Get travel and medical insurance
Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.
- Safety and security
- Local laws and customs
- Natural disasters and climate
- Additional information
We advise you to take normal precautions.
The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems, try talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management.
Reciprocal Health Agreement
A Reciprocal Health Agreement is in place between the governments of Ireland and Australia. This agreement provides for free emergency care in an Australian public hospital for Irish citizens. It’s important to note that the agreement only covers people who are legally in Australia on certain visa classes (student visas are not included).
This agreement is limited to emergency situations and is not a replacement for medical insurance. It doesn’t cover ambulance costs which, given the size of Australia and the frequent use of air ambulances, can be significant. It doesn’t cover prescription costs other than for patients while in hospital. Equally it doesn’t cover outpatient costs for follow-up (dressings, physiotherapy, etc) or cover medical repatriation to Ireland.
Read further information on the Recirocal Health Care Agreement between Ireland & Australia.
Our tips for safe travels:
- Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities.
- Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
- Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly if there’s an unforeseen crisis like a natural disaster or a family emergency.
- Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates.
- Read our ‘Know Before You Go’ guide.
Safety and security
Safety and security
The Australian government terrorism public alert level is at ‘probable’ as of April 2016. There is an underlying threat of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by tourists and expatriates.
Crime remains relatively low in Australia but you should take sensible precautions.
- Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place.
- You don’t legally have to carry your passport with your at all time in Australia so leave it in a safe place unless absolutely necessary to avoid loss, theft of damage. Leave a copy of the biography page (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home.
- Always get local advice about safe places to socialise. If you’re staying in cheap accommodation, be aware that the good value may be due to an undesirable location. Be careful in certain ‘party’ areas in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth and take sensible precautions.
Lost or stolen passport
If your passport is lost or stolen while in Australia, the Embassy in Canberra or the Consulate in Sydney can, in emergency situations, issue an emergency travel document or temporary passport. You’ll need to submit a completed application, duly witnessed and with all supporting documents and the appropriate fee. Proof of identity and citizenship will be required, including an original or certified long-form birth certificate in all cases.
If you're a victim of a crime while in Australia, you should report it to the local police immediately. If you need consular assistance, contact us at the Embassy or Consulate. Victim Support Australia also has numbers of local helplines listed by state.
Reporting sexual assault
In the event of sexual assault, the Australian Police have specialised sexual assault teams, and many hospitals have dedicated sexual assault units. There’s also a national 24-hour telephone counselling service for cases of sexual assault and domestic violence – 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).
As well as protecting yourself against crime while in Australia, you have a responsibility to ensure that your own behaviour is orderly and respectful and doesn’t bring you to the attention of the police.
Despite Australia’s reputation as a laidback and relaxed country, the police and the courts take a very strict approach to law and order. The laws on ‘street offences’ such as public nuisance, drunk and disorderly behaviour, and on common assault are thoroughly enforced. You should follow the instructions of Australian police officers immediately and without argument.
A significant number of Irish nationals (particularly in the 20 to 30 age bracket) come before the Australian courts each year. They should expect no flexibility or leniency to a foreign national not familiar with Australian law.
Road traffic accidents are the most common cause of death and serious injury to Irish visitors in Australia so if you’re planning to drive, remember the basics:
- Traffic drives on the left.
- Bring your full Irish driving license and carry it with you – this is compulsory for drivers for all drivers in Australia
- Make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance on your vehicle, especially if it’s borrowed. Some ‘open’ Australian insurance policies carry age restrictions and may cover only certain drivers
- Be aware of Australia’s traffic laws, such as speed limits, which are generally lower than in Ireland; and street parking, which is strictly regulated. These laws are strictly enforced and hefty on-the-spot fines are applied
- Check road conditions before beginning your journey; stay with your vehicle if it breaks down; and avoid travelling in extreme heat conditions. Sudden storms and strong winds can make driving difficult.
Driver fatigue is a major cause of death on Australian roads. Always carry water and take rest breaks every two hours while driving long distances.
It’s also important to check the roadworthiness of your vehicle before travelling long distances in remote areas. Petrol stations could be few and far between and you may need to carry an additional petrol supply.
Watch out for signs warning of local wildlife, which may be present on the roads and can cause serious injury in a collision. Be particularly careful when driving at dawn and dusk when animals such as kangaroos are on the move.
