Is DFAT advice worth following?

Christine is about to take a big trip but with the unrest in the world, her friends are suggesting she rethink her plans. In Travel SOS, Lee Mylne looks at the validity of DFAT travel advice.

Q. Christine
I am planning to travel to the US and Europe, visiting several countries along the way. A friend has suggested that I check with DFAT to see if it’s safe to travel but surely this is a bit much? I understand that there have been recent events in the US, France and Turkey, but should I change my plans if DFAT advises me to do so?

A. Christine, if you are travelling to any countries where there have been recent upheavals – either terrorist attacks or political unrest of any kind – it’s a very good idea to at very least know which trouble spots to avoid. This doesn’t necessarily mean striking that whole country off your list, but DFAT can give sound advice on where not to go or what kind of risks you might be taking.

DFAT’s travel advisories assess the level of risk in a particular destination so that you can make informed decisions about where and when to travel – or whether not to. These levels range from exercising ‘normal safety precautions’ to ‘a high degree of caution’, right through to ‘reconsidering your need to travel’, and at the highest level a fairly emphatic ‘do not travel’.  Full details of these can be found on the DFAT website.

It’s also a very good idea for Australian citizens to register with DFAT’s Smarttraveller website before travelling overseas. You can do this online. This means that if you happen to be in an area where something happens – including natural disasters like earthquakes – or if you are involved in a major accident, your travel plans are registered and consular officials are able to contact you, and confirm your safety (also a way of putting your family’s mind at rest in emergency situations, if you are not able to contact them).

Personally, I don’t think any of us should stop travelling because of fear of terrorist attacks or other possible disruptions to our plans. But taking sensible precautions and avoiding trouble spots, where possible, will help ensure that your travel plans aren’t unnecessarily interrupted.

So, yes…I think you should check out the DFAT travel advisories and adjust your plans according to the level of risk.

Another thing to consider is the affect that a DFAT travel advisory for your chosen destination might have on your travel insurance. Before booking your trip, check with your insurance company to see if your policy will cover a claim if the DFAT travel advice changes to a higher level – particularly ‘reconsider’ or ‘do not travel’.

Safe travels, Christine!

For more information, please visit www.dfat.gov.au

Written by Lee Mylne

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