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Travel Guide Oceania Polynesia French Polynesia Society Islands Tahiti Papeete

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Introduction

Church of the Immaculate Conception - Papeete

Church of the Immaculate Conception - Papeete

© All Rights Reserved pollyali

Papeete is the capital and largest city in French Polynesia. It has a population of about 26,000 inhabitants and is located on the island of Tahiti, in the administrative subdivision of the Windward Islands, which are part of the Society Islands. It is a rather chaotic, albeit small, city and by far the largest in the region and has all the amenities you basically need. Most people don't stay here though but only visit for the day.

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Sights and Activities

  • The waterfront - Papeete has redeveloped its waterfront into a long park, with foods and carnival-like attractions. It's still partially under construction as of August 2008, but will surely be good for a scenic stroll someday.

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Events and Festivals

  • Bastille Day, the French national holiday, is celebrated here on July 14th. People flock to the streets of Papeete to watch the military parade.
  • Heiva i Tahiti' - The biggest of all Tahitian festivals begins on June 29, the day of French Polynesia‘s Autonomy celebrations, and extends into July 14, when French territories celebrate Bastille Day. Papeete’s paved waterfront To’ata Square is where much of the action takes place in between. People from across French Polynesia’s five archipelagos take part in Heiva i Tahiti’s countless sporting competitions, beauty pageants, parades, and food tastings. There are also competitions in stone weight lifting, palm tree climbing, and coconut cracking. Colorfully dressed Tahitian dance troupes perform to traditional music on To‘ata Square’s open amphitheater and stage as vendors sell their handicrafts nearby.
  • Chinese New Year - Most of Tahiti’s Chinese population is the descendants of migrant workers who came from China to work on the island’s cotton plantations in the 1860s. Today, most of the five percent of Tahiti’s population who are of Chinese descent are shopkeepers who celebrate Chinese New Year in the heart of Papeete. This early to mid-February event starts with official opening ceremonies at Papeete’s town hall, then culminates with a lantern march through the streets of Tahiti’s capital and a grand ball filled with Chinese cultural performances.
  • FIFO Tahiti - Tahiti’s Pacific International Documentary Film Festival, better known as FIFO Tahiti, takes place at Papeete’s Te Fare Tauhiti Nui cultural center for six February days each year. The event includes television conferences, documentary film screenings, and competitions for filmmakers, who can also attend workshops and round table discussions.
  • Tahiti Carnival - Papeete’s exuberant October Tahiti Carnival, like its South American and Caribbean counterparts, is filled with street parties, colorful dancers, and elaborate floats. Townships across Tahiti build their own floats under the greatest of secrecy before unveiling them at the Papeete parade attended by nearly 10,000 spectators. The crowning of the Queen and King of Tahiti is another carnival highlight.

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Weather

Papeete has a warm and humid climate year round with average temperatures around 29 °C during the day and 23 °C at night. January to March is just slightly warmer and June to August slightly cooler but variations don't go further than a few degrees. Variation is much bigger concerning rain fall so it is best to visit Papeete or Tahiti for that matter during the relatively dry months of June to September although rains is still possible. The rainy season lasts from November to March, with a peak in January averaging 300 mm of rain.

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Getting There

By Plane

Faa'a International Airport (PPT), 5 kilometres southwest of Papeete, handles all international flights to and from French Polynesia. The national carrier, Air Tahiti Nui, flies to Auckland, New York, Los Angeles, Osaka, Paris, Sydney and Tokyo.

Other airlines flying into PPT include Air France (from Los Angles and Paris), Air New Zealand (Aukland), Hawaiianair (Honolulu), Air Tahiti (Rarotonga), Aircalin (Nouméa) and Lan Chile (Hanga Roa, Santiago de Chile).

By Boat

Tahiti - Moorea vv
There are ferries and catamarans travelling between Tahiti and Moorea several times daily. It takes between half an hour and an hour to travel between Tahiti and Moorea, depending on which company you go with. The car ferries, such as those run by Mo'orea Ferry, are slower than the high-speed ferries, which take only passengers, motorcycles and bicycles. The Ono-Ono has at least four crossings daily. The Aremiti 5 and the Moorea Express travel between Tahiti and Moorea six or more times daily between 6:00am and 4:30pm and this takes only 30 minutes.

