Getting ready to travel safely

What you need to prepare before you leave, to help make sure you travel safely.

Having the following items prepared in advance of a trip increases your likelihood of having a safe holiday.

  • Personal identification, such as passport or photo card
  • Medical information, including vaccination, allergy/prescription information
  • Travel insurance, in case something goes wrong or you get sick
  • Your mobile phone, which can be your most important tool for travel.

Here's how each of these can help you to travel safely.

Safe travel

Personal identification

You'll need a passport for travelling overseas, and when travelling domestically it's best to carry photo ID. If you don't have a driver's licence, get a Photo ID card issued by the state you live in.

Medical information

It's important to carry medical information when you're away from home, especially if you already carry medical information with you day-to-day.

This information should have details about:

  • Any serious health issues
  • Any allergies
  • Prescription medications you're using
  • Your blood type.

Travel insurance

Travel insurance gives you access to all sorts of help and services if things go wrong, especially overseas. This can include certain medical expenses, which is particularly important in countries where medical care is very expensive.

Your mobile phone

Your phone can be your most valuable tool while travelling. It can help you communicate with others, back home and at your destination. It also stores important documents, helps you get around with mapping apps, lets you book or check tickets, and much more.

Travelling safely: Identification

Being able to prove who you are with documentation makes travel easier. Overseas, you may need to carry photo ID with other documents, such as a visa.

Photo ID also helps in an emergency, to get you the right care as quickly as possible.

Travelling in Australia: Photo ID

An Australian driver's licence, issued by your state, can be used almost anywhere that photo ID is requested. It includes your current address and date of birth.

If you move house, don't forget to visit local government offices (such as Service NSW or VicRoads) and update the address on your driver's license. You can also do this online in most states and territories.

What if you don't have a driver's licence?

If you don't have a driver's licence, you can apply for a Photo ID card. Visit your local government offices to sit for a quick photo. You'll also need to pay a small fee, which differs by state. Your Photo ID will be sent to you in the mail within 10 business days. It will include your date of birth, and current address.

Travelling internationally: Your passport

You need a valid passport to leave Australia and enter another country legally. There's information about how to apply for a passport at the website.

A passport contains your photo, as well as a number of security features to make sure the passport is valid and genuine.

If you need urgent help overseas, use your mobile device to visit the Smart Traveller website and tap the URGENT HELP button.

Some countries require your passport to have at least six months left on it before it expires, when you travel. Not all countries have this rule and you can find out more about this at

ePassports and how they work

Since 2005, all Australian passports have an embedded computer chip with your personal information, a digitised version of your picture, and the document number of the passport.

At some airports and ports, you can use an electronic gate to pass through immigration. In Australia these are called SmartGates.

You don't need to ask for an ePassport, all Australian passports are now issued with this feature.

Applying for a passport

Apply for an Australian passport at This website also has all the information about the types of documents you need to apply for an Australian passport.

Travelling safely: Medical information

You should carry important medical information with you when travelling, to help protect yourself and to keep safe and secure. You can have a card made up and laminated, or carry the following information saved as a document on your mobile phone. It's important to carry information about:

  • Any life-threatening illness or condition
  • Your allergies, especially to medicines such as penicillin
  • Your blood type
  • Prescription information about your medicines
  • Vaccination information, to show you are up to date.

Vaccinations for travelling

Your normal vaccinations cover you for travel in Australia. To go overseas you may need extra vaccinations, especially for diseases not found here, such as malaria or rabies.

You can find more information about vaccinations at the Smart Traveller website health page.

How Medicare helps when travelling

When you travel in Australia, in an emergency you will be covered by Medicare.

Overseas, you are not covered by Medicare and might have to pay out of pocket for medical expenses. A travel insurance policy will usually cover medical bills up to several million dollars.

Some countries do provide some coverage under Medicare, and you can also find information about this at the Smart Traveller website health page.

Taking prescription medicines overseas

Some common medications in Australia are completely banned in other countries. When you take prescription medicine overseas, make sure to take all the original packaging as proof they have been prescribed to you. Alternatively, take your prescription slip instead.

All about COVID certificates

When you travel, or even just go out and about in Australia, you must carry evidence of your COVID-19 vaccinations, that you can show if asked to do so.

A COVID-19 digital certificate is a valid proof of vaccination for travel everywhere in Australia, that you can show on the screen of your smartphone, or print out and carry with you. You can get the certificate from your online Medicare account.

When you travel overseas, you need an International COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate (ICVC). You must be able provide details of a valid passport when requesting an ICVC from Medicare.

