Make the Most of Your Pacific Island Travel With These Pro Tips
When I first arrived in the South Pacific, I really didn’t anticipate my pacific island travel plans would take me here for over a year (and counting). Most pacific island countries remain COVID-19 free thanks to their early shutting of borders, including the one I’m in right now – Tonga.
But before the borders shut, I had a chance to visit various different ones. And along the way, I’ve picked up some tips for how best to enjoy pacific island travel and make the most out of your trip.
1. Pacific Island Travel Time
Island time is really a thing, and if you don’t accept it and go with it… then you’re not going to have a great time. The pacific islands are beautiful peaceful countries; a great place to pick up a book and relax on the beach. So embrace that. Don’t try and rush your time, because you’re going to find a lot of hurdles along the way. Ideally, you’ll spend a good few days or even weeks in each country. One, because there are lots to explore and each pacific island has something unique. Two, because you’re going to encounter problems, such as rain, cyclones, and flight cancellations. And three, because everyone around you will be on island time. You should be too. Take it slow, relaxed, chilled. Nothing happens quickly in the pacific.
2. Budget Well for Pacific Island Travel
Pacific island travel is NOT cheap. You can try to do it as cheaply as you want, but in the end, it’s not the same as travelling South East Asia. More like travelling Europe. There are cheaper options, and there are more expensive options. But there are rarely super cheap or super expensive options. It’s more of a general middle ground overall.
3. Live Like a Local
This help especially if you’re on a budget. Try to eat and travel like a local. Eat local foods, shop at the local markets, and use local travel such as boats instead of flights. Embracing the local culture will also mean that you get much more of a taste for the pacific and you’ll really make the most of your pacific island travel.
4. Don’t Try to Visit Too Many
As I mentioned before, don’t try to be too speedy with things. If you only have a month, think about visiting 2 or 3 countries maximum. Remember, each country will have a multitude of islands to explore, too, so if island hopping is what you hope to achieve with your pacific island travel, you could even consider just visiting one country. I know I could’ve spent a month easily in the Solomon Islands, and I spent about a month in total in Vanuatu and nowhere near explored everything.
5. The Internet Problem & Pacific Island Travel
Apart from North Korea, the only other countries I’ve really come across with absolutely no free WiFi and a pretty dire internet connection is the South Pacific. You will rarely find yourself out of internet connection, but it is slow and expensive. You can expect the internet speed to go right down of an evening, and especially at the weekend. Much of the Pacific is served by one provider, Digicel, however buying a SIM in Fiji will not work in Vanuatu, for example. You’ll have to get a new SIM card each time – and due to the lack of free WiFi, I’d definitely recommend purchasing a SIM card.
6. Embrace the Culture
Try your hand at doing some culture classes such as weaving or even learning some local dances. This is a great way to meet the local people and learn the ways of their history and cultures.
7. Go with the Seasons
In the Pacific, there are really only two seasons; winter and summer. Summer is dry and pleasant, winter is hot and wet. Usually, the main tourist season is in winter when temperatures are cool. If you want to travel off-season when it is cheaper and there are less people around, be prepared to be hit by the odd cyclone.
Going with the seasons also is appropriate when thinking about food. After being in Tonga for a full year, I was constantly surprised every few months to find something had disappeared. During the right season, you can buy 20 bananas for a couple of dollars. Then, the next week, they’re gone. A few weeks later, Tonga starts to import them from New Zealand (who get them from Ecuador) and all of a sudden you can add an extra zero to their price. Same with everything else; tomatoes, carrots, pineapples… Be warned that you might not be able to get exactly what you want all the time.
8. Goodbye to the West, Hello Pacific Islands!
Pacific island travel is a true goodbye to the west. Be prepared for this. Shops are often not well stocked, especially if container ships are delayed. Forget Starbucks. Forget McDonald’s. In fact, forget most of your home comforts. You won’t find these in the pacific and you need to let them go. Also, forget about buying anything electronic. Duty Free shops and electronic stores are few and far between, and they’re often a couple of years behind. Take everything with you you could need – and don’t forget your GoPro.
There are also other things you wouldn’t think about being an issue. Books, for example. Books are really difficult to find sometimes, with no big bookshops available. A Kindle or E-Book would be a great purchase.
9. The Friendly Islands
Every pacific island is different, but something they have in common is the friendliness of the locals. Actually, Tonga is often referred to as the Friendly Islands – but I find it no where near as friendly as the other islands I visited. If you have a problem, don’t feel like you can’t ask the locals. A lot can speak English and they’ll be more than happy to help you.
10. Pacific Island Travel is Off the Beaten Path
Don’t feel intimidated if you don’t meet another traveler – especially if you’re travelling off-season.
Despite their beauty, pacific island travel is pretty remote and can be pricey and difficult. Because of this, it stays off the itinerary for many tourists. You might not see another traveler for days – and embrace that! You have the whole experience to yourself.
11. Pacific Island Travel Isn’t Easy
As I just mentioned, it pacific island travel can be quite difficult. This is basically down to limited and expensive flights and routes. Flights between pacific island countries are expensive. There may only be one a week. And there may be none at all. New Zealand and Fiji serve as good bases to get to the smaller pacific island countries, but travel between them is difficult as most airlines don’t do services between the smaller island nations.
My most important tip. Pacific island travel is something you’ll never forget. White sands, secluded accommodation, crystal clear waters and amazing coral reefs. Not to mention the fabulous culture and history you’ll learn about! If you feel like it’s getting a bit too much, take out a book and have a read. Relax, and enjoy.
Where would I recommend the most to visit? I visited Fiji, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, and Tonga. Vanuatu stays at number 1 for me!