Fact sheet: Travel smart advice for all travellers
Our top travel tips
- Check the latest travel advice on Smartraveller. Subscribe to receive updates or follow Smartraveller on social media.
- Take out comprehensive travel insurance. Ensure it covers you for the places you'll visit, things you'll do and any pre-existing conditions.
- Check the expiry date of your passport before you travel. Some countries won't let you enter unless your passport is valid for six months from when you plan to leave that country.
- Ask health professionals about recommended vaccinations and other health precautions. Vaccinations can be an entry requirement for some countries. Check your medication – certain medicines aren't allowed in some countries.
- Make sure you have the right visas for the countries you are visiting or transiting and check other entry or exit requirements.
- Check if you're regarded as a national of the country you plan to visit, and whether dual nationality will have any implications for your travel plans.
- Make copies of your passport, visas and insurance policy. Carry them in a separate place to the originals and leave a copy with someone at home.
- Risks are often greater overseas. Be careful and don't take any risks you wouldn't consider at home.
- Obey the laws of the country you're visiting even if these appear harsh or unfair by Australian standards. Don't expect to be treated differently from locals just because you're Australian.
- Keep in contact with friends and family back home. Give them a copy of your itinerary before you go so they know where you are. Let them know if you won't be contactable for an extended period.
Before you go
The better prepared you are, the safer and more enjoyable your travel will be.
Research your destination
Access our full range of travel information to help you prepare for overseas travel at smartraveller.gov.au. We have useful advice on:
- safety and security
- local laws and customs
- entry and exit requirements
- health issues.
We help you consider the level of risk you may face, so you can make informed decisions about where and when to travel overseas.
Smartraveller uses four levels of travel advice for all destinations:
- 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.
- select alerts for particular destinations, issues and events
- set an end date for notifications
- unsubscribe any time.
Get the right travel insurance
Organising travel insurance is an essential part of preparing for your overseas trip. If you're not insured, you (or your family) are personally liable for covering any medical or other costs resulting from unexpected accidents. If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel.
Make sure your travel insurance covers where you plan to go and what you plan to do, including:
- medical expenses for injury or illness
- any pre-existing medical conditions
- theft of valuables
- damage to baggage
- sports and adventure activities, such as skiing or hiring a motorcycle
- cancellations or interruptions to flight plans.
Accidents can happen to anyone, including on short trips to familiar locations. Medical costs overseas can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Each year more than 1,300 Australians die overseas. It can cost over $20,000 to bring the remains of a loved one home – so make sure your travel insurance covers this before you go.
The Australian Government won't pay for your medical treatment overseas or medical evacuation to Australia or a third country. Australians have faced financial hardship to cover costs when things go wrong.
If you plan to rely on the travel insurance provided by your credit card, confirm you're covered for your personal circumstances, including for all of your destinations, activities and pre-existing medical conditions.
If you're travelling with family, you may be able to get travel insurance for your family under the one policy. However, cover varies from policy to policy so check the fine print. Confirm all details with your insurance provider and get written confirmation of your policy.
Be aware that some policies don't offer refunds and may cancel coverage when the safety and security environment overseas changes. The terms and conditions of your policy will determine whether you're entitled to a refund if the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) changes the level of the travel advice for that location. This will vary from policy to policy, so shop around.
DFAT has teamed up with independent consumer advocate CHOICE to provide a simple travel insurance guide to help you choose the right insurance for your trip.
Organise your passports and visas
Make sure your passport has enough validity
Check the expiry date of your passport before you travel. Some countries won't let you enter unless your passport is valid for six months from when you plan to leave that country.
What if you lose your passport or someone steals it?
By law you must report the loss or theft of your passport without delay.
- Overseas: Contact an Australian Embassy or Consulate.
- In Australia: Call the Australian Passport Information Service or go to your nearest Australian Passport Office.
If your passport is stolen, report the incident to the police and get a copy of the police report. You'll be asked to present the report when you replace the passport.
