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Wiki Voyage Travel Information
Fiji (Fijian: Viti, Hindi: फ़िजी) (sometimes called the Fiji Islands) is a Melanesian country in the South Pacific Ocean . It lies about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand and consists of an archipelago of 332 islands, a handful of which make up most of the land area, and approximately 110 of which are inhabited.
Fiji straddles the 180 degree longitude line (which crosses land on a remote tip of Vanua Levu and again near the centre of Taveuni ). The international date line passes east of all of Fiji, placing it in one time zone and "ahead" of most of the rest of the world.
Fiji is the product of volcanic mountains and warm tropical waters. Its majestic and varied coral reefs today draw tourists from around the world, but were the nightmare of European mariners until well into the 19th century. As a result, Fijians have retained their land and often much of the non-commercial, sharing attitude of people who live in vast extended families with direct access to natural resources. When it came, European involvement and cession to Britain was marked by the conversion to Anglicanism, the cessation of animist beliefs, brutal tribal warfare and cannibalism, and the immigration of a large number of indentured Indian labourers, whose descendants now represent nearly half of the population, and there are smaller numbers of Europeans and Asians. Today, Fiji is a land of tropical rain forests, coconut plantations, fine beaches, and fire-cleared hills. For the casual tourist it is blessedly free of evils such as malaria, landmines, or terrorism that attend many similarly lovely places in the world.
Internal political events in the recent past resulted in a reduction in tourism. The Fiji tourism industry has responded by lowering prices and increasing promotion of the main resort areas that are far removed from the politics in and around the capital, Suva .
Tropical marine; only slight seasonal temperature variation. Tropical cyclonic storms (the South Pacific version of hurricanes) can occur from November-April. Temperature sensitive visitors may wish to visit during the Southern Hemisphere winter.
Mostly mountains of volcanic origin. In most of the interior of the main islands there are some roads, many trails, and an amazing number of remote villages. Buses and open or canvas topped "carriers" traverse the mountains of Vanua Levu several times a day and the interior mountains of Viti Levu many times weekly. (The Tacirua Transport "hydromaster" bus which leaves from Nausori in the morning, runs past the hydroelectric reservoir and mount Tomanivi, and arrives the same day in Vatoukola and Tavua is the best and the scenery is truly spectacular in good weather!)
Fiji became independent in 1970, after nearly a century as a British colony. Democratic rule was interrupted by two military coups in 1987, caused by concern over a government perceived as dominated by the Indian community (descendants of contract labourers brought to the islands by the British in the 19th century). The coups and a 1990 constitution that cemented native Melanesian control of Fiji led to heavy Indian emigration. The population loss resulted in economic difficulties, but ensured that Melanesians became the majority. A new constitution enacted in 1997 was more equitable. Free and peaceful elections in 1999 resulted in a government led by an Indo-Fijian, but a civilian-led coup in May 2000 ushered in a prolonged period of political turmoil. Parliamentary elections held in August 2001 provided Fiji with a democratically elected government led by Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase. There was another military coup in 2006, led by Commodore Josaia Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama. An election was held in 2014 and Bainimarama's FijiFirst party won a majority of seats.
Indigenous Fijian culture and tradition is very vibrant and is an integral component of everyday life for the majority of Fiji's population. However, Fijian society has also evolved over the past century with the introduction of more recent traditions, such as Indian and Chinese, and of heavy influences from Europe and Fiji's Pacific neighbours, particularly Tonga and Samoa. Thus, the various cultures of Fiji have come together to create a unique multicultural national identity.
- 1 January: New Year's Day
- Feb/Mar: Holi
- Rau Naumi (not an official holiday)
- Easter (variable)
- 15 June: Queen's birthday
- Eid al-Fitr (Islamic religious observance)
- 10 October: Fiji Day (Independence Day)
- Oct/Nov: Diwali (Festival of Lights)
- 25 December: Christmas Day
- 26 December: Boxing Day
Fiji can be divided into nine groups of islands:
- Suva - the capital
- Nadi (pronounced 'Nandi')
- Nananu-i-Ra Island - off the northern coast of Viti Levu
- Ovalau - sixth largest island, part of the Lomaiviti group
Citizens of most countries will not need a visa. Most visitors are granted permits on arrival that last 4 months. All others will need a visa. The visitor permit may be extended for up to 2 additional months for a fee.
