For travellers most items will appear very affordable, especially public transport, dining out and buying local food. If frugal, you can survive on F$70 (£22/€27/US$37) per day, staying in dorms, preparing your own meals and travelling on public transport. Stay in private rooms and eat out regularly and you’ll need around F$180 (£60/€70/US$96), although extras such as alcohol, car rental, scuba diving and sightseeing tours will all add to your costs. Travelling around the two largest islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu offers the best value, with prices on the outer islands usually inflated by at least 20 percent. Note that tipping is not expected and in traditional Fijian society causes embarrassment.
Hostel accommodation will set you back around F$40 a person for a dorm bed, or F$85 per person including meals at the popular Yasawa backpacker resorts. Town hotel rooms start from around F$70, with double or twin rooms often the same price as a single. A moderate beach resort starts from F$200 for a room, the more popular holiday resorts cost from F$350 and a luxury boutique resort will set you back anything from F$500 to over F$2000 per night.
Food on the whole is reasonably cheap, with local produce offering by far the best value, especially when purchased from the roadside or at municipal markets. Supermarket shelves tend to be dominated by more expensive imported food items, mostly canned and restricted in variety. Dining out is affordable, with cheap restaurant counter food costing from F$5 a serving, and main dishes ordered from a menu from F$9 to F$25; resort restaurants are invariably more expensive.
Travelling around Viti Levu by public transport is especially cheap, with the five-hour journey from Nadi to Suva costing just F$22, and local journeys starting from 80 cents. Visiting the offshore or outer islands is going to eat up a larger chunk of your budget. For example, the hop-on, hop-off boat pass along the Yasawas costs F$191 for seven days; and a domestic flight to Taveuni can cost up to F$250 one way, although discounted fares are usually available via airline websites and can almost match passenger ferry rates, which cost from F$65 between Suva and Taveuni.
Every traveller over twelve years of age departing Fiji pays a departure tax of F$200, although this is pre-paid in the cost of your airline ticket.
Crime and personal safety
As in any society, crime exists in Fiji but it’s certainly not rife and not nearly as common as in most European or North American cities. Petty theft stems from a cultural trait where the individual owns few possessions, shares everything freely and is bound by the beliefs of kerekere, a form of asking for something with the owner being obliged to give. It’s especially common among hotel workers and you may find clothes or small change frequently going missing from bures and communal resort areas. Bring in clothes and shoes at night and certainly don’t leave money or jewellery lying about as an invitation.
With machismo entrenched in Fijian culture, sexual harassment can be an issue for female travellers – a firm “not interested” should ward off any unwanted attention while all the usual precautions apply, such as avoiding walking alone at night. If in need of assistance contact the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (w fijiwomen.com) in Nadi (t 670 7558), Ba (t 667 0466), Suva (t 331 3300) or Labasa (t 881 4609). Domestic violence, or “wife bashing” as it’s rather crudely known in Fiji, is also disturbingly prevalent, and a bruised eye is seldom concealed or reported to the authorities. At the same time Fijians are a respectful society and treat each other and especially visitors with kindness.
Although commonly smoked by young urban Fijians, marijuana possession is strictly illegal and is strongly discouraged in more traditional rural areas where it is perceived as a dangerous evil – if a village youth is caught smoking more than once, public floggings may result. The official penalty for marijuana possession is three months in jail, so consider wisely before indulging.
The Fijian police are for the most part helpful, with police stations in all towns and major settlements. Larger towns have additional posts in busy areas.
Fiji’s electrical current is 220–240 volts (50Hz) with a three-pin plug common with Australia and New Zealand. Fluctuation in current and surges are common, especially in the outer islands where electricity is run by diesel generator, so it’s advisable to have a surge protector if using electrical equipment. In many resorts, 110 volt outlets for shavers and hairdryers are provided.
All visitors to Fiji must hold a valid passport for at least six months beyond the intended period of stay, and proof of onward travel to another country. Adhering to the above, a four-month tourist visa is issued on arrival to most nationals including those of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the US, Canada and EU member states. For a complete list, check the Fiji Visitor Bureau website (w fiji.travel).
A maximum two-month visa extension may be made on application with the Immigration Department at Nadi Airport or Suva, but there are no provisions for stays beyond six months for any overseas nationals unless obtaining resident status or work/student visas.
All visitors are required to fill out standard immigration cards upon arrival. The card must be surrendered to Fiji immigration authorities upon departure.
