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Enjoy your travels in the Polynesian Islands!
On this page, you will find some BASIC TIPS for traveling in French Polynesia, Tahiti and her surrounding islands.
They address some of the more commonly encountered situations many travelers may experience on the islands, and hopefully help answer the most frequently asked questions of us at the TAHITI SUN TRAVEL Network.
The majority of these tips are shared by actual travelers having had direct experience with
many situations in and around the islands, and serve to compliment our already informative network pages.
They are here as a helpful guide for you, and to be considered only as such. They are not to be followed religiously.
As with all traveling, one must always think logically and use your own common
sense when it comes to making decisions abroad...
General Tips for FRENCH POLYNESIA:
Money goes fast in Tahiti and ALL the islands! Third ranked only to Switzerland, then Japan, French Polynesia has the next highest cost of living in the world, and if you haven't experienced it, it can be quite disconcerting. It really takes planning and a little self discipline if you want to live within your means, otherwise when you get home,
you're going to be looking at a stiff credit card bill!
Some thoughts: If you've got a lot of money: Just go have fun! Buy whatever
you want, stay wherever looks good, and eat where you want... Don't skimp because
livin' it up in Tahiti is good fun!
If you've got limited amounts of money: Try and restrain yourself when
it comes to random purchases. Stay out of the hotel gift shops! Support local
artists or craftspeople when you can. When you rent a car, get a "Panda",
not a Honda... Stay at mid-range Pensions or family run accomodations, as opposed
to the top end luxury resorts... Eat at the road side "trucks", or
smaller restaurants, or shop at the grocery stores. (The Supermercados- really,
the cheapest way to go...) Also, don't be afraid to ask to see a menu's prices
before committing... eat lots of baguette.
Lastly, if you're really poor, broke, or super worried about spending money: Don't go to French Polynesia!
Very wise to bring at least one... Not only will it give you peace of mind in case you've not
properly managed your cash flow, but it comes in handy time after time. Most hotels want an imprint (deposit) from your card. Car Rentals, Activities, etc, also will usually ask for your cards imprint (they dont charge it, unless you run off).
By having a credit card, your cash stays more handy. Thats a good thing...
Also, another MAJOR benefit to using your card is that you get a way better exchange rate on purchases, including cash draws from the bank if you need one. (See the next note on exchange rate for more details.)
Exchange Rate & Changing Money
The exchange rate between Pacific Francs and US dollars is ROUGHLY 100 xpf (otherwise known as cfp, or French Pacific Francs) for every 1 US dollar. The EXACT rate varies from day to day and can be found by clicking here.
Note on quick figuring (for the American dollar): One way to quickly figure the exchange is to drop a zero and divide by 10 in your head, although this seems to confuse some people. Others bring calculators... The thing to know is with the information on this page you should be able to figure out any exchange in your own way if you know the current banking rate. Once you get used to it, it's pretty easy.
(Note: Our linking conversion table lists just about every type of currency in the world. If you live in a country that's actually NOT on our conversion table's list, we don't know what to tell you, except to suggest comparing your currency with the US dollar or the Euro, since thats the only types of currency accepted in French Polynesia other than the Franc.)
Obviously, the thing to try and do is get the best exchange rate for your dollars, no matter where you're from, BEFORE you travel, or you'll have to take whatever rates the banks in Papeete hand out. (Papeete banks offer better rates than the outer islands.)
Surprisingly, the airport exchange booth offers good rates of transfer... (at least in LAX it does, where the majority of flights to French Poly originate from). Get some of your bucks exchanged at your local bank, or the airport. If you have time to make the calls, find out who's giving more.
When in Tahiti, the banks will be competitive with each other, and possibly
a little worse (?) than your bank at home. This all depends on random things
concerning banking and daily exchange rates.
Most important to know is this:
THE HOTELS WILL ALL CHANGE MONEY FOR YOU, BUT THEY CHARGE A LOT FOR THE SERVICE. Avoid them if you can...
Also, good to know is: Credit
card purchases you make in Tahiti offer REALLY GOOD EXCHANGE RATES! - Even better than your banks', so if you don't have a fear of using your credit card, this is a great way to go. (Just be sure and pay your card back asap when you
The last cool tip on saving money is to take advantage of our TAHITI EZ PRINT COUPONS. They actually work. Remember: French Polynesians don't "negotiate" or barter with their published prices... These coupons are worth cold, hard cash!
*For a quick glance at our coupon participants, go here now!
Telephone Cards & Phone Calls
Fortunately, making telephone calls on Tahiti's Islands is pretty easy and inexpensive! The french phone companies have developed a rather good public system: Dispersed in good numbers throughout the islands are phone booths utilizing a unique "card system".
Just insert your card into the slot, and you can easily call island to island for local rates (inexpensive). You won't have to know french, or bang your head on the booth wall trying to connect to an operator you don't understand...
Just about all hotels and many businesses, (and randomly placed along main roads), have a phone for you to use utilizing this card system.
GET YOUR PHONE CARDS AT THE POST OFFICES FOR THE BEST DEALS! This is where they are officially distributed. Hotels and businesses will all sell you cards, but you'll pay more. CARD PRICES are organized by different time allotments.
Standard (post office rates) are 60 minutes for 2,000 cfp (around 20.00), or you can
opt for less minutes for less cash.
