These days, young Australians are travelling overseas in record numbers.
9.2 million Australians left our wide brown land for a short-term jaunt overseas in the 2014-2015 period, with departures of Australians traveling overseas now exceeding arrivals of international travellers entering Australia.
The places we visit are diverse. The most popular destinations for young Australian travellers are New Zealand, Indonesia, the United States, United Kingdom and Thailand. China, Singapore, Fiji, India and Japan not far behind.
At the heart of it, travel is an adventure. So it’s easy to see why many young Australians get caught up in the excitement of exploring a new country and can forget that cultures, customs and laws differ significantly from what we know and understand.
A little planning, foresight and consideration from the get go will not only help ensure that you travel safe but also that your holiday is as enjoyable and hassle-free as possible.
Research local laws & customs before you go
The internet is your best friend when it comes to planning your trip, and that goes beyond booking flights and researching hotels.
Your first stop is Smart Traveller. You can quickly and easily check travel advisories from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) for each country on your itinerary, as well as visa requirements and anything else you may need to look out for.
Your next stop is to arm yourself with facts by scanning travel forums such as TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet and relevant travel blogs to learn from the experiences of other travellers, as well as any local customs, cultural differences and applicable laws you may need to be aware of.
Register your trip before you leave Australia
It is a quick and easy way to ensure your safety while you travel. Registering your itinerary makes it easier for the Australian Government to contact or locate you in case of an emergency.
It is also worth subscribing to email notifications for the duration of your trip.
Make sure you have everything you need to travel legally & safely
Make a checklist which can include:
- A valid Australian passport with at least 6 months of validity remaining
- Any necessary visas, or the correct currency to pay for them on arrival
- Up-to-date vaccinations, travel or otherwise
- Any medications you need. Be sure to check that it is possible to take your medications into the countries you are visiting, and carry all relevant supporting documentation. This can include a letter from your doctor, a prescription, or a letter from the relevant embassy
- Travel insurance. Make sure you have the appropriate level of cover and understand your coverage
- Double check that you are not travelling with anything prohibited. For example, foods, medications, vitamins, media (magazines, books, video, music), religious materials, alcohol or cash.
Are You A Dual National?
If you hold dual nationalities, you are a citizen of Australia and another country.
For example, your parents are nationals of another country, or you marry someone of another nationality.
If you are a dual national, there may be implications if you travel to the country of your other nationality. For example:
- you may be liable to complete military service
- you may be liable for prosecution for offences under the laws of that country, even if they were committed elsewhere
- the Australian Government may be limited in its ability to provide you with consular assistance if you seek it.
Always depart and re-enter Australia on your Australian passport
All Australians, including dual nationals, are advised to leave and enter Australia on their Australian passport. If you have a passport from another country, you can use this once you have left Australia.
Laws abroad may surprise you
Many countries have unexpected rules and regulations which can catch unsuspecting travellers. For example:
- In Singapore, it is illegal to import chewing gum
- The legal drinking age in Bali is 21
- Sharia law is in place in parts of Malaysia
- Sex outside of marriage is punishable by imprisonment in Dubai
- It is illegal to deface or step on the Baht (local currency) in Thailand
- Pseudoephedrine and codeine-based medications are illegal to bring into Japan
- You must carry your passport with you at all times in China
- Homosexuality is a criminal offence in India
When in Rome, do as the Romans do
Making sure you respect cultural differences and customs is a good way to avoid drawing unwanted attention and accidentally landing in trouble with the authorities.
Some common things to consider:
- Eye contact – In some parts of the world, such as China and Japan, prolonged eye contact is considered rude and akin to staring. In other countries such as the United States and Canada, however, eye contact is considered essential and a way to demonstrate that you are interested and engaged in the conversation.
- What not to wear – In Dubai, for example, it is important to cover your shoulders and back and wear garments that end no higher than the knee. In Barcelona, it is illegal to wear swimwear in any locations other than the beach, and streets very close to it.
- To tip or not to tip – In some countries tipping is expected. But in others it is frowned upon. For example, it very rude to tip in Japan. In the United States, on the other hand, tipping makes up a significant portion of income for many industries – so expect to tip 15%-25% for meals, drinks, and cabs.
- Physical contact – Different parts of the world consider differing levels of physical proximity appropriate, and public displays of affection may be encouraged, tolerated, frowned upon, or even illegal depending on where you travel.
Dealing with local authorities if something goes wrong
Although it is uncommon, in some cases gross injustices are done when victims of sexual assault have been imprisoned after reporting the crime to police.
If you are a victim of crime while traveling overseas, the most important thing is to get yourself to safety and contact someone you trust. Get in touch with the nearest Australian embassy, high commission or consulate.
Report the crime to the local authorities as soon as possible, however, your first port of call should be Australia’s 24-hour consular emergency service.
For 24 hour consular assistance visit the SmartTraveller 24 Hour Emergency Assistance tool or contact:
To register your trip visit:
For passport information visit:
To be the first to hear about official government advice when travelling sign up via:
For more resources to visit before you travel visit: