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Stretching from the north of Papua New Guinea to the Marshall Islands almost 1,600 kilometres away, the Federated States of Micronesia take up a good portion of the North Pacific. Due to its tiny landmass though, it is often hard to spot on world maps. Nevertheless, it is worthy of a visit for the intrepid traveller.
Visitors to Micronesia can enjoy spectacular diving, for example the many underwater wrecks in Chuuk. The ruins of Nan Madol in Pohnpei are also worth the trip, providing a fascinating view back to the 13th century Saudeleur dynasty who ruled there. Or if all you want to do is wind down, find a nice atoll and bask in the sunlight. It's the kind of place where you pack your watch away and forget about time for a while. Don't forget the sunscreen though.
The ancestors of the Micronesians settled over four thousand years ago. A decentralized chieftain-based system eventually evolved into a more centralized economic and religious empire centered on Yap. Nan Madol, consisting of a series of small artificial islands linked by a network of canals, is often called the Venice of the Pacific. It is located on the island of Pohnpei and used to be the ceremonial and political seat of the Saudeleur dynasty that united Pohnpei's estimated 25,000 people from about AD 500 until 1500, when the centralized system collapsed.
European explorers - first the Portuguese in search of the Spice Islands (Indonesia) and then the Spanish - reached the Carolines in the sixteenth century, with the Spanish establishing sovereignty. It was sold to Germany in 1899, conquered by Japan in 1914, before being seized by the United States during World War II and administered by the US under United Nations auspices in 1947 as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.
During World War II, a significant portion of the Japanese fleet was based in Truk Lagoon. In February 1944, Operation Hailstone, one of the most important naval battles of the war, took place at Truk, in which many Japanese support vessels and aircraft were destroyed.
On May 10, 1979, four of the Trust Territory districts ratified a new constitution to become the Federated States of Micronesia. Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands chose not to participate. The FSM signed a Compact of Free Association with the United States of America, which entered into force on November 3, 1986, marking Micronesia's emergence from trusteeship to independence. The Compact was renewed in 2004.
The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) consists of 607 islands extending 2,900 kilometres across the archipelago of the Caroline Islands east of the Philippines. The island group is located in the northern Pacific Ocean, about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to Indonesia, at 6°55′N 158°15′E. They are grouped into four states: Yap, Chuuk (called Truk until January 1990), Pohnpei (called Ponape until November 1984), and Kosrae. The federal capital is Palikir, on Pohnpei. Separated from the four main island groups are the islands of Nukuoro and Kapingamarangi, which geographically and politically are part of Micronesia, but linguistically and culturally form part of Polynesia: the languages spoken on these two islands are of the Samoic family of Polynesian languages. The islands have a total of 6,112 kilometres of coastline. The highest point is called Totolom (791 metres), on Pohnpei.
The climate in Micronesia is tropical, with temperatures relatively even at about 27 °C throughout the year during the day and rarely below 21 °C at night.
Rainfall varies from island to island. It is however worth noting that the island of Pohnpei is considered one of the wettest places on Earth, with an average rainfall in excess of 10,000 mm a year.  It is in fact unusual to have a dry day on Pohnpei.
In general, the wet season lasts from July to November, when typhoons can striks the islands as well. The better season for a visit probably is the dry season from December to April.
Departure taxes are US$10 in Pohnpei and Kosrae and US$15 in Chuuk. Yap doesn't have departure taxes.
There are no regular boat services coming into Micronesia. The most likely reason to arrive in Micronesia by boat is if you own your own yacht.
Flights between the main islands Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae and Yap are possible with Continental Micronesia. Caroline Island Air also provides some inter-island air services in the states of Chuuk and Pohnpei. Pacific Missionary Aviation services Yap and its outer islands.
Two boats, the Micro Glory and the FSM Caroline Voyager, run infrequently between Colonia (Yap), Chuuk, Kolonia (Pohnpei), Lele and Moen and service the outlying atolls from time to time. It is not uncommon for these boats to only run once every few months, depending on whether or not the boats are in a good state of repair. It usually takes about 2 weeks to get from Yap to Chuuk and more to get even further east.
There are boats travelling to the outer islands of the four different states as well (Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae). The field-trip ship Micro Spirit does a (approximately) 14-day trip monthly between Yap Proper and all populated outer islands. Arrange permits to disembark and book through the Yap State Transportation Field Trip Service (350 2240). In the state of Pohnpei, the state boat MV Caroline Voyager offers irregular voyages to the outer islands. Call the Island Affairs Office (320 2710) for fares and schedules.
