Traveling from Melbourne to Adelaide – 15 December 2021 – what to expect with COVID-19, SA’s border rules and PCR tests


I thought it would be useful to describe my experience heading into Adelaide from Melbourne, which designated as a moderate risk, in December 2021. The entry requirements are likely to cause stress and anxiety, but once you get through and produce that negative COVID-19 result post-arrival – like me, you will be relieved and I think you will have a relatively good time in Adelaide from that point.

Being classified as a moderate risk means that where I came from, i.e. Melbourne and my council area, has COVID-19 community transmission and the population is 80% vaccinated.

As such, here were the conditions of entry from Melbourne into Adelaide:

  • Pre-arrival negative test result taken within 72 hours before arrival
  • Test upon arrival and quarantine until you undertake your test
  • Test on the 6th day after arrival*
  • No entry to high risk settings for 7 days*
  • Symptom checking for 14 days after arrival

* these are current requirements that were introduced during my time in Adelaide and were not requirements for me. I still complied with them.

A high risk setting means each of the following:

  • a residential aged care facility
  • a disability care facility
  • a prison, correctional facility, training centre or other place of custody
  • any of the following areas within a public or private hospital:
    • an emergency department
    • an intensive care unit
    • a respiratory ward
    • an oncology ward
  • health care services provided in any of the Aboriginal communities or any other Aboriginal community controlled health service.
A view of Flinders University which is within Adelaide’s CBD

South Australia opened its borders to Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory on Tuesday, 23 November 2021 to vaccinated people. Thankfully, I had already been vaccinated. So this hurdle was easily passed.

Days ahead of arriving in South Australia, you will need to register with EntryCheck SA. I did my registration more than 7 days before my departure date. It was a relatively straight forward process that requires you to upload your vaccination certificate and provide your Medicare number. (I can imagine it being frustrating if you are bad with computers and forms. I did experience glitches in my experience, but I changed browser and it solved the glitched that halted my initial experience.)

For my pre-arrival test, I got my COVID-19 PCR test done at one of the testing stations in Melbourne’s CBD. You should make sure you register ahead of visiting a station and that you check the opening times to ensure that you can be tested. For example, some stations do not test children under 5 years old.

I visited the testing station on Bourke Street across from JB Hi Fi on a Thursday afternoon. I visited at 11:30 am and it took me over three hours standing outside in the sun and street before I could get my test. By the time I finished, it was close to 3 pm. The process was super slow and they were only doing two people at a time. It was disappointing to see that the process was so manual given that I had already pre-registered. I did not expect it to take as long as it did, because I wanted to get this test done during my lunch break. I felt bad when I returned to work as I was looking very disheveled under the heat and really tired.

I didn’t get my negative result via SMS until close to 3 pm the following day on Friday. A word of warning is to not to get your PCR test done the day before.

On Saturday, we headed to Melbourne Airport and took the afternoon flight over. The security clearance and the drop-off was relatively quiet at Melbourne Airport. The Qantas flight had onboard entertainment if you wanted their tablet and meals were returned (after being removed during 2020). Except when eating and drinking, I kept my mask on all throughout the trip. (They also provide you with a mask as well in a handy pack along with alcohol wipes.) I noticed how civil the flight was and there wasn’t anyone rowdy or causing a fuss. The mask rule was followed and there were plenty of empty seats. (Must be due to the lack of anti-vaxxers on the flight.)

We arrived at Adelaide Airport and were escorted to a makeshift arrival checking station at Gate 20. We had to show evidence of our EntryCheck SA SMS which shows that we were permitted to enter into South Australia and also the results of our COVID-19 PCR test. It was at this point that we had to provide our proof of identity and then given instructions that we had to collect our bags and self-isolate until we got a negative result. It was explained that we could have the test done at Adelaide Airport or at another testing site.

We were then free to collect our luggage and had to look to do another COVID-19 PCR test. Also, at the same time we had to download the HealthCheck SA app which requires you to self-declare whether you have any symptoms listed each day for 14 days after your arrival. The app will remind you to make a self-declaration each morning around 9 am.

Fortunately there is a SA Pathology clinic immediately outside the Arrivals Hall at Adelaide Airport. It was close to 2:00 pm. The line looked long and I was told that it would take 50 minutes. But there were enough staff and they were pretty diligent. I don’t think it took more than 30 minutes for them to collect our information and conduct the COVID-19 swabs in our mouth and nose. We were told that the results were averaging 5 hours.

We then collected the keys for our car rental and drove straight to our hotel to self-isolate. While we hoped that our results would come back by 7 pm, the results did not come back until 1 am in the morning that same night. (It was a relief when we finally got those results. It meant we could finally get on with what we wanted to do in Adelaide. At the same time, it was understandable given that we were coming from an area where there was transmission in the community.) Despite not getting the results sooner, we were still relieved.

I hope people have a fantastic experience in Adelaide and hope they found this summary helpful.

For completeness, my experience was relevant at the time I visited Adelaide and it may be different for you if the South Australian authorities decide to tweak the rules.

Adelaide Airport is only within 10 minutes by car to Adelaide’s central business district:

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