Aussie Travellers Are Taking Deadly Risks In Their Own Backyard

It's inexpensive, close and culturally rich. But authorities are warning travellers about the dangers of their risky behaviour in South East Asia as more Aussies die in Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia.

It's no secret that Australians love to travel, and we're doing so in greater numbers.

Almost 11 million overseas trips were taken in the past year, according to statistics outlined by Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne on Friday.

More than one in five trips were to South East Asia. And holiday mode in this region is landing more people into trouble.

Deaths abroad have increased by 36 percent over the past five years.

"It’s like our playground out the back and we forget it’s not actually the same country and that the same rules and standards don’t necessarily apply," Phil Sylvester, travel safety expert from Travel Insurance Direct, told 10 daily.

The region was the subject of a joint annual survey by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) and Trade's Smartraveller website and the Insurance Council of Australia's Understand Insurance initiative.

Australian deaths abroad increased significantly in Thailand the Phillipines, and there was a small drop in cases in the United States and Vietnam

"It was an area of concern that had shown up through insurance claims but also calls to consular officials in various destinations," Lisa Kable, a spokeswoman for Understand Insurance told 10 daily.

DFAT handled over 11,000 consular cases last year and responded to  over 62,000 calls -- some ending tragically.

Just this week, two Australians tragically lost their lives in adventure-related incidences -- both, coincidentally, in Nepal.

"These are population destinations that are reasonably priced and ones that often predispose themselves to some activities that aren't commonly found at home in Australia," Kable said.

According to the survey, two thirds of Australians who travelled to South East Asia in the last two years engaged in some form of risky behaviour.

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Drinking alcohol was higher among those who travelled to Indonesia and Thailand -- 48 percent and 46 percent respectively.

In Vietnam 44 percent of Aussies rode a moped or scooter. Men under 30 were most likely to engage in these behaviours.

The findings weren't surprising for Sylvester. "People go away on holidays and they let their minds go away as well," he said. 

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"We need to be thinking 'would I do this at home? Why I am doing it here when I’m not allowed to -- or it's not a good idea -- at home." 

About 10 percent of travellers to the region in the same time period did so without any travel insurance. More than half of those with insurance who rode a motorcycle were not sure whether it was covered by their policy.

Kable also cautioned the government does not assist Australians overseas with any medical treatment or emergency travel home if something goes wrong -- despite 25 percent of travellers wrongly believing it will assist.

The government's message is clear,"If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel," Payne said.

"It’s about the unexpected," added Sylvester.

"It’s not a horrible world out there; but it’s always best to be prepared. Having a good safety net by having travel insurance is the only way to look after yourself."

Contact the author ebrancatisano@networkten.com.au

Featured Image: Supplied