Advice for school leavers (Schoolies)
Each year, more Aussie school leavers go overseas to celebrate the end of their studies. For many, it’s their first trip overseas, or first trip without family.
When you leave Australia you leave behind the support systems, emergency services and medical facilities. If you plan well and make smart choices, your Schoolies trip can be the experience of a lifetime.
Our tips below will help keep you safe and ensure you make the most of your trip. Explore this page for:
The schoolies checklist
- Choose your adventure
- Do your research
- Subscribe for updates
- Get travel insurance
- Passports and visas
- See your doctor
- Understand local laws
- Know how to stay safe
1. Choose your adventure
Party, explore or something more meaningful? There's more than one way to celebrate finishing school.
If you're planning on taking an alternative schoolies trip, take a look at our volunteering overseas page.
See our advice for volunteers.
It’s schoolies so you want to have fun. To help keep it that way, read our advice on partying safely.
Don't do drugs. You could be arrested or jailed. Even if you get away with it, you could have a bad trip. Is it really worth risking your health or your life?
See our general advice for partying safely.
Backpacking is a rite of passage for Aussies. What an awesome opportunity to explore the countries and cultures of the world!
Backpacking is a cheap way to do it, especially if you want to be away for a while. It won't stay cheap if you cut corners that will cost you more in the long run.
Just be smart about staying safe and taking care of your health while you're away. It gets expensive when things go wrong. Even a quick trip to a hospital can costs 1000s per day. Surely, you'd rather spend that kind of money on something else, right?
See our general advice for backpackers and budget travellers.
2. Research your destination
Check out our travel advisory for the countries you're visiting. It will give you information about safety and security, local laws and customs and more.
Travel advice for popular Schoolies destinations are below.
Remember to also read the travel advisories for destinations you're travelling through. Even if it's just a quick stopover.
Learn more about our advisories and advice levels. Read travel advice explained.
3. Subscribe for updates
Once you have locked in your travel plans, subscribe to Smartraveller updates for your destination.
4. Get travel insurance
Expect the unexpected. Get travel insurance. If something goes wrong and you don't have the right insurance, you will be responsible for your costs. These can be as high as $100,000.
Appropriate travel insurance should cover all your planned activities, illness or injury while overseas, as well as lost valuables or theft.
If you plan on hiring jetskis, scooters, quadbikes or cars, check your travel insurance covers this. No licence, no helmet and being under the influence of drugs or alcohol (or other reckless or illegal behaviour) can disqualify you from cover.
Don't know where to start? See our general advice about travel insurance. Also read the CHOICE travel insurance buying guide.
5. Organise your passport and visas
Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months after the date you intend to return to Australia. If you still have a child's passport, remember it’s only valid for five years.
If you need a new passport, organise it well in advance of your holiday. See the Australian Passport Office website for more information.
6. See your doctor before you go
You may need new vaccinations or boosters for your destination. It's a good idea to see a doctor 6-8 weeks before you leave.
7. Know the law
The laws of the country you are visiting apply to you. Even if they seem harsh by Australian standards.
- If you break the law, you could be arrested or jailed. Even if you didn't know something was illegal there.
- Don't expect to be treated differently just because you're an Australian.
- Even if you're under 18, you may be treated as an adult and held in an adult prison.
The Australian Government is limited in how and when it can help overseas. We can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. We can't pay your fines or legal fees.
However, we can give you a list of local lawyers that speak English. Understand our limits. Read the Consular Services Charter.
It's your responsibly to learn about local laws, and follow them. See our general advice on staying within the law.
8. Know how to stay safe over there
Destination specific risks
Know the risks specific to your destination, and to you personally. You can take steps to stay safe and avoid danger.
Every destination has its own unique set of risks. These can apply to any Australian traveller. See our travel advice for your destinations.
General safety risks for Australians anywhere
There's also general risks for any Australian traveller, for any destination. See our general advice on staying safe and avoiding danger. These pages cover topics such as:
Safety risks for you
Depending on who you are, there may be other risks. Other countries can have a very different approach to gender, sexual orientation and health conditions.
Tips for staying safe at schoolies
Keep in touch
Once the celebrations or adventure starts, don't forget to keep in contact with your family.
Call, text or email regularly. Update Facebook, Instagram and other channels. Let your loved ones back home know where you are and how you're going.
Look after your mates
Often when young Aussies get into difficulty overseas it's when they've been separated from friends.
- Keep in regular contact and be aware of where people in your group are.
- Make sure you have your friends' mobile numbers.
- Organise a time and place to meet in case you get separated or lose reception.
- Make sure everyone in your group knows the name, address and phone number of your hotel.
- Don't let a friend go home alone, or with someone they just met.
