapore local schools, so I’ve been perplexed as to why the PM of Australia is trying to “copy” the model we have here as we’ve been training the kids for this situation for years.

“Australian schools don’t have the systems in place we do here. I also have the worry of ageing parents in Brisbane, who if they get sick, I might not get to see them because of the 14 day self-isolation.”

Are you an Aussie abroad? How has COVID-19 affected you? Let us know in the comments below.

Feature image: Getty.

*names changed for privacy reasons.

The Australian Government Department of Health advises that the only people who will be tested for COVID-19 are those with symptoms who have either returned from overseas in the past 14 days or been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the past 14 days. 

If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000. 

To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.