If your passport is damaged
Call the Australian Passport Information Service or visit an Australian passport office, Australian Embassy or Consulate to check if your passport is usable for international travel.
Check the entry and visa requirements for the countries you plan to visit or transit with the relevant foreign embassy or consulate.
- Each country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders.
- In most cases, tourist visas don't allow you to work in a foreign country, including voluntary or unpaid work.
- Visas and entry permit conditions and expiry dates must be strictly followed. In some countries, visa overstay can lead to arrest.
- Visa scams are common. Check the Smartraveller travel advice for the correct links, or contact the embassy of the countries you plan to visit.
- DFAT in Australia and Australian missions overseas cannot help you arrange visas or work and residency permits for other countries.
- Passports Information Service: 131 232
Check if you're a dual national
If you or your parents were born in another country, you may be considered a citizen or national of that country, even though you're also an Australian citizen. Before you leave, check the implications of local laws for dual nationals – for example, you may need to do military service in the country of your other nationality.
Some countries may not permit Australian consular assistance to be provided to Australian citizens who, according to its laws, are considered to be its own nationals. Some countries may not recognise your Australian citizenship even when you're travelling on an Australian passport. This may mean they may not permit Australian consular assistance to be provided to you.
You must use your Australian passport to leave and return to Australia.
If you hold another country's passport, seek advice about using it from the country's embassy before you leave. To find out more about what dual nationality and Australian citizenship mean, visit the Department of Home Affairs website or call 131 880.
More information: Dual nationals
Consult your airline
If you're concerned the airline may question your fitness to fly, get a letter from your doctor confirming that you're fit for air travel.
If you have a disability, contact your airline to find out about services such as shuttles, seating arrangements and special meals.
If you need to carry needles and syringes, take a letter from your doctor explaining why you need them and seek early advice from your airline on how to comply with airport and air travel security regulations.
Think about your packing
Make sure the items you're packing are not dangerous goods by visiting the Civil Aviation Safety Authority website.
Information about what you can and cannot carry in your luggage is available from TravelSECURE.
- Check if your medication is considered illegal or a controlled substance overseas.
- Obey the law – don't purchase, use or travel with illegal drugs.
- Pack your luggage yourself so you know what you're carrying.
- Never carry anything into or out of another country for someone else.
- Secure your luggage against tampering or theft.
- Don't leave your bags unattended in public areas or with a stranger.
- Be wary of offers of new luggage or using bags that don't belong to you. Illegal drugs have been found in suitcases won as 'prizes' in online competitions. You may not be able to see the drugs at first glance, but security detection systems are likely to find them.
Organise your travel money
There is no limit to the amount of physical currency you can bring in or take out of Australia. However, you must declare amounts of $10,000 or more in Australian currency or foreign equivalent.
If requested by an Australian Border Force or police officer, you must also disclose any promissory notes, traveller's cheques, personal cheques, money orders, postal orders or other bearer negotiable instruments, regardless of value.
More information: AUSTRAC
Before you go:
- find out the currency most common at your destination and whether ATMs are widely available
- organise options for accessing your money overseas, such as debit and credit cards, travel money cards, traveller's cheques and cash
- tell your bank when and where you plan to travel
- check whether your ATM card will work overseas.
There are rules about how Centrelink payments or concession cards may be affected if you leave Australia. More information: Human Services
Copy your documents
Take copies of your important documents. Email them to yourself, or make two photocopies, leaving one copy with someone at home and keeping the other with you, separate from the originals:
- travel insurance policy
- itinerary and tickets
- credit card numbers and traveller's cheques
- driver's licence or international driving permit.
Make or update your will
A will allows you to nominate who will benefit from your estate. If you don't have a will, or it is out of date, it can mean that your property and possessions might not be distributed as you intended. A will also provides the opportunity for you to nominate a guardian if you have children. It is always recommended to have an up-to-date will to ensure your wishes are known.
Plan to stay healthy
Read up on the health issues affecting the countries you are travelling to before you go.
