Having thought through emergencies before they happen
Backups of important documents
There is a risk you might be robbed or simply will lose important papers you are bringing on your trip. If you scan all important documents and keep them with other important files in a webmail account (such as Google’s gmail.com) or on a USB stick, the loss does not have to be that severe.
If you are traveling with a laptop, what to do if your hard drive crashes and you must recreate all the data? You can always buy a new laptop, but it may be worth getting a small external hard drive beforehand and make sure you have an updated backup of your main data with you. Same thing with photos; Remember to create regular backups of your photos during the trip, on for example a small external hard drive or by uploading photos to any photo site such as Google Photos (photos.google.com).
Lost bank cards
Make sure in advance to note down your bank’s emergency hotline for lost cards (so that you can block your card) as well as the number to your insurance company’s call centre. A good idea is to send these details to your email account together with all your insurance details so that you have the information at hand even if you happen to lose all your belongings (wallet, mobile phone, and laptop).
Being prepared when it goes awry
Australia is a safe destination and the risk of you getting in trouble is slim. However, accidents can happen, making it a bit trickier to handle than if you were on home ground. Your ability to solve a problem is largely due to you and your friends’ ability to keep your heads cool and to calmly and methodically deal with the situation. It may feel ridiculous to be unnecessarily paranoid, but it is well-invested time to think through how to best handle different scenarios that may occur on the journey (but hopefully won’t).
Here are some scenarios on possible events, as well as some ideas on how you can prepare to minimize the consequences.
You drink too much on a pub crawl in The Rocks and in the drunkenness, you carelessly lose your wallet including bank cards and money. What to do?
- It may be a good idea to have an extra bank card and some cash ($500) that you do not carry with you. Then you could lose everything on you, but still be able to continue your journey without much trouble.
- How do you order new replacement cards and how do you solve the money problem until the new cards arrive?
If you have travel companions, maybe they can help you with ATM withdrawals in Australia (whilst your friends or family back home deposit money into your travel companion’s account)?
- It is worth knowing your bank’s phone number to block your lost bank card.
- Most people are honest, and there is a chance that you get your wallet back. Contact the place where you think you lost your wallet and ask if they found it.
- Also, contact the local police station and ask if they have received your wallet as lost and found property. File a police report and save all the papers, that way you might be able to get compensation through your travel insurance.
- Check if your travel insurance can help you. Can they help you with cash while you wait for your new cards to arrive?
You wake up one morning feeling very sick. How, and what is the easiest way to get to the nearest hospital and what do you say to the doctors?
- If you have any allergy, medicine or previous chronic illness that a doctor needs to know of, what is its English name and how do you explain what you have been through before?
- Know your rights, does your country have an agreement with the Australian health system that gives you the right to free emergency care (RHCA – Reciprocal Health Care Agreement) (gov.au/individuals/services/medicare/reciprocal-health-care-agreements)?
- Carry your insurance details for your travel insurance or health insurance. Is it possible for the hospital to invoice your insurance company directly so that you do not have to pay upfront?
- If you must pay for hospital care, do you have a credit card with you so you can quickly spend money to cover the emergency expenses on, say, $1,000?
- Obtain a medical certificate from the first day and make sure that the doctor’s prescription is clearly stated on the certificate. This is a good thing to have if you later need to ask for compensation through a travel insurance.
- Always save all receipts.
You sleep in a dormitory in a hostel with five other backpackers. One morning you discover that something valuable is missing in your luggage.
- Most people on hostels are honourable, but every tree has a bad apple. Try to carry your valuables with you and do not leave anything unattended.
- Is there a possibility to put your valuables in a locker, at the reception at the hostel for example?
- Avoid being robbed in your sleep by placing your valuables next to you in bed, making it hard for a thief to take them without alerting you.
- Make sure to have travel insurance that protects you in case of theft, so you can buy a new computer/camera without things getting too expensive.
- Make sure you have backup of all your important files on your computer (for example, on a small hard drive) so you don’t lose any important data.
- Scan a copy of your passport and other important papers and email them to yourself. Then, get an emergency passport if necessary by contacting the nearest embassy in Australia (gov.au/pages/default.aspx). Your passport-copy will make it easier for you to be identified there.
