Be pre­pared for a brave new world

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - MERRY KIRK­WOOD

IN­TER­NA­TIONAL borders seem to be con­stantly shrink­ing. Res­i­dents of the Euro­pean Union, for ex­am­ple, ven­ture in seem­ingly care­free fash­ion in and out of near-neigh­bours’ back­yards with lit­tle need for a pass­port.

But our is­land con­ti­nent is uniquely iso­lated and it’s in­ter­est­ing to con­sider the role of of­fi­cial ad­vice for Aus­tralian trav­ellers: how rel­e­vant are travel warn­ings and how se­ri­ously are they taken?

Most of us are fa­mil­iar with smar­trav­eller.gov.au, a site co­or­di­nated by the Depart­ment of For­eign Af­fairs and Trade that def­i­nitely, and quite prop­erly, errs on the side of cau­tion. It high­lights five es­ca­lat­ing lev­els of warn­ings with fre­quent up­dates, cul­mi­nat­ing with: Re­con­sider your need to travel, and Do not travel. Trav­ellers can sign up for au­to­matic email up­dates to keep abreast of changes to ad­vi­sory no­tices, par­tic­u­larly for des­ti­na­tions fraught with civil un­rest and on­go­ing conflicts.

Hav­ing ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion is one thing but us­ing it can be an­other. Re­cent re­search by on­line in­surer Travel In­surance Di­rect re­veals only about onethird of trav­ellers sur­veyed checked gov­ern­ment ad­vi­sories be­fore book­ing a hol­i­day. Where once we may have re­lied on a favourite travel agent to keep us abreast of, say, health is­sues and visa re­quire­ments, the switch to on­line book­ings means trav­ellers must take more per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity.

This year a raft of se­ri­ous weather events, nat­u­ral dis­as­ters and po­lit­i­cal up­heavals across the world has made find­ing ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion more vi­tal than ever. And things can get con­fus­ing when na­tional tourist of­fices and op­er­a­tors with vested in­ter­ests is­sue blan­ket all­clear alerts at the first hint of dan­ger sub­sid­ing.

We need to take an ac­tive in­ter­est in the af­fairs of the coun­tries we plan to visit, take out the right level of hol­i­day in­surance and treat smar­trav­eller.gov.au as the mus­tuse re­source it is in­tended to be.

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