Visitor Information for Tonga

Visitors to Tonga don’t need a visa for a stay of up to 30 days but do require a return or onward ticket and have six months validity on their passport. Stay up to six months can be arranged but there are heavy penalties for people who overstay their visas.

You don’t need vaccinations against exotic tropical diseases but you should take a small first aid kit containing hydrogen peroxide in case of coral cuts and take medical insurance. While there are doctors and hospitals (Nuku’alofa), you shouldn’t travel anywhere without insurance. You can take wood carvings and handicrafts like tapa home with you, as long as you present them at Customs for inspection. While you can find good tapa in handicraft shops, listen for rhythmic pounding sounds coming from villages. This will be someone preparing tapa cloth with a mallet and you should be able to purchase directly from women in the village.

The climate is hot and can be humid but a jacket or long sleeves are recommended for the evenings when it can get cool. While historically November to March is the ‘wet’ season, over the last couple of years El Nino has sort of reversed the seasons. Yes, there can be cyclones but they come, they go and they are part of the tropics (even in Australia).

The official currency of Tonga is Tongan Pa’anga (also called the Tongan dollar). Australian and New Zealand currency is also widely accepted. The exchange rate is excellent but don’t bring local currency home as most banks won’t accept it. Major credit cards are accepted and there are ATM’s at the airport and outside the banks.

Here are a few things that may swing you to choosing Tonga over other Pacific destinations:

  • There are now direct flights from Sydney and Auckland and it is a very inexpensive destination once you arrive.
  • While the beaches, lagoons and scenery are stunning – just what you imagine the tropics to be – the rich traditional culture, history and welcoming people make it somewhere truly special.
  • ‘Island time’ is infectious – while things may happen slowly it’s this atmosphere that really makes you unwind – as they say, ‘the coconut will fall when it is ripe!’
  • In Tonga you will find the whitest sand beaches next to that impossible-to-paint blue-green waters.
  • Nuku’alofa has good restaurants and vibrant nightlife.
  • There are some terrific flight/accommodation packages and the exchange rate works in your favour.
  • Great snorkelling, diving, deep-sea fishing is close at hand and it is one of the best places to get up close and personal with whales (in season).
  • It’s a safe place with few hassles – you won’t be badgered by souvenir or copy watch vendors beating down a price – there’s no haggling or tipping in Polynesian culture.

It is best to remember, however, not to leave things unattended. Theft happens – not normally through malice but simply because the concept of individual ownership of material goods is not totally accepted.

If you like travelling with a guidebook Moon Handbooks South Pacific, written by David Stanley, is an excellent publication. Visit the Tonga section of David’s website, The South Pacific Organiser.