As things start opening up in NSW and soon VIC, it’s important to remember not every area was made equal when it comes to COVID safety. Here’s how to travel responsibly in regional areas now that restrictions have lifted.
This is the week Sydney’s been dreaming about for months. Campgrounds and national parks are open and NSW residents are legally allowed to travel wherever they want within the state, for whatever reason. Freedom tastes oh so sweet!
And although it may feel like everything’s back to how it used to be, for many small towns, welcoming visitors back comes with concern about potential outbreaks and an overwhelm of the health system. So for anyone travelling to regional areas, here’s how to be a responsible COVID-safe traveller.
Limit the Spread
Many regional communities and small towns are pretty worried about the incoming influx of people from the city. Be conscious of how locals are feeling and respect that they may be more worried about this virus than you!
Although most of us are vaccinated now, limiting the spread of the virus is still everyone’s responsibility, and the standard COVID safety measures should still be adhered to. This is how we prevent further lockdowns!
- Check-in at EVERY venue you go to
- Use hand sanitiser and wash your hands regularly
- Carry a face mask with you and chuck it on when there are lots of people around
- Social distance as much as possible
- Monitor for symptoms, get tested, and stay home if you’re sick
Say G’day to the locals and have a yarn but be conscious of how you act in their community. Don’t forget, you’re a guest!
Spend Money With Local Businesses
As tempting as it is to roll in hot to your favourite free campsite, now more than ever, rural communities could do with those extra couple of bucks in their wallets. Rather than trying to get through a weekend away spending as little dosh as possible, why not ‘stimulate the economy’ and splash some cash?
This is the time to treat yourself to those little luxuries you’d usually go without.
Pay that bit extra to hire a kayak from the local tour operator, or better yet pay for a tour guide. Splurge on that bottle of wine from the local cellar door. Luxe out in a cosy cabin rather than huddling for warmth in your tent.
Hot tip! Check out our Adventure Tours page to find an adventure tour operator near you!
At the very least, consider where your money is going in these local towns. Seek out businesses that have been especially hard hit by the bushfires (remember that?) or COVID-19. Buy your groceries from the local grocer rather than a supermarket giant. Fill up at a privately owned petrol station rather than a Caltex.
And always, ALWAYS buy a pie from the local bakery. That’s a must.
Plan and Book Ahead
Don’t just rock up to a town late on a Friday night and expect to find a place to stay. Plan ahead and book in advance – whether it’s a campsite, room in a hotel, dinner reservation or adventure tour, call up well before you plan to be there and make sure that there’s space for you.
Not only are businesses limited to the number of people they can cater to at one time, they’re also going to be brimming with tourists looking for food, fun, and a place to lay their heads. Don’t disappoint yourself!
Be patient and cooperative, but also, be proactive.
Be Conscious of Aboriginal Communities
Be aware that the Delta strain of COVID-19 has hit many small communities in rural NSW and regional VIC hard, particularly those with high Indigenous populations. These communities may have lower vaccination rates than the cities and far fewer (if any) resources to deal with an outbreak.
Before heading to these rural at-risk areas, it might be worth checking the current vaccination rates. If it seems too low, just don’t go – hold off until these areas have caught up and more people are protected. You don’t want to be the cause of an outbreak in a small rural town.
If the area you’re keen to explore is safely vaccinated, consider taking an Aboriginal guided tour or find a local Indigenous-owned business to spend a bit of mullah with.
At the very least, educate yourself on the Aboriginal history of the area you’re visiting. A stop off at the local tourist information centre or national park office should help with this!
Visit Somewhere Off the Tourist Path
Some towns are gonna get love no matter what. Run your finger over a map, land it on a town you’ve never been to before and go there instead. There’ll be fewer crowds and every cent you spend will be cherished that little bit more.
The land’s been doing it tough lately. Although many bushfire affected areas may look green and bushy again, that doesn’t mean they’re safe to return to. The environment may still need more time to heal.
Before you go anywhere near the bush, make sure that the area is actually open. Check the national parks and state forest websites for your state for the full list of park closures and don’t enter closed areas.
On top of that, bring a keep cup, take your rubbish with you, and respect the local environment. Think of yourself as a guest. These areas need love but they also deserve respect.
Feature photo by @nickgreenphoto