COVID-19 travel rules change frequently. In addition to a COVID-19 certificate, airlines and destinations may require you to show a negative COVID-19 PCR or Rapid Antigen test before travel, and some travel insurance policies may not provide cover for COVID-19 related expenses. Make sure you keep an eye on and for up-to-date information.

All about travel insurance

Travel insurance is a special insurance policy just for people who are currently travelling or planning to travel.

Travel insurance is a lot more comprehensive than regular insurance. For the period you are travelling, it covers:

  • Medical expenses
  • Emergency dental expenses
  • Lost luggage and other personal items
  • Life insurance.
  • Liability coverage (such as if you break something!)
  • Accidental disability
  • Financial loss caused by delays or cancellations

Extra things that travel insurance covers

It's a good idea to take out a travel insurance policy prior to departure. It can mean you'll be covered for any losses associated with the unforeseen cancellations of tours, accommodation and transport. You may also be covered for losses related to being unable to go on the trip due to illness.

Travel insurance doesn't cover everything, however, so be sure to check the policy for exclusions.

How to buy travel insurance

You can ask your travel agent about travel insurance, or use price comparison websites to compare different options, and buy a policy online. Use a web search engine such as Google or Bing to search for travel insurance comparison sites.

If you have a credit card with an annual members' fee, it might come with travel insurance already. To find out, call your credit card provider and ask if travel insurance is included as part of your yearly membership.

Using your mobile phone while travelling

Some of the things you can use your mobile phone for while travelling include:

  • Storing important documents
  • Showing your digital boarding pass for flights
  • Using a maps app to navigate locally
  • Booking transfers and ride share trips
  • Getting information on the local area
  • Accessing your finances
  • Using a translation app
  • Sharing photos with friends and family.

The importance of a data connection

You can use your regular mobile data account overseas, in roaming mode. This can be expensive, but has the convenience of allowing others to contact you on your Australian phone number.

When you reach your destination country, you can purchase a SIM, on a local mobile data plan. This is usually cheaper, but you will need to take your Australian SIM out of your phone and keep it safe. This means friends and family back home won't be able to contact you on your usual phone number.

Relying on Wi-Fi when travelling

If you want to avoid the cost of using mobile data, your can turn off data roaming or mobile data in your phone's settings and connect to the public Wi-Fi in a hotel or restaurant when required.

You can keep in touch with others by downloading a messaging app and using it to send text messages home over the Wi-Fi network.

Using the cloud to access information

You can use your mobile phone to access Google Drive, iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive, and other cloud services while travelling. These services have their own apps, or you can use your phone's web browser.

As long as you have your username and password, you can access any of your documents, photos or videos saved to the cloud.

Apps for travel

It's a good idea to search on your app store and download useful apps before you leave, such as:

  • Maps. This should already be installed but may have updates
  • World clock and weather apps
  • Public transport apps for the city you are visiting
  • Ridesharing apps, such as Uber
  • Translation apps, such as Google Translate.

Remember, when you travel, your mobile phone gets information about your location from the mobile data network it's connected to. This automatically updates the time zone, clock, and your weather app.

Don't forget!

Mobile phones can break or be stolen, so you should always take paper copies of your most important information. This includes your itinerary, flight booking details, medical information, and contact numbers.

Remember to pack your charger, and take a convertor for each kind of power point in the countries you visit.

Avoiding common travel scams

Here are five common scams, and how to avoid them.

  1. The Fake Travel Agent scam
    The scam: You end up paying a fake agent a lot of money and don't get a trip!
    The fix: Check the agent is legitimate by visiting their shopfront, or search for reviews online.
  2. The Too-Good-to-be-True Hotel scam
    The scam: The room you booked doesn't resemble the photos on the website.
    The fix: Check reviews of a hotel online before booking, or use an agent.
  3. The Photo scam
    The scam: At a famous landmark, a local person offers to take your photo then demands money for the service.
    The fix: Firmly refuse any offer of photography in the first place.
  4. The Taxi scam
    The scam: The taxi driver will start driving to your destination and then apologise that the meter is broken. You will then be overcharged for your trip.
    The fix: Before entering the taxi, demand to see that that the meter is working.
  5. The Shopping Detour scam
    The scam: Instead of being driven straight to your destination, you are taken to a local market where you are expected to buy something.
    The fix: Only use pre-booked transfer services and airport shuttle buses.
  6. The Temple Fee scam
    The scam: As you enter a famous archaeological site, a local person will rush up and demand you pay an entrance fee.
    The fix: Paid admission to sites is usually at a gate, and you will get a ticket and receipt. If someone appears from nowhere demanding money, ignore them.