- We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions.
- Always pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security threats.
- The United Kingdom remains a potential target for terrorist activity, with terrorist attacks occurring in 2005 and 2007.
- On 11 July 2011, UK authorities reduced the threat level for the United Kingdom from ”Severe” to “Substantial”, meaning that a terrorist attack is a strong possibility and might occur without warning.
- UK authorities assess that the Northern Ireland-related terrorist threat in Northern Ireland is “Severe”, meaning that the risk of a terrorist attack is assessed as “highly likely”. The Northern Ireland-related terrorist threat to the UK Mainland (Great Britain) is “Moderate”, meaning that the risk of a terrorist attack is assessed as “possible but not likely”.
- Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
Entry and exit
Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. You should contact the UK High Commission in Canberra for the most up to date information. Visa information is also available from UK Border Agency. Australia's High Commission and Honorary Consulates in the United Kingdom cannot provide assistance with visas or if you are refused the right to enter the United Kingdom.
As a general guide, visas are not required for Australians entering the United Kingdom for a tourism or business stay of less than six months but are required if you intend to work. This includes any type of ‘voluntary’ work.
The British Government administers a very strict entry regime and you are likely to be refused entry upon arrival if you fail to comply with visa requirements. If you are suspected of intending to work in the UK, but enter as a tourist, you could be refused entry. The British Government considers both paid and unpaid working arrangements to be work and a relevant visa is required if you intend to undertake any form of work in the United Kingdom. Australian travellers refused entry into the United Kingdom may be required to return to Australia. There is also a risk that other countries may also refuse admission on the basis of the British government's decision, which in all cases is recorded in the traveller's passport.
The UK Border Agency advises that if you are refused entry into the United Kingdom then you will be informed in writing of the reasons why you have been refused entry; if you have a right of appeal; and when you will be removed from the United Kingdom. The UK Border Agency advises that if you have the right to appeal, you will be given details of who you should contact.
The most up-to-date information on UK immigration changes can be found on the UK Border Agency website.
All applicants for a UK visa, including Australians, must now have a finger scan and a digital photograph taken as part of the visa application process. Please note that the majority of Australian citizens who visit the UK each year for a holiday or business trip do not require a UK visa, and are therefore not affected by this change. Applicants for a UK visa need to complete an application online. You will then have to make an online appointment to visit a British Consulate so they can take a scan of your fingers and a digital photograph.
People travelling directly to or from a country outside the European Union (EU) who are carrying 10,000 euros or more (or the equivalent amount in another currency) are required to declare the cash at the place of their arrival or departure from the EU. Under the legislation, the term "cash" includes cheques, travellers' cheques and money orders. Travellers failing to declare the cash or providing incomplete or incorrect information will incur a fine. There is no requirement to declare cash for people travelling to or from another EU country. Information on carrying money directly to or from another country outside the EU can be found on the HM Revenue and Customs website.
Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry two copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.
Safety and security
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General Advice to Australian Travellers.
We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions. Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security threats.
The United Kingdom remains a potential target for terrorist activity, with terrorist attacks occurring in 2005 and 2007. On 11 July 2011 UK authorities lowered the threat level for the United Kingdom from ”Severe” to “Substantial”, meaning that a terrorist attack is a strong possibility and might occur without further warning.
Civil unrest/political tension
You should avoid all protests and demonstrations as they may turn violent. Instances of civil disorder can rapidly escalate into violence and you should avoid them wherever possible, including through careful monitoring of the media and following the advice of local authorities.
Northern Ireland: Since the 1998 peace agreement, the political situation in Northern Ireland has improved. However, incidents of terrorist activity related to Northern Ireland continue to occur. In recent years, Northern Ireland-related terrorist groups have used firearms and explosives to target police, military targets and commercial interests including banks. Civilians have been injured in these attacks.
UK authorities assess that the Northern Ireland-related terrorist threat in Northern Ireland remains “Severe”, meaning that the risk of a terrorist attack is assessed as “highly likely”. The Northern Ireland-related terrorist threat to the UK Mainland (Great Britain) is “Moderate”, meaning that the risk of a terrorist attack is assessed as “possible but not likely”.
There have been continuing protests in Belfast since early December 2012. While violence has mainly been aimed at police, we advise you to monitor the local media carefully, follow the advice of local authorities and avoid any demonstrations.
We advise you to avoid the annual parades which occur in Northern Ireland during the months of April to August, especially the weeks leading up to 12 July when tensions may be heightened. These parades may turn violent with little warning.
Australians could inadvertently be caught up in violence directed at others.
Petty crime such as pick pocketing and street theft occurs at many tourist destinations, hotels, pubs, restaurants, food outlets, on public transport, including the London Underground, and at airports. Pickpocketing occurs more frequently during the summer months in UK but care should be taken at all times. Thieves will often operate in teams, and will use various techniques to distract you while they attempt to steal from you.