In rural areas, roads may be unsealed and impassable after heavy rain. It’s a mistake to rely solely on GPS to plan itineraries.
Hiring a vehicle
If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.
Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged). If you’re planning to drive on unsealed roads it’s essential that your hire car insurance policy has adequate cover.
The Australian surf can be dangerous, with strong rip currents challenging even the most experienced swimmer. You should only swim on beaches that are patrolled by lifeguards, and always swim between the flags. The position of the flags highlights the safest part of the beach to swim. These are generally moved daily to take account of rip currents or other hazards.
However tempting a remote and unsupervised beach may appear, there may be a very good reason for the absence of other bathers. As well as rip currents, some areas may present risk of stings or bites from local marine life, up to and including shark attacks. Always check the signs and pay attention to local information.
Never swim after drinking alcohol or taking drugs, and avoid swimming alone.
Safety in the Outback
Australia is a vast country with great distances between many major cities and centres of population. Some parts of the Outback are extremely remote and can present unexpected hazards. If you intend to travel to these areas, plan your trip with care and listen to local advice.
In very remote areas, you should notify relevant local tourist authorities or police of your departures and return times. Many national parks have beacon locators that the authorities ask hikers to take with them so that they can be more easily found in case of emergency.
Mobile phone coverage, though generally good in towns and cities, is often not available in remote areas. It’s a mistake to rely upon mobile phones or on real time internet maps if travelling in the Outback or even in some relatively well-populated rural areas.
Local laws and customs
Local laws and customs
Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal.
Illegal drug use (no matter what the drug) carries stiff penalties, including fines and long prison terms.
The police in Australia are strict in their implementation of the law and you should not expect any flexibility in respect of speed limits, parking restrictions or public order regulations.
What might pass in Ireland for friendly banter may be interpreted in Australia as a refusal to follow the orders of a police officer.
Disrespectful language or physical contact, especially from people under the influence of alcohol, is not tolerated.
The Australian Border Force has stepped up its operations with regard to the deportation of foreign nationals who overstay their Australian visa. The Embassy has seen an increase in detention of visa overstayers in recent months.
If you believe you have overstayed your visa, it is best to engage with the Australian Border Force as soon as possible to try and work out a solution and hopefully avoid being detained. The Australian Border Force operate a confidential service, the Community Status Resolution Service, which allows people to call to discuss their situation. The number to call is 1300 853 773. Further details on the Border Force website: http://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Visa/Expired-visas/Community-status-resolution-service.
Each situation is dealt with strictly on a case-by-case basis. However, Australian Border Force advise that if you cooperate with them to resolve your immigration status, you may be granted a Bridging visa E. This lets you stay in Australia for a short time while you finalise your affairs. The Australian Border Force regularly conducts compliance activity to locate people living in the community unlawfully. If you are found in the community without a visa, you could be detained and removed from Australia. You could face a three-year re-entry ban from visiting Australia again.
If you have over stayed your visa and are picked up by the police or Border Force you will likely be detained at an Immigration Detention Centre while your deportation is arranged. In general the Australian Border Force are required to deport a foreign national within 28 days of their signing the consent to deportation. However, delays can arise. We have noted delays in particular in Western Australia where deportations are taking 6 to 8 weeks. If you overstay your visa and are detained by the Australian Border Force, you should bear the following in mind:
- Think carefully about challenging the deportation. The 28 days doesn't start until consent to deportation is given.
- If you agree to the deportation you should sign the paperwork immediately to begin the 28 days.
- Delays can arise, particularly for the following reasons: health issues that prevent air travel, lack of travel documents, delay getting airlines to accept the deportee, outstanding criminal matters
- If you have been involved in a crime, you should be fully open with the Australian Border Force regarding outstanding criminal matters. The Border Force will most likely uncover any unresolved criminal matters. If an unresolved criminal matter is discovered the 28 day period may no longer apply and deportation could take significantly longer.
- Similarly if you have any outstanding debts or fines you may have to pay these before deportation can be finalised.
- If you are being deported following a prison sentence, you should note that it is likely you will spend some time in immigration detention on your release from prison. It is not general practice for former prisoners to be deported straight from jail.
Natural disasters and climate
Natural disasters and climate
The Australian climate can be extreme. Drought in one part can be paralleled by severe flooding in another. The north of the country gets a wet and a dry season, and much of the centre of the country is desert or semi-arid. While the climate is generally temperate in the south-east and south-west corners, even here the summer heat can be intense.