- Watch their drinks. Not just to make sure they don't overdo it. If someone spikes their drink, they could be at risk of robbery or sexual assault.
- If you think a friend needs medical assistance, don't delay. Your hotel should be able to help contact a doctor.
Partying safely at schoolies
Keep an eye out for the Red Frogs volunteers if partying for schoolies in Bali, Fiji and Vanuatu. Their volunteers act as the eyes and ears in accommodation venues and out on the streets, providing a positive peer presence to school leavers.
Many countries have tough penalties for carrying or using drugs. This includes life imprisonment or death. Even small quantities of marijuana can attract lengthy jail sentences.
Australians have been injured, fallen ill or arrested after using magic mushrooms overseas. They can lead to major mental health problems. We strongly recommend you avoid them.
See our information about carrying or using drugs.
Keep an eye on your drink. Reduce the risk of someone spiking it. Also track how much you drink, and know your limits.
Drinking too much can also increase the likelihood of being involved in violence. If you find someone is trying to start a fight with you, don’t respond. Walk away.
You may not be covered by travel insurance if you were under the influence.
See our advice on partying safely.
Take care around water
Rough seas and strong currents have led to drownings in coastal areas. This includes in Bali and Phuket.
Just like at home, don't swim if you've been drinking.
Even if you're a strong swimmer, be cautious. Obey warnings and consult local sources about potential water hazards.
Local beach rescue services may not be of the same standard as in Australia.
Choose safe transport options
Sadly, it's not unusual for Australians to be seriously injured or killed on the roads overseas.
Motorbikes and scooters
- Make sure you're covered by travel insurance before riding.
- Always wear a helmet.
- Wear proper safety gear, or at least proper shoes, long pants and long sleeves.
- Respect local road rules, and don't drink and ride.
Many travel insurance policies don't automatically cover riding. You may have to pay more as an extra. See our information about travel insurance.
Renting a vehicle
Operators may ask to hold your passport as a deposit or guarantee before hiring vehicles. Passports are valuable documents that you need to protect.
We recommend you offer a photocopy or another form of ID instead. If they insist on holding your passport, change operators.
Don't get scammed. There's a few scams to watch out for when hiring a vehicle. See our information and general advice on common overseas scams.
Transport safety standards differ overseas. Many are far below what we've come to expect in Australia.
- Never use taxis, buses, trains or boats that are overcrowded or look unsafe.
- Always wear a seatbelt on the roads, even if locals don't.
- Avoid travelling in ferries and speedboats after dark.
If you're heading out for the night, plan a few different options for getting home. Find out what time the last public transport service runs or check what time it starts again in the morning.
Reduce the risk of becoming a victim of sexual assault
Sexual assault is a traumatic experience for anyone, particularly when travelling overseas and away from home. Assaults can happen to both women and men.
There are precautions you can take to reduce, not remove, the risk. See our general information and advice on reducing the risk of sexual assault.
Where to get help overseas
If something serious happens and you don't know how to handle it, ask for help. Local authorities, such as tourist police, should be your first point of contact, together with friends and family.
Travel insurance companies often require a police report for crimes.
The Australian Government is limited in how and when it can help overseas. It's important you understand out limits. Read the Consular Services Charter.
Final tips before you go
- Read the travel advice for the countries you plan to visit and subscribe to updates.
- Many guidebooks and online forums cover travel issues you may come across. Talk to friends, family and colleagues who have travelled to the places you plan to visit.
- Leave a detailed itinerary with someone at home, and plan to keep in regular contact.
- Choose a destination where you'll feel safe, comfortable, and prepared for any issues you may face.
- Read the travel advice for the countries you plan to visit. Understand what the advice level means.
- Things can change quickly, so can our travel advisories. Subscribe to updates for your destinations.
- See our general advice for backpackers.
- Read about our partners helping the safe return of Australian travellers
- See our general information and advice on reducing the risk of sexual assault.
- Understand our limits. Read the Consular Services Charter.
- Red Frogs – Our friends at Red Frogs support schoolies with a positive peer presence during festivities. Red Frogs staff travel overseas to a number of schoolies locations, including Bali and Fiji. Download their App and say hello.
- Read the story behind The Nicole Fitzsimons Foundation, a legacy to Nicole who was killed while riding a motorbike in Thailand back in 2012.
- Drinkwise – promotes safe drinking culture among young Australians, particularly through their 'how to drink properly' campaign (external site – explicit language warning).
We work closely with a range of government and not for profit partners to prepare our advice, and to promote Smartraveller.
Studying overseas can be exciting and rewarding. Whether you're doing a quick school trip or an extended university exchange, it's important to be prepared.