Outer Islands
There are also services, often combined with cargo, to more outlying islands, but on an less frequent basis, sometimes even only once a month. Boats usually leave from Papeete. Destinations include the Marquesas Islands, Austral Islands, Tuamota Archipelago, Bora Bora and even as far as the Gambier islands (Mangareva). An brief overview of the boats travelling to island further afield include:

  • The small cargo ship Maupiti Tou Ai'a goes to Maupiti from Papeete once a week, leaving on Wednesday evening, arrives at Maupiti the following morning, and returns to Pape'ete on Friday.
  • Vaeanu operates the Pape'ete-Huahine-Ra'iatea-Taha'a-Bora Bora return trip, leaving Pape'ete on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5:00pm and from Bora Bora on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.
  • Hawaiki Nui also travels the Society Islands circuit, and has two departures a week (Tuesday and Thursday at 4:00pm).
  • The Aremiti 3 travels from Papeete on Monday and Friday for Huahine and Ra'iatea.
  • About 10 ships operate through the Tuamotus. Rroutes and fares vary, so it's best to check with the offices for the individual ships. They include the Dory, Cobia I, Rairoa Nui, Saint-Xavier Maris-Stella, Nuku Hau, Mareva Nui, Vai-Aito and the Kura Ora. All these ships, except for the Dory, go to the Gambier Archipelago. The Nuku Hau sails to the Gambier Archipelago via the Tuamotus. The Taporo V sails through the eastern Tuamotus and the Gambier Archipelago once or twice a month.
  • The Aranui and the Taporo IV go to the Marquesas, stopping in the Tuamotus en route. together, they go about 2-3 times a month.
  • Services to the Austral islands are limited. The Tuhaa Pae II (snathp@mail.pf) goes three times a month, stopping at Rurutu and Tubuai on every trip and other islands less regularly.

Check the ferry link about all possibilities.

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Getting Around

Papeete is a walking city. It's really too small to bother with any other form of transport, unless you are going out to the fringes, or would simply like to experience the famous le truck for fun (hop-on, hop-off, anywhere in the city center for about XPF100!) Bring a water bottle: it can be quite hot and humid.

Don't bother with taxis: they're extremely expensive and very hard to find after 6pm, apart from two dedicated taxi stands along the waterfront. Meters are unheard of, so be sure to confirm the fare (in French, if possible) before getting into a taxi, and don't be afraid to protest or refuse to ride if you think the fare too high; as a general rule, you should never have to pay more than XPF 1500 for a journey from one side of the city center to the other. Many drivers distribute calling cards when you disembark; if you'll be relying on taxi transport for whatever reason during your stay, it's definitely worth becoming a repeat customer with a driver you trust and who will give you a good deal.

Le Truck will take you to other parts of the island and around town quite cheaply.

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Eat

You can go broke eating in this town. There are some fine restaurants but expect to pay US$30 for a hamburger at a hotel restaurant or other proper sit-down establishment.

There are a lot of midrange places where you can expect to pay US$20-30 for your whole meal. French and Chinese are well represented here. Look for the word "Snack" in the name of the restaurant. There is also a conveyor belt sushi place that's very good, and the chefs are quite friendly there.

The best deal in town is the Roulottes, the food trucks that set up shop every evening in the big square in the waterfront park. Every day they begin setting up around dusk. Chinese, French, and Tahitian cuisine are all well represented. You can get chow mein, poisson cru, crepes, pizza, ice cream, and because this is France, everything comes with bread. Expect to pay about XPF1500 for your whole meal.

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Drink

You can expect to pay upwards of US$10 for a pint of beer. A (small) jug of microbrew will run you US$35. Buy pitchers of Hinano to keep the costs down.

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Sleep

Upscale

View our map of accommodation in Papeete or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Keep Connected

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

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Accommodation in Papeete

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Papeete searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Papeete and areas nearby.

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This is version 12. Last edited at 7:44 on May 10, 17 by Utrecht. 14 articles link to this page.

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