Australians of all kinds enjoy partying and celebrating. Whether it's a beer at the bar, a few more at a festival or an all night rave, just be prepared and stay safe. Know what you can do to reduce your risk of things going wrong.
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Top tips for partying safely
Check out our top tips and make sure your trip is memorable. For all the right reasons.
- Think about your transport options
- Know your alcohol limits
- Watch for spiking
- Be on the look-out for methanol poisoning
- Don't do drugs
- Take care of your mates
- Stay safe in the venue
- Look after your gear
- Watch out for scams
- Avoid violence
- Stay in touch
1. Think about your transport options
- Getting to the event. Decide where and when you are leaving, and find out about your transport options. Especially if you don't know the city well yet.
- Getting home after. Before you head to the venue, think about how you'll get home. If you are catching public transport home, ask what time the last service runs. If planning to catch a cab, time it so you're not trying to find one at the same time as the rest of the crowd.
- Designated driver. If you've got a car, great if one of your mates is keen to drive. Not so great if they want to have a few drinks as well.
- Choose safe options. Never use taxis, buses, trains or boats that are overcrowded or look unsafe and try to avoid having to travel in ferries and speedboats after dark.
Learn more about getting around safely.
2. Know your alcohol limits
When drunk, your judgment is affected. You're more likely to take risks, and make poor decisions. You're also an easier target for criminals.
- Know your limits. Know how many drinks you can handle. Stay in control. If you feel drunk too quickly, you're drink may be spiked.
- Watch how much. Keep an eye on how much you're drinking. Watch how much booze the bartender puts in your cocktail or mixer. You may not realise how many standard drinks you've had.
- Don't drink drive. Like at home, never drive if you have been drinking. You could have an accident and need medical assistance. You could also be arrested or jailed.
- Be safe around water. This includes the beach, by rivers or by pools. Also when travelling by boat or on a cruise. You could fall in and drown. Don't swim if you've drunk too much.
Also, read your travel insurance policy. Most policies won't provide cover for injuries or losses sustained under the influence.
3. Watch for spiking
Spiking is giving someone alcohol or drugs without their consent. It can be done using a drink or needle. Perpetrators can be any gender, age or nationality. As can their victims. Their motivations can be for a prank, theft or assault. Often, it's for sexual assault.
Drink spiking is adding alcohol or date rape drugs to a drink. It's often impossible to tell if someone has spiked your drink. Date rape drugs are typically colourless, odourless and tasteless.
Needle spiking is injecting a person with a sedative or date rape drug. It can be done quickly without you noticing. Or you may notice a scratching or pinching sensation when someone bumps into you. It may leave physical signs, including
- a pinprick mark
- a lump
- minor bleeding.
The most common substance used in drink spiking is alcohol. The perpetrator may add extra shots to your drink. Or they may top it up when you're not looking.
Date rape drugs
Common date rape drugs can be prescription medications or illegally produced versions of them. They may be powder, tablets or liquid. Common ones are:
- gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB)
- gamma-butyrolactone (GBL)
- Valium (diazepam)
These drugs also increase the effect of alcohol. They make victims disorientated, weak and highly suggestible. In extreme cases, they lead to coma or death.
Know the symptoms
Before you go, know the symptoms of spiking. This way you can reduce the risk of the perpetrator succeeding with their plans for you. Or their plans for your friend.
Key symptoms of spiking include:
- feeling woozy or drowsy
- feeling drunker than expected
- mental confusion
- speech difficulties such as slurring
- memory loss and blackout
- loss of inhibitions
- loss of balance and difficulty walking
- nausea and vomiting
- loss of consciousness
- an unusually long hangover
- a severe hangover when you had little or no alcohol to drink.
If you feel any of these symptoms, or you notice a needle mark on your body, tell your friends immediately. Don't wait, or it may be too late. Ask someone you trust and know well to take you to a safe place. You may also need to seek medical assistance.
Remember to keep an eye on your friends at all times. If a friend shows any of these symptoms, don't leave them alone. Keep them safe from the perpetrator. Get them to safety, and get them medical assistance if they need it.
Learn more about getting medical assistance overseas.
Avoiding spiking when travelling
- Look after your mates. Watch their drinks. Stay together and keep each other safe. Know and watch for symptoms of spiking. If they need help, take charge to protect them from what's next from the perpetrator.
- Get your own drinks. Watch the bartender pour it, start to finish. Also take note of the quantity. Over-pouring without you knowing is a form of drink spiking. Even if they're just trying to be generous.
- Say no to drinks from strangers. It's not rude, it's smart. If a stranger hands you a drink, you don't know what they've done to it between the bar and giving it to you. Wiser to go up to the bar with them.
