Australia prominently features as one of the finest tourist destinations in the world. This is not surprising, as the country is blessed with beautiful landscapes, amazing beaches, and other adventure-enabling resources.
From tourist attractions such as the Great Barrier Reef, whale watching at Hervey Bay, to skiing at Mount Hotham and exploring Uluru, there’s little wonder why most tourists are quick to add the country to their bucket list.
However, travelling to Australia comes with certain challenges – especially if you go unprepared. Australia is one of the safest destinations in the world, but the main area of concern can be the harsh nature of the country’s climate and wildlife.
According to statistics, more than 400,000 people visit Australia each month, with 7.5 million visitors in 2015 alone. It’s been reported that a small number of tourists lose their lives each year – with most of these instances being avoidable. According to a Royal Life Saving report, more than 55 locals and tourists lose their lives each year by drowning. Other studies state that deaths caused by road accidents and drowning account for 60 tourists per year on average.
Though these statistics are in no way off-putting, you should have preparations in place as well as insurance cover to ensure your safety whilst you travel around Australia. Below are some additional safety measures to keep in mind for when you explore this remarkable country:
Driving Safely around Australia
If your trip involves driving, ensure you are extra prepared. Australia is a vast country and driving from one destination to another will likely take a lot longer than you think. Here are some safety related bullet points to have in mind:
- Always drive on the left side of the road.
- Plan your trip from start to finish and equip yourself with appropriate gear and supplies, such as spare tyres, jumper leads, extra food, and adequate amounts of water.
- Avoid drink-driving; police are tough on offenders and the limit in Australia is 0.05.
- Australia has harsh penalties for phone use on the road – the fine is around $500Keep your eye on the road and watch out for wildlife such as kangaroos, wombats, and other big creatures that could damage your car and cause a serious accident.
- Always let someone know when you’re leaving, where you’re headed, and when you should be back (where applicable).
Driving across Australia to remote areas: Safety tips
Discovering the hidden beauty of Australia’s Outback can seem irresistible, but it’s wise to have an understanding of the conditions that surround these parts if you wish to explore safely. A rule of thumb is to always rent a 4WD vehicle whenever you’re embarking on such a trip, as road conditions can be unpredictable. Here are some safety tips for travelling around the outback:
- Drive at lower speeds on roads that aren’t sealed.
- Take an extra jerry can of about 20 litres in case you run out of petrol (you’ll be covering long distances).
- Take along a current and well-detailed map of the area, enough food and water for two days, as well as clothing that will serve hot and cold weather.
- Stick to main roads and obey road signs.
- Change drivers regularly if you aren’t alone, and take breaks every two hours.
- Hire a radio beacon or satellite phone.
- Check road and weather conditions with the police, tourist information centres and the locals before heading out.
Australian beaches and bodies of water are major attractions. So much so, a trip without dipping your toes in water or your feet in the sand may seem incomplete.
Twelve Apostles,Port Campbell National Park, Australia. Credit: MSTravel
However, there are some safety concerns related to swimming in Australia – especially in estuaries, deep pools, mangroves, and tidal rivers. This activity can be dangerous when you don’t take the necessary precautions.
It’s important you make enquiries about which seasons are safe to swim. The dangerous Irukanji and Box Jellyfish are known to be active in tropical waters during the November to April period. Here are some other safety pointers for swimming:
- There are red and yellow flags on mostmajor or beaches during the main hours of the swimming day, so always swim between them.
- Listen to the directions and warnings of lifeguards with regards swimming areas.
- Refrain from touching any sea creature you encounter, as they may sting or bite, which could prove fatal.
Australia has some inhospitable outdoor conditions – from the harsh and unpredictable weather to the prevalence of dangerous animals, such as reptiles (Australia is home to a myriad of deadly snakes) and kangaroos.
- Pack clothing that’s suitable for the area you’re exploring and leave nothing to chance, as the weather could turn either extremely hot or cold.
- When you’re in bush areas, always wear trousers and boots.
- Be careful to light fires in bushy surroundings during the summer period and always extinguish any fire you start before you leave the area.
- For every hour you intend to walk or hike, take at least one litre of water with you.
Safety in cities and avoiding crime
While crime rates in Australia are low, a handful of visitors do fall victim to petty theft and other instances of crime. It’s a good idea to take the following precautions when visiting major cities such as Melbourne and Sydney:
- Never walk alone in parks at night.
- Do not your leave any of your gadgets unattended (such as your phones, camera or laptop).
- Avoid keeping your wallet in your back pocket.
Explore Australia safely and relish your tour
The dangers of travelling around Australia and exploring the country’s beauty are real, but by employing the appropriate safety measures, your trip can be every bit as exciting as you hoped.
Top image: Ayers Rock/Uluru in central Australian desert, Northern Territory. Credit: CSIRO