What are Smartraveller travel advisories?
The Australian Government uses a rating system with four levels to represent the potential dangers of travelling to a particular country or region.
- Level 1 - Exercise normal safety precautions
- Level 2 - Exercise a high degree of caution
- Level 3 - Reconsider your need to travel
- Level 4 - Do not travel
The purpose of the scale is to assist travellers to stay safe by making them aware of the threats they may face at that destination, as well as highlighting areas that are clearly not safe for travel.
EXERCISE NORMAL SAFETY PRECAUTIONS
Level one indicates no current significant threats in these regions. Travellers can generally expect a stable and secure environment similar to Australia with functioning law and order, comparable healthcare and responsive emergency services.
Will travel insurance cover me in an ‘Exercise normal safety precautions’ region?
Yes, travel insurance will cover you for travel in these regions, subject of course to the terms and conditions of the individual policy.
Health and safety tips for ‘Exercise normal safety precautions’ travel destinations:
- Respect local laws and customs which may be very different to home.
- Use your common sense and exercise standard safety precautions.
- Be aware you may still be at risk of petty crime such as theft and scams.
- Keep in mind terror attacks and other threats can still occur anywhere and at any time.
- Monitor media and Smartraveller for any changes to local conditions.
- Consider purchasing travel insurance that covers medical expenses and all of the activities you want to do on your holiday.
Travelling to a country with a cautionary level warning is still considered relatively safe, but indicates a higher level of risk than what you would typically expect at home.
This could be due to a temporary event such as a political protest or a short-term increase in the region’s domestic security threat. It could also indicate a higher risk of crime, unreliable law enforcement and/or a lower standard of healthcare and emergency services.
Will travel insurance cover me in an ‘Exercise a high degree of caution’ region?
Most travel insurance policies will still cover travel to destinations at this level, subject of course to the terms and conditions of the individual policy.
Health and safety tips for ‘Exercise a high degree of caution’ travel destinations:
- Research specific threats and take extra precautions.
- Seek medical advice about vaccinations and general health risks in this region.
- Pay close attention to your personal safety at all times.
- Be vigilant and monitor local media as the level may indicate instability in the region.
- Be aware that security conditions may change quickly with little warning.
- Consider purchasing an international travel insurance that covers medical evacuation and repatriation if you need to be transported home for emergency treatment.
A level three travel warning means that there are dangerous and potentially life-threatening risks in these regions. These could include an ongoing threat of terrorism, current civil unrest, a high occurrence of violent crime or other serious health and safety concerns. It may also be due to a temporary but significant event such as a natural disaster.
If a country is listed as ‘reconsider your need to travel’, it means the Australian Government considers the destination to be unsafe for most travellers and recommends cancelling or deferring your trip if possible.
Will travel insurance cover me in a ‘Reconsider Your Need to Travel’ region?
Many travel insurers will not cover you for travel to the countries listed under this level.
If a region you intend to visit is upgraded to the ‘Reconsider your need to travel’ level after you have purchased travel insurance, you may have provision to claim for cancellation costs or lost deposits.
Health and safety tips for ‘Reconsider Your Need to Travel’ destinations:
- As the warning says: reconsider any non-essential travel to these regions.
- Research the specific threats and dangers you may encounter.
- Consider the location and security of your planned accommodation.
- Consider how you will travel within the region as public transport may not be the safest option.
- Discuss contingency arrangements and have an emergency response plan.
- Ensure that you’re able to depart independently and that your travel documentation is up-to-date.
- You’ll likely require a specialised insurance policy for travel to these destinations.
If a country is on the ‘Do Not Travel’ list it means the Australian Government believes it to be extremely dangerous and you should NOT travel to that destination.
This may be due to a very high risk of terrorist attacks, ongoing armed conflict, or critical levels of violent crime or violent unrest. It is often also a combination of these factors.
While it’s not illegal to travel to a country on the ‘Do not travel’ list, it’s certainly not advisable. The Australian Government doesn’t issue these warnings lightly, so if you travel against the advisory you are knowingly putting yourself at a very high level of risk.
If you’re already in a country that is upgraded to a ‘Do Not Travel’ status, you should consider leaving immediately.
Will travel insurance cover me in a ‘Do Not Travel’ region?
Most travel insurers will not cover you for travel to countries listed as ‘Do Not Travel’.
If a region you intend to visit is upgraded to this level after you have purchased a policy, you may have provision to claim for cancellation expenses or the costs involved in delaying your holiday until it’s safe to travel again.
Refer to your travel insurance Product Disclosure Statement so you know exactly what is and isn’t covered before making a purchase.
Health and safety tips for ‘Do Not Travel’ destinations:
- The safest option is to avoid travelling to these regions at all costs.
- If you choose to travel despite the advisory, exercise extreme caution and consider seeking professional security advice and hiring personal protection.
