Travel advice explained
When travelling overseas, it's your responsibility to take care of your safety and well-being. Our travel advice will help you understand the risks, so you can avoid or handle difficulties.
This page explains:
- our travel advisories for destinations and our general advice
- how we develop and update our travel advisories
- what each advice level means in travel advisories
Smartraveller travel advice
Australians take more than 11 million trips overseas each year, and many of us live abroad. To help Australians avoid difficulties overseas, we provide a range of advice.
We publish official travel advisories, and general advice to prevent problems while overseas. Our travel advice helps Australian travellers make informed decisions.
We maintain travel advisories for 177 countries. We assign an overall advice level to each. We continually review and update them based on credible information. Each travel advisory provides country-specific information about:
- local laws
- local contacts
It's your responsibility to be informed about all the countries you're visiting. This includes understanding any risks, and planning for your safety. It's also your responsibility to stay informed, in case things change.
Subscribe to travel advice updates to get an email when we update our advice for the countries you're planning to visit. If you provide a mobile number, we'll send you an SMS if there's a critical alert.
Travel advice for other destinations
For some countries and territories with very few Australian travellers and / or the risks are low, we don't publish a travel advisory.
We regularly review if a travel advisory is required for these destinations. You can also read the destination's travel advice from our consular partners in Canada, the United Kingdom or the United States.
See our travel advice for all destinations.
General travel advice
How we develop travel advisories
We frequently review our travel advisories. However, we don't don't change them for all issues and incidents.
We update travel advisories if there are new or increased risks to Australians. This can be in response to new developments, such as credible intelligence reporting, major protests or unrest, new entry requirements, or a natural disaster.
Sometimes advisories are updated with new information without changing the level of advice. If we judge that the risk for Australians hasn't changed, we won't change the advice level.
If we change the advice level, it's usually because of a specific event or changes to local circumstances. When we change it, we'll clearly state this in the 'Latest update' section at the top of the travel advisory page.
We use a range of information sources in our travel advisories. These include:
- Australian diplomatic missions overseas
- threat assessments produced by ASIO’s National Threat Assessment Centre
- analysis of common problems Australians experience overseas
- intelligence from our consular partners in the US, UK, NZ and Canada
- information from other government agencies such as the Department of Health
- media and open source reporting
- feedback from travellers
If a travel advisory hasn't been updated for several months, it's not out of date. There's just been no need to update it.
Subscribe to get an email when we update the travel advice for your destinations.
What does 'advice level' mean?
We assign each destination an official advice level of 1, 2, 3 or 4. These levels reflect the risk for average Australian travellers to this country. For each level, we provide advice to help Australians avoid or reduce the risks.
A higher advice level means higher risk. The levels are:
- 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
Where to find the advice level for your destination
Every travel advisory displays an overall advice level for the country. The advice level is shown on the bar at the top of the travel advisory, along with the date and details of the latest update. The advice level is also shown by the colour on the country map.
Sometimes regions or cities within the country have different levels. This can be because of specific risks or safety concerns. We publish this in the travel advisory on the page and in the map.
Changes to advice levels
It's your responsibility to keep informed about any changes to the advice level. If it increases, take extra precautions. You can also subscribe to get an email when we update the travel advice for your destinations and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
Travel insurance and advice levels
Before booking travel and purchasing travel insurance make sure you’re aware of, and comfortable with, the advice level in your destination. Some policies will only allow you to cancel for safety reasons if the advice level increases after you've bought your policy.
If the advice level hasn’t changed and you decide not to go for safety reasons, most travel insurers won't cover your cancellation costs.
If the travel advice level is raised to ‘Level 3: Reconsider Your Need to Travel’ or ‘Level 4: Do Not Travel’, and you want to cancel your trip, contact your insurer. Find out if you can make a claim to cover cancellation costs, or changes to your itineraries.
Each travel insurance company will be different. Check with yours directly.
Level 1: Exercise normal safety precautions
Use common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia.