- Watch your drinks. Never let your drink out of your sight. Even if you're holding a mixer or cocktail, make sure no one slips something in when you're not paying attention.
- If unsure, leave it. If you're unsure if you're drink is safe, just leave it. It's not worth the risk. You won't enjoy it anyway if you're worried about what could be in it.
- Don't be a perpetrator. Don't spike drinks. With drugs, or alcohol. This includes topping up your friend's drink when they're not looking. It's not generous. It's irresponsible. Your friend could end up needing medical assistance or be a victim of a crime.
For more information, see advice on preventing drink spiking (Victorian Government).
4. Be on the look-out for methanol poisoning
Alcohol production is less regulated in some destinations than in Australia. This can lead to methanol being used in the production process to lower costs. Methanol is highly toxic. As little as one shot can be fatal. Locals and foreigners, including Australians, have died or become seriously ill from poisoned drinks in destinations such as:
Contaminated drinks could include:
- local home-brewed spirits
- spirit-based drinks, such as cocktails
- brand name alcohol
To protect yourself from drink poisoning:
- consider the risks when drinking alcoholic beverages
- be careful drinking cocktails and drinks made with spirits
- drink only at reputable licensed premises
- avoid home-made alcoholic drinks
Labels on bottles aren't always accurate.
Know the symptoms
Symptoms of methanol poisoning can be similar to drinking too much. However, they are usually stronger.
Symptoms of methanol poisoning include:
- vision problems
Vision problems may include:
- blindness, blurred or snowfield vision
- changes in colour perception
- difficulty looking at bright lights
- dilated pupils
- flashes of light
- tunnel vision
Act quickly if you suspect you or someone you're travelling with has been poisoned. Urgent medical attention could save your life or save you from permanent disability.
Report suspected cases of methanol poisoning to the police.
5. Don't use drugs
Each year, overseas authorities arrest Australian travellers on drug charges. Plenty who don't get caught still end up needing urgent medical assistance, or are victims of property or violent crime.
Impacts of drug use when partying overseas
- Health risks. You could suffer a serious side effect or overdose, and need urgent medical assistance. Sometimes from substances cut with toxic chemicals. Other times from drugs of higher purity than expected.
- Safety risks. You could become a victim of a crime. This includes theft, mugging, assault and sexual assault. When you're on drugs, you're less aware, and less able to protect yourself. An easier target.
- Financial risks. Using drugs tends to void travel insurance policies, so any costs you incur for for medical assistance or property problems are on you. Or your family.
- Legal risks. Arrest, jail and the death sentence are the most publicised impacts of drug use overseas. The Australian Government is limited in how and when it can help.
If you decide to do drugs while partying overseas
Only you can decide if you'll do drugs. There are risks, and serious impacts.
- It's your choice. Don't let someone pressure you in to it.
- Take responsibility. If you do drugs, you must take responsibility for anything that happens to you as a result. Or, anything you do while on drugs.
- Be informed. Know what's in the drug, and what its effect is. Also know how it may react with your prescription medication.
- Be prepared. Know what could go wrong. Prepare for it. Know where the nearest hospital is, and how to get to it in an emergency. This is for you and your friends.
Don't become another Aussie wasting years of your life in a foreign prison, because of one bad decision. Think it through. See our information on carrying or using drugs.
6. Take care of your mates
Australians frequently get into difficulty at parties and festivals overseas separating from friends. Don't leave your mates alone.
- Keep in regular contact. Make sure you have each other's phone numbers.
- Know where they are. Be aware of where people in your group are.
- Set a time and place to meet. If you decide to split up, organise a time and place to meet later. Stick to the plan. If someone doesn't show, they may be in trouble. Search for them promptly.
- Share your accommodation details. Make sure everyone in your group has the hotel name, phone number and address. Get a card from reception, just in case you have phone trouble while you're partying.
- Watch their drinks. Keep them safe from drink spiking. Especially if they're being irresponsible and / or drunk.
- Know their limits. Don't encourage them to have more if you know they've already had too much.
7. Venue safety
Party venues and festivals overseas might not have the same safety standards you're accustomed to. Many countries, especially developing nations, have poor safety regulations. This is made worse if they also have limited emergency response capabilities.
Nightclub fires, balcony collapses and crowd crushes can occur. Taking simple steps to reduce getting injured can be a smart move.
- Watch for overcrowding. If you are concerned that a venue is becoming too crowded, move on. If there's an incident and fellow patrons try to evacuate, the crowd could crush you.