Make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic at least six weeks before you depart and find out what vaccinations or health checks you need for your destination. Remember some vaccines need time to take effect or more than one dose.
Check the vaccination entry and exit requirements of all countries on your itinerary from the relevant foreign mission.
Travelling with medications
Before you leave, check that the medication you plan to take is legal in the countries you're visiting by contacting the foreign mission of those countries.
It's an offence to carry or send Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medicine overseas unless it is for your own personal use, or someone travelling with you.
You could be fined $5,000 and spend two years in prison if you break this law.
More information: Human Services or call 1800 500 147.
If you are taking medicines overseas:
- check you meet any legal requirements of that foreign country
- take enough medicine for your trip and a bit extra in case you're delayed
- carry or enclose a letter from your doctor detailing what the medicine is, how much you'll take, and that it is for your personal use
- leave the medicine in its original packaging so that it is clearly labelled with your name and dosage instructions
- separate quantities between your luggage in case a bag goes missing.
If you have to inject your medication, it may be preferable to carry your own needles and syringes if allowed in the countries you are visiting. If you have to buy needles or syringes overseas, make sure they are sealed and sterile.
Reciprocal health care agreements
Australia has reciprocal health care agreements with several countries, including New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Under these agreements, Australians can be provided with urgent or emergency medical treatment overseas. Be aware you can only access general medical services when the need for treatment arises during the visit and if it would be unreasonable to delay treatment until you return to Australia.
These agreements are not a substitute for travel insurance. They won't cover you if a doctor recommends you should be evacuated back to Australia or to another location. You would need to pay for these costs yourself if you don't have adequate travel insurance.
For more information, and for a full list of countries, visit humanservices.gov.au or call 1800 500 147.
Additional health tips
- Check what you eat and drink for any contamination.
- Taking recreational drugs may leave you exposed and at risk of being taken advantage of.
- Be aware of the risk of hepatitis, HIV and STIs – practise safe sex and avoid ear-piercing, acupuncture, tattooing or dental work while travelling in countries with lower health or hygiene standards.
- Take measures to avoid insect bites.
- Practise good hygiene around animals. Avoid scratches and bites.
- Medical tourism, including cosmetic surgery and gender reassignment surgery, is increasing.
- Be aware that while the range of medical and dental services available may be impressive at first sight, standards can be low, resulting in serious and possibly life-threatening complications.
- Avoid temporary 'black henna' tattoos as they often contain a dye, which can cause serious skin reactions.
- If you wear glasses, take a spare pair and/or a copy of the prescription so that they can be replaced if lost or broken.
To find out more about healthy travel and vaccinations see:
- World Health Organization
- National Immunisation Program
- Department of Health
- Smartraveller Health page
While you're away
Australians love to travel, and as a nation we're doing it more and more. Nothing beats the excitement of jumping on a plane to explore a new place or to rediscover an old one. Taking some sensible precautions while you're away will help to make your journey safe and worry-free.
Be conscious of your safety and security
Read the Smartraveller travel advice for country-specific risks to your safety and security. For the latest updates, subscribe to Smartraveller emails, and follow Smartraveller on Facebook or Twitter. Always be aware of 'Do not travel' areas listed in the advice.
Some countries have a high crime rate, including armed robbery, sexual assaults, muggings, carjacking and kidnapping. 'Express kidnappings' are when victims are abducted and forced to withdraw funds from ATMs before being released. Most crimes are opportunistic such as pickpockets or bag snatching.
Be careful about your personal security and belongings in public places and take precautions. Keep money and valuables out of sight and avoid displays of wealth.
ATM and credit card fraud, including skimming, can occur. Keep your credit card in sight to ensure your details are not copied. Avoid using ATMs that open onto the street and instead use ATMs in controlled areas such as banks or shops.
Avoid card games as they can result in demands for large cash payments.
Where possible, use official taxi or reputable ride- sharing companies that can be booked by phone, app or at major hotels and from inside airports. Don't share taxis with strangers. Be wary if you are approached at the airport by private drivers. In some countries, extortion and robbery can occur in unauthorised taxis.
