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Fiji

Photo © LynMoo

Travel Guide Oceania Melanesia Fiji

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Introduction

WONDERFUL FIJI SUNSET

WONDERFUL FIJI SUNSET

© All Rights Reserved TUTS

They used to practice cannibalism and, more recently, they've been embroiled in bitter ethnic tension, but Fijians are a friendly people. Seriously. Missionary influence has seen the tide of popular opinion turn man-eating; and while the problems between the Indian and native Fijian communities are deep and far from being sorted out, they don't really tend to affect visitors.

Fiji is a fascinating destination. Fijians are Melanesians, but their islands were invaded by Polynesians from Samoa and Tonga. Upon European discovery, matters were complicated further, as the British turned it into a colony and brought in thousands of Indians to work on plantations. Fijian cuisine represents the diversity of modern Fiji's demographic makeup, with flavours from India and Europe mixed with the local dishes. This unique cultural fusion gives Fiji an edge over other South Pacific destinations, while it still has all the usual attractions of a tropical island.

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Brief History

Western contact with Fiji was first recorded in 1643, when the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman visited looking for the Great Southern Continent. It wasn't until the 19th century that Europeans settled the islands permanently, bringing them under British control in 1874.

In 1970 Fiji gained independence although democratic rule has been a somewhat testing experience for Fijians. Several military coups have been staged in the country, primarily because of Indo-Fijian domination of the political landscape. The coups have encouraged large scale emigration among the Indian population. The Fijian Constitution underwent several changes, first institutionalising etchnic Fijian domination of the political system and then reversing it again. In 1997, Mahendra Chaudry, a Fijian Indian came to power before being toppled in another coup instigated by George Speight. Commodore Frank Bainimarama assumed executive power, putting an end to the coup. In 2001, fresh elections were held which were won by Fijian interim Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase's party. The military didn't fully withdraw from the political landscape and came back into the fray when in 2005, the Qarase government proposed a Reconciliation and Unity Commission, with power to provide amnesty for the perpetrators of the 2000 coup. Commodore Bainimarama objected heavily to this proposal, causing great tension between the military and government. Eventually, in 2006, Bainimarama orchestrated a coup of his own, overthrowing the Qarase government. Bainimarama restored executive power to President Iloho, who the next day named Bainimarama as interim Prime Minister.

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Geography

Fiji is an island nation in the Pacific consisting of roughly 300 islands accounting for 18,272 km² of earth's surface. The two largest islands are Vanua Levu and Viti Levu, both mountainous volcanic islands with peaks up to 1,300 metres in their center. Heavy rainfall is experienced on the southeastern, windward side, resulting in dense tropical forests in those parts.

The other smaller islands only cover 2.5% of the total land area, but are home to roughly 16% of the population. Taveuni and Kadavu are the third and fourth largest islands. Other island groups are the Mamanuca Group, the Yasawa Group, the Lomaiviti Group and the remote Lau Group. Fiji's old capital, Levuka, lies on Ovalau, a rugged island some 20 kilometres off the east coast of Viti Levu.

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Islands

Two major islands dominate Fiji;

  • Viti Levu is the most populous and hosts the capital Suva and the hub town of Nadi.
  • Vanua Levu is the second largest island.

Other islands and island groups are:

  • Taveuni
  • Kadavu
  • Mamanuca Islands lie to the west of Nadi and are a popular tourist destination.
  • Yasawa Islands are popular for island hopping.
  • Lomaiviti Islands
  • Lau Islands
  • Nananu-i-Ra

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Cities

  • Suva is the country's capital and largest city.
  • Nadi is where the main international airport is located.
  • Labasa is the largest town on the northern island of Vanua Levu.
  • Lautoka is Fiji's second largest city. It is also referred to as Sugar City because of the central role it plays in the sugarcane industry.
  • Levuka is Fiji's old capital and most picturesque town. Located on the island of Ovalau.
  • Nausori is a town, 19 kilometres out of Suva.
  • Savusavu is another picturesque little town, located on Vanua Levu.

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Sights and Activities

Diving

Fiji's reefs and warm waters provide a great opportunity for keen divers. The Great Astrolabe Reef and Rainbow Reef are two of the most famous reefs in the archipelago. First-timers can take the chance to get certified PADI training at any number of dive centres throughout the country. For those preferring shallower waters, there are snorkelling possibilities in abundance.