Do not leave any valuables unattended in motor vehicles.
You should ensure that your personal belongings are kept secure when staying in hostels.
Credit card and ATM fraud, often involving sophisticated equipment, is increasing in the United Kingdom, as is the incidence of identity theft. Take care to shield your PIN when using ATMs and when using internet cafes, particularly for internet banking. Always exercise particular caution when using ATMs. If you are suspicious of any items that are stuck to ATMs or look unusual, do not use the machine. Thieves may attempt to distract you while you use an ATM. If approached while using an ATM, cancel the transaction before speaking to anyone.
There have been instances of drink spiking reported; therefore do not leave drinks unattended in bars and nightclubs.
Money and valuables
Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work overseas.
You should make two photocopies of your documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.
While travelling, you should not carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.
As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.
You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.
You should only use licensed taxis in the United Kingdom, as sexual assaults and robberies have occurred in unlicensed 'minicabs'. In London, only traditional 'London Taxis' are permitted to operate and are regulated by the transport authorities. Illegal taxis often target high traffic destinations such as airports, train stations, theatres and nightclubs. Assaults have also occurred on public transport services late at night.
Seasonal weather conditions can be extreme, including flooding in warmer weather and snowstorms in the colder months. This can affect travel arrangements, including the cancellation of airline, bus and train services. The local emergency services in affected areas will provide up-to-date information and advice to travellers.
See also our bulletin on Overseas Road Safety.
Please refer to our air travel page for information on air travel.
When you are in the United Kingdom be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we cannot get you out of trouble or out of jail.
Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money, laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australian overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.
We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.
Your doctor or travel clinic is the best source of information about preventive measures, immunisations (including booster doses of childhood vaccinations) and disease outbreaks overseas. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our 'Travelling Well' brochure also provides useful tips for travelling with medicines and staying healthy while overseas.
The standard of health facilities in the United Kingdom is comparable with that in Australia.
We have a reciprocal agreement on health services with the United Kingdom that allows Australian citizens and permanent residents to obtain free medical treatment under the National Health Service (NHS) in certain circumstances. This agreement does not cover other countries in the European Union.
Australians travelling to the UK for less than three months who wish to seek treatment under the reciprocal agreement first need to contact the NHS to check whether they are eligible for treatment under the agreement (telephone 0845 4647 or www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk). Please note that Australians who have been in the United Kingdom for less than three months are unable to register at a local doctor's surgery for NHS treatment. Should medical assistance be required, you should go to the accident and emergency department at the nearest NHS hospital for treatment. Should hospital admission or specialist consultations be required, this can only be arranged by a doctor.
During your visit with the doctor you will need to make it clear that you are requesting treatment under the NHS. However, be aware that access to treatment under the NHS is not a right. The United Kingdom Health Department expects a doctor to offer you private treatment (not treatment under the NHS) if it appears you had travelled to the United Kingdom with the specific intention of obtaining medical treatment. If any treatment is provided to you as a private patient and not under the NHS, you are liable to pay any charges levied, including those for medicines.
If you intend to stay in the UK longer than three months (residency, working, ancestry, highly skilled migrant or other visa), you may wish to register with a local doctor for the purpose of obtaining free treatment under the reciprocal health agreement. If you are having difficulty registering with a doctor, you can contact the NHS (telephone 0845 4647) and they will assist you to find a local doctor.
An increasing number of doctors in heavily populated areas (particularly in London) are reluctant to register visitors from Australia as temporary patients for the purpose of obtaining free treatment under the reciprocal agreement. The out-patient department at a hospital providing NHS treatment may accept an Australian for free treatment.
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has confirmed cases of avian influenza in birds in a number of countries throughout the world. For a list of these countries, visit the OIE website. For more information see our travel bulletin on avian influenza.
Where to get help
In the United Kingdom, you can obtain consular assistance from the:
Australian High Commission, London
London WC 2B 4LA, UNITED KINGDOM
Telephone (44 20) 7379 4334
Facsimile (44 20) 7887 5559
Limited assistance, which includes Australian passport interviews, may be obtained from:
Australian Consulate, Edinburgh
5 Mitchell Street
Edinburgh EH6 7BD, SCOTLAND
Telephone +44 (0) 131 538 0582
Facsimile +44 (0) 131 554 3646
Office hours: Tuesday – Friday, 9.00am –11.30am & 12 noon – 4.30pm
If you are travelling to the United Kingdom, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.
In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the High Commission you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.
Australians are advised to respect wildlife laws and to maintain a safe and legal distance when observing wildlife, including marine animals and birds. You should only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators and closely follow park regulations and wardens' advice.
For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with Children brochure.
If you are planning on placing your children in schools or childcare facilities overseas we encourage you to research the standards of security, care and staff training within those establishments. You should exercise the same precautions you would take before placing children into schools or childcare facilities in Australia.