All travellers face risks overseas. The risks can be different depending on your colour, race, ethnicity or religion. Make sure you get the facts first and take steps to reduce your risks.
Before you go
Racism and prejudice can make travel challenging. Think carefully about whether you're comfortable visiting a destination where you may face discrimination or harassment. Understanding the experiences and risks you might face can help you prepare.
- Read the travel advice for your destination. Subscribe for updates.
- Research your destination thoroughly. Particularly the local culture and politics around people of your colour, race, ethnicity or religion.
- Understand the overlapping risks you could face.
- Know how to stay safe and reduce your risk. Be prepared for any issues you might face.
- Leave a detailed itinerary with someone at home. Plan to keep in regular contact.
Be aware of the local culture and politics
Understand your destination's political climate, culture and heritage before you travel there. Political or cultural tensions between ethnic groups within a country or between two countries can lead to people of a particular colour, race or religion being targeted. There may be districts or cities within a destination where discrimination is a greater risk.
In some destinations, there is less racial and religious diversity than there is in Australia. You could attract unwanted attention in destinations where locals don’t often see people of your appearance. Locals and other tourists may be curious about you. Unfortunately, their curiosity can lead them to treat you inappropriately or invade your personal space. You may:
- be openly stared at
- be stopped in the street
- have your photo taken without your consent
- have your skin and hair touched without your consent
- be asked invasive questions.
While usually done without malice, these situations can be confronting. Try to stay calm and remove yourself from the area if you're uncomfortable. Avoid being confrontational; it may put your safety at risk.
Racial or religion-based violence and discrimination
In some destinations, people could target you for being of a different colour, race, ethnicity or religion. You could be assaulted. You could also be the victim of verbal abuse or discrimination.
Many destinations do not have anti-discrimination laws, or they're not enforced consistently. Authorities may ignore crimes targeting people of a different colour, race, ethnicity or religion. In some cases, authorities may themselves discriminate.
Be cautious travelling to areas within your destination where people of your colour, race, ethnicity or religion face discrimination.
If your appearance is similar to a local population, research how they’re treated by local authorities.
Travellers have had accommodation bookings refused because of their ethnicity. Most reputable online accommodation booking services have rules preventing discrimination. However, be prepared for the possibility you could be turned away from accommodation. Book ahead of time where possible.
Profiling at international borders
You may face profiling by border authorities because of your name or appearance, particularly in transport hubs. Be prepared for increased scrutiny at security checks and immigration desks.
- Carry current photo ID in addition to your passport. Ensure your name is spelled consistently across your forms of ID and your transport bookings/visas.
- Have evidence of where you'll be staying and what you'll be doing.
- Don't confront border authorities, even if you feel their actions are unfair. They could detain you. Follow their instructions and answer questions truthfully.
Different aspects of your identity can expose you to overlapping forms of discrimination and increase the risks you might face. This is sometimes referred to as intersectionality. Aspects of your identity can include your:
- sexual orientation
- mental health.
How to reduce the risks
- Research the laws and culture of your destinations. Speak to other travellers before you go.
- Find out if there are districts or cities in your destination where you would be unsafe because of your colour, race, ethnicity or religion.
- Know what anti-discrimination protections there are in your destination. Be aware that some protections may not be enforced.
- Consider your clothing in the context of the culture you are visiting. You may need to dress more conservatively. Our country-specific travel advisories will usually note where conservative dress standards apply.