At level 1, the security environment is similar to that of a large Australian city.
This doesn’t mean the local situation will be the same as Australia. Laws and social customs could differ significantly. You could face terrorist attacks, civil unrest, violent crime, or unique health threats. But overall, the risks are not greater than those you'd face in an Australian city.
If you travel to a location with an advice level of 1, it's your responsibility to:
- monitor the media and other sources for changes to local travelling conditions, safety and security concerns
- be aware of local differences and, as appropriate, take similar precautions to those you would take in Australia
Keep in mind that being in an unfamiliar location without your support mechanisms always creates additional challenges. Even if the local environment is similar to Australia.
Level 2: Exercise a high degree of caution
Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for new risks.
At level 2, there are more or higher risks than what you would typically find in a large Australian city. We're not saying 'don't go' to this location. But you should do your research and take extra precautions.
The level may reflect a weak law-and-order system, where violent crime is common. The destination may lack some key public services, such as a responsive police force.
In some cases, there may be a risk that the security environment could change with little warning. This level may also reflect a passing event, such as political unrest or a short-term increase in a location's domestic terrorism level.
If you travel to a location with an advice level of 2, it's your responsibility to follow all the advice for level 1, as well as the following.
Before you go
- Understand the basics of the political and security situation.
- Familiarise yourself with the destination, especially dangerous areas of a city, types of crimes, risky modes of transport, specific precautions for women or LGBTI travellers and any behaviour that may offend or break the law.
While you're away
- Be aware of religious holidays or days of national significance. Terrorists have launched attacks on these occasions.
- Understand the safety of public transport options.
- Plan your daily movements and vary your routines and travel routes.
- Avoid known flashpoints, including protest areas.
- Don't wander into unknown areas.
- Avoid or minimise your time at places which may be targeted by terrorists.
- Leave an area at the first sign of unrest, or if you feel uneasy.
- Be aware of building exits and always know the safe places you can access if you feel threatened.
- Take notice of the people around you, and their behaviour. Be aware that, in an unfamiliar cultural setting, you may misinterpret some behaviour.
- When discussing your plans, avoid sharing details that others may overhear.
- Be cautious about the information you share on social media.
- Refuse unexpected packages or offers.
Level 3: Reconsider your need to travel
Do your research and check that your insurer will cover you. If you do travel, take extra safety precautions.
At level 3, there are serious and potentially life-threatening risks. This can make the destination unsafe for tourism and unsuitable for most travellers. This could be due to:
- an ongoing threat of terrorism or kidnapping
- frequent incidents of violent crime
- ongoing civil unrest
- widespread disease
- other safety risks
Think seriously about your need to travel to these places. This may mean postponing non-essential travel, or choosing a less risky destination.
If you decide to travel anyway, it's your responsibility to reduce your risks and stay safe. The Australian Government is limited in how and when it can help if you get into trouble.
These countries often have an unpredictable security environment. We may assign this advice level temporarily when there's been a major incident there. This could include a natural disaster or terrorist attack that has made the destination too risky for most travellers.
Our advice levels also apply to Australian officials travelling overseas. Officials must undertake a detailed security risk assessment before travelling to these areas. They may have to adopt specific protective security measures.
If travelling to a destination with an advice level of 3, follow all the advice for levels 1 and 2, as well as the following before you go and when you get there.
Before you go
- Research the political and security situation from a variety of sources before booking. Understand the risks. Check news and social media and understand what's going on.
- Check your travel insurance policy carefully. It may not cover travel to 'reconsider your need to travel' destinations.
- Pre-book accommodation in safe areas with appropriate security.
- Get local advice on your itinerary. Follow advice on areas to avoid.
- Minimise time spent in airports by scheduling direct flights if possible. Avoid stopovers in high-risk airports.
- Stay as short a time as possible. Eliminate unnecessary activities.
- Think carefully about your security. At your hotel and getting around. Organise tailored security arrangements and prepare contingency plans.
