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Cook Islands Survival Kit
ABOUT THE COOK ISLANDS
The culture of the Cook Islands stems from the Polynesians, who migrated there around 800AD. There are 15 islands that make up the chain, and they are located in the center of the Polynesian Triangle. To the west lie the islands of Fiji and the Kingdom of Tonga, to the east you will find the islands of French Polynesia, and to the south-west is New Zealand.
Considered one the best kept secrets of the South Pacific, the Cook Islands have all the beauty of its better known neighbors, Tahiti and Fiji, as well as all the necessary factors required to host tourists of all types.
Cook Islanders are considered among the finest Polynesian singers and dancers and awards come often in international contests. Unlike most Western dancers, Polynesians tell a story with their bodies that matches the words of the song. Cook Islands dancing is fast, frenzied and erotic, with hip swinging and suggestive gestures.
The Cook Islands enjoy a pleasantly warm and sunny climate all year round. June to August are the cooler months, whilst November to March marks the warmer season, with occasional tropical showers expected. The drier months from April to November have an average temperature of about 78.8°F, whilst the warmer, more humid and damp season runs from December to March. During this season the temperature ranges between 71.2°F and 82.4°F.
No duty is levied on clothing or personal effects (including sports equipment). In addition, each visitor may bring the following items, free of duty, into the Cook Islands: 200 cigarettes or up to ½ pound (1 kg) of tobacco or up to 50 cigars, 2 litres of spirit or wine or 41/2 litres of beer.
Goods with total value of up to NZ$250 are not open to duties, however goods in excess of NZ$250 are liable to duty.
Fruits and plants are not allowed into the country. You are permitted to bring frozen food, canned food and vacum packed products. These must be declared to Customs on arrival. If not declared, Customs have the right to confiscated any items/products.
Upon departure all visitors will be charged the following taxes:
Adults NZ$30, Children under 12 years NZ$15, Children 2 years and under are free of charge. This must be paid upon departure, and is not included as part of prepaid taxes with airline tickets.
Driving is on the left hand side of the road. Drivers of all vehicles are required to have a current Cook Islands Drivers Licence available from the Police Station in Avarua on presentation of your own licence. Cost NZ$10.
Voltage is 220 AC/50 cycle, the same as New Zealand and Australia. In some cases, a two pin adapter may be required. Some hotels and motels have provisions for 110 volt AC electric razors. Although some visitors prefer to boil water before use, it is not necessary.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS / VISAS
A bona-fide visitor (any person who enters the Cook Islands solely for recreation or vacation/holiday), does not require an entry permit, provided he/she possesses proof of onward passage (booked and paid) for stays of not more than 31 days. Extension permits are usually granted for visitors wanting to stay over 31 days.
All visitors are required to have a valid passport, proof of onward passage, adequate financial means of supporting stay, and suitable accommodation.
Applications can be made upon arrival at the Immigration Department. Extensions are granted on a monthly basis, up to 5 additional months only.
A fee is payable with each application within 14 days prior to the expiration of the permit. Extensions are granted at two levels. Up to three months NZ$70 (15 years and older), up to five months NZ$120 (15 years and older). Children under 15 years of age are exempt from charges but must report to Immigration for official paperwork to be completed.
For those wanting to stay in the Cook Islands longer than 6 months, must apply for a visa from their home territory, prior to their arrival in the Cook Islands.
Please direct applications to:
Principal Immigration Officer
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration
PO Box 105
Rarotonga Ph: (682) 29347
COOK ISLANDS Fax: (682) 21247
FLYING TIMES TO COOK ISLANDS
Flights leave from Los Angeles via Tahiti. Time to Tahiti is 9 hours, then another 2 hours from Tahiti to Rarotonga.
Please note that flights out of Los Angeles to the Cook Islands do not leave every day.
