Lazing on white sand beaches, popping some prawns on a beachside barbeque, seeking out the perfect hidden surf spot - all things you might imagine doing on your big trip to Australia. Wincing in a pharmacy as you search for some Aloe Vera to ease a severe sunburn - not so much.

With Australia having one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, thanks in part to the abundant amount of sunny days the country receives, being sun smart during your trip is a must. Fortunately, there are many easy ways to make sure every square inch - from the tips of your ears to the soles of your feet - are being protected from the high rays. Heading into your holiday with a plan will ensure you don’t quickly become a human lobster. Here is what’s recommended below.

The sun isn't the only thing you need to watch out for while in Australia. Find out what deadly animals you need to steer clear of during your trip Down Under.

australian beach

Pack wisely and you’re halfway there

Must-haves for your skin protection arsenal are 50+ SPF waterproof sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, a zinc cream (for surfers especially), a rash vest/sun shirt, and a pair of polarised sunglasses. We break down why these are important to have on hand below.

  • Sunscreen

While it is tempting to slather on a lower SPF to go home with a bronzed look, with skin more used to the UK sun, you’re much more likely to give yourself a nasty burn. Apply the sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure, and every 2-3 hours after that – but more often if you’re in and out of the water. Keep in mind that it is possible to sustain a nasty burn in 15 minutes, so be proactive with your applications.

Purchasing your sun cream from an Australian grocery store is easy enough to do. As Australians are pros at staying sun safe, you’ll find a vast selection of sunscreens and other sun products at the local supermarket or pharmacy. If you choose to bring your own from home, check that it is still within its use by date. It might have served you well on your trip to Santorini in 2008, but will leave you hurting this time around. Zinc cream isn’t popular in the UK, but it’s a must-have for people wanting to spend a lot of time in the sun. If you’re planning on surfing, popping a stripe on your nose will keep you from modelling the same shade as Rudolf the red nose reindeer.

  • A wide-brimmed hat

A wide-brimmed hat will keep the tricky parts of your head and neck covered. Nobody wants to go home with singed ears and a stinging scalp. The wide brim will offer much-needed protection on the back of your neck too; a troublesome spot that is often forgotten - but when exposed to the sun can cause a nasty bout of heatstroke. You’ll be in good company with Australians. From police officers to school kids, the wide-brimmed hat is an obligatory part of many different uniforms.

  • A rash vest/sun shirt

Perfect for days spent snorkelling, or rounds of beach volleyball, a rash vest is practically the national dress for Australia. They even release ‘Christmas sweater’ rash vests for the festive season. Made of a thin lycra, a rash vest will block UV rays while keeping your chest protected.

  • Polarised sunglasses

While your cheap pair might look cool, non-polarised sunglasses don’t offer the same level of protection that polarised sunglasses do. Make sure when you’re shopping for a new pair of shades for the trip that you splurge on a pair that will keep your eyes protected from the harsh glare.

  • Travel insurance

Don't forget to pack your travel insurance! This is an important part of any trip, whether it's to Australia or somewhere else in the world. Get a free quote online to see how affordable cover can be.

female wearing sunglasses

But what happens if you do get sunburnt?

It happens to the best of us, and a cooling Aloe Vera will be your best friend for the stinging days ahead. For an extra dose of cooling relief, pop the bottle in the fridge before use or soak a cool cloth in the stuff for a half an hour and leave it to spread on the burn.

Stay hydrated as your skin heals

Keep a keen eye out for any symptoms of heat exhaustion or the more dangerous heat stroke. The latter causes a headache, sweating, pale and clammy skin, high fever, intense thirst, cramps in limbs and a loss of appetite. Seek medical attention if you or someone you know develops any of these symptoms. Unfortunately, people die every year from heatstroke and it can be considered a medical emergency. Staying in the shade, drinking lots of water, and being sun smart can help avoid these types of situations.

A few more Sun Smart tips:

  • Stay out of the intense midday sun and opt to spend the hottest hours of the day under a tree or inside. The hours around 11am-2 pm are by far the worst for being burnt, and you will find that most Australians will retreat home for lunch or spend the brunt of it in the deep shade of a tree (or café!).
  • Keep yourself hydrated. In humid weather, and during sweaty hot days, you need to be drinking continually to keep yourself hydrated. Aim to drink 2-3 litres a day, and more if you are hiking or doing activities in the sun.
  • Get a skin check from your doctor if you are worried about any changes to your skin. It pays to be safe and get your skin checked for any abnormalities or changes.

You’ll find the beautiful sunshine and perfect back-to-back days one of your favourite things about Australia. Particularly if you find yourself at the Gold Coast or in glorious Sydney! The laidback beach lifestyle is legendary, and a vicious sunburn shouldn’t derail your plans to enjoy it. Play it sun safe and it won't!

Get a free quote online for travel insurance to Australia.

female on beach