- Careful of broken glass. Especially if your dancing shoes don't offer much protection. Avoid hitting the floor barefoot or in thongs.
- Look for cracks. If the building, or balcony, doesn't look sturdy, it probably isn't. You may see cracks, water damaged concrete or flimsy supports. The risk increases if the place is packed.
- Know the exits. Know where and how to get out in an emergency. Especially make sure the fire doors aren't padlocked shut.
Also, keep an eye out for people acting suspiciously. Terrorists often target entertainment venues popular with tourists. If you see something concerning, get out. Report it to the authorities.
8. Look after your gear
Thieves often target tourists who are busy having fun. Especially when partying, and under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It makes for an easy target.
- Protect your passport. It's a very valuable document. To a criminal, it's worth much more than its weight in gold. If you can, leave it in your hotel safe. Or, keep it in your money belt.
- Take only what you need. The less you take to the party, the less you can lose. Or have stolen. Think about leaving valuables and extra cash in your hotel safe.
- Keep your valuables on you. Don't leave your wallet, bag or phone lying around. Even if you're just popping to the bar or bathroom. It only takes a few seconds for a thief to grab it.
- Get a money belt. Keep some cash and cards in a money belt. Only keep some of your cash easily accessible in a pocket or purse. This way if you get robbed, you won't lost it all.
- Get travel insurance. It won't stop you from losing gear, but it can help reduce the financial impact of losing it.
Keep in mind that prevention is better than cure. It's a real hassle if you lose your property anywhere, especially overseas.
Learn more about how to reduce your risk of theft and muggings.
9. Don't get ripped off
Tourists can be quite easy to rip off. Especially if they're out partying and have had a few drinks. Many scammers know this, and have effective ways of fleecing tourists. They may force you to pay under duress, before letting you leave.
- Confirm the price. The 'restaurant scam' is especially common near major tourist attractions. You enjoy your meal and drinks, only to be surprised to learn the cost of what they served you. Be wary of any 'specials' or other suggestion that staff make. Always confirm the price before ordering
- Beware of invitations from strangers. The 'bar scam' is also common in tourist areas. A person you've just met claims to be a fellow tourist and suggests going for a drink together. They take you to a venue, then you rack up a massive bill. It turns out, they get a kickback for taking you there. Be cautious of unsolicited invitations
- Know who you're buying for. The 'gentlemen's club scam' is common anywhere that has exotic dancers. Especially in South East Asia and Eastern Europe. You get charged for all the expensive drinks the dancers have at your table. Make sure you know exactly who you're shouting rounds for.
Learn more about common travel scams, and how to avoid them.
10. No fighting
Overseas, the laws and penalties for fighting can be much harsher than in Australia. You could be arrested or jailed.
You're also at risk of serious injury. It's inconvenient to be injured, and expensive. Medical assistance can cost a lot more overseas. If you were fighting, your travel insurance may not cover your costs.
- Walk away. If someone tries to start a fight with you, walk away.
- Don't start it. Don't pick fights. Even with your mates. Even an amicable contest between mates can land you both in jail.
- Beware of gangs. The person you fight may have mates. Those mates may jump in, or jump you on your way home.
Learn more about staying within the law.
11. Stay in touch
Keep in touch with your friends and family. Let them know where you are, and that you're OK.
- Call, text and email. Phone, SMS and email your family and friends at home regularly. Let them know where you are.
- Update your social media. Facebook and other social media channels are a good way to stay in touch.
Where to get help overseas
When you're overseas, you won't have access to the support systems you're accustomed to in Australia. You'll need to seek support locally there, and from friends, family and your travel insurer.
- Contact local emergency services. We publish local contact numbers in the travel advisory for each destination.
- See your hotel manager or tour guide. They may know what to do, where to go and where you can get other local help.
- Talk to your travel companions. Also, help them if they're in need. Look after your mates.
- Contact your friends and family. They may not be able to help you on the ground, however they may be able to help change your travel plans and talk to your insurer.
- Contact your travel insurer. Most travel insurers have 24-hour emergency hotlines you can call from overseas. If you're covered, they may provide logistical support, as well as financial.
In some circumstances, the Australian Government can help. In most cases, you must exhaust all other avenues before seeking consular assistance.
It's important to understand our limits. Know how and when we can help, read the Consular Services Charter.
- Learn more about staying safe. Read our advice on reducing your risk of theft, muggings, robbery, assault and sexual assault.
- Don't get ripped off. Read our advice about common tourist scams.
- If you've just finished school, see our advice on schoolies.
- If you're already travelling and need help, see what to do if you're a victim of a crime.
- Understand how and when we can help. Read the Consular Services Charter.