Going overseas for sports and adventure
Australians love sport and adventure, both locally and overseas. Whether you’re crossing the ditch to ski, hiking the Himalayas or strolling the Camino de Santiago, make sure you’re informed and prepared before you go.
Explore this page to learn about:
- winter sports
- mountain sports
- water sports and activities
- arctic and antarctic adventures
- extreme sports
- where to get help
This page is for Australians planning to travel overseas. If you're already travelling and need help, see our advice on what to do when things go wrong overseas.
Winter and snow sports
Snow sports are some of the most popular activities for Australian travellers. This includes skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice skating and snowmobiling.
Reducing your risks from winter and snow sports
Know the risks associated with your planned snow sport. Then, take steps to reduce the risk of things going wrong.
- Layer up. Hypothermia and frostbite are common, and can set in quickly. Dress appropriately for the climate.
- Check the weather. If there's a severe winter storm forecast, wait until it passes before heading outside.
- Wear a helmet. Head injuries are common, and can cause permanent damage. Helmets are not just for riding snowmobiles, or for kids. Wear a helmet when skiing and snowboarding too. You'll notice all the professionals do it, there's a reason why.
- Check your gear. Make sure your gear is in good condition, and set up correctly. Have a professional check it every year for you.
- Inform someone. Let your hotel, travel companions or family and friends know where you're going and when you expect to return. If you're going off-piste, you should carry an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB).
- Check you're covered. Most basic travel insurance policies exclude winter sports by default. It's usually an optional extra. Make sure you're covered, otherwise even a small injury on the slopes can leave you with 1000s of dollars worth of medical bills when you require medical assistance overseas.
Adventures at the north and south poles
The poles are no longer restricted to explorers. Travellers head to the Arctic Circle and Antarctica to see what both ends of the world have to offer in rich wildlife and stunning landscapes. Activities include snow-shoeing, ice climbing, mountaineering, diving, kayaking and dog-sledding.
- Arctic - there are only two small windows in the year to go to the North Pole: April or late June. To visit other areas in the Arctic you can travel most of the year, check with your travel provider.
- Antarctica - extreme conditions mean most visits to the South Pole are between November and January.
Reducing your risks from polar adventures
- Research your company. Before booking travel, ensure your travel company has experience and is reputable in these expeditions. Make sure they have all the appropriate safety gear for the activities you plan to do.
- Are you physically able to do the journey? Discuss any pre-existing medical conditions with your doctor and tour operator.
- Plan for a medical emergency. You’ll be a long way from help and will have limited access to medical or search and rescue facilities. It can take a long time for help to arrive, depending on the weather and sea conditions. Work out how far you'll be from search and rescue, evacuation and medical facilities, and make contingency plans. In case of emergency, you’ll be responsible for the costs of your search, rescue and evacuation. Make sure you check the standard of on-board medical help, and ask cruise operators about medical arrangements. Understand the risk of altitude sickness.
- Activities and what to watch out for. The ice is extremely thin in places and there are lots of open water channels. You may also come across wildlife, including polar bears in the north. Follow the instructions of the travel company and local authorities.
- Ensure you’re covered. Check you have the right travel insurance or funds to cover the cost of medical assistance. It should cover the cost of search and rescue, any medical treatment, your return home or to another city or country.
- Weather conditions are severe and can vary. Common threats are frostbite, dehydration, eye damage from reflected glare, overexposure to the sun and maritime accidents. Layer up to avoid hypothermia, and make sure your gear is waterproof.
We may not be able to give you full or prompt consular assistance in remote areas. We don’t provide travel advice for Arctic or Antarctica.
Mountain sports and activities
Australians are keen mountain adventurers. Mountain sports and activities can include:
- rock climbing
- hiking and trekking
- volcano boarding and hiking
Reducing your risks from mountain sports
- Permits. Check if you need a permit where you're going. If so, organise it before you go. If you get caught without one, you could be arrested or jailed.
- Safety gear. Ensure you have the correct safety equipment, including helmets, ropes, and an EPIRB. Make sure you check the equipment is in good condition and research your tour operator before taking part in the activity.
- Extreme weather gear. Wear appropriate clothing for the activity. This will help to reduce your risk of exposure to severe weather and risk of injury.
- Know your limits. Know when to turn back. Don't die trying to prove yourself.
- Altitude sickness. Know the signs. Watch for it in others. Don't just take a pill for it, also get to a lower altitude to recover.
- Oxygen. At high altitude, the air is thin. This means it's hard to breath. Take oxygen, especially if going above 7000 m.
- Lava and toxic gas. If hiking on an active volcano, be aware of lava and protect yourself from toxic gas. Wear the right safety gear, including a proper respirator.
- Terrorism. Terrorists have targeted and killed foreign mountaineers and hikers. Know the current terrorist threat in your destination.
- Earthquakes and avalanches. Monitor local media and follow instructions of local authorities if there is an earthquake or severe weather in your location.
Be aware that the cost of rescuing you on a mountain can be extremely high. Rescue helicopters can't fly in severe weather, and many can only reach altitudes up to 3300 m.
