For a developing country, Fiji is a fairly expensive place to visit, with room prices and standards closer to those in Australia than Southeast Asia. However, at many budget island resorts and some of the more remote, upmarket boutique resorts, meals and some activities are included, making the price seem more expensive than it actually is. On the outer islands there’s usually nowhere else to eat other than the resort restaurant, which can inflate the cost of staying. Nevertheless, there’s great diversity around the islands, with some resorts dedicated to scuba diving, surfing or ecotours while others specialize in relaxation and fine dining.
Outside of the main towns, almost every place to stay is on a beach or overlooking the sea and called a resort, regardless of its amenities. The highest concentrations of accommodation are in Nadi and along the south coast of Viti Levu, which are the best-value places to stay, and in the Mamanucas, which are graced with delightful beach resorts from budget to upmarket. There are slimmer but adequate sprinklings of hostels, retreats and boutique resorts around rural Viti Levu and on the outer islands of Kadavu, Ovalau, Vanua Levu and Taveuni, the last of these also being popular for longer stays and holiday homes. Beyond, in the remote outliers of the Lomaiviti Group, the Lau Group and Rotuma, accommodation is scarce and provisions and general infrastructure are basic.
For those travelling on a budget, there are plenty of affordable beach resorts all around the islands, with cheap hotel rooms and dorm beds in most towns. Obtaining discounts direct from the resorts is difficult, although the large international hotels usually run tempting website promotions. The best bet is to seek out accommodation-only deals via the Internet.
The majority of resorts quote everything in the local currency of Fijian dollars (F$), although a few of the upmarket resorts, particularly those focusing on the US market, quote in US$.
All rates in Fiji are quoted per room and not per person, unless for dorm beds. Only a few places, mostly urban hotels and hostels, offer single-person room rates. Almost all published prices include local taxes which are currently 15 percent for VAT and 5 percent for Hotel Turnover Tax. Once in Fiji, walk-in rates at some resorts are given if requested, although seldom at the backpacker hostels. To encourage longer stays, many resorts offer a “stay six/pay five” incentive or similar. Rooms overlooking the beach and ocean are sold at a premium but note that terminology is often ambiguous – a “beachfront” bure may not be right on the beach and an “ocean view” room may only have a partial glimpse of the sea through trees or other buildings.
For the most part, everything from food to activities within a hotel or resort is charged to your room and paid for at the end of your stay by credit card, though usually only Visa and MasterCard are accepted, sometimes with a small card-service fee, so check beforehand. Paying tips to individuals is not encouraged, but communal staff fund boxes are usually left on reception counters and distributed to staff as a Christmas bonus or used for community projects.
On the main island of Viti Levu, particularly on Denarau Island and along the Coral Coast, you’ll find a dozen or so large hotel complexes. Facilities include air-conditioned rooms with flat-screen TVs, huge swimming pools with swim-up bars, multiple restaurants with international cuisine, souvenir shops, spas, gyms, tennis courts, kids’ clubs and jet-skis. Unlike the huge US all-inclusive resorts, the majority are “pay as you go”, giving you the freedom to eat where you want and to do as little or as much as you wish. You’ll also find smaller, cheaper hotels and inns around the Coral Coast, some offering self-catering air-conditioned rooms, others with small restaurants; these usually have few watersports or amenities available except for a swimming pool. Apart from two large beach hotels in the Mamanucas, the majority of places to stay in the outer islands are small, intimate boutique resorts.
A small boutique resort spanning a secluded beach on a remote island is Fiji’s speciality. Some have as few as three bures, others up to fifty, but all focus on providing exceptional service. A few of the more upmarket boutique resorts are all-inclusive affairs, some even including alcoholic beverages in the price. The majority have 24hr reception, small shops, room service, nightly turn-down, restaurants and sunset bars as well as scuba diving and spa/massage facilities. Perhaps the only drawback is the lack of freedom to sightsee or choose where to eat, although for most people this simply makes the experience more relaxing.
Guesthouses in Fiji tend to be colonial-style wooden buildings with simple rooms, communal lounges and shared bathrooms. They are usually cheap, with rooms costing less than F$60, and make convenient bases for travellers wanting to explore off the tourist trail; note that guesthouses are often used by government contract workers in the outer islands or remote settlements.
More appealing to tourists are the handful of bed and breakfasts around the country. Those in Nadi and Suva on the main island attract business travellers, whilst several charming homestays and self-contained cottages in the small towns on Vanua Levu, Ovalau and Taveuni are mostly operated by expatriates and charge from F$100 per night and up.
Homestays are operated by local families who either open up their homes to travellers (offering absolute immersion into Fijian culture), or build tourist bures just outside the village, which gives both parties a little privacy. Homestays commonly cost F$60 per person per night including meals, sometimes served with the family and laid out on the floor, Fijian style. for more about village stays.
There’s a huge amount of budget accommodation in Fiji, although those expecting Southeast Asian prices are likely to be disappointed. Although the more shambolic operations don’t last for long, standards are variable. Members of the Fiji Backpacker Association (fiji-backpacking.com) are usually reliable, as are those promoted by Awesome Adventures (awesomefiji.com), although by staying at these established places you’ll be missing out on the quirky places which offer a real insight into Fiji. Spending a few days in Nadi and meeting other travellers is a sure way to get on the grapevine and suss out where’s new and happening.
The term “hostel” usually refers to a town boarding house aimed specifically at locals. A more common name is “backpacker resort”, and these can be found throughout the islands and even in Nadi. Most have rooms or lodges crammed with dorm beds, but often the price of a simple double room or bure is the same as two dorm beds.
Student discount cards are not widely accepted – if you’ve travelled around Australia or New Zealand and already have one you may be able to save yourself around ten percent at certain places. The Australian-operated Nomads (nomadsworld.com) and VIP Backpackers (vipbackpackers.com) both have affiliates in Nadi but there’s no YHA.
Wild camping is not encouraged in Fiji – it’s perceived by Fijians as an insult, as if you’re saying the local village is not good enough to sleep in. However, several backpacker resorts permit pitching of tents within their resort grounds and several organized tours, with the consent of village landowners, make temporary camp on secluded beaches.
The most common style of accommodation in Fiji is a bure, an open-plan traditionally-styled building with high ceilings and thatch roofing ensuring natural ventilation. At the upmarket resorts, bures are exquisite handcrafted palaces, usually with king-sized beds, walk-in showers and wood floors, while at a backpacker resort you can expect thin bamboo walls, a simple foam mattress, no electricity and a shared communal bathroom. At some of the mid-range and larger resorts, a bure is often an A-frame wooden structure split into two or four rooms and referred to as a duplex or quad bure.
Fiji is a beautiful and relatively stress-free place to get married and most resorts offer wedding packages with ceremonies held on the beachfront. For those with large groups in attendance, getting married on the main island of Viti Levu is more convenient, but the atmosphere on the offshore islands is far more intimate and a much better option for smaller parties. Amongst the best options are Octopus Resort and Oarsman’s Bay Lodge in the Yasawas; Matamanoa Island Resort and Treasure Island Resort, in the Mamanuca Islands. If getting married on the beach, find out about the tides and sun direction before fixing a time. Early-morning weddings are worth considering as it‘s not only cooler and less windy, but also less likely to rain – there’s nothing more dampening than reciting your vows at a makeshift altar in the resort restaurant.
The practicalities of obtaining a marriage licence are very straightforward and all resorts will help with the paperwork. For more information contact www.fijinet.com.