FAQs and Travel Tips
Tonga, officially the Kingdom of Tonga (Pule′ Fakatu′i ′o Tonga), is an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, comprised of 169 islands, 36 of them inhabited. The Kingdom stretches over a distance of about 800 kilometers (500 miles) in a north-south line located at about a third of the distance from New Zealand to Hawaii.
There are 3 flights to Tonga from the US on Air Pacific departing from Los Angeles (LAX) via Nadi, Fiji (10 hrs) and then a change of planes for the approximate 1 hr. flight to Nuku′alofa, Tonga.
Air New Zealand has daily flights from London to Los Angeles with a once a week connection from Los Angeles to Tonga.
Virtually anytime, Tonga has a year-round tropical climate. But there are "seasons" and regions to consider. November to April is generally considered "summer". (Remember Tonga is the Southern Hemisphere but not so far below the equator that there are drastic temperature variances). Temperatures and humidity tend to be higher (85-92F), especially in the lush tropical rainforests of the northern islands, From May to October the climate is generally milder (75-82F) and drier.
Yes. However, you don't need special shots for Tonga, as there are no major epidemics or infectious diseases. The drinking water is purified at hotels and restaurants and there is bottled water available to take on the road or when visiting remote areas. And there are no predatory animals in the islands. The worst things you might suffer are toasty sunburn or some "mossie" (mosquito) bites.
But accidents due happen and it is best to be covered rather than maxing your credit card on overseas medical treatment. Tonga has medical facilities with clinics in all principal cities and towns. The farther you go from principal cities, the more basic the services available.
As a US citizen, you will need a passport that is valid for six months beyond your departure from Tonga and a ticket for return or onward travel to another country, for which you are authorized to enter.
Visitors from most countries including New Zealand, UK, USA and Australia may enter Tonga without a visa for a period no longer than 31 days. Visitors from some countries do require a visa however and it is always best to make those enquiries from your travel agent or contact the Tongan Immigration Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (676) 26 696 or (676) 26 970.
The country is nick-named the "Friendly Islands" which should give you a broad hint at the demeanor of the people. The pace is can best be described as "relaxed".
Tongan is the official language of the Kingdom, although English is widely spoken by most Tongans.
You are allowed 2 pieces of luggage not exceeding 23kgs (58lbs) and one small carry-on bag not exceeding 4 kgs (10 lbs). For those flying business class, you are allowed an extra 10kgs on luggage.
The reason to mention the luggage requirements is NOT to over pack for Tonga, especially if you flying within the country. Luggage allowances on domestic airlines are limited generally to 15kgs (33 lbs). You will have to store excess luggage (which can done at the Nuku'alofa airport or your hotel) or pay overage charges.
Generally casual, however evening dining may require shoes and something slightly more formal than beachwear. Skimpy beachwear is frowned on outside the resorts, on local beaches or in towns. It is respectable to wear modest clothes in towns and rural areas. If you are invited to enter a village, proper etiquette dictates both men and women covering the shoulders and not wear hats. If the sun is strong, this rule is generally passed on for tourists. Be advised to take an all purpose wind/rain jacket and reef shoes for walking on the corals and hot sand. You’d be surprised at the number of water landings you will be doing. Ladies would do best travelling with casual summer eveningwear. And gentlemen, one pair of linen or summer dress slacks and the ubiquitous floral island shirt will suffice any occasion.
- Suntan lotion (SPF30+)
- Head covering(we'll leave it to you as to style but your protection and comfort should come first.
- Insect repellant (If you prefer a special brand. If not, you can get some in Tonga formulated for tropical environments).
- Flip–flops or the previously mentioned water shoes (i.e. Tevas)
- Most of you will be forgiven for being "snap happy" with the gorgeous Tongan scenery. So make sure you have plenty of batteries and memory cards for digital photography or video cameras, as they will be either overpriced or not readily available.
- If snorkelling, you’ll want to bring your own mask.
- For diving, bring your own regulator and dive certification card.
Electricity is 240 volts AC/50 cycles. Most modern appliances such as mobile phones, computers, etc. have internal dual voltage. So you will only need a twin prong adapter with round poles. Buy a set, with converter, before you leave the US if you are intending to use any other devices.
Tonga has two major telcos, Tonga Communications Corporation TCC and Digicel Tonga. Both offer satellite connection, email, fax, telephone and mobile phone services.
The Tongan dollar is the Pa′anga and comes in $1,$2,$5,$10,$20,$50 & $100 dollar denominations. While most major credit cards are accepted in Tonga and there are over 200 EFTPOS outlets, it is important to note that Tonga is essentially a cash society and all visitors should make sure they have sufficient funds to pay for services.
There are no credit or EFTPOS facilities to pay for excess baggage at the domestic airports for example and many cafés and guest houses only accept cash. Also Taxi drivers often claim not to have change, so small denomination notes are a good idea.
Main centers have banking and money exchange facilities provided by ANZ, Westpac, Western Union, Moneygram and Meli–mei–langi. There are also numerous ATM machines in the town centers.
You will arrive at Fua′amotu International Airport. Located near Nuku′alofa, the airport is modern and efficient, catering for international flights from Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Samoa and the USA.
- For those entering the country, you will proceed directly to the arrivals hall to clear passport control, then to luggage claim.
- You are allowed to bring in 2 liters of alcohol and as much money as you want. Amateur still and video cameras are fine but if you are bringing in professional grade equipment, have a copy of receipts and registration numbers.
Tongatapu's domestic airport is located alongside Fua′amotu International Airport and from there Chathams Pacific, Tonga's domestic airline flies to Pilolevu Airport in the Ha′apai group and Lupepau′u Airport in the Vava′u group. They also operate flights to Tongatapu's neighbouring island of ′Eua. This flight (7 minutes) is reported to be the shortest commercial flight in the world.
Rental cars are another popular way to get around Tonga and there are a number of companies operating rental fleets in Tonga. A Tongan visitor driver's license can be easily obtained from the Ministry of Transport in Nuku′alofa and is required for all drivers in Tonga. Tongan's drive on the left hand side of the road and the speed limits are generally low compared with Europe or the USA.
Tipping is not expected in Tonga but is always appreciated as a reward for good service.
Tonga's businesses operate Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30pm and on Saturday fro 8:30am to 12 noon. It is important to note that all businesses are closed on Sundays. This includes most cafés and bars. Food, however, is available in hotels and resorts.