Cars drive on the right in Micronesia. Interestingly though, many of the cars on the road also have the driver's seat on the right. Conditions on Micronesian roads are generally very poor and driver education leaves a lot to be desired. It is not uncommon for cars to stop suddenly in front of you to take on passengers or for pedestrians to practically leap in front of the car. Fortunately, speed limits are very low (40km/h on Pohnpei), keeping a reasonable level of safety. Nonetheless, drivers are well advised to be alert at all times. There are cars for hire in major towns, which are relatively inexpensive. A national driver's licence or international driving permit are both ok.
Taxis are abundant in the main population centres and provide a cheap way of getting around.
Bicycles can be a very convenient way to get around due to the relatively slow traffic and small distances. Some hotels may be able to provide a bicycle for your use. Alternatively, buying a cheap one for use while there may be an option.
There are no scheduled bus services, although it might be an adventure to take the twice daily schoolbus on Yap, which runs from Colonia to other villages and is open to travellers as well if there is enough space!
If you are going to be in the FSM for less than 30 days you do not need an entry permit. Anyone who will be staying longer than that needs an entry permit. For citizens of the United States, Palau, and the Marshall Islands, this entry permit lasts 1 year. For everyone else, it lasts 60 days. You can get your entry permit on arrival, but if you're traveling for a purpose other than tourism, you need to apply for it in advance.
Most people will need to prove their citizenship with a passport that has at least 120 days of remaining validity, but if you're from Palau, Marshall Islands, or the United States, you can use your birth certificate or an FSM entry permit in lieu of a passport (but a passport still works, too).
If you need to apply for an entry permit on arrival, you must present an FSM Arrival and Departure Record. This is furnished by a carrier before entering the FSM. You will need a completed application form in addition to this.
See also Money Matters
Due to its strong ties with the US, the US Dollar, or "greenback", is the national currency of Micronesia. One dollar consists of 100 cents. Frequently used coins are the penny (1¢), nickel (5¢), dime (10¢) and quarter (25¢). 50¢ and $1 coins also exist, but are rarely used. Frequently used banknotes are the $1, $5, $10 and $20 notes. $2, $50 and $100 notes can also be found, but are rarely used.
Tipping is not culturally accepted and is actually discouraged.
U.S. citizens may live and work freely in Micronesia.
English is the national language throughout Micronesia and is widely spoken in the capital cities. In more remote areas, English is less common.
Indigenous languages spoken on the various islands include Trukese, Pohnpeian, Yapese, Kosrean, Ulithian, Woleaian, Nukuoran and Kapingan.
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See also Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Micronesia. It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Micronesia. 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 tuberculosis is also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months. It is always recommended to contact a doctor for the latest recommendations on vaccinations before travelling.
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.
All the states have good Government hospitals in the main cities. Dental services and private health clinics can be found throughout the islands. It is not unusual or doctors and hospitals to ask for cash payment for health services.
Scuba divers should be aware that there are only three decompression chambers in the Federated States (Yap, Pohnpei and Chuuk). Their availability varies and there is very little experience in treating dive injuries.
See also Travel Safety
The Federated States of Micronesia is generally one of the safest countries to visit. However, there has been some reports of crime in Weno, the capital of Chuuk.
There are various internet cafés in the state capitals, providing decent connections at reasonable prices.
See also International Telephone Calls
To call out of Micronesia, use exit code 011, followed by the calling code of the country you are trying to connect to, then the area area (leaving out any 0s) and finally the phone number.
There are post offices on all four states and are open during business hours Monday - Friday. U.S. postal rates apply, so check the United States section for that.
Ask Peter a question about Micronesia
I lived in Micronesia several years ago for a few months and have been back once since for a short visit. I spent most of my time on a little atoll by the name of Kapingamarangi, but also stayed on the main island of Pohnpei for a while.
Ask ponape a question about Micronesia
I AM A LOCAL OF POHNPEI ISLAND. ANOTHER NAME FOR POHNPEI IS SENYAVIN ISLAND, IN THE EASTERN CAROLINE ISLANDS.
I CAN GIVE YOU UPDATED SURF CONDITIONS
I CAN REFER YOU TO THE BEST LOCAL GUIDES FOR OCEAN OR LAND TOURS.
Use our map of places to stay in Micronesia to explore your accommodation options and to compare prices across the country at a glance. To narrow the results down by budget category, use the links below.
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