If you’re an Australian traveller travelling overseas, this checklist of travel safety tips and essential advice will help keep you and your belongings safe while you travel.
Doing unfamiliar things in unfamiliar places comes with its risks. For the traveller this can be the risk of personal harm, health problems, unfamiliar local laws and even the threat of natural disasters.
The important thing to remember is that, as a traveller, you are ultimately responsible for your own safety and that of your belongings.
A little preparation and a few precautions will not only keep you safe, but also help you stay relaxed and make the most of your journey.
Overall, staying safe while travelling can be broken down into three key components:
- Prepare properly – follow the steps in this guide to ensure you are properly prepared before you leave.
- Take precautions – use your common sense and avoid potential places and situations that might put you in danger.
- Pay attention – keep a look out for any suspicious behaviour as you would in your home country.
Here you’ll find important information, advice and tips to help you prepare for your trip, stay safe while away, and what to do if, on the off chance, you or somebody you know gets into trouble.
Staying safe overseas
Things to do – before you travel
Here’s a checklist of things to do before you leave to make sure your trip is a safe one:
- Share itinerary and contact details
- Save important documents and financial details
- Seek medical advice
- Secure travel Insurance
- Search for destination information
- Sign up for destination alerts
- Register your travel plans
Below you’ll find helpful tips and suggestions to make these preparations as easy as possible.
Share itinerary and contact details
- Leave a copy of your planned itinerary and contact details with family and friends.
- Always let them know if your plans change.
Save important documents and financial details
- Scan or copy your key travel documents and information, including: passport and visa information, travel insurance details, credit, debit card and/or travelers’ cheques numbers, flight numbers and accommodation details, copy of your itinerary.
- Make sure you scan the front and back of your credit and debit cards.
- Print them out or save them on a disk or USB stick and keep them in a secure place at home.
- Share them with at least one family member or trusted friend who you can contact easily while you’re away.
- Using free online services like Google Docs or Dropbox is another good option for storing your documents. This way you also have access to them while you’re away.
- It’s also a good idea to store important phone numbers with your documents as well, such as emergency numbers for your bank or credit cards, tour company and travel insurance, as well as family and friends, just in case you need quick access to them.
Seek medical advice
- Get professional advice about vaccinations required and general travel health information for your destination.
- Talk to your local GP or do a web search for specialist travel doctors or medical centres. They can be found in most cities.
- It’s important that you plan carefully for any current medical requirements you have, such as prescription medicines you’ll need overseas. See our Essential Guide for Travel Health for more.
Secure travel Insurance
- Buy travel insurance that covers all of your planned destinations, as well as any activities you plan to participate in and any specialist equipment you plan to take.
- Ensure it covers any pre-existing medical conditions. See our Essential Guide to Travel Insurance for more.
Search for destination information
- Get current information on your destination, especially any potential dangers.
- This might include particular regions or cities, types of crimes to be aware of and risky types of transport, etc.
- Also be aware of behaviours that might offend or break the law. See our Essential Destination Advice Guide for more.
Sign up for destination alerts
- Subscribe to the Australian Government’s Smartraveller service and get the latest advice and updates by email for your destination(s).
- See the Personal safety section below for more.
Register your travel plans
- Register your plans with Smartraveller in case of emergency.
- See the Register Your Travel Plans section below.
Tip: Familiarise yourself with common scams targeting foreigners and keep a step ahead of the baddies. Both the Smartraveller and Choice websites have pages that list common scams to watch out for.
Things to do – while you’re traveling
It’s also important to pay attention to potential safety threats while traveling. These tips will help:
|Stay informed||Keep an eye on local media or online news sources for possible safety or security threats.|
|Talk to the locals||Ask your hotel staff, tour operator or other locals you trust about any safety or security concerns.|
|Follow advice||Always follow the advice of local authorities when it comes to safety and security.|
|Keep the folk back at home informed||In the event of any kind of security threat or natural disaster at your destination, always let your family and friends know as soon as possible.|
What are travel advisories?
The travel advisory information provided by governments such as that from the Australian Government’s Smartraveller service is there to help you make informed travel decisions. They exist to highlight possible threats such as:
- General security and safety
- Health risks
- Local laws
- Natural disasters, and
- Other threats that might make an area unsafe for travel
Smartraveller has four levels of travel advice to help you prepare:
- Level 1 – Exercise normal safety precautions
- Level 2 – Exercise a high degree of caution
- Level 3 – Reconsider your need to travel
- Level 4 – Do not travel
To find out more about exactly what each of these levels means and what you should do in each case, visit Smartravellers’ Travel Advice Explained page.
Important: Your insurance policy may not cover you if you travel to a location that has known threats, so it’s important to check beforehand if you still plan to travel in these areas.
Sign up for current destination warnings
The Smartraveller.gov.au website from the Australian department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) provides regular travel advisory information for more than 170 destinations.
There are several ways you can keep up with the latest destination updates, warnings and alerts from Smartraveller:
|Subscribe to email updates||You can subscribe to receive destination warnings and updates by email and unsubscribe when you no longer need them.