Like many adventurous activities, you'll probably need a specialised travel insurance policy. The higher risk of your activity, and higher altitude, the more expensive the policy will be.
Water sports and activities
You'll find Aussies doing adventurous water sports just about anywhere with a beach, river or lake. Some popular water sports for Australian travellers are:
- jet boating
- white water rafting
- SCUBA diving
Reducing your risks from water sports
- Watch the weather. Watch the weather upstream. If there's heavy rain, flash flooding is more likely. You could drown.
- Safety gear. Ensure you have the correct safety equipment. Check it's in good condition. Research your tour operator. Always wear a lifejacket, even if you're a strong swimmer.
- Stay warm. Water can be cold, even when the air is warm. Consider a wetsuit or drysuit.
- Suitable shoes. Protect your feet from rocks and hazards under the water.
- Certified. Check if you need to be certified before diving. Get your certificate from a licensed dive operator before you travel.
- Fitness. Talk to your doctor before you go to make sure your medically fit. Be careful when diving if you feel unwell or are suffering a hangover.
- Insurance. Most basic travel insurance policies can exclude water sports, especially SCUBA diving. Make sure you're covered, medical assistance overseas can cost you 1000s.
Aussies enjoy an adrenaline-pumped activity while travelling, some popular extreme sports are:
- bungee jumping
- base jumping
- paragliding and hang gliding
Reducing your risks from extreme sports
- Equipment quality. Make sure the gear they're supplying is in good condition and proper working order. Your life depends on it.
- Licensing. Make sure your provider is properly licensed for your activity. Always confirm they're a legal operation.
- Safety gear. Wear the right protective gear, including goggles, helmets, gloves and padding.
- Clothing. For warmth and protection, wear several layers of light, loose and water and wind resistant clothing. Wear proper footwear that provides warmth and dryness, as well as ample ankle support.
- Know the law. Many extreme sports are either heavily regulated, or illegal. Find out if your activity is legal in your destination, and stay within the law.
- Let others know. Never participate in extreme sports alone. Have a partner who can assist you or go for help if you get injured. Keep your travel companions, friends and family informed of where your going and when you expect to return.
Insurance cover for sports and adventure activities
Get travel insurance. Not just any policy, or the 'free' one that your credit card gives you, but one that covers your specific adventure activity.
Most policies won't cover any adventurous activities by default. Many insurers will offer the option to pay extra to be covered.
Choosing a policy that covers your adventurous activity
- Check if you're covered. Choose a policy that covers all sporting or adventure activities you’re considering doing.
- Check their definitions. Sometimes policies are ambiguous as to what they define and how they describe activities.
- Declare everything. Tell your insurer about all activities, before you do them, even if just doing something as a one-off.
- Read the PDS. Before you buy the policy, read the product disclosure statement (PDS) in detail. Don't get caught out thinking you're covered, only to find the PDS told you you're not.
- Know the conditions. You're activity may be covered, though only in certain conditions. For example, they may cover snowboarding in a resort, though not off-piste or through the glades. Check the PDS.
Common sports and adventure activity exclusions
Don’t assume that because a policy covers one activity, that a similar or related activity is also covered.
For example, some polices that cover canyoning exclude abseiling, even though the two are often intertwined. Others may cover abseiling, but not into a canyon. If in doubt, check the PDS.
- Illegal activities. Doing an activity in a country where it’s illegal, even if you declared it to your insurer.
- Failing to follow safety advice. Ignoring warning signs, or instructions from your tour guide or instructor.
- Locations. For example, downhill skiing may be covered, when cross-country skiing is excluded. The same often applies to off-piste or back country skiing.
- Drugs and alcohol. Doing a declared activity under the influence of alcohol, drugs or some medications.
Where to get help overseas
When you're overseas, you won't have access to the supports systems you're accustomed to in Australia. You'll need to seek support locally there, and from friends, family and your travel insurer.
- Contact local emergency services. We publish local contact numbers in the travel advisory for each destination.
- See your hotel manager or tour guide. They may know what to do, where to go and where you can get other local help.
- Talk to your travel companions. Also, help them if they're in need. Look after your mates.
- Contact your friends and family. They may not be able to help you on the ground, however they may be able to help change your travel plans and talk to your insurer.
- Contact your travel insurer. Most travel insurers have 24-hour emergency hotline you can call from overseas. If you're covered, they may provide logistical support, as well as financial.
In some circumstances, the Australian Government can help. In most cases, you must exhaust all other avenues before seeking consular assistance.
It's important to understand our limits. Know how and when we can help, read the Consular Services Charter.
- Know the risks where you're going. Before you go, read our travel advisory for your destination.
- See our general advice about extreme winter weather. Also see our general advice about natural disasters.
- Look after yourself. See our general advice on taking care of your health.
- Learn more about staying safe during your activity.
- Also see our advice for going on a cruise
- If you're already travelling and need help, see what to do when things go wrong.
- Understand how and when we can help. Read the Consular Services Charter.
- For emergency consular assistance overseas, contact your nearest Australian embassy or consulate.
- Choose a policy that covers you for all your activities. Read the travel insurance buying guide (CHOICE).
- The global authority on severe weather reporting is the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
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