Those of us who live in Australia grow up understanding the joys, dangers and safety rules that make it such a great place. However, many visitors to our country find Australia an alien, but starkly beautiful country, and they have little or no understanding of the best way to stay safe and enjoy their time here.
A few very simple rules can help to make a visit to Australia a safe and pleasurable experience, and Tourism Australia has a brochure available for download that lists safety tips in a variety of languages.
One of the first things to remember is that speed limits are strictly enforced in Australia, more so than in many countries overseas. Generally, when driving in urban and suburban areas, the speed limit is between 50 and 60 kilometres per hour. When on major highways and freeways it may rise to 100 kilometres per hour, but all roads are well sign-posted and the speed limits are clearly marked.
There are many fixed and mobile speed cameras in operation throughout Australia, so the best way to avoid a hefty fine and an unpleasant conversation with a police officer or surprise in the mail is to adhere to the advertised speed limits.
Australia is a big country and you can travel many hundreds of kilometres in the outback without seeing another car. Ensure that you have researched your route, pack plenty of water and food – particularly if you are venturing into remote areas, and make sure that you have left a copy of your itinerary with someone, so they know to call for help if you don’t make contact at regular (pre-determined) intervals.
Another major point for safe driving – Australians drive on the left hand side of the road. Ensure you are over your jet lag and have adapted to the time change before attempting any driving, as a tired driver is far more likely to revert to habit and drift to the side of the road they habitually drive on. Get your passengers to remind you to drive on the left as they buckle their (compulsory) seat belts. Fines are issued for not wearing seat belts and not wearing motor bike helmets – and these driving requirements are strictly enforced all year round in Australia.
Do not drink and drive, or take drugs and drive. Random breath and drug testing is common and police can confiscate your car on the spot if you are in violation of these laws.
While you may not see many other cars when travelling in remote areas, you may come across large trucks, known as road trains. Some of these are as long as 10 cars, and great care should be taken when trying to overtake them. These road trains often travel at the maximum speed limit, which means you need minutes of clear road to pass them safely. When they pass you, reduce your speed and stay on the road – there is no need to pull off the tarmac to the road shoulder.
Handle with care
One of the great attractions of Australia is the unique flora and fauna. The majority of animals are benign and will go about their business without bothering you. However, there are certain creatures that are venomous, aggressive or both, and you should be sure to do your research before travelling to more remote areas to ensure you know which animals you may encounter. NEVER swim at waterholes, rivers and coastal beaches in the top end of Australia without first checking for warning signs regarding crocodiles. They are quick and deadly ambush predators, but their habitat is well known and sign-posted and common sense will see you safe.
Not all our spiders and snakes are venomous, but the best way to ensure you don’t suffer a nasty bite is to stay clear of their habitats. If in the bush, make plenty of noise and the snakes will stay out of your way. Do not put your hands into hollow logs or holes in trees – a favourite haunt of both spiders and snakes.
If you are bush walking, drink plenty of water, wear a hat and sunscreen and ensure that you have chosen a track that is suited to your fitness level. There is a great deal of information available from the rangers of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and they can help you to make the most of your experience in the Australian bush.
Australia has a spectacular coastline and thousands of kilometres of unspoiled beaches, but the ocean can be unpredictable, and it is far safer to swim at a patrolled beach, where lifesavers are on hand to assist if you do get into difficulties. Do not touch any creatures you may find in the rock pools at many beaches, not only are the animals protected, but some, such as the blue-ringed octopus, are both beautiful and deadly.
A little common sense and a little local knowledge will help to ensure that you make the most of your holiday in Australia. It is a country of contrasts, where you will find world-class cities, fabulous beaches, ancient mountains and heritage listed coral reefs, unique animals and a relaxed and friendly population. Like all countries, it has its perils, but doing a little research before you set of into the unknown will ensure that your time in Australia is memorable for all the right reasons.
For a variety of accommodation options right across the country, from 5 star to houseboats, from camping to apartments, go to TakeABreak.com.au to find the accommodation to suit your plans and your budget.
About the Author
Lisa Monk is a marketing communications writer with a diverse background that includes experience in travel, hotel, finance, public relations and advertising. She has worked with Club Med, the Holiday Inn group and on a number of other travel projects on a freelance basis. Lisa has travelled throughout Asia Pacific, North America and England.
Lisa now works with TakeABreak.com.au as editor of the Holiday Inspirations newsletter and other publications. She lives in Sydney with her husband Andy, and sons Joseph and Nicholas.
Find out more about Lisa at http://bit.ly/h_experts