travel

'We just flew to Fiji. Here's everything you need to know about taking an overseas holiday right now.'

My daughter and I flew out to Fiji last week on Virgin’s first international flight since the Australian border closed.

It was just as emotional as you’d expect with lots of hugs and tears, whoops and cheers, and many glasses of bubbles.

Travel is part of our family identity and a for us, a huge part of what it means to be Australian - finally heading off overseas after so long was exquisitely surreal.

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Amazingly, Fiji is the same slice of heaven it was 20 months ago, when the impacts of the pandemic forced its tourism staff to close its resorts and services and return to their families and villages. 

Its reopening is joyous, and the hospitality feels even warmer - if that’s possible - the vibe is relaxed and chill and even the cyclones seem to be on our side. We are mask-free, stress-free and covid-free. 

I’ve been getting a lot of questions from friends and family since we arrived, and if you’ve been on the fence about booking a tropical holiday, I think you’ll be super happy to read the answers.

1. Do you have to quarantine in your room on arrival?

You absolutely do not! On arrival at Castaway Island on Thursday I was straight into the water with a Pina Colada in my hand. 

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Everyone over 12 must do a rapid antigen test at your hotel 48 hours into your stay - but until then you can enjoy your resort and any other Care Fiji Commitment (CFC) certified operators. 

CFC is Fiji’s accreditation program for all of its tourist operators, and it’s the backbone of their covid tourism protocols.

2. Are Fijians vaccinated?

Yes - their national vax rate is more than 90 per cent. Here on Castaway Island 100 per cent of the staff are double dosed, and most of their families and villages are too. 

There’s regular staff testing, and after 20 months without tourists and for many, without work and income, locals are committed to keeping their guests, colleagues and communities safe.

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3. Can you do local tours?

You sure can. From arrival you can use any operator that is CFC certified - this includes transport (we helicoptered over to the island) and tours – like snorkeling day trips, cruises and other island activities.

4. Can you leave your accommodation?

Again, yes you can - if you want to. Sunshine, perfect temperature water and cocktails are keeping me resort-side. Just make sure you’re only using those CFC certified operators.

Image: Supplied.

5. Do you have to wear masks all the time?

Masks are recommended in busy areas and indoors. On Castaway Island all public areas are outside and spacious so we are mask free – unless we go into the gift shop. 

Image: Supplied.

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It doesn’t feel much different to a usual Fiji holiday, except there’s sanitiser stations, menus are online and you have to do those two tests. 

6. Are covid tests really expensive?

While the cost can add up for larger families, it’s nowhere near the prices that were thrown around a few months ago. 

You’re looking at upwards from $79 for the RT PCR for international travel on the way out of Australia, a Rapid Antigen Test at 48 hours after arrival (around $17) and another RT-PCR within 72 hours of departure from Fiji for around $116. 

The prices differ a little between resorts.

7. I’ve heard you have to go to Nadi for your test and it’s really difficult.

Resorts are now offering all testing in-house which makes it so easy for guests. 

The Nurse/Wellness Ambassador here at Castaway does the testing – it’s only 15 minutes for the rapid – and is the first point of contact if you’re feeling unwell. 

There are strict protocols for anyone returning a positive test – and there haven’t been any so far.

8. Does the Fiji arrival process take ages?

Apart from sanitising hands and an additional covid arrival form to complete on the plane there was very little difference to pre-covid Fiji arrival.

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I still managed to grab my six-pack of Fiji Water from Duty Free, and we were outside meeting our driver within minutes of disembarking.

9. Is there a secret list of docs you need to exit Australia?

It’s not secret, but there is a list and you need to have everything that’s on it. 

Pay attention to the exit requirements - check the Fiji Tourism website and your airline should email you a checklist too. 

Amongst these are printed copies of your International Vaccination Certificate, your travel insurance with covid cover, your negative RT-PCR test (within 72 hours of departure) and copies of the first three days of your bookings and transfers with CFC accredited providers. 

Make sure you have all these docs – the family in front of us didn’t have their International Vaccination Certificates and it was a huge stress for them until it was resolved. 

You’ll show these documents before you check in, and once that’s done you’re off to Departures.

10. Can unvaccinated kids travel to Fiji?

Yes they can. Kids under 12 don’t need to do a RT-PCR on departure (we did the free covid test just to make sure my daughter was all clear), and children under 18 don’t need to be vaccinated.

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11. Was the flight really stressful? 

Not at all! Our flight over with Virgin was amazing. You have to wear your mask the whole time you’re on the plane (unless eating or drinking) and the only time I found it less than peaceful was when people didn’t wear them. 

It’s a small inconvenience for international travel, and it’s not the crew’s job to police mask wearing, so please wear them on the flight. 

Image: Supplied.

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12. Do you feel safe?

I feel safer here in Fiji that I do in Sydney right now to be honest.

Image: Supplied.

They are doing everything to keep their communities, people and guests safe while resuming tourism and it’s like we’ve stepped back into the days before covid. 

At home I was worrying about it, and now we are here I’m swimming and chilling in my Fiji bubble. I’m relaxed, happy, and now that the 72 hour iso requirement has been lifted I’ve extended.

My Fiji experience has been completely restorative - I’m the happiest I’ve been in 20 months. I hope you can get away somewhere soon too. 

Evie Farrell travels with her daughter Emmie and shares their adventures at @mumpacktravel.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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