Fijian embassies abroad
Australia High Commission of the Republic of Fiji, 19 Beale Crescent, Deakin, ACT 2600 t 06 260 5115.
Belgium Embassy of the Republic of Fiji, 92–94 Square Plasky, 1030 Bruxelles t 32 2 736 9050.
New Zealand High Commission of the Republic of Fiji, 31 Pipitea St, Thorndon, Wellington t 04 473 5401.
UK and Ireland High Commission of the Republic of Fiji, 34 Hyde Park Gate, London SW7 5DN t 020 7584 3661.
US Embassy of the Republic of Fiji, 2000 M St NW, Suite 710, Washington DC 20036 t 202 466 8320.
Embassies and consulates in Fiji
Australia High Commission, 37 Princes Rd, Tamavua, Suva t 338 2211.
European Union Commission, 4th floor, Development Bank Centre, Suva t 331 3633.
Federated States of Micronesia 37 Loftus Rd, Suva t 330 4566.
Kiribati 38 McGregor Rd, Suva t 330 2512.
New Zealand Pratt St, Suva t 331 1422.
Tuvalu 16 Gorrie St, Suva t 330 1355.
UK High Commission, 47 Gladstone Rd, Suva t 322 9100.
US Embassy, 158 Princes Rd, Tamavua t 337 1110.
Gay and lesbian travellers
Gay and lesbian travellers shouldn’t feel any sort of discrimination in Fiji, especially within resort environments where many openly homosexual staff work. However, gay behaviour is far more evident than lesbian and open affection between women may generate curiosity. In urban areas, homosexuality and cross-dressing are quite open, although it’s frowned upon in the conservative Christian-dominated village environment where discretion is advisable.
You should always have travel insurance that covers you against theft, illness and injury. Most policies exclude so-called dangerous sports unless an additional premium is paid: in Fiji this can mean snorkelling, surfing or scuba diving. If you need to make a claim, you should keep all receipts for medicines and treatment as well as transport and any additional accommodation bills whilst recuperating. In the event of having anything stolen, you must obtain an official statement from the police confirming this.
Almost all large hotels and boutique resorts offer Internet access – a few of the larger hotels around Viti Levu also have wireless (Wi-Fi) access or broadband sockets in rooms. On the outer islands, Internet access is not always available, especially at the budget resorts in the Yasawas; when it is available it’s generally slower and more expensive than elsewhere. Prices are typically at least F$25 an hour at the luxury hotels and outer-island resorts, F$4 to F$8 an hour at the backpacker hostels and around F$2 to F$4 an hour at private Internet cafés. Internet cafés can be found in most town centres – especially in Nadi, Lautoka and Suva – where competition is fierce and prices sometimes fall below F$2 an hour, usually charged by the minute. “Directory” sections in the Guide contain addresses for local internet access points.
Most hotels and resorts provide a laundry service for guests, although self-service machines are seldom available. Independent laundries, which tend to be better value, can be found in the larger towns, or at several of the larger marinas.
Living in Fiji
Due to high levels of unemployment, it is difficult to obtain a work permit for Fiji. Many expatriates work in the hospitality industry and if you have relevant work experience or specific skills such as languages or scuba diving qualifications, you may find resort work. A prospective employer in any field must demonstrate that they have conducted an exhaustive but unsuccessful search for a qualified Fijian candidate and must post a bond to cover the costs of shipping you home if you become incapacitated. Few are willing to go through this process unless your skills are particularly desirable.
International students may apply for enrolment at the University of the South Pacific (w www.usp.com.fj, t 323 1000) on either a cross-credit semester or a full-time course, providing you have attained a High School certificate pass or similar from your home country. There’s no age limit for enrolment and a student visa is granted to all successful applicants providing a clean police record and clear medical including a negative HIV test.
Alternatively, a variety of marine conservation organizations offer unpaid or even you-pay internships for periods lasting a week to several months.
Otherwise, if you have a large chunk of money you’re willing to invest and you can find a local partner who must hold at least a fifty-percent shareholding, you can set up or purchase a business. Specific questions should be addressed to Investment Fiji (t 331 5988; w investmentfiji.org.fj), headquartered at Civic Tower on Victoria Parade in Suva, with another office on Naviti Street in Lautoka.
Post Fiji operates all post offices (Mon–Fri 8am–4pm, Sat 8am–noon). All post offices have telephones and sell phone cards for calling internationally and locally; larger branches sell stationery and postcards.