Nadi International Airport is Fiji's main international airport. Suva airport also has some international flights. Fiji Airways flies to Nadi directly from Los Angeles (LAX) and Honolulu (HNL) in the USA , as well as Hong Kong (HKG), Singapore (SIN) and many locations throughout the Pacific. Korean Air has three flights weekly between Nadi and Seoul . Air New Zealand operates flights to Nadi from Auckland , Christchurch , and seasonally from Wellington . As Nadi is a hub for flights to the other Pacific island nations, travellers heading to those countries will likely have to transit through Nadi.
Travel times from Australian cities vary. From Brisbane the flight to Fiji is approximately 3 hours and 40 minutes, from Sydney 4 hours and 30 mins and from Melbourne it is 5 hours and 30 minutes.
You can enter Fiji by boat from Australia through the Australia shore connection. Yachts must not stop at any island until they have clearance from Customs, Immigration, Health, and Biohazard officials. There are five official ports of entry in Fiji: Savusavu on Vanua Levu, Levuka on Ovalau, Suva and Lautoka on Viti Levu, and Oinafa on Rotuma.
Fiji has a variety of public transport options, including buses, "share taxis", and private taxis. Rates are very cheap: F$1-2 from Colo-i-Suva to Suva bus station by bus, F$17 from Nadi bus station to Suva by share-taxi (share-taxi's are usually white mini-vans that congregate and set-off when they reach their capacity of 6-8), or approximately F$80 from Suva airport to Sigatoka by private taxi. On the main road circling Viti Levu buses run every half hour and taxis are a substantial proportion of traffic, while on western Taveuni buses make only a few runs per day and very little traffic is present. If the taxi has a meter, ask the driver to switch it on - the ride will be lot cheaper than with the negotiated price.
The rate from resorts on Nadi beach to Nadi downtown is $8 per passenger, and $12 to the airport -- you should be able to negotiate this price reasonably easily.
While there is rarely much traffic present, most vehicles run on diesel and pollution on major roadways can be severe. A national speed limit of 80 km/h is usually observed; village speed limits are all but entirely ignored, but drivers slow down for several speed humps distributed within each village. Seat belts are advised on taxis but are rarely evident and apparently never used.
Road travel tends to be more dangerous than many people are used to, and many embassies advise their citizens to avoid pretty much any form of road travel. Pot holes, washouts and dilapidated bridges are commonplace. Buses are the best, unless you are truly comfortable and capable of renting and driving a car on your own - most people are not even if they think they are. Avoid travel at night, especially outside of urban areas. Another option is hop-on, hop-off bus passes which allow you to tour Fiji at your own pace for a fixed price. These are a more expensive way to travel but feature inclusions like tours and activities. However, some like Feejee Experience are limited to Viti Levu and trips to Beachcomber island and don't include the more remote islands.
South Sea Cruises operates daily inter-island ferry transfers throughout Fiji's Mamanuca Island resorts. Awesome Adventures Fiji provides daily ferry transfers out to the remote Yasawa Islands. Inter-island ferries are reasonably priced and the larger ones (especially those large enough to accommodate cars and trucks) have a good safety record, though they may be overcrowded at the beginning and end of school holiday periods. Ferries offer two or three classes (depending on the ship). Economy (F$65 pp on Suva-Taveuni route) is the cheapest option, but requires you to sleep on chairs or on the floor. Sleeper (F$104 pp, Suva-Taveuni) is dormitory-like accommodation. Cabin (F$135 pp on MV Suiliven, F$95 pp on SOFE, Suva-Taveuni) is not necessarily the best option, as the space is very limited, cabin can be shared (4 beds) and can have hordes of bugs.
Denarau Marina on Denarau Island is the gateway to the Mamanuca and Yasawa Island groups. This is where cruises and ferries servicing these islands operate from. Denarau island is connected to the mainland via a short bridge, and is 20 minutes from Nadi International Airport.
