New data reveals 60% of Aussies unaware of government travel warnings for overseas destinations.
New research indicates just how little heed we take of travel warnings for international destinations. A survey by InsureandGo (insureandgo.com.au), the world’s leading online travel insurer, presented 11 destinations with travel warnings to a panel of 1000 Australians, and found that 60 per cent believed that at least one country with a travel warning was safe for travel.
InsureandGo analysed the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) Smartraveller website to compile a list of countries with travel warnings: Belgium, Egypt, Morocco, India, Mexico, South Africa, Peru, Brazil, Philippines, Nepal and Thailand.
An independent panel of Australian survey respondents were asked if any of the destinations are ‘safe’ for travel. The destination that most respondents thought was of low risk is Belgium. However, the Australian Government advises travellers to ‘exercise a high degree of caution’. Since the terrorist attack at Brussels National Airport in March 2016, the government has issued warnings to Australians to be on high alert for potential security threats in places with a high concentration of people. Warnings are also in place for theft, muggings and pickpocketing in its capital city, Brussels.
Thailand, which welcomes around half a million Australian visitors each year, was considered the next ‘safest’ country to travel to (by volume of respondents). However, DFAT warns Aussies to ‘exercise a high degree of caution’ when travelling there and places some areas, like the provinces of Yala, Pattani and Songkhla, under a ‘do not travel’ classification.
The third lowest-risk destination chosen was the Philippines. However, the Government advises Australians travelling to the Philippines ‘exercise a high degree of caution’ overall. For instance, DFAT has labelled the second largest island in the Philippines, Eastern Mindanao, and its capital, Manila, as having ‘very high levels’ of violent crime.
The next-safest destination chosen by respondents was India, then Nepal, Morocco, Peru, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico and then Egypt. (See table below for full ranking.)
The survey also asked respondents which countries they desired to travel to in the future. In order of the largest volume of respondents wanting to travel to these countries were: Thailand, then Egypt, Belgium, Brazil, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, South Africa, India, the Philippines, then Nepal.
Jonathan Etkind, spokesperson at InsureandGo, says: “Whether Aussies decide to visit these countries or destinations deemed low risk by the Government, it’s best to always be prepared for the unexpected – whether that be lost or stolen luggage, travel cancellations or emergency medical. Medicare and Australian private health insurance will not cover travellers who need medical care overseas, nor will travellers have recourse to any compensation for loss, theft or damage to their belongings, without travel insurance.
“Having said that, before booking any trip, it’s important to check that your travel insurer provides cover for travel to your chosen destination, as many insurers are unlikely to cover high-risk countries such as Haiti, Lebanon, or East Timor.”
InsureandGo’s safety tips for Aussies travelling to medium-to-high-risk countries
- Be aware of the safety warnings of the countries you’re travelling to. The first rule of safe travel is to not be ignorant about where you are going. Before you book travel to any overseas destination, check Smartraveller. As with any country classified as high risk, if you travel against government advice, it could invalidate a travel insurance claim.
- Keep your belongings safe. Petty crimes, such as theft and pick-pocketing, are common in Belgium, Thailand and South American countries. Have your belongings with you at all times, and make sure you carry a bag that seals completely and can’t be easily snatched from your body. Have your wits about you; turning your back for a second can leave you open to theft.
- Respect local customs. Gestures, behaviour and clothing that are acceptable in Australia may be unsafe in other countries. In Thailand, for instance, more than 90 per cent of the population adheres to Buddhism, so there are some customs you should be aware of while travelling. Engaging in offensive or sacrilegious behaviour in relation to God, Buddha or Thai Royalty can result in imprisonment. Most temples will require males and females to be covered in long clothing, while public displays of affection and using your left-hand for most actions is considered rude.
- Exercise caution if partaking in adventurous activities. While scooters are common in South-East Asian countries, if you plan on hiring one, ensure you wear a helmet – even if it isn’t required in that country. Most travel insurers will require you to wear one in order to be covered. Ensure you also declare any planned high-risk activities or sports to your travel insurer to ensure you are covered in the case of an incident.
Ranking of the countries Aussies think are safest for travel, against DFAT’s travel warnings
|Ranking – ‘safest’ to travel to||DFAT’s official advice|
|Belgium||Overall, exercise a high degree of caution|
|Thailand||Overall, exercise a high degree of caution and do not travel to Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla|
|Philippines||Overall, exercise a high degree of caution and, in central and western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, do not travel|
|India||Overall, exercise a high degree of caution, and do not travel to the India-Pakistan border in general|
|Nepal||Overall, exercise a high degree of caution|
|Morocco||Overall, exercise a high degree of caution, and do not travel within 30km of the northern or western side of Berm nor areas bordering the Western Sahara|
|Peru||Overall, exercise a high degree of caution, and reconsider your need to travel to areas bordering Columbia and Ecuador|
|Brazil||Overall, exercise a high degree of caution|
|South Africa||Overall, exercise a high degree of caution|
|Mexico||Overall, exercise a high degree of caution, and reconsider your need to travel to some areas|
|Egypt||Overall, reconsider your need to travel, and do not travel within 50km of Egypt’s border with Libya and Governorate of North Sinai|
Ranking of the countries Aussies want to travel to
|Ranking – desire to travel to|