Travelling overseas for the first time

Everything you need to know to stay safe and enjoy the world

You're about to head off on your first overseas trip and while it's an exciting feeling, it can also be a bit daunting. This is your first solo trip out into the big wide world and who knows what awaits you once you leave the shores of Australia behind? Read through our complete guide to going overseas and coming back in one piece.

What type of travel are you partaking in? Check out these posts

Top mistakes people make the first time (travelling)

It's inevitable that you're going to make mistakes the first time you travel, but in order to minimise the damage to your pride and your bank account, here are a few common mistakes to avoid when travelling overseas for the first time;


1. Overbooking.

Be sure to give yourself some flexibility in your schedule to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves.

2. Trying to see everything.

Slow down and take in a few things thoroughly, rather than seeing everything and experiencing nothing

3. Underestimating costs.

You will end up spending twice as much as you thought, so make sure you have enough savings to cover it

4. Packing too much.

Don’t take too much stuff. Only take the bare necessities and buy what you need as you go.

5. Not having travel insurance.

You could get sick, have an accident or suffer a loss. Only travel insurance can compensate you.

Let's talk about travel insurance

5 reasons why it is crucial for first time travellers

The importance of having adequate travel insurance before you set off on your overseas adventures can’t be emphasised enough and here are five of the most compelling reasons why:

1. Cost of hospital bed overseas

hospital-ambulance Without travel insurance that includes overseas medical, a hospital bed will cost you around $893 a night in Singapore, $751 in the US, $722 in Hong Kong, $671 in the Netherlands, $603 in Canada and $561 in Germany.

2. Cost of legal proceedings overseas

legal Without the personal liability cover found in most travel insurance policies, an attorney in the US can cost you up to $1,000 per hour.

3. Cost of damaging a rental car.

car-crashIf you hire a rental car overseas, you are liable for the insurance excess if the car is crashed, stolen or damaged. Without appropriate travel insurance, this can cost you anywhere from $2,500 to $4,000.

4. It's compulsory in some countries

compulsory Some countries require it as a condition of entry (i.e. United Arab Emirates, Cuba, Qatar and Turkey).

5. It's compulsory for some group tours

group-travel Many cruises and tours require it as a condition of travel (i.e. G Adventures, Contiki Tours, Baz Bus etc.).

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Some dangers to be aware of out there

Not all countries are as safe as Australia and it’s important to know what the risks are before you head off on your international adventure. Some of the main dangers include:

  • Terrorism. There has been a rapid increase in the incidence of terrorism since 2000, with the number of deaths increasing nine-fold. Countries with the most attacks include Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria, but terrorists can strike anywhere.
  • Disease. Infectious diseases such as cholera, hepatitis, tuberculosis, typhoid and rabies are common around the world and serious outbreaks often occur. Poor food preparation and hygiene in some countries can also contribute to illness and disease.
  • Sexual assault. Both men and women can be victims of sexual assault when travelling overseas and the perpetrator is usually a stranger who may use drugs, threats of violence or manipulation to attempt to control them.
  • Severe weather. Cyclones, snow storms, hurricanes and earthquakes can all have an impact on your overseas travel. Apart from the immediate danger, they can also cause damage and disruption to communications, transport and infrastructure.
  • Kidnapping. There is an ongoing threat of kidnapping in many areas of the world, with kidnappers often motivated by financial gain. The Australian Government has a policy of not negotiating with kidnappers and travellers must make their own security arrangements in high-risk areas.
  • Piracy. There are high levels of piracy in the world’s coastal and international waters, particularly in the Horn of Africa, Gulf of Guinea and Southeast Asia. Pirates can attack any type of ship including commercial vessels, pleasure craft and cruise liners.
  • Scams. There are numerous scams committed on travellers around the world and many criminals make a living targeting tourists and backpackers. Common scams include posing as officials, fake taxi cabs, credit card skimming and pickpocketing.

Travelling to unsafe destinations

While it’s best to avoid travelling to potentially dangerous countries, if you choose to do so, there are basic precautions you can take to minimise your level of risk:

  • Monitor the travel advice for that country and reconsider your plans if it advises against travel.
  • Monitor the local media to identify issues that could affect your safety, such as symbolic days or political events.
  • Be vigilant in public places frequented by westerners, including embassies, hotels, restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
  • Modify your behaviour by keeping a low profile, avoiding areas where security is poor and varying your routine so your movements are not predictable.
  • In high-risk locations, have a contingency plan (i.e. know where the exits are and carry emergency contact information at all times).
  • If the threat level is high, consider obtaining professional security advice.


Regions to be aware of

While terrorist attacks can happen anywhere in the world, the main areas of risk for Australian travellers include;


  • Southeast Asia. Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand all contain active terrorist groups and there have been a number of atrocities committed in recent years against foreign travellers, including the infamous Bali bombing.
  • South and West Asia. Westerners are regularly targeted by terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan and to a lesser extent in India and Bangladesh.
  • Mid​dle East. Syria and Iraq are both high-risk countries due to the ongoing war and presence of ISIL and violence against westerners is also on the increase in places like Yemen, Turkey and Lebanon.
  • Africa. Mali, Libya and Egypt all harbour active terrorist groups that have carried out attacks on westerners and Algeria, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Somalia, Kenya and Nigeria are all high-risk areas for foreign travellers.
  • Europe. Due to the conflict in Syria, terrorist acts are on the increase in Europe, with cities such as London, Paris, Berlin, Nice and Brussels all experiencing major terrorist attacks.

Is travel insurance enough to protect me?

While travel insurance will cover you on your trip, it is your responsibility to take reasonable care. Otherwise you could void If you’re planning to travel to an unstable part of the world, make sure you’re covered by your travel insurance. Insurers often exclude certain countries due to their high risk, so check the exclusions in your policy to make sure you’re covered. You also risk not being covered if you:

  • Travel despite government warnings to the contrary
  • Purchase your ticket after a warning has been issued
  • Fail to exercise caution and avoid high-risk situations.
  • Fail to take adequate precautions to protect your belongings
  • Fail to vaccinate against known diseases

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