I’ve been planning my trip to Fiji for a few months now, sometimes I think I’m no closer to making my final decisions that the day I started. It’s taken me such a long time to find out everything I need to know to organise my time there. I thought it might be helpful to put this all you’ll need to know in one place. This post includes most of the information you’ll need, the fun stuff and the serious bits you’ll need to consider before you go, along with links to the best places to find further information.
Getting to Know Fiji:
Fiji is a mostly volcanic archipelago located in the south-west Pacific Ocean. It consists of approximately 330 islands with the addition of 540 islets spread across 3 million square kilometres, but approximately only one hundred of the islands have permanent inhabitants. Fiji’s largest island, which is commonly referred to as the mainland is Viti Levu. Viti Levu is where the majority of the population live, with approximately 600,000 inhabitants.
The climate in Fiji is hot all year round with maximum temperatures averaging between 26°C and 31°C (79°F – 88°F), with wet season falling November to April.
Clothing and culture in Fiji are casual, modern clothing is acceptable and the norm in Fiji, but shoulders and knees should be covered while in local villages. Males and Females are expected to wear a sarong (Sulu) for formal ceremonies if you plan to attend them, as well as to cover yourself up when walking the streets from the beach, as it’s not acceptable to walk around in public in your swimwear.
Things to Remember:
- It is polite to remove your footwear at the door when entering a house and some shops in Fiji.
- For foreigners, the most common and accepted form of greeting new friends and acquaintances is by shaking hands.
- Dress conservative but casual. Short or revealing clothing will be considered very disrespectful.
- Being loud, boisterous or drunk are major taboos in Fiji culture, as anyone who is seen to be doing these things are considered rude, greedy and vain.
- Instead of knives and forks, spoons and forks are used for dining.
- Public displays of affection should be kept to a minimum in Fiji, as this can cause offense.
- If you are offered food or a drink when in a Fijian’s home, have something small to be polite.
- A persons head and hair is considered sacred and should not be touched.
- Pointing at someone older than you is considered rude and should be avoided.
- Tipping is not expected in Fiji, a smile and ‘vinaka’ (thank you) is sufficient.
- Remove your sunglasses when being introduced or greeting others.
- When visiting a village, carry items or bags in your hands, do not carry your bag by throwing it over your shoulder
- Do not wear hats or caps when visiting a village (Layer on that suncream!)
- Kava is a traditional drink made from the roots of the yaqona plant. When visiting a village you may be invited to participate in Kava (yaqona) session. It is customary to clap once before accepting the bowl and clap three times before handing back the empty bowl.
Wow. Lots of rules to remember. I hope somebody takes pity on me if I forget any…
There’s plenty of information for getting you around the main island, including airport transfers and public bus timetables on the Fiji Airports Site, but it’s worth remembering that Fiji runs on their own time, don’t waste your holiday expecting punctual bus drivers, I guess they’re just too relaxed to rush.
If you’re planning on leaving the main island you can organise your transport to the other islands from Nadi. You don’t need to book your ticket ahead of time and the boats will take you to as many islands as you want, depending on what type of ticket you buy. If you do prefer your trip all planned out in advance, the website I have found most helpful in providing clear information and a variety of options is the Awesome Fiji website. They also make it possible to organise your accommodation with your travel and their tickets are very flexible.
Not sure where to go? Here is a Lonely Planet page which will not help to narrow it down at all!
Wall Plugs and Adapters
Socket outlets in Fiji are the same as in Australia, New Zealand and China.
Fiji dial code: +(00)679
Police Emergency: 917
Crime Stoppers: 919
Health services within Fiji are limited. If staying at a resort, the resort management should be first point of contact. But for your information, Nadi has private clinics, a hospital and health centers should an emergency arise.
The Nadi Hospital is located at Koroivolu Lane and can be reached on 6701128
No vaccinations are legally required to enter Fiji but there are a few recommended ones, which include Tetanus, Diphtheria, Hepatitis A & B, Typhoid, Polio and Yellow Fever (you’ll need a certificate for that one). Don’t forget, some vaccines expire in as little as 3 years, so keep track of dates, as you may still need a top up, even if you’ve had them before. If you’re visiting other countries in the same trip it’s probably worth finding out about ALL vaccination requirements first, and at least 3 months in advance, because some of them can’t be done at the same time and require a break between, and others may need to be done in a series (e.g. Rabies is three injections administered over several weeks).