Do not attempt to take a car to another island unless you own it or have made clear special arrangements - most rental companies forbid it and they do prosecute tourists who violate this clause in the contract.
Bicycles are becoming more popular in Fiji for locals and tourists alike. In many ways, Fiji is an ideal place for a rugged bike tour. However, the motor vehicle traffic can be intimidating on well-travelled roads, and there is a lack of accommodation along secondary roads. Cycling is a great way to see Fiji but make sure you carry all your own spares and supplies as bike shops are scarce. It is a good idea to carry plenty of water, a camelbak is great, as it is very hot and humid almost year round.
The main road around the largest island, Viti Levu, is sealed except for a 40km section on the east side. A sturdy road, touring or hybrid bike is suitable.
Bike rental can be quite expensive comparing to other options: on Taveuni bike for full day costs F$25. With two persons the cost is similar to renting a car.
Fiji has three official languages, namely English, Fijian and Hindi
Fijian is the first language of the native Melanesian population, while a local variant of Hindi is mainly spoken by those of Indian descent. English is the lingua franca and medium of instruction in Fijian schools, and is widely spoken in the major cities and main tourist areas. Residents of some remote islands may not be fluent in English, so learning some Fijian phrases will come in handy when travelling to those areas.
Fiji's main attraction is its paradise-like nature, with perfect palm-lined beaches, blue waters and green inland hills. Making postcard-perfect pictures of your tropical holiday is a piece of cake when you're at the gorgeous sandy beaches of the Mamanuca Islands . The same is true for the Yasawas , where you can also dive for the dark limestone Sawa-i-Lau cave. Discover the sand dunes of the Sigatoka Valley, once used as a burial ground, or head deep into Viti Levu to see Fiji's inland wildlife at the beautiful and jungle-covered Kulu Eco Park. Join the masses at virtually any of the islands to dive under and be amazed by Fiji's under water beauty, or opt for a challenging hike along the ridges and through the dense rain forest of Bouma National Park, on Taveuni . Tall jungle trees, a colorful array of birds, waterfalls and volcanic peaks are just some of the
In short, the natural treasures alone are worth the trip, but this island nation does have a number of cultural sights to offer. There's the beautiful Garden of the Sleeping Giant on Nadi , once owned by famous actor Raymond Burr who lived here. It holds over 20 hectares full of orchids native to Fiji, many cultivated and exotic plants plus a lovely lily pond. Make a trip to one of the many villages to take part in a kava-ceremony or to see one of the many other remaining cultural traditions. Navala village (on Viti Levu ) still maintains its traditional bures, making it an excellent pick. For a deeper insight in the country's history and culture, the Fiji Museum on Suva is an excellent addition to your trip.
- Rugby union is the national sport, and even in the poorest villages, you can see children playing rugby in any open field available making use of plastic bottles or something similar as substitutes if they can't afford to buy an actual rugby ball. The ANZ stadium in Suva is Fiji's national stadium, and the Fijian national team typically performs a traditional war dance known as the cibi before every test match. Fiji contests the Pacific Nations Cup with the neighbouring countries of Tonga and Samoa , and regularly sends teams to the Rugby World Cup, having made the quarter finals twice. In addition to the traditional 15-a-side game, Fiji also regularly competes in rugby sevens, where it is the world's dominant team, having been the most successful team in the Hong Kong Sevens, as well as the winner of the gold medal at the inaugural rugby sevens tournament at the Olympics.
In Fiji the currency is the Fijian dollar, denoted by the symbol "F$" or "$" (ISO currency code: FJD). Bills include: $2, $5, $10, $20, $50. Coins include: 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, $1, and a $2 coin.
In Fiji, tipping is virtually non-existent. This includes no tipping to taxis, hotels, bellpersons, restaurants, etc. However, at most all-inclusive resorts and amongst the scuba diving operations, they have a "Christmas Box" where you can donate money that is shared equally amongst all the staff at Christmas time.
Inflation in Fiji is relatively high - it has increased an estimated 12% per year recently. Expect to pay prices similar to those of Australia in tourist regions.