Drink and food spiking is common around the world. Never leave your drink or food unattended or in the care of a stranger.
Avoid all demonstrations and protests, as even peaceful protests may turn violent. During election periods, unrest and violent protests can happen. Events in one country can spark unrest in another. Demonstrations and strikes may disrupt your travel plans, so monitor local and international media for information about possible safety or security risks.
Terrorism is an ongoing threat in many countries around the world. The threat in some destinations is very high. The Australian Government's ability to provide consular assistance is limited in these places.
Research local transport and tours
Some transport and tour operators don't have adequate safety equipment or don't follow recommended maintenance standards. Research the company you plan to use and make sure your travel insurance covers the activities you'll undertake.
Learn about road conditions and the traffic culture of the places you plan to visit. If you're renting a car or motorcycle, make sure it's roadworthy and that you have a valid licence, otherwise your insurance may not cover you for injury or damage arising from accidents. Always wear a helmet and appropriate protective clothing on motorcycles and bicycles.
Before driving overseas, contact the relevant foreign embassy in Australia for information on licence requirements. Many countries require an International Driving Permit (IDP) in addition to a valid Australian driving licence to legally drive a car, or ride a motorcycle. You can apply for an IDP through the automobile club or association (such as the NRMA or RAC) in the state or territory where your licence is current. Don't trust vendors who tell you that you don't need a permit to ride or drive. Do your own research.
Aviation safety and security standards in some countries may not be equal to standards in Australia or meet those set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). When staff at Australian embassies overseas are advised not to use particular airlines due to safety concerns, this will be clearly stated in the Smartraveller travel advice for that destination.
Obey the law
When it comes to the law, pleading ignorance is no defence. Always obey the laws of the country you are visiting, even if they are different from those in Australia. In some cases you may be bound by Australian laws as well. Check the Laws section in each country travel advisory before you go.
Consular services and the law
Be aware that local laws and penalties of each country you visit also apply to you. The Australian Government can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can't do to assist Australians overseas.
Don't use, carry or get involved with drugs overseas. Consular assistance cannot override local law, even where local laws appear harsh by Australian standards.
Some countries, such as China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, can impose the death penalty or life imprisonment for drug offences.
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, human trafficking, modern slavery, forced marriage, child sexual abuse and child sexual abuse material, apply to Australians when they are overseas. The provision of consular assistance to Australians doesn't protect you from the consequences of actions that are prohibited under Australian law or the laws of the country you are visiting. Consular officials have to report serious criminal misconduct of this kind to the Australian Federal Police.
Australians also risk prosecution under Australian law if they engage in hostile activity overseas, or if they travel with the intention of engaging in hostile activity overseas. More information: Australian National Security
Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian laws that criminalise engaging in child sexual abuse and child abuse material while outside Australia. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment. More information: Child Sex Offences
Violations of Australia's child sex laws should be reported to the Australian Federal Police by calling 131AFP (131 237) or +61 2 6126 7755 . You can call the AFP anonymously on 1800 333 000.
You can also complete a Transnational Child Sexual Exploitation report or by writing to:
Evaluation and Referral Centre
Australian Federal Police
GPO Box 401
Canberra ACT 2602
Respect local customs
It's important to respect local cultures and customs when travelling. Remember:
- Research the local customs of the country you're travelling to, and if in doubt, seek local advice.
- Dress appropriately. Look at what the locals are wearing and be sensitive to local standards.
- Show respect when visiting cultural, historical and sacred sites. In some countries, inappropriate or indecent behaviour can lead to arrest.
- Always ask permission before taking photos of people and respect their wishes if they decline. In some countries, it's illegal to take photos of certain places, such as government buildings, airports and ports or anything that may be police or military property.
- In some countries it's not acceptable for couples to be very affectionate in public.
- Laws and attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) travellers around the world can be very different from those in Australia, which can create risks for LGBTI travellers.
