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What are the common security risks in Australia?
Petty and opportunist crime
Petty crime is probably the biggest risk travellers face in Australia. Pickpocketing and bag-snatching are more common in big cities, while residential burglaries have increased in recent years – worth knowing if you plan on renting an AirBnB rather than a hotel room.
Thieves have been known to attack foreigners as they walk down empty streets, especially at night. These attacks are typically centred around the tourist-heavy areas of Sydney such as Kings Cross, downtown George Street, Hyde Park and Centennial Park.
Petty crime is more common in the more popular tourist areas in Sydney, such as Centennial Park near the world famous Bondi Beach.
With highs of 40C (104F) in central areas, extreme temperatures are another risk you’ll need to overcome in Australia.
Temperatures are generally milder near the coast, but still high enough to warrant extra sunscreen or even some time in the shade. The heat can also vary wildly across the day from boiling afternoons to freezing cold nights.
If you’re heading to the outback then the extreme temperatures can cause real discomfort if you’re unaccustomed to the climate.
Storms and typhoons
It’s not all sun and fun down under thanks to cyclone season, which runs from November to April. With about a dozen powerful storms expected to hit during each season, heavy rain and strong winds may pose a seasonal concern depending on when and where you are travelling.
Low-lying coastal regions are the most vulnerable areas to intense rainfall, but also – unfortunately – where the majority of residents live! Torrential rainfall and floods caused by tropical cyclones can trigger local evacuations and the closure of shops and civil services. This can make it difficult to get around or purchase goods and supplies.
Australia’s remote areas can be more challenging to navigate due to the large distances between towns and cities.
While Australia’s infrastructure and roads are generally pretty good, you still need to be wary of long or solo journeys through the outback. Some roads may be unpaved or little more than dirt tracks, making them prone to potholes and awkward to drive over, which can lead to accidents.
Travelling in remote areas of Australia can also be hazardous due to the distances between population centres and the harsh climatic conditions. It’s really important to make sure you have adequate supplies before heading out into more remote areas. Wild animals in the road can also present a hazard, particularly at night so drive slowly and use headlights.
Protests, strikes and industrial action are rare in Australia, but may arise from various labour-related grievances, such as low salaries or changes in work schedules. This can result in work stoppages that disrupt public transport, healthcare and government services, which can make getting around more challenging than usual.
There is a mild risk of terrorism in Australia as the Middle East-based Islamic State militant group has called on its supporters to carry out attacks in the country. Radicalised Australian nationals and those who have returned from international conflicts pose the biggest threats to security.
However, the Australian government has responded effectively to such terror threats and introduced new terrorism-related laws alongside heightened security measures.
Despite generally falling into one of two camps – the dangerous or the adorable – you shouldn’t encounter too many issues with Australia’s wildlife.
Bear in mind that smaller critters, such as spiders and snakes, can get into buildings easily and hide without being noticed. To avoid getting bitten or stung, check dark corners and spaces before blindly reaching in (e.g. under the bed or into a cupboard). If you do get bitten, seek professional medical help immediately.
It’s also worthwhile keeping an eye on your surroundings – especially if visiting somewhere new – as you don’t want to accidentally get on the wrong side of a bull shark, Sydney funnel web spider, saltwater crocodile, eastern brown snake or box jellyfish – to name just a few.
Preparing to stay safe ahead of your trip
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Make at least two full-colour copies of important documents such as your passport, flight tickets and travel insurance policy before flying out to Australia. Leave one set with friends or family, and take the other with you and keep them in your luggage – but separate from your valuables.
If you lose your wallet or are a victim of theft, then having spare copies of your documents will help you to get home and get reimbursed.
It’s could even be worthwhile making digital copies and emailing them to yourself so you can access and print them as required.
Although Australia is a relatively threat free environment, it’s not advisable to travel without insurance. You never know when an accident can occur, so having travel insurance is a useful safety net in case something goes wrong.
Travel Insurance can also help you claim back any medical costs incurred if you do visit a health facility or hospital.
Unsure whether you’re ready to travel through Australia? Check out our ultimate guide to travelling safely now and find out how to deal with the most common hazards you’ll encounter!
Staying safe in Australia
Avoid snakes and crocs
Bit of an obvious one this – but don’t go seeking out poisonous or dangerous creatures. It’s just not worth it. Keep your distance and stay safe. This also goes for sharks, poisonous spiders, jellyfish and all the other dangerous animals down under.
As a bonus tip, don’t annoy Australia’s cute critters either. Koalas have been known to bite humans they take a dislike to, while Kangaroos can disembowel you with their powerful kick.
Protect yourself from the sun
The extreme heat is a major risk in Australia so we recommend taking every precaution you can to minimise the impact and avoid excessive exposure to UV rays (the ozone layer is thinner over Australia).
Don’t stock up on sunscreen before you fly, instead do it when you land as it’s generally cheaper to buy in Australia than back home. It’s worth purchasing some polarized sunglasses to reduce glare and a couple of lightweight, long sleeve cotton tops, which will keep you covered without overheating.
You’ll also find that at certain public events, suntan lotion is provided for free!
Take care of your valuables
If you’re spending time in busy urban areas or plan on visiting tourist hotspots, then keep an eye on your personal belongings. Whether you keep them in a backpack that you wear on both shoulders or in a bumbag that you wear under a t-shirt, keep valuables hidden so that unscrupulous characters aren’t even aware they’re there.
Plot your journey
Australia is huge and as a result, unless your driving the coast from city to city, you’ll find the journeys between places can be long and time-consuming – you may not encounter another person for hours on end!
Speak to a local before heading out on any long or overnight trip to or through the outback. You should also stock up on food and bottled water, as well as familiarising yourself with the route before you go. Take a map with you in case your phone signal drops out in remote areas and you can’t access your map apps.
Only swim in safe water
When you’re on the beach, keep an eye out for red and yellow flags as they will show you where it’s safe to swim and where a lifeguard is on duty. A single yellow flag is a warning that conditions are potentially dangerous, while a red flag indicates that the beach is closed due to excessively dangerous swimming conditions.
Take note of any signs or warnings you see at the beach and if you’re unclear on what they mean, ask a lifeguard if the water is safe.
Conclusion: Safe Travels in Australia
Australia is a country characterized by extremes – extreme temperatures, extreme changes of climate and the extremely dangerous wildlife. However, if you take the precautions described above then you’ll find Australia to be an extremely safe place to visit.
The threats are actually pretty mild (especially compared to some countries) and unlike other popular travel destinations that we’ve looked at in this series, English is the language of choice in Australia, which means there’s no communication barrier. The infrastructure in major population centres is of a Western standard and there’s no real religious or cultural faux pas for you to make. Just try no to spend too much time in the sun.
For more travel advice on Australia, contact the CloseCircle team today..
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