The first rule for Australians travelling overseas: Always register your travel plans. While no one would ever want anything to go wrong while they’re away on business or pleasure, it’s a sad fact that natural disasters, conflict, and terrorists attacks do unfortunately happen. By registering your travel plans, it becomes much easier for you to receive the support you need from the Australian government in the event of an incident.
In Australia you can register your travel plans with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT), and this is particularly encouraged if you will be travelling to a known dangerous area. However, it also doesn’t hurt to register even when travelling to a normally safe location. For example, DFAT worked in New Zealand with the government’s support to help ensure the safety of Australians after the Christchurch earthquake. DFAT arranges for evacuations, locates missing family members, and arranges for replacement documentation when a crisis destroys the originals (or they are stolen/otherwise lost).
The database that DFAT manages is called Smart Traveller, which is easy to register for online. By doing so you’ll speed up the process of getting help from an embassy or consulate if there is a situation, because the critical information about you can be accessed immediately by staff logging into the database.
Equally importantly, if a tragedy was to occur then friends and family who know you have travelled to that location will be able to get information more quickly themselves by accessing DFAT. Or alternatively, DFAT itself will contact them to advise them on the status in an emergency situation if you have left them as an emergency contact. Knowing that a loved one is located within a disaster zone can be a very stressful time for a family, and by registering travel plans you’ll be giving your family peace of mind in the process.
Beyond the ability to register your travel plans, DFAT’s Smart Traveller website also keeps an updated set of records about safe travel advice, and information on what to do in the event of an emergency. It’s worth taking the time to inform yourself of these details before making a trip overseas.
It’s also important to heed any travel warnings, as if you go into an area that does have a “Do Not Travel” warning from the Government, then it will be difficult to receive either Government assistance - or even at times insurance - in the event that something happens. If you are heading to such areas, it’s important that you understand the potential problems you may encounter and have checked with your insurance policy that you are protected.
If the status of an area changes (i.e. it becomes a “Do Not Travel” status after you arrive), then having your details registered with DFAT will mean they’re able to update you on the new status, and you will be able to determine whether you cut your trip shorter from there.
What information DFAT needs from you
When you’re registering with Smart Traveller, DFAT will need the following information on you:
- Full name
- Passport number
- Date of birth
- Travel dates
- Travel locations
- Emergency contact number
It will take around five minutes to complete if you’re travelling alone, but if you’re visiting multiple locations or travelling with other people it will naturally take longer to fill out for everyone. If you’re travelling in a large group of ten or more - for example, if you’re looking to register your sporting team - then you’re better off emailing RegistrationHelp@dfat.gov.au and asking for a group registration spreadsheet.
Also note that with many tour companies, registering your details on Smart Traveller remains your responsibility. You should check with the tour company to see if it is the exception to the rule.
And finally, remember that this service is only available to Australian citizens. If you are a temporary or permanent resident of another country living in Australia, then you will need to register your travel plans with whatever nation you are a citizen of instead.