Recent events in Bali have reminded all of us how careful we need to be when travelling overseas. Below is a general list of tips and preparations that may assist if you do get into trouble whilst abroad:
- Know the law – each country you are visiting has their own laws and imposes their own penalties.
- Get a general understanding of any differences between Australian law and the law of the country you are visiting – either by conducting your own research, or by seeking advice through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (‘DFAT’). The DFAT’s online resource, www.smarttraveller.gov.au, is an excellent starting point.
- The consequences of becoming involved in drugs whilst overseas is topical at the moment, and serves as a reminder that you should not use, carry or become involved with drugs at any time whilst overseas. As an extra precaution, you should always pack your own luggage and ensure your luggage is securely fastened. Never leave your luggage unattended.
- Some Australian laws still apply to Australian citizens whilst they are overseas – including money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage and child sex tourism.
- If you do conduct yourself in an illegal manner whilst overseas, there is very little the Australian Government can do to assist. The Australian Consulate cannot offer you legal advice or simply get you out of trouble, however it may be able to assist by connecting you with local lawyers and translators. It is therefore often a good first point of call if you do get into trouble.
- Consider electing a Power of Attorney and drafting your Will – no one can predict the future, so it is important to have a safety net in the event of a tragedy.
- A Power of Attorney allows you to appoint a person with the legal authority to look after your financial affairs whilst you are still alive but without the capacity to do so. An attorney can be appointed in a variety of circumstances, including whilst you are on an extended overseas trip.
- A Will ensures that there is a plan for the distribution of your assets in the case of a tragedy. It is important, particularly when you are heading overseas for an extended period, to have a plan in place for the loved ones you leave behind.
- Valid Passport and Visas – everyone knows that a valid passport is the most important travel document there is. Ensure that your passport is valid and will remain valid throughout your trip, well in advance of going overseas – that will ensure you avoid a nerve-wracking couple of weeks prior to your departure date, either waiting for the express issue of a new passport, or missing out altogether.
- Finding out what is required to obtain a visa for a certain country should also be done in advance, by contacting the embassy or consulate of that particular country. This will ensure you are aware of any specific requirements that attach to that destination, including, for example, compulsory vaccinations. Note that most countries have strict visa conditions – overstaying a visa can lead to one’s arrest.
- Copy your documents – ensure that a copy of all your important travel documents remains with a friend at home or your power of attorney if you have elected one. This will ensure that you have some proof of your identity or travel plans if you manage to lose documents along the way. Leave a copy of the following behind with a trusted person:
- Itinerary and Tickets
- Travellers Cheques and Credit Card Numbers
- Driver’s Licence/International Driving Permit
- Travel Insurance Policy
- Travel Insurance – an essential part of any overseas trip and the most likely requirement if you do land yourself in trouble whilst abroad. The Australian Government will not pay for medical treatment overseas or medical evacuation – travellers without travel insurance are personally liable for covering any medical and associated costs they incur. Simply put, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.
The bottom line: know the law overseas and respect it. If you do land yourself in trouble, seek general consular advice through the Australian Government (Emergency Centre Phone: +61 2 6261 3305), or ask a family member or friend to seek that assistance for you. But be aware – when it comes to criminal conduct, the power of the Australian Government to assist is extremely limited.
Our expert lawyers are here to help. If you would like further information or require legal assistance you can Telephone us on 1300 292 700 or use our Legal Enquiry Form for same business day response. There is no cost to you for making initial contact with us.