- Ask your tour operator about their safety record and security arrangements. This includes safety equipment, extra security, emergency plans and evacuation procedures.
- Regularly review your security arrangements. The threat environment could change at short notice.
- Have an up-to-date will and enduring power of attorney in case you die. Designate appropriate insurance and beneficiaries.
While you’re away
- Pre-plan your travel routes. Have contingency plans in place.
- Be prepared to change your plans in response to evolving threats.
- Avoid potential terrorism targets. Know what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
- Stay alert and always be aware of your environment. Look out for suspicious activity or items, and report anything of concern to local authorities.
- Don't discuss travel plans with strangers. Never share personal information with people asking questions without good reason.
- Don't discuss your plans or risk management strategies where they might be overheard by others.
- Don't share information about your travel arrangements on social media.
How to minimise your exposure to risks
- Avoid travelling alone, especially after dark and on long trips.
- Minimise travelling by foot. Be vigilant in public areas.
- Before getting into a vehicle, check it for anything suspicious.
- Make sure any vehicles you use are in good working order and have enough fuel to get you out of unexpected trouble.
- When driving, keep your car doors locked and your windows up.
- Watch for people following you. Be ready to take evasive action.
- Avoid using public transport. Only use trusted private transport.
- Check the safety record of your travel service providers. Always use available safety equipment, even if others don't.
- Never take something across a border for someone else. If it contains something illegal, such as drugs, you could be arrested or jailed
- Don't meet strangers in your hotel room, or in unknown or remote places.
Make contingency arrangements
- Wherever you are, have a plan of action in case the environment becomes unsafe.
- Be prepared to change your plans at short notice. This could include changing meetings or activities to less prominent areas, or to less dangerous days.
- Always carry a charged phone. Save local emergency contact details in it.
- Tell a trusted person about where you're going and when you plan to return. Discuss and agree what action they should take if you don't return at the planned time.
- Maintain contingency kits. Include medical supplies, food, water and fuel. This can help sustain you through any period of heightened unrest.
- Carry provisions with you when getting around.
In the event of a crisis, departure options may be severely limited. You're responsible for ensuring you can depart independently and that your travel documentation is up-to-date. Don’t expect the Australian Government to organise your departure. See the Consular Services Charter to understand how and when we can help.
Level 4: Do not travel
If you do travel, get professional security advice. Your travel insurance policy might be void. The Australian Government may not be able to help you.
At level 4, the security situation is extremely dangerous. There may be a high threat of terrorist attack, conflict, violent social unrest or critical levels of violent crime. It could be a combination of risks.
If you get into trouble, the Australian Government may be unable to help. In most cases, our ability to provide consular assistance in these destinations is extremely limited.
Any travel by Australian officials to ‘Do Not Travel’ locations is subject to high-level approval. It includes rigorous risk assessment and movement planning usually involving the use of armoured vehicles.
If, despite our advice, you decide to travel to a location with a travel advice level of 4, it's your responsibility to follow all the advice for levels 1, 2 and 3, as well as the following.
Before you go
- Check your travel insurance. Most standard policies won't cover you for 'Do not travel' destinations.
- Consider your security. Get independent, professional security advice. You may need to hire personal protection.
- Have robust risk management measures in place. This includes a detailed emergency management plan.
- Understand that you could die. Make sure you have an up-to-date will, an enduring power of attorney. Designate appropriate insurance beneficiaries.
It's your responsibility to take care of your security. The Australian Government can’t provide security assistance or advice.
While you're away
- Exercise extreme caution.
- Follow the advice of your personal protection service.
If you die overseas in a 'do not travel' destination, it's unlikely your travel insurance will cover you. Your family will be left to deal with you death. This includes organising your funeral and bringing back your remains. They may also have to resolve legal or financial issues in the destination, and in Australia.
- Read the travel advice for all the destinations you're travelling to, and through.
- Read our general travel advice and tips before you go.
- Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can’t do to help you overseas.
- Contact the Consular Emergency Centre if you’re overseas and need urgent help.
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