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Australia gets a bad rap. Sure, step outside of the city and you’ll find yourself in a scorching desert, dense forest or an isolated beach that’s probably teeming crocodiles, snakes, spiders and a hundred other deadly critters… but it’s not really that bad. Millions of Australians make it through each day without harm, so you can too. Here are the insider tips that’ll keep you in one piece while you enjoy your Aussie adventure.
In Australia, 000 is the phone number to reach emergency services, including police, fire and ambulance services. This number is for emergencies only if someone is seriously injured, if lives or property are being threatened, or a serious accident or crime is taking place.
Australia is a massive place and some areas are extremely isolated. Wherever you’re travelling, ensure someone back home has your itinerary. Talk to the locals as you make your way around regional Australia. They’ll let you know if any routes should be avoided or if the weather’s about to take a turn for the worse.
The Australian sun can be quite intense. Sunburn and heat stroke will put a serious dampener on any holiday, so apply sunscreen regularly, wear a wide-brimmed hat and shades and drink plenty of water when you’re out exploring.
There are thousands of stunning beaches to pick from. While the secluded spots are tempting, it’s safest to stick to patrolled beaches if you’re planning on taking a dip. Swim between the red and yellow flags, as this marks the safest swimming spots where lifesavers can provide help if you need it.
Lifesavers often set out additional flags or signs to advise on surf conditions. A plain yellow flag means rough conditions and that swimmers should take care. A red flag means that it’s too dangerous, so stay out of the water.
A rip is a strong ocean current that can suck swimmers hundreds of metres out to sea in just a few minutes. Swimming between the flags is the best approach to avoid rips. But don’t panic if you find yourself being swept away from the shore. At a patrolled beach, raise your hand and go with the flow, a lifesaver will come to your aid. When there are no lifesavers around, your best option is to swim parallel to the shore to escape the rip. Don’t swim directly back to the beach, as you won’t beat the current and will just tire yourself out.
The dreaded Irukandji, or box jellyfish, is a tiny sea creature with intense venom in its tentacles. They’re found in tropical waters around northern Australia, and a sting from these little nasties can cause severe backaches, headaches, chest and abdomen pains, nausea, anxiety, restlessness, vomiting and difficulty breathing. If you have a run in with an Irukandji, get out of the water, douse the sting with vinegar and call 000 for medical assistance.
The riverways in some northern parts of Australia are teeming with record numbers of monstrous crocodiles. If you plan to camp, swim or fish in these areas, take a few minutes to brush up on the official crocodile safety guidelines.
When travelling through regional areas, always carry four to five litres of water per person per day. Keep your fluids up, you can get dehydrated even if you’re not directly in the sun. It can be difficult to get roadside assistance if you have car troubles on remote roads, so pack a few days worth of non-perishable food just in case. If you do have car troubles, stay with your vehicle instead of wandering off looking for help, you’ll have better luck flagging down a passing good Samaritan.
In the heat of the desert, much of the wildlife waits until nightfall to get up and get moving. If you’re driving through the outback, try to keep off the roads after dark to avoid collisions with kangaroos, emus, wild horses and other animals.
Road trains are monstrous trucks that move cattle, equipment and more across the country. They’re big machines – up to three trailers long – that travel at speed, which means they can’t be easily stopped. To ensure everyone stays safe safe, stick to the speed limit and don’t slow down if one comes up behind you. You can pull over to let it pass, but move well away from the road’s edge. If you plan on overtaking a road train, you’ll need about 1km of open road ahead.
Heavy rains can cause flooding, even in some parts of the cities. Floodwaters move fast, so never try to cross a flooded road – even if you’re in a massive four-wheel drive. Look for an alternative route or wait for the waters to subside.
When exploring the outback, pay attention to signs that say roads are closed. They’re often closed for a reason – perhaps washed out by a storm – and trying your luck might just leave you stranded in the heat.
This tip applies to hiking and driving, stick to the marked tracks. People who make their way off the regular routes often get into trouble, and it can be very difficult for the rangers and authorities to locate missing individuals when there’s so much land to search.
Australians are a fantastic, unique, fun-loving bunch, but that doesn’t mean you can trust everyone you meet. Take care if you’re out on the town at night. Be mindful of who has access to your drink and don’t take unnecessary risks, like walking back to your hotel alone in the dark.