Ahhh, the dreaded Mosquitos....the insect we all love to hate... and Tahiti and all her islands all have to share! (and other little biters too). Yes, its true, but it depends on where you are of course.
They are no worse here than other areas of the world, they only "seem" worse because they're often reminding you
that even "paradise" isn't perfect- and how dare they mess with your perfect vacation in paradise!? The coastlines help because of the breezes.
Anytime the wind blows you're basically allright. Stay away from the jungles if you're tender. Bring lots of Mosquito repellent. Avon's "Skin So Soft" lotion works good, and doesn't make you smell like a toxic waste dump...
If you're going camping, just prepare for them like any other backpacker would, make sure your tent zipper works good, and deal with them... The locals are used to them and don't even use repellent. They seem to accept them for what they are: biting little pests that are part of the fabric of life. They burn
a lot of incensce!
It seems there is really no "good or bad season" for these little buggers, but if anybody knows differently, please inform us of your insect knowledge.
Papeete City Tips:
In a word, undependable. (sometimes easy, and sometimes impossible, you can never really tell whats going to happen when you stick your thumb out: this is just fair warning...)
Around Papeete, Ive been stuck
on the road many hours, car after car driving by... sweating and soaking in the exhaust fumes, and at other times I've been picked up immediately. The same pattern holds true throughout the islands, it seems, but the smaller and more remote the island, the better luck you will have for sure.
Perhaps one positive way to look at the situation is that if you try and hitchhike, and you DON'T get picked up, you will end up walking
more and observing more of what you would miss in a vehicle...
As long as
you look at it this way, then go ahead and stick out your thumb! For more
specific thoughts on hitchhiking the individual islands, go to the "getting
here" section of your desired island and bone up on the reading.
SHOPPING AND BANKING:
Papeete virtually SHUTS DOWN ALL BUSINESSES (except restaurants and bars on the waterfront) AT AROUND NOON TO 2:00 PM ON SATURDAYS! SUNDAYS ARE CLOSED TIGHT.
Weekday hours are roughly 8am - 6pm. (This also holds true with other towns and villages throughout the outer islands).
It's important to do all your banking and business during the week or before noon on Saturday. THIS INCLUDES BANKING!
Don't get caught with your pants
down- having to exchange money at some luxury hotel just to eat a meal!
What to Pack & Why
Go light... French Polynesia is pretty warm, most of the time, even when its raining... Read the South Pacific Weather section to find more details of how your season is, but don't bring suitcases full of sweaters and jackets.
I (TST founder) personally recommend: Light pants, cotton or hemp blends if possible,
a few pairs of shorts, and some light button up shirts or T-shirts. Bring one sweatshirt (Ok, 2 - if you're really cold blooded), a pair of sweatpants
for evening wear, and a few nice items for "going out" or sprucing up for a meeting. (Aside from a few luxury hotels and snuffity government
businesses, most Tahitians dress casual most of the time) Sandals or light shoes will do you right for footware.
Other things to bring are: sunglasses, swimming trunks and bathing suit, towel, sunhat, sunblock, and mosquito repellent. If you're a surfer or avid snorkeler, bring your own mask and a pair of reef shoes...
Note: If you're going on a sailing trip, you might want to pack a raincoat
and some extra warm things. The open water winds are a bit more chilling.
SUMMARY THOUGHT: Go light on the heavy clothes, or you'll
end up dragging around a bunch you'll never wear. Tahiti is tropical.
(Also note: Tahiti is not so remote as to not be able to ADD clothing to your bag, should the need arise- via the meeting of your wallet with a store - of which there are plenty...)
The climate on the island of Tahiti and the city of Papeete is considered TROPICAL and can be divided into two basic seasons: the wet season and the dry season.
Read the South Pacific Weather section to
find out the details of these two basic seasons.
Renting & Booking Cars
Without a doubt, having a car on the any island in Polynesia is a good thing. (except for the Tuamotus which are so small and comprised of tiny motus that you won't really need one.)
Cars offer you the most freedom and convenience to get around and see and do what you want when you want to see and do it! You'll pay for the convenience, but it's worth it if you factor in your time and the quality of your stay.
Depending on the season, AVAILABILITY of rental cars can be an issue. Even in the "off" season, it is a good idea to pre-arrange a rental car before landing on any island if you possibly can. Your hotel can do this for you if remind them when you book your room, or you can make the arrangements yourself by calling or faxing ahead. (Upon inquiry, all rental car offices CLAIM to answer and confirm their fax reservations, but this isn't always so easy to do.)
In most cases, even without pre-booking a reservation, a car will be available to you, but don't take it for granted, as you may end up looking at a scooter as your next best option...
Enjoy Your Travels throughout all the Society Islands
An Internetwork of Travel and Tourism Guides
for the Main Islands of Tahiti Polynesia
An interactive bulletin
board covering a diverse array of Tahitian subjects.
Ask questions, get advice, meet people, be crazy!
It's fun, easy, and informative!
Check out our online
store for the most interesting Polynesian products on
guides, maps, Polynesian music, videos, gifts,
pareos, soaps, oils, lotions, perfumes & clothing
are just a few of the items available.
Find out Who's Who and Where - On the Tahiti Sun Travel Network.
Also, are they a Coupon Program participant?
We have many different linking members throughout our
pages and are adding more regularly...
This handy quick reference saves time when you don't have
time to explore the network. (Members are listed alphabetically
and categorized per/ island site.)