Public transport is a cost effective and convenient way of getting around overseas. However, just like in Australia, it carries risks.
Whether you're getting around town by bus, ferry or train, it's important to be prepared. Know the risks specific to your destination, so you can take steps to reduce them and stay safe.
Explore this page to learn the top-10 tips for transport safety overseas.
- Research your destination
- Travel together
- Select the safer seat
- Know the route and destination
- Follow instructions
- Be aware and alert
- If it doesn't add up, speak up
- Be assertive
- Protect your property
- Know how and where to get help
This page is for Australians preparing to travel overseas. If you're already travelling and need help, see what to do when things go wrong overseas.
1. Research your destination
- Travel advice. Know the key safety risks and common crimes where you're going. Read our travel advice for your destination.
- Tour guide and hotel manager. Ask a local for their advice on getting around safely. They may have up to date local knowledge on which forms of transport to avoid generally, or at certain times.
- Ask the internet. Check online travel sites and forums. See what other travellers have experienced so you can make informed decisions about which forms of local transport you take.
Read our travel advice for your destination. Understand what each advice level means.
2. Travel together
- Travel with others. Travelling solo is more risky than travelling with others. Especially for women and LGBTI travellers.
- Safety in numbers. If you're on your own, find others to sit near. This counts while you're waiting for the transport, and when you're on it.
- Keep your kids close. If you're travelling with children, understand the risk of kidnapping in your destination. Keep your kids close, and sit between them and the aisle.
3. Select the safer seat
- Sit up the front. It's often safer to sit closer to the driver, or the guard if there is one.
- Stay on camera. Many trains, buses and ferries and stations have security cameras. If you can see a camera, the security guard monitoring the feed can probably see you.
- Look for light. Choose a seat that's well lit.
- Look around. If a passenger near you is acting suspiciously, move.
4. Know the route and destination
- Plan your route.
- Know where you're getting off.
- Set an itinerary. Write it down, or consider getting a travel planning app.
Learn more about travel planning apps (CHOICE).
5. Follow instructions
- Listen for announcements. Especially if there's changes to the route or safety issues.
- Comply with ticket inspectors. If you don't have a ticket, or got the wrong ticket, you could be arrested or jailed. Especially if you didn't get a ticket at all.
Learn more about staying within the law.
6. Be aware and alert
- Observe your surroundings.
- Keep the volume down. If you've got headphones on, make sure you can still hear what's going on around you.
- Change seats. If you feel threatened in any way, move.
- Get off. If something doesn't feel right, get off. Trust your instincts. Consider getting a licensed taxi for rest of your journey.
Learn more about staying safe and avoiding danger.
7. If it doesn't add up, speak up
Terrorists often target public transport stations and vehicles.
- Watch for suspicious behaviour. If you observe suspicious behaviour, report it.
- Watch for suspicious items. If you see bags left unattended, cars parked in strange places or other items generally out of place, report it.
Learn more about terrorism.
8. Know your boundaries
- Be assertive. If a fellow passenger makes you feel uncomfortable in any way, make it clear it's unacceptable. Try being polite first. If this doesn't work, be direct.
- Move away. If someone crosses your boundaries, move away.
Learn more about reducing your risk of sexual assault.
9. Protect your property
- Keep your bags on you. If possible, don't let them out of your sight.
- Lock and chain bags. Especially if travelling overnight, or if you have to put them out of sight.
- Get a money belt. Keep your passport, cash and cards in a money belt under your clothes.
Learn more about reducing your risk of theft and robbery.
10. Know how and where to get help
If you need urgent help overseas, contact local authorities first. We publish local emergency numbers in the travel advice for each destination.
- Driver or staff. If something happens, talk to the driver, ticket inspector or nearest security guard.
- Transport police. Many public transport systems have specialised police on public transport. They may be uniformed, or plain clothed.
- Call for help. If you're in immediate danger, call loudly for help. Don't be afraid to scream.
- Local authorities. If there's a crime, report it to the local police. You may need the police report to support your travel insurance claim.
- Hospital. If you're assaulted, or sexually assaulted, get local medical assistance.
- Friends and family. Especially if you're not properly insured and need money.
- Travel insurer. Contact your travel insurer. Most have 24 hour contact numbers.
There are limits how and when the Australian Government can help when Australian overseas. In most cases, you should exhaust all avenues before contacting us for help. Read the Consular Services Charter.
Also see our general advice on what to do if you're overseas and something's gone wrong.
- Know the laws and safety issues where you're going. Before you go, read the travel advice for your destination.
- Don't break the law. This includes fare evasion. Read our general advice about staying within the law.
- Be careful on public transport. See our general advice about staying safe and avoiding danger.
- Know how to reduce your risk of assault and sexual assault.
- Make sure you're correctly covered in case something happens. See our general advice about travel insurance.
- We're limited in how and when we can help. Before you go, read the Consular Services Charter.
- Find an Australian embassy or consulate overseas (DFAT).
- Read the travel insurance buying guide, and learn about travel planning apps (CHOICE).
- Read about the global program to improve safety and sustainability in public transport (United Nations).