Timely warning for Australians to exercise caution abroad

It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. A son or daughter is abroad and the phone rings in the middle of the night. The hope is that the traveler had a few too many drinks and forgot to calculate the time difference at home.

Unfortunately, the reasons are not always so harmless. As our Jackson Harding story today proves, things can, and sometimes do, go wrong. The 20-year-old spent a year in Europe and suffered a ruptured appendix that resulted in a $38,300 hospital bill. Worse still, the botched operation resulted in a perforated intestine, sepsis and life-threatening peritonitis, and his mother’s emigration to Britain.

Fortunately, Harding had taken his mother’s advice and taken out travel insurance, otherwise he might still be paying off the debt five years later.

Harding’s case is an example of how an unexpected and unfortunate incident can happen when traveling. These can range from illness or theft, to criminal offenses due to ignorance of local customs and laws, to charges of criminal conduct.

Noosa businessman Bodhi Mani Risby-Jones was arrested in May after an alleged drunken, naked rampage in Indonesia’s fiercely conservative province of Aceh and faced up to five years in prison and flogging under Islamic law. The case was dropped and the 23-year-old was released after paying his victim $25,000 in damages.

The Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade has advised Australians to travel wisely as many go on holiday in the European summer.

Advice has been issued, such as respecting local laws – attitudes towards public displays of affection or bare skin may differ. Check the rented equipment before use and keep an eye on personal belongings.

Departure gates have been open since Australia’s border restrictions ended in November 2021, with a monthly exodus of 300,000 reported up until June last year.

And as the number of travelers increased, so did the calls for help. Calls to consular emergency call centers rose by 23 percent year-on-year to 66,638, an average of 182 calls per day.

DFAT’s consular status report on its assistance to Australians abroad shows how it really is.

Justin Scaccy

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