Mamanucas and Yasawas

The Mamanuca Group and adjacent Yasawa Group of islands lie just off the coast of Viti Levu. Pick one of the numerous resorts, big, small, eco-friendly or ultra-luxurious and unwind on a white sandy beach. Stay the night at an island resort or, if you would rather stay on the mainland, it is also possible to take day cruises to islands in both the Mamanucas and the Yasawas.

Fiji Museum

Suva's Fiji Museum houses an extensive collection of Fijian artefacts. The museum's collection was founded in 1904 and originally displayed in the town hall. The current building was constructed in 1955.

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Events and Festivals

  • Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna Day is celebrated every year on the last Monday of May. It commemorates Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, a hero in the First World War, who was honored with France’s highest military award. He is considered the father of modern Fiji.
  • One of several popular city festivals, the Hibiscus Festival is held in Suva each year around August. It runs for a week or so featuring bands, cultural activities, a Miss Hibiscus pageant and much more.
  • The Sugar Festival is Lautoka's festival, similar in principal to the Hibiscus Festival (September).
  • The Bula Festival is held in Nadi, another popular city festival (September).
  • Diwali, or the "Festival of Lights" is a Hindu festival celebrated by the country's Indian population in October / November.
  • Christmas in the tropics is an experience in itself. Visit one of the Christmas Eve carol services to enjoy some fine Fijian singing.

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Weather

Fiji enjoys a mild tropical climate with year-round temperatures around 25 °C with a generally high humidity. Average highs range from around 26 °C in July and August to around 30 °C from Decembert to April. Lows are between 20 °C and 23 °C. May to October is Fiji's dry season, also known as the "Fiji Winter". The weather is slightly cooler and less rainfall and humidity make it a good time of the year to visit. From December to April, Fiji gets a lot of rain and many places get up to 3,000 mm or more a year!

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Getting There

By Plane

The main international airport in Fiji is Nadi International Airport (NAN). It is the main hub of Fiji Airways, and also services Air New Zealand and Air Fiji flights, amongst others. There are connections to New Zealand, Australia, Los Angeles, South Korea and other Pacific destinations.

The second international airport is near Suva, Nausori International Airport (SUV). It services flights to Auckland, Sydney, Tonga and Tuvalu, as well as domestic flights.

The official website for both airports is Airports Fiji Limited.

By Boat

Fiji - Tuvalu vv
The MVs Nivaga II and Manu Folau, both government-owned cargo/passenger ships, travel to between Tuvalu and Suva, Fiji, every three months or so and the takes about four days. One-way fares are A$73/316 for deck/double cabin, with meals. Pacific Agencies (info@pacship.com.fj) is the agent for the MV Nivaga II and Manu Folau in Suva, the Marine Services Office in Funafuti.
The cargo boat Nei Matagare makes trips roughly once a month between Tuvalu and Fiji and you might find a berth on this boat as well. Williams & Goslings are its Suva agents.

Fiji doesn't have any other regular passenger services. You might be able to find a ride on a yacht though or find accommodation on a cargoship. It's advised to book well in advance though if you want to go to or leave Fiji this way.

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Getting Around

By Plane

Fiji Airways run a range of domestic routes. Locations covered as of March 2013 are Cicia, Kadavu, Labasa, Lakeba, Nadi, Rotuma, Savusavu, Suva, Taveuni, Vanuabalavu.

Turtle Airways and Pacific Island Seaplanes offer seaplane services directly to your island resort.

Island Hoppers can transfer you to and from your island resort in style by helicopter.

By Car

If you're looking to explore Viti Levu, hiring a car can be a good option. Remember to drive on the left in Fiji. There's a mostly sealed road in good enough condition that leads around the island. Otherwise, taxis are plentiful around the major centres.

By Bus

Good bus networks operate on the larger islands. When out of town, you can often hail down a bus whenever you see it. Express buses operate between the major centres, while local buses will seemingly stop at every village on the way. Bus travel is an affordable and pleasant way of getting around Fiji and a good way to meet some local people.

