Safety Tips for Travellers
Although CISaustralia runs programs in locations that are considered safe as defined by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, incidents may occur. Below you will find useful information about behaviours that you should avoid to keep yourself safer and strategies that can further help you reduce the likelihood of incidents.
Safety is ultimately the responsibility of each individual student and you should actively develop your own personal safety strategies.
Conditions that contribute to risk (whether at home or overseas) include:
- Being out after midnight/late at night
- Being alone at night in an isolated area
- Being in a known high-crime area
- Sleeping in an unlocked place
- Being out after a local curfew
- Being intoxicated
Factors placing students at possible additional risk while overseas include:
- Being new to a country / not yet being able to pick up the ‘clues’ of a potentially dangerous situation
- Not speaking the local language well / not knowing the best way to say no in a culture
- Travelling to new places and making new friends
- More frequent travel by public transportation
- Curiosity about your new home and the new culture you are living in
- Standing out in a crowd
Strategies to Reduce Risk
You have most likely been using a variety of strategies to avoid potential higher levels of risk while living in Australia; a lot are common sense and will be useful overseas as well. These might include:
- Listening for what is being said around you
- Keeping watch for suspicious people and vehicles
- Knowing what hours of the night are more dangerous than others
- Staying in and walking only in those areas that are well lit
- Avoiding being alone in unfamiliar neighbourhoods
- Knowing where to get help (stores, phones, fire station, etc.)
Strategies for reducing risk while overseas include suggestions such as:
- Establishing relationships with hosts, trusted neighbours and local authorities
- Improving structural security of residence (shuttered/barred window, door locks, sealed walls/ceilings, etc.)
- Ensuring access to emergency medical care
- Developing emergency support / communications network
- Screening visitors and travel companions
- Notifying someone of travel plans, such as the international student office
- Wearing practical attire
- Restricting night travel
- Projecting certainty of route and destination
- Avoiding “high risk” regions / identifying “safe zones”
- Travelling with a friend / trusted other
- Establishing rapport with regular drivers of transport
- Being aware of surroundings
- Carrying a whistle or other personal safety device
- Moderating alcohol consumption
- Carrying only sufficient cash in a safe place (pouch, money belt)
If you are a victim of an incident or assault, reporting this to the host university / volunteer project / internship emergency contact (or on-site / in-country contact) is important because:
- You may need medical attention
- You may need to or choose to talk with someone about what has happened
- You may want or need assistance in working with the local authorities
- You should be aware of whether the discussion is confidential
- The above guidelines were adapted from SAFETI’s adaptation of Peace Corps resources and amended for appropriate use by CISaustralia, in the Australian context
Top Tips for Travellers
- Register, subscribe, insure and know the exclusions of your insurance policy
- Check the validity of your travel documents
- Don’t ever purchase, carry or consume drugs
- Know your alcohol limits
- Choose safe transport options
- Know the law and respect local customs
- Take care of your mates
- Phone / email / Skype home regularly
Partying Safely Overseas
Australians sometimes get into trouble overseas as a direct result of partying / drinking too hard and forgetting about simple safety precautions. Parties and festivals, like Full Moon Parties in Koh Phangan, Thailand and Oktoberfest in Germany, can be fun experiences but drinking too much or taking drugs can put you in difficult and often dangerous situations far from home. Check out our top ten tips and make sure your trip is memorable for all the right reasons.
1. Pre-party planning
Decide where and when you are going and what your transport options are, especially if you don’t know the city yet. If you are catching public transport home, ask what time the last service runs. 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.
2. Know your alcohol limits
When you are drunk your judgment is affected, and you are more likely to take risks and make poor decisions. At best, your hangover will mean you waste a valuable day of your holiday inside with the lights out. At worst, you could be injured, robbed, sexually assaulted or arrested. Insurance policies may not provide cover for injuries or losses sustained under the influence. Like at home, never drive or swim if you have been drinking.
3. Beware of drink spiking
Never accept drinks from strangers or leave your drink unattended. If you’re unsure if a drink is safe, leave it – it’s not worth the risk. If you feel dizzy or sick, tell your friends and ask someone you trust and know well to take you to a safe place. Remember to keep an eye on your friends at all times. If a friend collapses, seek medical care immediately and don’t leave them alone.
Alcoholic drinks can be mixed with harmful substances, which can cause serious illness, blindness, brain injury or death. If you suspect that you or a friend may have been poisoned, you need to act quickly and get urgent medical attention.
4. Don’t be a mug – don’t use drugs
Importing, buying, carrying or taking drugs incurs serious penalties in most countries, including the death penalty, which apply equally to foreigners. Each year Australian travellers are arrested overseas on drug charges, and our government is limited in what they can do to help. Don’t become another Aussie wasting years of their life in a foreign prison because of one bad decision.
Even if you don’t get caught, taking drugs will reduce your ability to make considered decisions and will make you more likely to become a victim of violence, robbery or sexual assault.
5. Take care of your mates (it’s an Aussie thing)
Australians can get into difficulty after becoming separated from their friends. Don’t leave your mates alone – keep in regular contact and be aware of where people in your group are. Make sure you have your friends’ mobile numbers and organise a time and place to meet in case you get separated. This will also be handy if your phone battery runs out or there is no coverage where you are. Make sure everyone in your group knows the hotel name, phone number and address.
Remember, it could be dangerous to go home alone or with someone you have just met, particularly if you are unfamiliar with your surroundings.
6. Venue safety
Be aware that party venues overseas might not have the same safety standards you are accustomed to. If you are concerned that a venue is becoming too crowded, it would be wise to move on. Nightclub fires, balcony collapses and crowd crushes can occur. Taking simple steps such as checking the nearest exit or thinking of an alternate way out can be a smart move.
7. Look after your gear
Avoid carrying your passport, large amounts of cash, multiple credit cards or other valuables to parties and clubs. Ensure these valuables are safely secured at your accommodation before going out for the night. There’s nothing worse than filling in police reports and organising a new passport while your mates are out having fun.
Mobile phones are incredibly useful, but they’re no good if they’re lost, stolen or fall in the pool. It makes sense to write down some key numbers for friends and family and keep them with your passport.
8. Don’t get ripped off
Before entering or ordering in a bar, restaurant or other establishment, check the price list. If you don’t, you may find yourself with an unexpectedly large bill which you might be forced to pay under duress before you can leave. Be aware that in some bars there is strong coercion to buy drinks for others, such as bar girls, and these drinks are usually very expensive. A good practice in unfamiliar establishments is to pay for your drinks upfront.
9. No fighting
The only Aussies fighting overseas should be boxers wearing the green and gold. For everyone else, it just isn’t on. If someone tries to start a fight with you, avoid retaliating and walk away. Overseas, the laws and penalties for physical altercations, even between friends, can be much harsher than in Australia.
10. Stay in touch
Call, text, Skype or email family and friends at home regularly and let them know where you are. Facebook and other social media updates are a good way to stay in touch. Remember, friends and family will worry if they haven’t heard from you, so drop them a line to let them know what a great time you’re having. Staying in regular contact also means that it will be easier to find you in an emergency.