The Pacific Islands boast an intriguing mix of people, religion and cultures encompassing 13 island nations and a population of just over 6 million. The exact number of islands is almost incomprehensible: Fiji alone comprises over 300. The warm waters around many of the islands make for some of the best diving in the world with beautiful coral reefs teeming with aquatic life and the occasional second world war shipwreck to explore. Inland, you can trek through lush tropical rainforests, or visit bubbling active volcanoes. Many traditional cultures and practices such as ‘shell money’ or ‘kava drinking’ have survived in various forms to the present day. Some such as cannibalism and headhunting have long since disappeared, but the stories and legends live on. Today, the people of the Pacific Islands are welcoming and friendly.
Throughout the Pacific Islands, the best time to visit is winter. This is somewhere between May and October depending on the region. During this time it’s cooler and less humid than the summers. Tropical cyclones may occur between November to April.
Dress codes can be quite strict especially in the less touristy islands. Casual light summer clothes such as shorts and T-shirts are ideal, although very short shorts and halter necks for example are seen as inappropriate. Women should wear a skirt long enough to cover their legs when they’re seated.
Staple foods of the Pacific Islands include root crops such as Cassava, Taro and Yams. Coconuts are plentiful and, in season, so are guava, pineapples, mangoes and other fresh fruits. Kava, a drink made from crushed pepper roots, is made throughout all the islands, and plays an important part in traditional ceremonies.
The official language is English although Fijian dialects are spoken by the indigenous population and Fiji-Hindi is spoken by the Indian population.
English is the official language although Pijin English is probably more widely spoken. There are also 67 official indigenous languages in the solomon islands, although around 10 of these have less than 200 speakers.
Pijin English called ‘Bislama’ is most widely spoken but there are also more than 100 indigenous languages. French and English are also spoken. Vanuatu has the highest concentration of different languages per head of population than any other country in the world.
Currency is the Fijian dollar
$1 US = 2.4 Fijian dollar
1 Euro = 2 Fijian dollars
Check with your local currency exchange bureau for up to date information.For up to date currency information, check the Currency Converter.
Fiji is one of the least expensive countries in the south pacific. If you are on a tight budget, you can probably get by on US$ 30-40 a day, although the island caters well for tourists and there’s lots to spend your money on if you want.
Currency is the Solomon Islands Dollar although banks call it the SBD from when it used to be called the Solomons British Dollar. In the capital, Honiara, you can get by on as little as US$15 a day if you stay in self-catering accommodation.
Vanuatu isn’t cheap. Even on a tight budget, staying in hostels, eating in markets and walking rather than taking taxis, you will need around US$60 a day. To live comfortably, you will need US$ 100 – 120.
Most nationalities will be given a four week tourist visa on arrival although it is necessary to have either a return on onward ticket.
Nationals of commonwealth countries, European Union, Fiji, Norway, Philippines, South Korea Switzerland and USA do not need visas, but all other nationalities do.
Most nationalities do not need a visa and will be granted the right to stay for 3 months on arrival.
If you’re very hard up for time but not for cash, you can fly between the islands. Otherwise, regular and reliable ferries travel between the islands offering a great way to meet the locals. The larger islands also have good bus networks.
By air is by far the best way to get around. Prices vary between US$ 10 to US$100 depending on distance. Ferries can be unpredictable and fares can vary so shop around.
Island hopping is perhaps best done by flying as the passenger boats tend to be irregular. On the islands, mini buses are frequent but do not follow a time table, you simple have to flag them down. Cars, 4WDs and jeeps can be hired relatively easily.
By Susi O’Neill
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