Each year millions of Australians travel abroad - of those, an estimated 20,000 find themselves in difficult circumstances requiring assistance from an Australian government missioni. While some unfortunate situations are well beyond a person's control, there are precautions that you can take to prevent some of the more likely ones from happening.
Your health and well-being can make a huge difference to your trip overseas. You can maximise your enjoyment and appreciation of the local culture, people, sights and food by simply doing your homework and making the right decisions when it comes to your health.
- Your destination may have less stringent food preparation laws than Australia, so you've got to be careful when it comes to food. Avoid eating raw fish or meat, be wary of street vendor food and choose your restaurant wisely to steer clear of potential food poisoning or diseaseii.
- Research whether tap water is safe to drink at your destination. If not, drink only bottled or treated water, avoid eating vegetables or fruit that have been washed under the tap, and request your drinks without ice cubesii. Also remember to brush your teeth with bottled water.
- Consult your doctor six to eight weeks before departure to obtain information regarding vaccinations or medication you may need.
- Wear insect repellent, particularly in tropical regions, to lessen the risk of being infected by mosquitoes or other insects. Tropical mosquito diseases include the potentially fatal malaria and debilitating dengue feveriii, iv.
- Be careful not to buy imitation or fake medications. It's best to take enough medication from Australia to last the duration of your tripv.
- Be sensible in the sun: avoid sunburn and sunstroke by staying in the shade on hot days; wear sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat; and drink lots of water.
Keeping your valuables and money safe
Knowing where your valuables and money are at all times can save you a lot of time, money and paperwork.
- Never leave your belongings unattended, especially passports, money, credit cards and ID. If possible, keep your valuables locked away in a safe provided by your accommodationvi.
- Be alert for pickpockets. Keep your bags closed or locked, and don't expose your valuablesvii.
- Organise different ways to access your money while you're travelling, such as cash and different debit, credit and travel cardsviii.
- Make photocopies of important documents such as your passport, flight tickets and itinerary, travel insurance policy and major ATM cards. Leave one copy with someone you trust in Australia and another copy in your luggage or on your person.
- Don't divulge important personal information or bank details to strangersix, and wise up to well-known scams before you leave.
Having fun responsibly
If you're planning a night out with travel companions or new friends, be sure to pay attention to the little things because they might keep you out of a lot of trouble.
- Drink spiking is a risk, so don't leave your drink unattended or accept a drink from a stranger.
- Always check the prices and services offered at a food or drink establishment before entering. Try to pay for things as they are purchased if you are unsure of their price, so that you don't get ripped off.
- Stay aware of your surroundings by limiting the amount of alcohol you consume. The more you drink, the less ability you have to deal with unexpected situations that may arisex.
Staying in touch
Staying in contact with family and friends in Australia is crucial when travelling. It saves them a lot of stress and worry, and can also improve your personal safety should anything happen.
- Always let a trusted person - a travel companion or friend - know where you are and what your plans are while overseas.
- Be sure to regularly contact family and friends at home in Australia to inform them of your whereaboutsxi.
- If in trouble, seek advice or information by contacting an overseas Australian mission (consulate, embassy, high commission), your travel insurance provider, or family and friendsxii.
Being aware, prepared, taking simple precautions overseas and registering with Smartraveller before you depart can make your trip overseas less stressful and more enjoyable. Comprehensive travel insurance is another way to protect yourself: it includes medical and repatriation cover.