Travel SOS: taking advice from DFAT

In Travel SOS, Lee Mylne looks at the validity of DFAT travel advice.

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!

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    23rd Jul 2016
    Interesting -I'm a Kiwi in Oz and registered with NZ Safetravel website. Received an email the other day warning me of risks in Australia because we are here at the moment!!! The system keeps you informed - yes - but we need wisdom on how to interpret the information.
    23rd Jul 2016
    Fully agree. We had the same thing a few years ago when we went to Fiji. Whilst we were careful there were absolutely no signs of conflict.
    I am suspecting that DFAT watches the news and puts a generic warning on their website after that. It would be nice to get some real information.
    The only time I would check the website is if we were heading to a place like Turkey. We almost did that 2 years ago but when the female terrorist blew herself up in Istanbul that was Turkey off the list. That was clearly a good move given a number of events during the past 12 months.
    Our boat cruise ended up with stops in Istanbul and Kusadasi which made us feel quite uncomfortable. Kusadasi was fine but Istanbul, whilst unique, had a bad vibe starting with the crooked taxi drivers and extending to the merchants and people generally.
    Good article but DFAT is pretty well useless from our experiences. Better to watch the media (SBS?) and use common sense.
    23rd Jul 2016
    Yes, but I would not travel to a country with a DFAT warning stating do not travel. The news is fine, but I heard nothing about the coup in Armenia last week, yet had a niece over there on holidays for a wedding which caused us a lot of angst.
    23rd Jul 2016
    I agree Sundays. I might suggest you watch SBS news which is a 1 hour news and which does not run repeated tripe like the main offenders. You will see all disturbances there.........and get a much better news rather than political propaganda for the their golden man and his Party.
    fish head
    23rd Jul 2016
    I think common sense just about sums it up going anywhere in the world at present. Sorry you were uncomfortable in Istanbul, Mick. I loved it. Being fair, I did not enjoy the merchants in the Grand Bazaar. They were a little over the top but then, a long slow stare followed by a gentle head shake and a smile had them backing off. Taxi drivers are taxi drivers the world over, most will have a go even in Australia. Got to love it when they start to give you the scenic route and then you tell them EXACTLY where you want to go and how to get there and insist.
    23rd Jul 2016
    The Grand Bazaar was at the top of the list. We could not work out what part of 'no' they did not get.
    Taxi drivers? The first one at the port wanted around $200 to take us to the Blue Mosque claiming it was half an hour's drive away. I pointed to it up on the hill and then walked away. The second one we and another group negotiated the price for the different drop offs but the guy started zigzag driving to make it look like a long trip and then charged us a second time. That was our first impression and we were glad to get out of Istanbul even though the history and architecture was unique.
    Our best time was walking back to the boat after we had done the rounds. Should have gone up the hill but that was an afterthought. C'est la vie.
    23rd Jul 2016
    I think you would have to have rocks in your head to disregard DFAT travel warnings. Why would anyone travelling overseas not register with Smarttraveller? It costs nothing and to my way of thinking very convenient should anything untoward happen to you during your travels.
    23rd Jul 2016
    Totally agree!

    23rd Jul 2016
    I would suggest if you are travelling somewhere which has a DFAT warning make sure your travel insurance will cover you if you get caught up in a terrorist attack.
    I have no idea about any of this but I would certainly find out myself.

    When I go on holidays I want it to be stress free; travelling in Europe that would not be the case as I would be on the alert so I think I will keep to travelling below the equator for the time being.
    23rd Jul 2016
    I would be surprised if you would not have seen such destinations reported on the news media. Once again who needs the DFAT unless one lives in a media vacuum?
    Tassie Diva
    23rd Jul 2016
    My husband and I recently went to Italy for a month. I seriously considered pulling out of the trip, after hearing a report on TV about Italy being considered a "soft target" by ISIS. The gentleman at Foreign Affairs Department, was really helpful and reassured me, that if they knew of these threat - they would post on their website or DFAT. I would also be notified as I was registered with Smarttravel. We had nothing to worry about, as each main city was having or had at the time of visiting a major head of state from another country and security was tight. We were on organised tours and cruise and felt safe at all times. However for peace of mind for family and friends being registered with Smart Travel was a good move. I certainly would not go into areas where there could be the threat to safety. This would be unwise. Don't stop your travel plans, but just be aware of your suroundings. Viv
    24th Jul 2016
    We are in Europe at the moment and we have just cancelled all the Turkey aspect. A shame as We really wanted to go there but prefer not to take the risk. In Poland at present and security extremely high , particularly at Auschwitz but they are expecting thousands for World Youth Day.
    14th Jan 2019
    Having experienced first hand the media spin when living in south africa I would never not go to a place deemed unsafe. You might just find the opposite.

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