NZ, Aus and other countries are now requiring people to self-isolate for 14 days to ensure they don't have Covid-19. There can be some rather strict ramifications if you fail to adhere to this.

What I wondered after seeing a question on FB (disclaimer: I run the beatthatflight facebook page) - how does one self isolate as a backpacker/traveller who is planning on staying in hostel dorms??

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    Quite simply this isn't possible. So I think you can expect all such places to close in the near future, or at least not accept any new "arrivals". Mar 16, 2020 at 7:35
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    You can't. I've been travelling for 14 months on this trip and caught the worst flu I've had in years from another guy in my dorm in Japan about 9 months ago, and another guy in the same dorm caught it after me and had an even worse case. This is utterly normal in dorms. While working in hostels I usually have multiple colds/flus per year. Fortunately I'm alone in a house in the countryside in a county with no cases yet. Mar 16, 2020 at 15:37
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    Why are you backpacking/travelling at a time like this?
    – njzk2
    Mar 16, 2020 at 22:59
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    @njzk2 I'm not. Read the question. I saw it on a FB post - someone asking about all the backpackers arriving in Australia.
    – Mark Mayo
    Mar 16, 2020 at 23:46
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    @MarkMayo "you" -> anyone backpacking at this time, not you specifically. Why are people arriving in Australia (or anywhere, really) now?
    – njzk2
    Mar 17, 2020 at 19:01

6 Answers 6


Go home if you can!

If you are travelling in your country of residence, go home and self-isolate there. If travel restrictions make this impossible, contact the relevant authorities for advise. Usually there are some exemptions for essential travel, and travelling from a potentially crowded hostel to your home may well count as valid travel.

If you are travelling in another country than your country of residence, contact your embassy. Many embassies are attempting to repatriate their citizens. Chances are your embassy is already working on trying to reach you if they know how to contact you (I received an email from my government already, but I have my home and job here and the situation in my mother country is no better than here, so it makes no sense for me to repatriate).

Now is not the time to travel for non-essential purposes.

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    Yeah, an American may get a free ride in a C-17, or 747-200 thanks to Kalitta Air, or other rare flight experiences. Mar 16, 2020 at 21:54
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica unlikely to be free!
    – ajd
    Mar 17, 2020 at 16:49
  • @Harper-ReinstateMonica Really? I heard that the repatriation expenses will be collected from the passenger, which can be after sometime. Countries like India even took people from neighboring countries from Wuhan. Mar 18, 2020 at 0:29
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    @AnishSheela One would hope not. Normally, repatriation expenses are like, a hire car ride, and a ticket on Virgin Air or whatever. These are government rescue flights in specially equipped military or military-lease equipment (like Kalitta 747s) that cost MUCH more to fly and you have very few riders to share the cost. The fully accrued cost is positively insane, and not feasibly payable by the average citizen. They would have to invoice some sane "comparable to commercial" rate, which would recoup very little. They may just decide to not bother, as a matter of policy. Mar 18, 2020 at 0:42
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica For the US, these flights are required to be charge "the cost of full fare economy flight, or comparable alternate transportation, to the designated destination(s) that would have been charged immediately prior to the events giving rise to the evacuation". One is required to file a DS-5528 and agree to pay fees when boarding. See the state department's page: travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/…
    – artemist
    Mar 18, 2020 at 3:12

traveler who is planning on staying in hostel dorms

Make a different plan. Your question assumes that the hosteler simply will not change accommodation plans and will perform the self-isolation in a hostel. Not gonna happen.

The hosteler must find out what the government considers to be a viable self-quarantine plan. And then make that plan, whatever it takes. Get to a different space where self-isolation is actually viable. Upgrade to a hotel room, find a friend willing to accommodate, secure food and entertainment supply etc. per what the government considers reasonable.

And they better be able to answer questions about that plan if immigration asks.

If the hosteler is unable to change plans, then it's time to either self-arrange to leave the country... or contact the embassy and ask for assistance in repatriation... or avail local government assistance. That rubs wrong a visitor's agreement not to rely on government services, but I'm sure the government would prefer you ask for help in this case.

If the hosteler is unwilling to change plans, that misses the entire point of immigration, which is that you agree to be a lawful citizen and a boon to the nation (e.g. bringing tourist activity and funds). Flouting the law deserves the swift boot.

As Dave Smylie reports, that is exactly what is happening in New Zealand to a pair, and to a single. In one case, the fundamental flaw was a 2 week visit (that would be spent entirely in self-isolation, then fly home). There were no travel adjustments, change to an appropriate facility (e.g. hotel with viable food service, microwave etc.), no stocking on food or entertainment. The only thing that made sense was that the tourist intended to flout the restrictions. So the boot they got!

Worse, here's the mechanism: They are in "jail", immigration detention, where they will sit out the 14 day isolation. After that, they'll be given a deportation order, and freed on their own recognizance to arrange transport, gather their things and self-deport. I call that "giving them enough rope to hang themselves" :) Of course Immigration is watching, and their conduct will decide whether they ever again visit NZ, or countries that NZ interchanges data with.