Post can be slow, especially posting items to Fiji and it’s not uncommon for letters to take three weeks from North America or Europe, with delivery to the outer islands often taking an additional week. Posting items from Fiji is cheap and somewhat quicker, with letters to Europe commonly taking less than ten days. All letters and postcards should be labelled with an airmail sticker otherwise they may go by boat, taking months to arrive. UPS, DHL and Federal Express all have offices in Suva and Nadi, although Post Fiji’s in-house courier service, EMS, is considerably cheaper.
Stamps are available from most hotels and gift shops, as well as some bookstores. Public mail boxes are very rare, and you should always find the nearest post office to mail important items; most resorts, especially those on the outer islands, will post letters for you.
Poste restante is available at all post offices. Letters should be marked “General Delivery, Poste Restante”, followed by the location of the post office and your name. Letters will be held for two months – for post sent to Nadi, be sure to specify either Nadi Town or Nadi Airport. To receive a parcel in Fiji, you must clear it through the post office’s customs counter (Mon–Fri 10am–11am & 2pm–3pm), and pay a service charge plus any customs or import duty.
Navigating between towns is very straightforward, with just one or two main roads on each island. General-purpose town or island maps are hard to come by, the most useful being the free Jason’s Travel Media map available from most hotel tour desks. A slightly more detailed folded sheet map is published by Hema and available in bookstores and large chain stores around Nadi and Suva for F$12.95.
For 1:250,000 topographical maps of the individual islands and 1:15,000 town maps (around F$8–9 each), contact the Lands and Survey Department (t 321 1395, w www.lands.gov.fj) or visit the Map Shop on the ground floor and at the back of Government Buildings in Suva, or the Government Bookshop on Rodwell Road, also in Suva.
Fiji’s currency is the Fiji dollar (F$) divided into 100 cents. Notes come in F$2, F$5, F$10, F$20, F$50 and F$100 denominations; F$100 notes are hard to trade with, especially at small shops. All notes proudly feature Queen Elizabeth II along with other traditional and iconic symbols. Any foreign currency should be exchanged at one of the five bank chains, including ANZ and Westpac, or with one of the many currency exchange outlets found in the main towns and at Nadi Airport.
Travellers’ cheques tend only to be accepted by hotels or cashed at banks, but credit cards are widely accepted, although only Visa and MasterCard, and very occasionally AMEX; all usually incur a service charge of around 4 percent. If visiting the Yasawas, bear in mind some resorts are cash-only environments whereas others insist everything is payable by credit card at the end of your stay; check with the resort beforehand.
ATM machines are available in all towns on Viti Levu except Tavua and Korovou, in Levuka on Ovalau, at Savusavu and Labasa on Vanua Levu and at Naqara on Taveuni, as well as at Nadi Airport, the Nadi branch of McDonald’s, the shopping mall in Port Denarau and several of the large hotel chains in Nadi and along the Coral Coast. If you plan on using your debit card or credit card at an ATM, make sure you have a personal identification number (PIN) that’s designated to work overseas.
Having money wired from home is never convenient or cheap and should only be considered as a last resort. The post office acts as general agents for Western Union (w westernunion.com), which has branches at Nadi Airport, Nadi Town, Lautoka and Suva; MoneyGram (w moneygram.com) operates via Westpac Bank and some Morris Hedstrom supermarkets. Direct bank transfers are also possible but you’ll need the address and swift code of the bank branch where you want to pick up the money and the address and swift code of the bank’s Suva head office which will act as the clearing house; money wired this way usually takes two working days to arrive and costs around £25/US$40 per transaction.
Business hours at government and private offices are Monday–Friday 8am–5pm, with offices generally closed for at least an hour for lunch, sometimes two. Regular banking hours are Monday–Friday 9am–4pm, although banks have slightly varying times on Mondays and Fridays; specific bank details are listed throughout the Guide. Most high street shops are open Monday–Friday 8.30am–5pm, although some, particularly the larger hardware shops, close on Saturday at noon; some supermarkets and local grocery shops open as early as 7am and don’t close until 8pm. Most restaurants are open seven days a week, the most likely time of closure being Sunday lunch and for a couple of hours from 3pm to 5pm.
Before travelling, contact your mobile network provider to ensure you can use your phone in Fiji. It will almost certainly work out cheaper buying a SIM card for your phone along with pre-paid calling time, available from many retail outlets around the islands; even if you don’t have a mobile you can pick up a simple model with SIM card in Nadi for under F$100. Mobile phone coverage around the main islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu is poor once outside the main urban areas and certainly in the highlands; in the Mamanucas you will probably have to climb a hill to get the faintest of signals.
