Heading far away this Australia Day? Take into account local laws and mind your manners please.
Aussies abroad are advised to play it safe this Australia Day after a wave of disturbing international incidents. In November, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) noted a significant recent increase in arrests, assaults and hospitalisations overseas.
According to the 2015-16 Consular State of Play, the number of people arrested abroad have risen by a whopping 23 per cent while imprisonments increased by five per cent.
Natalie Ball, director Comparetravelinsurance.com.au says:
"Public holidays like Australia Day are a cause for celebration but those abroad must respect the local laws and culture. Lewd behaviour that may be acceptable at home may not be tolerated and even considered criminal in certain parts of the world. While travel insurance is a must for overseas travellers it’s also imperative to use good judgement and caution in foreign countries. "
Ball warns that travel insurance will not pardon you for bad behaviour:
“If you have an accident or are arrested due to your own recklessness, you may be invalidating your travel cover."
Travellers exposed abroad
Recently travellers engaging in offensive and indecent activities overseas have made worldwide headlines.
Last year, the infamous ‘Budgie Nine’ raised the ire of Malaysian authorities after the group of Australian men stripped down to bathers emblazoned with the Malaysian flag. The men were consequently arrested and imprisoned. Included in the group was Jack Walker, an advisor to Defence Industry minister Christopher Pyne.
In another recent case of unruly behaviour, a group of six men nicknamed ‘the Jetstar Six’ were thrown off a flight to Thailand after a wild, drunken brawl. The men have all been banned from flying with the airline and face hefty fines.
And during the 2016 schoolies festivities, an 18-year-old Perth man faced a horrific two-day ordeal after he was arrested in Bali on suspicion of carrying drugs.
Natalie Ball says that a lack of accountability coupled with poor decisions were most likely to blame for the upswing in Australians getting into trouble overseas.
“We’ve seen the catastrophic outcome of Australians abandoning their better judgement abroad. Cases like the ‘Budgie Nine’ reveal the importance of common sense when travelling. Neglecting to respect and honour the rules of your surroundings can be disastrous.”
Tactful travel tips
DFAT advises that 'local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you.’ The following tips from Comparetravelinsurance.com.au can help you keep your travels trouble free:
1. Learn the local laws
A general disrespect for local laws and culture can land you in hot water overseas- particularly in very conservative regions. Muslim countries in particular require both men and women to dress modestly, especially in religious sites. Cases of indecent exposure can have serious consequences. Alcohol may also be prohibited in certain instances so do your research before you go.
2. Safely does it
Whether it’s an ill-advised pool dive or a reckless moped ride in a foreign country, declaring yourself invincible is not just foolish, it’s also downright dangerous. Even supervised activities like bungy jumping can carry risks. Travellers should also be aware that travel insurance exclusions will apply to higher-risk activities.
3. Practice moderation
Too many displays of bad behaviour can be pinned down to an excess of booze. It may be typical of our larrikin nature, but raucous, noisy or questionable behaviour can get you into serious trouble overseas. While a tasty tipple or two is all part of the pleasure of travel, understanding local alcohol rules and knowing your limits can mean the difference between a pleasant buzz versus a night with the fuzz.
4. Respect the relics
Exploring an ancient Turkish mosque? Perhaps now’s not the time for selfie. Fancy swiping a souvenir from an ancient ruin? Also not ok. It might make for a great shot, but a quick snap beside a religious artefact or inappropriate behaviour at a historical site could land you in a sticky spot. Check with a guard before you say “cheese” and use common sense. Remember, if it seems illegal then it probably is.