I am traveling from the US to Sydney, NSW Australia from January 3rd to January 11th of 2020 on Qantas.

I have been keeping up with the news on the brush fires NSW is experiencing. I wanted to see if anyone in Australia has any thoughts or advice on visiting during that time, regarding what to do or where to go (day trips, attractions, etc.) to mitigate fire or pollution risk, or if it would be worth it to try and reschedule the trip in the event of really bad fires.

I was also hoping someone might have advice on travel cancellations due to events like brush fires and pollution. I understand this sort of thing is sort of an "act of God", but also, if safety is an issue to even step off the plane somewhere, is there another common reason for canceling or refunding flights (especially on Qantas)?

Thanks for any thoughts or advice, especially if you're in Sydney now, or have had a similar travel experience.

Post Trip Update: Thanks again for all advice! My S.O. and I traveled to Sydney from January 3rd to the 11th and we had a wonderful trip. The only plan we had to change was a day trip to the Blue Mountains - we drove to Royal National Park (which was unaffected by fires) instead and did a coastal hike. All other plans like beaches, surfing, tours, zoo, hikes, walks, food and drink were luckily unaffected. Visibility was occasionally poor in Sydney, I would say we had one evening and one day where smoke was noticeably bad. But even when air quality was deemed hazardous by aqicn, I barely saw masks or people changing their behaviors. People even continued to jog/bike/exercise in all conditions.

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    Lived in Sydney until April. It's very polluted at present from the smoke, but if you're in the tourist areas, you're unlikely to be affected by cancellations. No flights have been affected as far as I'm aware (and I worked for Qantas so follow a lot of this). rfs.nsw.gov.au/fire-information/fires-near-me shows you the fires currently. Day trip wise will depend closer to the time - but the trainline to Katoomba is probably what might affect you IF fires stop it, but you can buy tickets on the day at the station, so just keep an eye on things.
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Dec 15, 2019 at 23:39
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    If the situation is that bad, unless you have to stay in Sydney, I would just land and catch a plane to another city. Australia is big, Sydney is a very small part of it. Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 12:35
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    Update, I have travel insurance through my credit card that covers wildfires or smog within 50 miles of destination so... I'm good :). Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 23:22
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    'Bushfire' not 'brush fire'.
    – jcm
    Commented Dec 26, 2019 at 23:40
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    You should be aware of this website: rfs.nsw.gov.au/fire-information/fires-near-me
    – WW.
    Commented Dec 27, 2019 at 4:11

4 Answers 4


TL;DR, I wouldn't worry too much.

Sydney is on the coast and usually has very good air, because wind is frequently blowing in from the ocean, pushing away any bushfire smoke. The recent bushfires made the news worldwide precisely because it's so rare for them to affect Sydney that badly and that long.

The further out (west) of the city you go, the higher the likelihood of bushfires and haze. The Blue Mountains are fairly frequently affected, and on rare occasions even the Hume Highway to Canberra/Melbourne can be closed because of fires. But the vast majority of Sydney's attractions (Sydney Harbour, Opera House, Bondi, Manly etc) are all very central and unlikely to be impacted. The airport is also very close to the city, and even in the event of runway closures, long-haul international flights have priority.

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    Great to hear that the heavy smoke is an anomaly of sorts given Sydney's geography. Fingers crossed it clears up by Jan. Thank you for the information and input! Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 5:56

If you plan to travel far throughout NSW by driving, you should be prepared for unexpected road closures.
There is a chance of extremely poor air quality.
Other than that, it is safe to travel.

  • Gotcha. Really wanted to do a couple of hour's worth of driving up and down the coast, looks like that'll have to be more of a game time decision. Thanks for the input! Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 5:55

My nephew moved to Sydney in Sept. The air quality is also VERY poor. They stay inside... people wear masks... Avoid traveling there.

  • Thanks for sharing their firsthand experience.
    – Willeke
    Commented Jan 5, 2020 at 18:33

Postpone if you can.....fires are very unpredictable at this time with extreme heat and wind changes....surely you can pick a better time.....Autumn is always lovely here btw! Very smokey here tonight because of Blue Mountain fires getting worse!

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