You’ll have the option to choose which country warnings and updates you wish to receive when you sign up.
|Get the free app||You can receive destination updates and warnings via the Smart Traveller app for iOS and Android devices. Get the app here|
|Facebook and Twitter updates||You can also get destination updates and warnings by following Smart Traveller on Facebook and Twitter.|
Important: Keep in mind, this is not a news service, so it is still important to seek out information from other sources, including online news and resources, or family, friends and other contacts who are familiar with the area. Travel guidebooks are a good place to start for general information about possible ‘dangers and annoyances’ to be found at your destination.
Register your travel plans
Even if you’re going to a destination that’s known to be safe, it’s a good idea to register your travel plans with Smartraveller just in case.
By registering your trip details and contact information, you give the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (known as DFAT) the ability to:
- Contact you in case of an emergency or natural disaster while you’re away.
- Contact your family in the case of an emergency or natural disaster.
Note: You don’t automatically receive destination updates and warnings when you register your travel plans with Smartraveller. You need to subscribe to these separately. See Sign up for current destination updates and warnings above.
Get help overseas
In case of emergency, the Australian Government provides a 24-hour consular assistance line.
|If you’re calling from overseas||Call +61 2 6261 3305|
|If you’re calling from within Australia||Call 1300 555 135|
|Or send a text message in Australia or overseas||SMS +61 421 269 080|
Visit the 24-hour Consular Emergency Service web page for more information.
If someone you know needs help overseas, visit this page for more information.
Tip: Add the emergency numbers above to the contacts list on your mobile phone before you set off. It can’t hurt.
Money & document safety
The best piece of advice of all is:
Don’t travel with anything you can’t afford to lose.
With this in mind, you can’t go too far wrong. There are a few other steps you can take to ensure you’re money, documents, luggage and gear remain safe.
Don’t flash the cash
- Always avoid overt displays of wealth.
- Don’t walk around with large amounts of cash or expensive jewellery, watches, cameras, etc. on display.
Divide and conceal
- Never keep all of your money and documents in the same place, particularly on your person.
- In addition to keeping a copy of your documents safely at home (discussed above), it’s best to keep your cash/documents in at least two separate places, for example:
- Only carry enough cash you’ll for the day ahead, plus a credit card for emergencies.
- Leave a spare credit card and/or travelers cheques and spare cash in your hotel safe.
- You might also keep a small amount of emergency cash and/or travelers cheques in a secret place in your luggage or perhaps a shoe or other place it’s unlikely a thief would look.
- For extra security you might even keep an emergency credit card in a separate secret location.
Lock and look
- It maybe obvious, but inexperienced travelers often fall foul of failing to lock their luggage and keeping an eye on it. Make sure you don’t.
Government Travel Advice
The following government websites offer travel advisories and information for travelers.
|Australia||Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (Smartraveller service) (www.smartraveller.gov.au)|
|Canada||Department of Foreign Affairs & International Trade (www.voyage.gc.ca)|
|France||Ministère des Affaires Étrangères et Européennes
|Italy||Ministero degli Affari Esteri (www.viaggiaresicuri.mae.aci.it)|
|New Zealand||Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade (www.safetravel.govt.nz)|
|UK||Foreign & Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice)|
|USA||Department of State (www.travel.state.gov)|
Other helpful resources
|Smartraveller guides||A variety of guides with advice for specific types of travelers, including women, seniors, LGBTI, business people, backpackers, students, volunteers, travelers with children and more.|
Travel Smart guide booklet
|This handy guide booklet in downloadable PDF format is packed with information for the first time traveler.|
|Smartraveller email alerts||Subscribe to get important destination information and alerts via email.
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
|Get location specific travel advice, updates and registration facility, as well as safety advice without the need for an internet connection. Available for Apple iOS and Android devices.
Download the app here:
|Australian Passport Information Service (APIS)||APIS provides a telephone information service for help with passport questions, available seven days a week to callers in Australia.
Call 131 232 for the cost of a local call.
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – Australian Passport Office
But keep in mind it is not a regular passport office where you can apply or renew a passport. See https://auspost.com.au/ or call 137 678.
|Visa information for Australian travelers
|Including links to foreign embassies and consulates in Australia.
Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – Visas for Australians Travelling Overseas
|Advice for air travellers||Including tips on how to pack, what to wear, traveling with children and air travel health issues, plus advice on potentially dangerous goods.
Civil Aviation Safety Authority – Advice for Air Travellers
|Entering and leaving Australia||What to expect at the border and what you can bring into the country, including duty-free and customs concessions.
Department of Immigration and Border Protection – Entering or Leaving Australia
|Bringing goods into Australia||Helpful information about bringing goods into Australia from overseas – what you can and can’t do and how to do it.
Department of Agriculture and Water Resources – Bringing or Mailing Goods to Australia
|Can I pack that? – Dangerous Goods App
|This handy app helps inform you about what you can and can’t bring on to a flight and, if you can, how to do it safely.
Civil Aviation Safety Authority
|Traveling with medicines or medical devices||Medicines brought into and taken out of Australia may be subject to import and export controls. Check the rules and requirements here.|
|Reciprocal Health Care Agreements
|Information about countries that provide subsidised essential medical treatment and medicines for Australian travelers, as well as those available to visitors coming to Australia.|
|Travel Insurance: The Essential Guide|
|Travel Health: The Essential Guide|
|Travel Insurance Providers in Australia|