More information: LGBTI travellers
Family and relationship matters
If your child is born overseas, you must first register them as a citizen by descent before an Australian passport can be issued. More information: Department of Home Affairs
Information about overseas adoption and surrogacy:
- Adoption and surrogacy (Smartraveller)
- Adoption outside Australia (Home Affairs)
- International surrogacy arrangements (Home Affairs)
Some countries have legal systems that impose strict limits on women's rights. While these may be harsh by Australian standards, they will apply to you when you're in that country. Check each country travel advisory.
Be wary of relationships initiated over the internet – cyber-dating scams are common and Australians have lost large amounts of money on prospective marriage partners. In some instances, people who have travelled overseas to meet their partner have been kidnapped and held to ransom.
If you're planning on getting married overseas, be aware that laws regarding marriage vary from country to country and legal complications can arise. Make sure you check the legal, cultural and religious implications for yourself, your partner and any current or future children. Australians planning to marry overseas should contact either a legal practitioner or the embassy or consulate of the country where they would like to marry for details on the requirements.
Keep in touch
Each year, DFAT receives thousands of calls from worried family members and friends who haven't heard from someone who is travelling. Keeping in touch not only saves your friends and family a lot of worry, it can also make it easier to find you in an emergency.
- Leave a copy of your itinerary with your family or a friend, and let them know if it changes.
- Arrange options for staying in touch with family and friends while overseas (mobile phone, prepaid or postpaid international calling card, SMS, social media, email, etc.).
- Tell your family and friends how often they'll hear from you, and stick to your word.
- Let your family and friends know if you're travelling to a remote area and won't be contactable.
The Smartraveller website has useful travel hints for specific travel groups, including:
- Australians with mental health concerns
- Business travellers
- Dual nationals
- LGBTI travellers
- Living and working overseas
- Mature and older travellers
- Travelling with a disability
It also has information about how to cope with unexpected events including:
When you return to Australia, there are a few basic things you can do to make the process quicker and easier:
- Have the correct documents completed and ready
- Make sure you declare any items that may be restricted, prohibited or carry diseases
- Know your duty-free allowances.
Australia has strict biosecurity requirements to help minimise the risk of exotic pests and diseases entering the country. You must comply with biosecurity requirements before entering Australia. Luggage is screened using detector dogs, X-ray machines and baggage inspection. If you are caught carrying undeclared biosecurity risk goods you could be fined or prosecuted.
You may need to show a yellow fever vaccination certificate on your return to Australia if you have visited a yellow fever risk country. More information: Human Biosecurity (Department of Health)
You must declare certain food, plant material and animal products to a Department of Agriculture and Water Resources biosecurity officer. If you have goods you don't wish to declare, you can dispose of them in bins in the airport terminal. In many cases the goods you declare will be returned to you after inspection.
If your goods do not meet Australia's import requirements they may be directed for treatment, export or destruction at your expense.
If you're unwell within two weeks of returning to Australia, see a doctor and tell them where you have been travelling.
Other items that are restricted and must be declared on arrival include:
- firearms, weapons and ammunition
- performance and image enhancing drugs
- medicines including prescription medications, alternative and herbal medicines, vitamins and mineral preparation formulas
- currency - $10,000 or more in physical Australian currency or foreign equivalent or other bearer negotiable instruments.
- protected wildlife such as coral, orchids, caviar, ivory and hunting trophies
- agricultural and veterinary chemical products
- illegal pornography
- heritage-listed goods - such as works of art, stamps, coins, archaeological objects and specimens
- defence and strategic goods.
In addition to approval from the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, many wildlife products require permits from the Department of the Environment and Energy to allow entry into Australia. 'Wildlife' includes (but is not limited to) any whole, part or derivative of a plant or animal, either living or non-living.
- Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
- Department of the Environment
- Department of Home Affairs
Getting help overseas
Most Australians travel safely overseas, but some experience serious difficulties or emergencies.
Where to start
Depending on the nature of your emergency, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, bank, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider.