You should plan them all with the same GP to organise a ‘stabbing schedule’.
If you’ve had some vaccinations, but don’t know how long they last, here are a few for reference:
- Chicken Pox – 10 years (possibly life)
- Cholera (oral vaccine) – 2 years
- Diphtheria – 10 years
- Flu vaccine (Fluvax) – 1 year
- Hepatitis A (Vaqta / Havrix/Twinrix) – 20 years (possibly longer)
- Hepatitis B (HBVax II/Engerix B/Twinrix) – life
- Japanese B Encephalitis – 3 years
- Measles, Mumps, Rubella – 15 years (possibly life)
- Meningitis (Menomune/Mencevax) – 1-3 years
- Pneumonia (Pneumovax) – 5 years (possibly life)
- Polio (Sabin) – 10 years (possibly life)
- Polio (IPV) – 10 years (possibly life)
- Rabies (pre exposure) – 10 years (possibly life)
- Tetanus – 10 years
- Typhoid – 3 years
- Yellow Fever – 10 years
Visa Requirements for entry to Fiji vary depending on your purpose of travel, length of stay, nationality and place of residence.
Most nationalities are required to obtain a single entry visa, stamped into their passport upon arrival to Fiji.
If your nationality is not part of the visa exempt countries for Fiji, you may need to prearrange a visa and should contact your nearest Fijian embassy.
Entry into Fiji is only permitted for up to 3 months, but you may be given either a 14 day or a 3 month single entry stamp by Fijian immigration officials on arrival. The stamp issued will depend largely on the immigration officers working at that time – most commonly the 14 day single entry stamp will be issued. If you are planning on staying longer than 14 days, you will need to apply for a visa extension, prior to your initial single entry visa expiring. The visa extension is valid for a total duration of 3 months and costs FJD180 (approximately US$85).
Volunteer work is not usually permitted on a tourist or visitor visa, so if you plan to take part in any projects your best option is to state your purpose of travel as “Other” and then reference “volunteer work” in the notes.
To apply for the visa extension, you will need:
- A valid passport (your passport must not expire within 6 months from date of entry into Fiji)
- Address and contact of accommodation for duration of your visit
- Two photocopies of your passport details page
- Copy of flight itinerary or ticket including your return trip details
- Payment – FJD180 (approximately US$85)
Criminal Background Checks
If you’re working or volunteering while in Fiji, you will likely need to organise a Criminal Background Check. I did this a few years ago and had to visit the police station in person and get all sorts of written references to submit as evidence. It’s amazing how far technology has come in such a short time, here are a few links to help you with your Criminal Records checks:
USA – www.sentrylink.com
Australia – www.policecheckexpress.com.au/individuals
France – www.cjn.justice.gouv.fr
Books About Fiji
Lonely Planet Fiji (Country Travel Guide) – Dean Starnes, Celeste Brash and Virginia Jealous.
Footprints in Fiji – Geoff Raymond
Fiji’s Wild Beauty: A Photographic Guide to Coral Reefs of the South Pacific – Achim Nimmerfroh
Fiji’s Natural Heritage – Paddy Ryan
Yesterday’s Child: Once Upon an Island in the Fijis Wesley Hall The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling the Pacific – Paul Theroux
Movies About Fiji
Castaway (2000) Robert Zemeckis – Filmed on Monuriki
The Blue Lagoon (1980) Randal Kleiser – Filmed on Nanuya Levu
The Land Has Eyes (2004) Vilsoni Hereniko – Filmed on Rotuma
His Majesty O’Keefe (1954) Byron Haskin – Filmed on Viti Levu
Boot Camp (or “Punishment” as released in the UK) (2008) Christian Duguay – Filmed on Viti Levu
Savage Islands (1983) Ferdinand Fairfax – Location unknown