Be aware when going to local markets, often some of the stall holders family will be outside on the lookout for travellers, and will escort the travellers inside using the guise of "getting the best bargains". Once inside they, and their relatives who own the stall, can become quite aggressive if the traveller does not buy their products. Be firm, tell them that you will report them to the authorities if they do not leave you alone. They will quickly change their tone and back down.
Also be aware of small travel counters acting as travel agents, even in some hotels, or on wharves where boats pull in. They may not be accredited, or may be an outright scam. While tourist police have been created to assist tourists in such predicaments, time restraints may restrict tourists ability to retrieve monies. Ask resort managers, or check out http://www.fijime.com for more advice.
Locals eat in the cafes and small restaurants that are found in every town. The food is wholesome, cheap, and highly variable in quality. What you order from the menu is often better than what comes out of the glass display case, except for places that sell a lot of food quickly and keep putting it out fresh. Fish and Chips are usually a safe bet, and are widely available. Many cafes serve Chinese food of some sort along with Indian and sometimes Fiji-style fish, lamb, or pork dishes. Near the airport, a greater variety of food is found, including Japanese and Korean.
Local delicacies include fresh tropical fruits (they can be found at the farmer's market in any town when in season), paulsami (baked taro leaves marinated in lemon juice and coconut milk often with some meat or fish filling and a bit of onion or garlic), kokoda (fish or other seafood marinated in lemon and coconut milk), and anything cooked in a lovo or pit oven. Vutu is a local variety of nut mainly grown on the island of Beqa , but also available in Suva and other towns around January and February. A great deal of food is cooked in coconut milk, take note that everyone reacts different to increased fat levels in their diet.
Take care when ordering chicken meals. Very often the chicken will come cut into one-bite pieces, but with all the bones left, so it's quite easy to choke on sharp bone. When uncertain, always ask for boneless chicken meal.
A customary dish in Fiji includes a starch, relishes and drink. Starches common in Fijian meals include taro, yams, sweet potatoes, or manioc but can include breadfruit, bananas, and nuts. The relishes include meat, fish, seafood, and vegetables. Drinks include coconut milk but water is most prevalent.
A very popular drink in Fiji is yaqona ("yang-go-na"), also known as "kava " and sometimes referred to as "grog" by locals. Kava is a peppery, earthy tasting drink made from the root of the pepper plant (piper methysticum). Its effects include a numbed tongue and lips (usually lasting only about 5-10 minutes) and relaxed muscles. Kava is mildly intoxicating, especially when consumed in large quantities or on a regular basis and one should avoid taxi and other drivers who have recently partaken.
Kava drinking in Fiji became popular during the fall of cannibalism, and originated as a way to resolve conflict and facilitate peaceful negotiations between villages. It should not be consumed alongside alcohol.
Most Fiji travel agents will take a 'deposit' along with your booking, which is a commission usually between 15 and 20%. Since this is an up-front payment, it is often beneficial to only book one night initially, and then you may be able to negotiate a lesser rate for subsequent nights (if space is available).
Many smaller and simpler accommodations have "local rates" and can give discounts that are simply huge if you can book a room in person (or have a local do it for you) and give a legitimate local address and phone number. In the Suva area, the Raffles Tradewinds is nice and quiet and about a dollar by frequently running buses from central down town. Sometimes upon arrival at the airport in Nadi, you can stop at the Raffles Gateway across from the airport entrance and book a room at the Tradewinds at a good local rate if business is slow.
Suva has become a desirable destination for conventions, meetings and events. With so many exciting off-site activities so close to the hotel, options for a unique and rewarding event are endless.
Nadi is the hub of tourism for the Fiji Islands. You can get all the resources you need to explore your lodging options, hotels and resorts, activities and trips and tours. Nadi is a thriving community with many things to explore and experience. There is also a number of local activities and places to see when you are in Nadi as well.
Lautoka is Fiji's second largest city. The real charm of this dry western side of the island is the mountain ranges inland from Nadi and Lautoka. Koroyanitu National Park offers hiker overnight adventure through the semi-rainforest,waterfalls and small villages. Tours to the Garden of the Sleeping Giant are also very popular for the different ornamental orchids together with forest walks through botanical wonders.