By Boat

Travelling between the Fiji islands by boat is an inexpensive and generally reliable means of getting around. For some of the backpacker resorts, it can be the only practical option. The most significant scheduled ferry routes operate between Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, Ovalau and Kadavu and between Vanua Levu and Tavaeuni. The service between Viti Levu and Vanua Levu is the most frequent, as it connects the two major islands. Conditions on board the ferries are usually ok, with deck-travel the norm. Cabins are also available if you prefer more privacy. The main connections between the Fiji islands include the folllowing listed below:

  • South Sea Cruises operates daily ferry departures from Nadi to the Mamanuca Islands on board modern, comfortable vessels. They operate two fast catamarans from Denarau Marina to most of the Mamanuca islands, including Malolo, Walu Beach, Castaway Island, Mana, Treasure Island, Beachcomber Island, Bounty Island, South Sea Island, Matamanoa and Tokoriki.
  • Awesome Adventures operates Fiji's Yasawa Flyer (the big yellow boat) from Nadi and is the main form of boat transport out to the remote Yasawa Islands. It services all the resorts in the Yasawa islands plus some of the Mamanuca resorts daily.
  • From Suva, Consort Shipping travels three times a week to Savusavu ($80/50 for cabin/seat), departing Suva at 6:00pm on Monday and Friday and noon on Wednesday. It takes 12 hours to reach Savusavu. On Wednesday and Friday it continues (8 hours more) on to Taveuni ($90/55 from Suva for cabin/seat). On the way back it departs Taveuni around noon on Friday and Sunday, arriving in Savusavu at around 5:00pm.
  • Beachcomber Cruises runs three times a week between Suva and Savusavu ($45/65 for economy/1st class). The journey takes 11 hours and departs Suva at 10:00am on Tuesday, noon on Thursday and 6:00pm on Saturday, returning from Savusavu at 8:00pm on Wednesday and Friday and 7:00pm on Sunday. The boat also travels between Savusavu and Taveuni ($25/45 for economy/1st class), departing Savusavu at 1:00am on Wednesday and Friday, returning from Taveuni at noon on Wednesday and Friday. This journey takes five hours.
  • Grace Ferry operates a bus/boat trip from Taveuni to Savusavu and Labasa ($20).
  • Patterson Brothers Shipping travels on the Lautoka - Ellington Wharf - Nabouwalu - Labasa route twice a week ($60). It starts with a bus ride (3.5 hours) from Lautoka, then a trip on the Ashika ferry (almost 4 hours) and a trip on another bus to Labasa (4 hours). Buses depart from outside the Lautoka office at 4:00am on Friday and Monday, and from Labasa at 6:00am on Sunday and Wednesday.
  • On the Suva - Natovi - Nabouwalu - Labasa route, Patterson Brothers Shipping travels ($45 one way) on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday ($45 one way). It starts with a bus ride (1.5 hours) from Suva, a ferry trip (4.5 hours) and another bus to Labasa (4 hours). Buses depart the Suva office at 4.30am.
  • On the Suva-Natovi-Buresala-Levuka, Patterson Brothers Shipping operates a daily service ($24 one way), which again includes first a bus ride (1.5 hours) from Suva to Natovi Landing, the a ferry to Buresala Landing (1 hour) and a bus to Levuka (1 hour). Buses depart Suva at 2:00pm and Labasa at 5:00am.
  • There are ferries from Suva to Leleuvia via Bau Landing ($30 one way) and from Leleuvia to Levuka ($20 one way).
  • From Suva to Kadavu, Kadavu Shipping has passenger services on the MV Bulou-ni-Ceva ($45 one way).
  • From Suva to the Lau islands, Saliabasaga Shipping has trips once every two weeks aboard the MV Tunatuki to Lakeba, Nayau, Cicia, Tuvuca, Vanua Balavu and sometimes also to Moce and Oneata. The one way fare to Vanua Balavu is $90/120 for deck/cabin and this includes all meals.
  • Kabua Development Corporation operates sailing every two weeks aboard the Taikabara to the southern Lau Group. It travels to Lakeba, Vanuavatu, Komo, Kabara, Moce, Fulaga, Namuka, Vatoa, Ogea Levu and Ono-i-Lau (deck/cabin including meals $75/85 one way). Vatoa and Ono-i-Lau in the far south are $10 more and be aware that it can take up to a week to get to the most distant outer islands.
  • Khans Shipping travels to the southern Lau islands about once a month, taking about 10 hours and costing $80 each way.
  • From Suva, Suva-Moala group Khans Shipping has trips once a month to Moala, Matuke and Totoya in the Moala group. The journey takes about eight hours and a one-way fare is $80.
  • From Suva to Rotuma, Western Shipping operates the Cagi Mai Ba to Rotuma (deck/cabin $130/150) and the total trips takes 36 hours.

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Red Tape

Nationals from the following countries are granted a visa for free, valid for 4 months, extendable up to 6 months:

Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Estonia, Germany, Micronesia, Finland, France, Gambia, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guyana, Vatican City, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kiribati, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Ireland, Marshall Islands, Romania, Russia, Samoa, Serbia, Slovakia, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & The Grenadines, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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Money

See also Money Matters

The currency used is the Fiji Dollar (F$) but banks and airports use the abbreviation FID. Notes come in denominations of $2, $5, $10, $20 and $50 and the coins used are 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents and $1.