The weather between different cities may vary widely at certain times of the year. If you’re planning on travelling around Australia, it’s important to stay aware of the weather in each place you intend to stay. Up to date weather forecasts for all areas are available at www.bom.gov.au
The sunburn index is very high in Australia during both summer and winter months and the country has a high rate of skin cancer. High factor sun protection should be reapplied frequently and we highly recommend wearing a hat.
Due to the dry conditions in many parts of Australia, it’s important to be alert to the possibility of bush fires. If there is a fire in your area keep tuned to local radio for updates or download the ‘Fires Near Me’ app. Know what to look out for and observe total fire ban warnings where they’re in place. Find out what bushfire safety plans are in place in the area where you are camping, caravanning or renting accommodation. If a bushfire breaks out, don't wait and see. It is extremely dangerous to leave after there are signs of fire in your area. Bush fires have devastating effects and there are heavy penalties applied for breach of the rules.
During times of minimal rainfall, usually from October to April, intense bushfires can occur. Follow the advice of local authorities, and avoid affected or susceptible areas.
Consult the website of the Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology for information on weather conditions.
Depending on the season, flash flooding can occur in many areas. Floods in recent years have led to loss of life and cut off whole towns and communities so pay attention to local warnings. It’s dangerous to try to cross swollen creeks or other flood waters; their power and depth may be deceptive.
Some unsealed roads (common in rural areas) may not be passable after heavy rain even if you’re travelling in a 4 x 4 vehicle. It’s important not to rely solely on GPS when planning a route. Local advice is usually available and should be sought out and heeded.
Entry requirements (visa/passport)
You will need a visa in advance to enter Australia. You have to be pre-cleared and issued with an Electronic Travel Authorisation. Travel agents, the nearest Australian Embassy or the Australian Immigration website can provide further details.
Always respect the terms of your visa. It’s an offence to overstay a visa and to do so will likely incur a sanction, which can include up to a three-year ban on entering the country.
Immigration law is very strictly enforced – don’t be under any illusion on this point.
On 18th April 2017, the Australian Government announced charges to the 457 visa, which may affect your immigration plans for Australia. For more information, see the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website: http://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Work/457-abolition-replacement
Travelling to Australia on a working holiday visa
If you are travelling to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa (subclass 417) please read our guidelines here.
Always get comprehensive travel insurance. See the overview section of this travel advice for more information on the Reciprocal Health Agreement for emergency care only.
Visitors to northern Queensland, the Northern Territory and the north of Western Australia may be exposed to mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever and Ross River fever. Take suitable precautions and use insect repellents and sleeping nets.
There have been reports of cases of Murray Valley Encephalitis (MVE), a potentially fatal mosquito-borne disease, in the Northern Territory and north Western Australia, with occasional cases in Queensland, central Australia and the central regions of Western Australia.
Moving to Australia for an extended period
If you’re thinking about moving to Australia for an extended period as a family unit, the most important thing is to fully research the visa class you intend to travel on. Get a clear and accurate picture of what entitlements will or will not apply for you and your family.
Take the time to research the state and city where you plan to relocate. Find out about issues such as childcare and school fees before you arrive.
Further information is also available from the Irish community support associations. For more information on moving to Brisbane.
Cost of living
The cost of living in Australia is high. Good accommodation in the major cities can be difficult to find and is very expensive by Irish standards. This applies in particular to Perth, where there’s a significant shortage of suitable accommodation, with rental prices reflecting the high demand.
There may be long waiting lists for schools and child care in certain areas and you may have to apply for places before you leave Ireland. Take note that the Australian school year begins in end January/February not in September as is the case at home.
In some states, notably New South Wales and Western Australia, temporary residents may have to pay significant fees for public primary schools and they may not be entitled to benefit from Australian tax rebates for child care expenses.
Emergency hospital treatment for Irish people legally resident in Australia is covered by the Reciprocal Health Agreement between the two countries. This doesn’t cover the cost of ambulances and follow-up care. Temporary residents are not generally entitled to Medicare (Australian public health rebate system) and as such may have to pay in full for childhood vaccinations and other medical bills. Temporary residents are not generally entitled to social welfare (Centrelink) payments. The system is structured differently in Australia so you may not be entitled to any child benefit payments and even if you were entitled to a medical card at home you will be required to pay for medical appointments and related services in Australia.