Tourism

Research: Most Aussies unaware of government travel warnings

New research has revealed just how little heed Aussies take of travel warnings for international destinations.

A survey by InsureandGo 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.

Survey respondents were asked if any of the destinations were considered ‘safe’ for travel, revealing most participants thought Belgium was percieved as the destination that posed the least risk.

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.

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, even though the government advises Australians travelling to the Philippines ‘exercise a high degree of caution’ overall.

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InsureandGo has also provided these handy tips for travellers headed for medium-to-high-risk countries.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

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