Smartraveller reveals top reasons Australians ran into trouble overseas

A silhouette of a woman standing alone at an airport with her luggage. She is calling someone on her mobile phone as she stares out of the terminal window onto the tarmac.

While most Australians tend to have a hassle-free trip overseas, it doesn’t always go smoothly for everyone.

Smartraveller’s Consular State of Play report for 2021-22 outlines the most common problems that Australians travelling or living overseas encounter.

The report comes from data collected by the Australian Consular Emergency Centre, which received a grand total of 66,638 emergency calls in the financial year up to June 2022 – a 23% increase from the previous year. 

To illustrate, the Australian Consular Emergency Centre received an average of 182 calls per day from overseas Australians requesting help.

All in all, there were a total of 34,710 cases of consular assistance provided to overseas Australians. This is a 10.5% decrease from the last year, despite the number of Aussies hopping on overseas flights increasing by 215% since borders reopened in November 2021.

Top consular services provided to overseas Australians

Australians in crisis cases were provided with the most consular assistance in the 2021-22 financial year. There were 15,895 crisis cases attended to by the Australian Consulate. 

Crisis cases included providing support to Australians in countries experiencing instability like Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Ethiopia, along with overseas Australians affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking of the pandemic, Smartraveller reports that there were 12,377 COVID-19 assisted returns carried out with the help of the Australian Consulate, which included organising 83 commercial flights to bring affected Australians home.

Type of consular assistanceNumber of consular cases (descending order)
Crisis cases15,895
COVID-19 assisted returns12,377
Welfare/Other serious matters2,329
Death1,509
Illness/hospitalisation911
Arrest/Immigration detention773
Imprisonment330
Other186
Whereabouts enquiries168
Assault victim128
Repatriation59
Theft45
Total34,710

Which country had the most consular assistance cases?

The number of Australians in Thailand requesting consular assistance increased from the last financial year by 24% to a total of 695 consular cases. 

The biggest reasons for consular assistance in Thailand came from the following: 

  • Illness or hospitalisation (255)
  • Death (227)
  • Welfare/other serious issues (125).

Top 10 countries for consular assistance

A pie chart breaking down the top 10 countries by consular assistance cases.
Data: Smartraveller, Consular State of Play 2021-22. The top ten countries for consular cases, in descending order, were Thailand (695), The Philippines (555), The United States of America (433), Indonesia (352), India (348), China (276), Vietnam (257), Japan (177), The United Kingdom (152), and  Hong Kong (140).

Although the likelihood of something happening to you while overseas is comparatively low, it isn’t impossible. That’s why Smartraveller likes to remind people that “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel”.

Do most Australians take out international travel insurance policies?

Ninety-five per cent of Australians plan to take out travel insurance before their next overseas trip, according to a survey conducted by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA).

The group which is most likely to reject the idea of travel insurance are the under-30s crowd, where 1 in 10 travellers choose to risk it.

Travel insurance isn’t just for the golden oldies, however. Travel insurance can cover a variety of different issues which might come up while you’re travelling. So, it’s a sensible idea to learn about travel insurance before you hop on a plane.

It’s also a good idea for travellers of every stripe to familiarise themselves with the limitations of the Consular Services Charter, as there are some things that the government can’t help with, unfortunately.

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