Most crime takes place in Suva and Nadi away from the resort areas. The best advice is to stick to hotel grounds after dark, and to use extreme caution in Suva, Nadi and other urbanised areas after nightfall. Travelers have been victims of violent crime, particularly in Suva. Travelers have reported the regularity of petty robberies, muggings, and also home-invasions/rape, etc. You will notice the predominance of bars on most peoples' homes. Economic and ethnic strife has led to a low-level hum of violent crime. Some resorts and hotels have more extensive security measures than others which should be taken into account.
Muggings are often carried out by large groups of men so being in a group won't necessarily be a deterrent. Police forces sometimes have difficulties responding to crime, potentially for reasons as mundane as being unable to pay for petrol.
Fijian culture encourages sharing and sometimes small things like shoes will be "borrowed". Often by speaking with the village chief it can be arranged to get things returned.
Fiji is still run by a military government, following a coup in December 2006. Although its effect has not been prominent in the resort areas of Nadi, it has led to economic decline, and a decrease in the rule of law. Journalists may be blacklisted for political reasons. Those whose employment involves reporting controversial political activities should take extra care to ensure that their visas are in order before visiting Fiji.
Fiji is relatively free of disease compared to most of the tropics. Avoid mosquito-borne illnesses, such as dengue fever and even elephantiasis by covering up thoroughly or using repellents while outdoors at dawn or dusk. Local water is generally safe, though filtering or boiling is advisable when unsure. Urban tap water is treated and nearly always safe. When exceptions occasionally arise, there are public warnings or radio and print media warnings. Contaminated food is uncommon, though on occasion, mature reef fish can contain mild neurotoxins they accumulate in their bodies from freshwater algaes that wash into the ocean. The effects of such "fish-poisoning" are usually intense for only a day or two, but tingling lips and unusual sensitivities to hot and cold can linger for a long time.
Drownings are common, and automobile and other motor vehicle accidents (often involving animals or pedestrians) are very common. Local emergency medical care is very good on the basics in urban areas. Expect long waits in government-run clinics and hospitals. Treatment for serious conditions often requires an evacuation to New Zealand or Australia. Even the most basic medical care is usually not available outside of urban areas.
Fiji, like most of the South Pacific, can have intense solar radiation that can cause severe skin-burns in a short amount of time. Be sure to use hats, sunglasses and liberal amounts of high-SPF value sunblock on ALL exposed skin (including ears, noses and tops-of-feet) when out in the sun. On top of that tropical boils are a common inconvenience in Fiji, this can be avoided by giving those sweaty sections of the body a soapy scrub more than once a day.
Fiji, like many Pacific Island states, has a strong Christian moral society; having been colonised and converted to Protestantism by missionaries during the 19th century. Do not be surprised if shops and other businesses are closed on Sunday. The Sabbath starts at 6PM the day before, and some businesses celebrate the Sabbath on a Saturday instead of a Sunday. Many Indians are Hindu or Muslim.
Also, dress modestly and appropriately. While Fiji is a tropical country, beach-wear should be confined to the beach. Take your cues from the locals as to what they consider appropriate dress for the occasion. When visiting towns and villages, you should be sure to cover your shoulders and wear shorts or sulus (sarongs) that cover your knees (both genders). This is especially true for visiting a church, although locals will often lend you a sulu for a church visit.
There is no nudist/naturalist or topless bathing in Fiji.
Public phones are numerous and usually easy to find (look around shops). All phones are prepaid - you must first purchase scrape-off code card (F$5, F$10 or more nominals). Calling is done by calling card issuer center, entering the code (found on the card) and entering the destination number. Foreign call to Europe is approx. F$1 per minute.
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. It is much cheaper than resort Wi-Fi, and speed is reasonable with the connections in the tourist areas. In July 2013, these were the Vodafone data-package prices:
- 200 Mb (24 hour validity): F$1.49
- 500 Mb (1 week validity): F$4.99
- 2000 Mb (1 month validity): F$25
- 4000 Mb (1 month validity): F$45
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