In NZ, (and I imagine Australia) you can't

Police removed a traveler from a hostel yesterday and have forcibly quarantined her and she will deported at the end of the 14 days. There are now three backpackers currently in custody for not following self isolation correctly.

At this point you need to have a correct self isolation plan when you enter the country. If the Ministry of Health doesn't consider it appropriate or think the traveler is taking it seriously, they won't be allowed to reach customs.

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    If you're referring to this case, she actually went into a private room. She was deported for not having plans to self-isolate for 14 days. People are still staying in dorms at present.
    – Mark Mayo
    Mar 17, 2020 at 20:47
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    That's the case. And yes - she was quarantined (not deported yet) for not having a self isolation plan. Hostels are not an acceptable place for self-isolation due to the shared facilities and many have already updated their websites to explicitly state this. I don't think travelers will make it through customs if this is their plan, and almost certainly they would be turned away when presenting their date-stamped passport at the hostel. Mar 17, 2020 at 21:13
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    Just to add, the people staying in dorms at the moment will have no self isolation requirements. That directive only applies to people entering the country since 1am on Monday - anyone who arrived here before that is not impacted. Mar 18, 2020 at 1:50
  • @MarkMayo Her private room still did not meet the minimum spec as she shared facilities with others. Mar 19, 2020 at 8:27

After more than a year of COVID rules, many hostels which are still open offer only 'single occupancy' rooms. That is, one party per room, with a maximum per room.

If you are traveling alone, you might be able to rent a two bed 'dorm' or an eight bed dorm, but you will be the only user in it. (And expect to pay for all beds in that room, so way more expensive than usual hostel prices.
This only works if the room or dorm has private use bathrooms and in those where bathrooms are en-suite.

In those hostels you might be able to self isolate, but only if the hostel does follow all those rules and it might well be that the rules in the country you are in do not allow self isolation in hostels or in other 'not appointed' places to stay.

  • Availability of classic dorms depends on location - for example in Miami you can book a bunk in a 12-person room. Same deal in London. I assume dorms are fully back in force wherever mask mandates have been eliminated.
    – JonathanReez
    Oct 11, 2021 at 19:28

There are instructions for people who are self isolating in a shared space. They are aimed at people sharing a spacious home with their family, but they can apply here too. There are summaries by the trusted news sources CBC and BBC that quote medical authorities.

You should:

  • stay inside. Don't go outside, especially to restaurants or grocery stores. Arrange for food and supplies to be brought to you
  • if you live with others, stay 2 metres away from them and do not touch them. Do not share a bed. Do not share dishes and cutlery even if you wash them well between uses.
  • use a different bathroom if possible. The bathroom you use should be thoroughly cleaned every day with ordinary household cleaners
  • if possible, have others bring you food on disposable dishes and keep the garbage in your room until the isolation is over. (A friend doing this keeps metal cutlery in her room and washes it in the bathroom.) If that is not possible, only use the kitchen when no-one else is there, and clean thoroughly (again, with ordinary household cleaners) just before you leave.

The difference in a hostel is that the people you live with may not care about you as much as housemates or family do, and that there may not be separate bedrooms for each person, much less separate bathrooms. Nonetheless, get as much separation as you can and use separation-in-time when you can't use separation-in-space. Use your phone to organize and order things, pay for things, etc.

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    I'm trying to understand "arrange for food and supplies to be brought to you" coz I actually do have that problem. You're just passing the buck to a friend. Or if you have it shipped, there ain't no Amazon drones. You're still interacting with humans who interact with humans who interact with humans, and they're all the minimum-wage gang who can't afford to be sick, so they ignore symptoms and work anyway. Mar 18, 2020 at 3:20
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    Sure, but you're being isolated because you are known or suspected to be either sick or at higher risk of being sick than the general population. If you have a local friend who can bring you food, great. If not, you can order food and hope the stores are temperature-taking or otherwise screening. The fact that whoever might bring you the food might be sick doesn't mean it's ok for you to go to the store when you're supposed to isolate. Mar 18, 2020 at 7:23
  • My last batch from the store, everything got doused in soap. In OP's case there is no adverse indication except "foreign traveler". In my case I'm a vulnerable person (immunocompromised) in a community of vulnerable people (seniors) and far less likely to have it due to the community walling/lockdowns. So the risk vector really is from the delivery person. Mar 18, 2020 at 7:59
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    right, that's a different problem, I presume you're not in a hostel or other shared space. Going out to shop for yourself would have its own risks for you, so don't do that. Your delivery person can leave the bag on the porch, you can open it, unpack everything, wash what you can, etc. But that is off topic for this question. Mar 18, 2020 at 8:59
  • @Harper-ReinstateMonica "foreign traveler" is definitely a risk factor at the moment. Self isolating is more extreme than the general "social distancing" we're all expected to be doing. Obviously you still need to get food from somewhere, and having a single person (who isn't required to self isolate) drop it off for you without direct interaction is the lowest risk way to do so.
    – Kat
    Mar 18, 2020 at 22:24

With current occupancy rates, I'd expect you to have high likelihood of being alone in the dorm room and thus being able to self-isolate. OTOH it's completely different question how authorities will like this idea, will the hostel be still open when you get there, will immigration let you into the country, etc.

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