- Make contingency arrangements and have a detailed emergency evacuation plan in place.
- Know that the Australian government is unlikely to be able to assist your evacuation if a crisis occurs.
- Check if you will require a special visa or permission to enter or leave the country.
- Keep in mind it may be very difficult and dangerous to cross borders in or out of these areas.
- You’ll likely require a specialised insurance policy for travel to these destinations.
How do travel warnings affect my travel insurance?
Your policy may exclude cover for regions that have a “Do Not Travel” or “Reconsider Your Need To Travel” rating. Visit Smartraveller.com.au to check the rating level of the country you intend to travel to, and ask your travel insurer what they cover.
Keep in mind that travel warning levels may vary across different regions within the same country.
A country may have an overall travel warning of Level 1 or Level 2 but some specific regions within the country may have a higher travel warning of Level 3 or 4. Ensure that you check the travel warning for all the regions that you’ll be travelling to, and ask your travel insurer if you’ll be covered should you travel to those regions.
It's also important to check for any terrorism-related exclusions or limits for:
- Medical benefits
- Evacuation and repatriation
- Travel delays
- Alternative transport
- Accidental death and disability
Each travel insurance policy will have different exclusions and benefits, so make sure you consider the Product Disclosure Statement carefully to understand what is and isn’t covered before you make a purchase.
What events can affect the levels of travel advice?
Travel warnings are issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), who consider any potential risks which might affect a traveller’s health, safety and security overseas.
These can include potential dangers such as:
- Threat of terrorist attack
- Violent crime
- Cyclone, hurricane or tornado
- Epidemics and pandemics
- Political unrest
- Riots and civil unrest
While your safety is ultimately your own responsibility when travelling overseas, the advisory may assist travellers to make informed decisions and avoid, minimise or prepare for potential threats overseas.
Why do travel warnings affect my travel insurance?
Travellers pay a premium upfront to insure themselves against potential expenses if something unexpected happens. In a simplistic sense, this money all goes into a ‘pool’ which is then used to pay out claims if something unfortunate does happen to someone.
You may have never thought about it this way before, but if you’ve ever had a travel insurance claim paid then you were actually helped by other travellers who you’ve never met!
The reason that travel insurance companies take the Smartraveller advisories into consideration when paying claims is the same as the reason they consider other factors like dangerous activities or intoxication.
If a traveller knowingly puts themselves at a greater risk of injury or illness by participating in high-risk behaviour like drinking to excess or visiting an extremely dangerous location, it wouldn’t be fair to all the other travellers who have also contributed their premiums to the ‘pool’ and who do the right thing to avoid unnecessary risks. Those factors are therefore dealt with in the terms, conditions, limits and exclusions of the Product Disclosure Statement.
If none of these factors were considered when paying claims, the price of insurance premiums would skyrocket for everyone in order to account for all the extra claims needing to be paid.
How do I choose a safe travel destination?
Although you can never be sure that nothing will go wrong when you travel overseas, there are a few steps you can take when planning your trip to minimise your chances of running in trouble on your holiday.
Step 1: Choose a safe destination
A good starting point is to look at a large-scale report like the 2017 Global Peace Index to get an idea of which countries are generally considered to be the safest. Then consider which of those destinations are compatible with the type of trip you want to have or activities you want to do.
Planning a holiday around your priorities will help you to significantly narrow down your destination options. For example, if you want to laze around on the beach and soak up some rays, Portugal is ranked as a much safer option in the index than Greece or Thailand.
For a skiing or snowboarding holiday, Austria, Canada and New Zealand are great options that all made it into the top ten safest countries for 2017.
Check out our article on Terrorism and Travel Insurance to see which other countries made it into the top 10 safest travel destinations, and which are best to avoid.
Step 2: Research your trip
Once you have a few possible destinations in mind, you can do some research on the options that are available to you. Some good places to start include:
- Checking the advisory level on Smartraveller.gov.au and reading the travel guides for that destination.
- Reading travel blogs to get first-hand accounts from experienced travellers who have visited that location for advice and itinerary ideas.
- Browsing websites like Lonely Planet for more general information and advice.
- Checking reviews on forums like TripAdvisor to get an idea of which areas and attractions are safe to visit, accommodation recommendations, as well as places and things to avoid.
Step 3: Book your holiday
Once you have chosen your destination, it’s time to book!
Browse booking websites to see what accommodation options are available and compare prices. These are also generally safer and more secure than booking through small independent tour companies or websites.
Remember to also consider factors such as the location and security of your accommodation, the availability of transport (including how you will get to and from the airport) and only book with recognised and reputable tour companies.
Smartraveller tips to stay up to date with travel alerts:
Conditions can change suddenly no matter where in the world you travel.
- Download the app
- Register your travel plans
- Get the right travel insurance
- Follow Smartraveller on Facebook and Twitter
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