The cheapest option of all though, is taking advantage of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) calls (for example w skype.com) from an Internet café.
Public phones and phone cards
Public phones remain a good option for calling, with over 1500 distinctly styled drua phone booths around the country operated by TeleCard. Cards, available in F$3, F$5, F$10, F$20 and F$50 denominations, can be purchased from all post offices and many retail outlets, and can be used from private landlines, although they are often barred from being used in hotel rooms.
Local calls have become substantially cheaper in recent years. If calling overseas, landline costs remain prohibitive, with most destinations costing 75¢ per minute, often with a hefty surcharge billed when calling from hotel rooms. Consider buying a telephone charge card from your phone company back home. Using a PIN number, you can make calls from most hotel, public and private phones that will be charged to your account, but check to see Fiji is covered and bear in mind that rates aren’t necessarily cheaper than calling from a public phone.
Fiji is a photographer’s paradise, with wonderful scenery and vivid colours. If in a village, it’s polite to ask before taking photographs. As Fijians tend to pose for the camera it can be difficult to get natural and spontaneous expressions – after snapping a few posed pictures, wait until the scene becomes more natural before shooting again. The most dramatic light is experienced early in the morning and late in the afternoon, although taking pictures of beaches and lagoons is good when the sun is high in the sky and the blues are pronounced. Film and memory cards are available in Nadi, Lautoka and Suva, although at higher prices than in the US or Europe.
Fiji has a single time zone, being twelve hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), an hour ahead of Sydney and twenty hours ahead of Los Angeles. The sun has a minimal variation from summer to winter, rising between 5am and 6am and setting from 6pm to 7pm, always with only a brief period of twilight.
Almost every hotel, resort and hostel in Fiji has its own privately operated tour desk offering brochures and a booking service.
The government-funded Fiji Visitor Bureau (FVB) provides basic tourist information through its website w fiji.travel. Its head office is sited in an obscure location at the Colonial Plaza in Namaka, Nadi (Mon–Thurs 8am–4.30pm, Fri 8am–4pm; t 672 2433); you can pick up several useful tourist publications here, including Affordable Guide and Fiji Dive Guide, but there are no staff on hand to help with travel enquiries or bookings.
Two of the outer-island regions have established their own privately funded tourism organizations: the Savusavu Tourism Association (w fiji-savusavu.com); and the Taveuni Tourism Association (w puretaveuni.com).
Visitor Bureau offices overseas
Australia Level 12, St Martin’s Tower, 31 Market St, Sydney t 02 9264 3399.
New Zealand 35 Scanlan St, Grey Lynn, Auckland t 09 376 2533.
UK Albany House, Albany Crescent, Claygate, Esher, Surrey KT10 0PF t 0800 652 2158.
US 5777 West Century Boulevard, Suite 220, Los Angeles, CA 90045 t 310 568 1616.
w fijiguide.com Information on travelling around the islands, including sections on diving and surfing, as well as entertaining anecdotes.
w fiji.travel The official Tourism Fiji website.
w islandsbusiness.com Current events and issues affecting Fiji and its Pacific Island neighbours.
w roughguides.com Post any of your pre-trip questions – or post-trip suggestions – in the Community section, our online forum for travellers.
w spto.org Useful website for sourcing hotels, tours, travel agents and cultural events throughout the South Pacific.
Australian Department of Foreign Affairs w dfat.gov.au, w smartraveller.gov.au.
British Foreign & Commonwealth Office w fco.gov.uk.
Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs w dfait-maeci.gc.ca.
Irish Department of Foreign Affairs w foreignaffairs.gov.ie.
New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs w mft.govt.nz.
US State Department w travel.state.gov.
Travellers with disabilities
Fiji has a poor infrastructure for travellers with disabilities. There’s no provision for wheelchairs on public transport and pavements are rarely in a fit state for wheelchairs or the visually impaired – holes, ledges and cracks are all too common and there are few ramps at street corners. Moreover, many resort pathways are made of sand, making mobility extremely difficult. Fortunately, Fijians will go out of their way to make your travels comfortable, assisting whenever possible and even building temporary ramps for disabled guests at resorts. The Fiji National Council for Disabled Persons, at Qarase House on Brown Street in Suva (t 331 9045, w fncdp.org), can offer general advice and information.