After a trip, your baggage is missing, and you only have the clothes you are wearing and your hand luggage.
- Contact the carrier (the airline or the bus company) and make a notification.
- Remember to save all receipts from any expenses.
- Do you have enough equipment on you and in your hand luggage to last for a few days?
Get a proper travel insurance and think twice before throwing yourself into the unknown. If you would dissuade a friend from doing something similar in your home country, then it is probably a silly idea even in Australia.
Contact details for emergency assistance
Also, make sure that you have thought through who you can call if you end up in an emergency having difficulties managing a problem yourself. If an accident happens it is nice to already in advance have thought through some unfortunate scenarios. Some phone numbers and contact details worth finding out are:
- Telephone numbers for any travel companions, or the reception at your hotel/hostel/accommodation.
- Telephone number of your insurance company if an accident occurs.
- How to call for ambulance and how to contact the police where you are located (the emergency number in Australia is 000) (gov.au).
- Contact details for the embassy, consulates and other organisation from your home country active in Australia (e.g. church, support group).
- Fill out a Power of Attorney form for someone to represent you and your interests in your home country.
If an accident or a problem occurs that you cannot resolve from a distance, it may be useful if your family or a close friend has the Power of Attorney to represent your interests in your home country, such as managing the money in your account or concluding a contract in your name. This must be done before undertaking your planned trip. I myself have given my parents a General Power of Attorney to monitor my interests in Sweden as they see fit while I am abroad, but you can also establish a limited Power of Attorney that gives someone the right to represent you only in certain matters.
Some examples when it may be useful to have given someone the Power of Attorney to represent you while you are abroad are:
- Rental and property deals, for example, on your behalf sell a condominium or sign a lease agreement.
- Bank transactions, for example if you need to apply for a new debit card while you are on the other side of the world.
- Subscription issues, to start or end different types of consumer contracts on your behalf.
Some tips for those who want to use your home bank account on the trip.
- Some banks have locked their bank cards for purchases in stores and cash withdrawals abroad. Make sure you can use your bank card in Australia before you travel.
- Make sure that you have at least one card with Visa or Mastercard function. These are accepted almost everywhere in the world.
- Some banks have expensive withdrawal charges for ATMs abroad. Get a debit card with a bank that doesn’t have high fees for when withdrawing money from ATMs in Australia.
- Bring two separate debit or credit cards with you. If one of them breaks or gets demagnetized, you can still pay and withdraw money with the other one.
- Bring a credit card to be able to pay large amounts if you are in a crisis. It feels safe to have a credit card so you can pay $20,000 in an emergency without having to log in to your Internet bank or wait several days for a relative or family member to transfer money to you.
- Make sure that the bank cards have a sufficient period of validity, so they don’t need to be replaced whilst you are on the trip. If necessary, you can ask your bank for new cards before a long journey.
Change of address
If you plan to travel for a longer time period, it may be worth organizing redirect or re-routing your mail with your local post office, e.g. enter a postal address to for example, C/O your parents or a friend, to which your mail will be sent to. If you plan to move to Australia for good, please report to your country’s local Tax Agency or Population register or equivalent that you are moving out. However, be aware that you are deregistered from any existing local social benefits when you emigrate, so think twice before you register yourself as a migrant. If you do not report yourself as a migrant, you must remember to still do your Taxes in your home country (plus in Australia).
Also, make sure someone at home can scan important mail that arrives at your home address (or at a C/O address) to send it to your email account.
Driver’s licence and ID card
If you want to be able to drive a car in Australia it may be a good idea to have an international driver’s licence to make any communication with the police or rental companies run more smoothly.
If you move to Australia for a longer time period, you must acquire some form of Australian identity document that has your name and Australian home address on It. There are no social security numbers in Australia, instead you need to legitimise yourself for banks and public authorities to show your full name and Australian home address. Having an ID card with name and address on makes this very easy.
If you are unable to obtain a driver’s licence, you can apply for an ID card instead, a so-called Proof of Age Card (australia.gov.au/content/proof-of-age-card).