Sydney is a relatively safe city. Crime and accident rates are low. Road rules are enforced, cameras and security guards are a public transport feature, and the city is policed and dotted with CCTV. That said, it still pays to be careful. Robberies do occur and sadly, sometimes women are attacked. Use common sense, be alert and confident and the chances of being a victim is greatly minimized. The biggest risks for overseas visitors, in truth, are dangerous wildlife, the surf, and road safety on long road trips outside of Sydney.
Learning to survive in the water in Sydney is very important, as swimming is a big a part of the Sydney lifestyle. Rescues on Sydney beaches are mostly performed on foreigners who are not familiar with the surf. There are many swim schools in Sydney if you need lessons. Also, Sydney lifeguards are very approachable. You can ask them about rips and tows and how to swim out of them if you get caught. Swimming between the flags and on patrolled beaches reduces any risk, too. (See our section on Sports until Health and Beauty for a list of swimming pools that can give information on lessons).
Road accidents and fatalities do occur occasionally on long road trips outside of Sydney. Australia is such a large place that most road trips require at least a few hours driving. To get an idea, it takes around 12 hours to drive from Sydney to Melbourne. There are many ‘Stop, Revive, Survive’ stops on Australian highways. Run by volunteers, these road stops provide free tea and biscuits to drivers, the object being to get drivers to take a break from driving so the chance of an accident from tiredness is reduced. If you do plan to take a road trip, please pull over at least every two hours and ‘Stop, Revive and Survive’.
Also, driving at dawn and dusk on country roads and highways can be very dangerous. Kangaroos and other wildlife are commonly sighted during these times which can cause accidents, leading to injury and fatalities. It’s best not to drive during these times but if you need to, then slow down. Kangaroos, even if they see you coming, get dazzled by headlights and will freeze rather than hop away.
Below is a list of dangerous wildlife you may come across in Sydney. The list will seem alarming but being mindful is most of the time enough to not be exposed to any risk. Please be aware it is not an exhaustive list.
If you suspect you or somebody else has been bitten by a poisonous creature do not wash off the venom as this will help assist with identification. Call an ambulance immediately on 000 or from a mobile phone on 112. Keeping calm may slow down the venom.
Some Australian spiders are poisonous and can cause severe symptoms or death. It’s a good idea to learn how to recognise these spiders. Redback spiders are common in Sydney and are found in the bottom corners of sheds and outhouses and will only bite if provoked. A Redback spider bite can kill a child if not treated and can make an adult very sick. Call an ambulance immediately if you suspect someone has been bitten.
Funnel Web spiders live in burrows in the ground, in tree trucks, and in holes that may occur on the outside of brick or concrete structures. Burrows are normally covered with a white sheath made out of webbing. Sometimes these spiders can be found inside the home, particularly if its been raining. These spiders can kill within minutes and produce few symptoms. Funnel Web spiders are common in Sydney.
Another common spider in Sydney is the White spider. It is poisonous but not lethal.
Some spiders are harmless and can actually provide some benefit. For instance, Huntsman spiders are commonly found in homes. They look a little threatening because they grow quite large. However, they are harmless and they will eat other insects living in the home, keeping their numbers down. So please don’t kill them!
Bluebottles are common in Sydney beaches and will sting if contact is made. They are not life threatening and can be treated. The best way to neutralise the pain caused by a sting is hot water (as hot as a hot shower).
Shark attacks are rare but they do happen in Sydney waters. There are measures you can take to reduce the risk of shark attack. All beaches that are patrolled by life guards have shark alarms and beach goers will be exposed to a siren warning them to stay on shore if there is any concern of sharks in the water.
- Don’t swim in murky waters
- Don’t swim at dusk, dawn or at night
- Don’t swim near schools of fish
- Swim in patrolled waters
Blue Ringed Octopus
Blue Ringed Octopus are tiny brightly coloured octopus found in ocean rock pools and shallow water. They don’t grow bigger than 12 centimetres. Like the name suggests, they are marked with bright blue rings. Children love to explore rock pools because they can find lots of interesting creatures. Teach your children how to recognise Blue Ringed Octopus and to not to go near them. A Blue Ringed Octopus has enough venom to kill 10 men. They can also jump or spit their venom when threatened.
Snakebites are very rare but can be lethal as Australian venomous snakes are the most venomous in the world. Snakes are uncommon in built up areas but have been found in some of the more leafier areas in Sydney. Particularly areas close to bushland, rivers and grasslands. Be aware of snakes that are brown and/or black as they may be of a poisonous variety. Generally speaking, green tree snakes and small pythons are not harmful, as they don’t bite.