The Smartraveller travel advisories list emergency contact numbers for your destination. Be aware that enforcement and ethical standards for police and security authorities vary between countries. Always remember to get a police report if you report a crime.
Travel insurance companies often have 24-hour call centres that you can contact from anywhere in the world. If you get sick overseas, are a victim of crime or are involved in an emergency, contact your travel insurance provider as soon as possible. Carry your travel insurance policy information and contact numbers with you.
If you have exhausted these options and are still facing serious difficulties, the Australian Government may be able to assist you. DFAT provides consular services to Australians facing serious difficulties overseas in line with the Consular Services Charter. This includes:
- Assisting Australian citizens in difficult situations overseas, including serious injury, illness or death, and arrest and detention.
- Providing support during crisis situations and international emergencies.
- Delivering information and advice to help Australians help themselves and avoid difficulties overseas.
- Issuing passports and travel documents to Australian citizens.
- Offering a limited range of notarial services, such as witnessing and legalising documents and administering oaths and affirmations (fees apply).
The Consular Services Charter outlines the consular assistance that can be provided to Australians overseas, and a range of tasks that are outside the consular role.
In some countries, Canadian missions provide assistance to Australians. Contact information for Australian and relevant Canadian missions overseas is listed on the DFAT website.
Your personal information is protected by law, including the Privacy Act 1988. Personal information may be used by us to provide consular assistance. Information about how we collect, use, disclose and store personal information related to consular cases is in our Consular Privacy Collection Statement available on the DFAT website.
By law consular officials must charge fees for notarial and certain other services. These fees are determined by an Act of Parliament and do not reflect the full cost of providing these services.
Consular Emergency Centre
DFAT's Consular Emergency Centre supports Australia's Embassies and Consulates to provide 24/7 consular assistance where the problem is serious and requires emergency assistance. If you can't contact the closest Australian Embassy or Consulate and need immediate assistance, contact 1300 555 135 from within Australia or +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas.
Australians in need of counselling services overseas can contact the Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 to be transferred to a Lifeline telephone crisis supporter.
Quick reference guide
If you or a family member is seriously sick and in need of medical care overseas
- Seek medical assistance from local doctors or hospitals or via your hotel or tour manager.
- Contact your travel insurer – travel insurance companies often have 24-hour call centres and can provide advice on managing your illness/ injury and details of medical facilities in your area.
- Call the nearest Australian Embassy or Consulate and follow the telephone prompts.
- If you can't make contact with the nearest Embassy or Consulate, call the Consular Emergency Centre (CEC) in Canberra on 1300 555 135 or +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas.
If you or a family member has been sexually assaulted or the victim of a serious crime overseas
- Call the nearest Australian Embassy or Consulate and follow the telephone prompts.
- If you can't make contact with the nearest Embassy or Consulate, call the Consular Emergency Centre (CEC) in Canberra on 1300 555 135 or +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas. The CEC will make contact with the nearest Australian Embassy or Consulate to provide direct assistance.
If you or a family member has been robbed or need money overseas
- In the case of theft, contact your travel insurer. Your insurer may require you to report the loss to local police and obtain a police report.
- Contact family and friends and look to use a commercial money transfer service or a bank to transfer funds.
If you or a family member is arrested overseas
Call the nearest Australian Embassy or Consulate, noting there are limits to what consular staff can do. We can't get you out of prison/detention or provide legal advice, but we can provide you with a range of information including contact details for local lawyers. We will do what we can to see you are treated in accordance with local laws and process. We will raise any welfare concerns with prison authorities.
If someone is missing overseas
- Call their phone, email them and seek to make contact via social media. Call family members and friends and check with their last address, banks, travel agents, airlines/tour companies or employers.
- If this is not successful, and there are reasons for concern, contact your local police to report a missing person before calling the Consular Emergency Centre (CEC) in Canberra on 1300 555 135 or +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas
Handy checklist to tell you what you need to do before you head off on your trip.
This publication provides advice on how to avoid becoming a victim of sexual assault, and advice to victims of sexual assault if it happens while overseas.