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Language

Fijiian, Hindustani and English are all official languages of Fiji.

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Sleep

Fiji is well set-up for travellers and provides a great variety of accommodation options, ranging from eco-lodges to high-class resorts or even private islands for the ultra-rich. For those seeking a more cultural experience, it is possible to arrange an overnight stay in one of the villages. Don't expect luxuries like hot water or flushing toilets; this option is for those prepared to rough it a little.

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Drink

Having a drink of Kava while in Fiji is part of the experience for most backpackers. It is a mildly intoxicating drink that relaxes, without disrupting mental clarity. Drinking Kava is very much a social thing, particularly among young men in Fiji. It bears a considerable resemblance to dirty dishwater and tastes a bit like it as well. It is usually drunk from a half coconut shell (bilo) while sitting around in a circle.

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Health

See also Travel Health

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Fiji. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Fiji) where that disease is widely prevalent.

It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Fiji. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and when travelling longer than 2 weeks also typhoid. Vaccination against hepatitis B is also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.

Dengue sometimes occurs as well. There is no vaccinations, so buy mosquito repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Also wear long sleeves if possible.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.

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Safety

See also Travel Safety

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafes are available in cities and towns and popular tourist areas and more and more places have (free) wifi nowadays. Sometimes you need to pay a fee or usage is for a limited amount of time or customers only.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The international phone code for Fiji is 679. Emergency numbers include 917 for the police and 911 for ambulance and fire department.

You will find payphones in all post office branches as well as in the booths situated on streets throughout the country. They only accept Fiji Telecom phone cards which can be purchased in post offices and many shops and come in denominations up to F$50. A digital display will tell you how much money you have left on your card at all times. You can also use a TeleCard which is a pre-paid calling card that can be used from any telephone in Fiji, not just pay phones.

Calling is done by calling the card's issue center, entering the code (found on the card) and entering the destination number. To call outside Fiji, dial 05 first, then the country code and phone number. Foreign calls start at about F$0.50 a minute, but are usually around F$1 or more for European destinations for example.

Avoid high roamaing charges with your phone and turn your data services for outside your home country off at all times. Instead buy a local SIM card (you have to have an unlocked phone of course). There are a few mobile phone companies operating on the island (Vodafone, Digicel). A sim-card is inexpensive, but you need to register your sim to keep it active and to get access to data. Buying a sim-card gives access to cheap data-packages for easy internet access using your phone as a hot-spot.

Post

Post Fiji offers services in the country and to other countries. It's fairly reliable, not expensive, but it can take a while for letters or postcards to arrive at your destination. All major towns have post offices which are operated by Fiji Post. There is also a branch at Nadj International Airport. Connections are pretty quick, particularly with North America, but if you use surface mail, your letter could take over two months to reach its destination. Post offices are open between 8.00and 4.00pm from Monday to Friday. For sending packages overseas, you might better use international courier companies like DHL, TNT, UPS or FedEx, as they offer fast, competitively priced and reliable services.

Quick Facts

Fiji flag

Map of Fiji

[edit]

Capital
Suva
Population
869,000
Government
Republic
Religions
Christianity (Protestant, Catholic), Hinduism, Islam
Languages
Fijian, Fijian Hindustani, English
Calling Code
+679
Nationality
Fijian
Local name
Matanitu ko Viti

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Fiji Travel Helpers

  • stevieh

    Coral Coast.
    Family travel.
    Sigatoka.
    How to shave and cut your face in a humid climate.

    Ask stevieh a question about Fiji
  • hovavzir

    well i have been in fiji for 2 month in 2003,
    i can halp to find a place to stay for the first night or the rest of your stey ,
    i can halp with the place that you mast see or you can skip,
    well almost enything

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  • mista2kool

    Did the most touristy and least touristy things in Fiji over a 2 weeks period. Visited the entire main island thoroughly.

    Ask mista2kool a question about Fiji
  • livvy

    Tribewanted.
    Fiji Experience
    General travel inculding island hopping

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  • MamaMarnie

    Fiji is awesome fun, but most people only go for a week or 2 so it is good to know what to do before you get there so you maximise your time on the islands chilling out..cause that is what fiji is all about....and the most freindly locals ever....If you are heading over i can let you know what to do and how much it will cost.

    Ask MamaMarnie a question about Fiji

Accommodation in Fiji

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