Restaurants range from high class to friendly island style' cafe restaurants. The food selection includes superb international cuisine through to the old favourites - Chinese, Italian and Continental. Much of the food used in restaurants comes from New Zealand and is flown in fresh or frozen, Generally fresh local vegetables are used, as well as seafood. Most restaurants have their own fish suppliers and what is on the menu will reflect the catch of the day. The main fish on the menu will be tuna, mahi mahi (dolphin fish) and parrot fish. Another seafood specialty is curried octopus. Along with fresh fish and vegetables, visitors should sample the tantalising tropical fruits. Even if you don't try the fruit at night, you will find pineapples, pawpaw (papaya) and bananas make a delicious breakfast. The overall quality), and presentation of food in the Cook Islands is very high, and a variety of international dishes are available.
GOODS AND SERVICES TAX
All taxes are included in prices.
A range of medical and dental services are available on Rarotonga. This includes a hospital and emergency services, as well as an optometrist. Various pharmacies are available for prescription medicine.
The first settlers to the Cook Islands were Polynesians who arrived about 800AD from Raiatea, in what is now French Polynesia. They came in great double hulled canoes, navigating by using familiar stars and wave movements and temperature. These colonizers were believed to have been the last wave of the Polynesian Migration from Asia that began in 1500BC. Pukapuka in the north was the first island discovered by Europeans, sighted by the Spaniard Captain Alvaro de Mendana on August 20, 1595.
There was no further European contact for over 150 years until the voyages of Captain James Cook of the British Admiralty, for whom the 15 island group was eventually named. But despite being the namesake of the group, Captain James Cook noted in his diaries that he personally went ashore only on uninhabited Palmerston Island. The Cook Islands was named Hervey's Isles after a Lord of the Admiralty until 1824, when the Russian cartographer Von Krusentstern changed the name to honor James Cook, who had been killed in Hawaii in 1779. The famed Reverend John Williams of the London Missionary Society landed in Aitutaki in 1821 and in Rarotonga in 1823, and succeeded in converting the natives to Christianity.
The Cook Islands have two official languages, Maori and English.
The slow-paced and laid-back lifestyle of the South Pacific is probably in its truest form here in the Cook Islands. With hoards of tourists being less common, it makes for an even more relaxing atmosphere for the local people and fortunate visitors alike. In general the local Cook Islanders have similar lifestyles to other Polynesian’s, but of course they have their own customs and traditions.
MONEY & BANKING
The denomination of currency used in the Cook Islands is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD). The Westpac and ANZ Banks in Avarua are open Monday to Friday 9:00am – 3:00pm. In addition visitors can exchange travellers cheques and principal currencies at larger stores and hotels.Banking facilities are also provided at the airport for currency exchange and cashing of travellers cheques. They are open for the arrival and departure of all International flights. Major credit cards are accepted throughout the island at most shops, and restaurants. ANZ have recently installed an ATM machine. EFTPOS facilities are becoming more widespread throughout local businesses and cash advances on major credit cards are accepted.
- Cook Islanders are considered some of the best dancers of all the South Pacific Islands. They often win international competitions, and can be seen performing at many different locations within the islands.The islands to the north are mostly sandy atolls with stunning coral lagoons. In contrast, the islands to the south, including Rarotonga, are mostly volcanic islands with surrounding coral reefs and white sandy beaches, while the center areas of the islands are mountainous with heavy rain forest stretching almost to the ocean.
- The Cook Islands, along with French Polynesia, are the main producers of cultured black pearls. One of the largest culturing farm exists on the northern island of Manihiki.
- The Cook Islands are considered to be the cleanest in the Pacific, which has been a direct result of very strong and consistent conservation efforts put forward by the local people
The Cook Islands have fully modern pharmacies that are capable of filling most prescriptions. However it is always best to consult with your personal physician and/or pharmacist prior to departing for your trip.
The Island Bus offers a convenient low cost method of transport, operating regular schedules around the island (in both directions). It will pick you up and set you down anywhere on request. Cook's Island Bus Passenger Transport Ltd can be contacted on 25512, 9am to 4pm or 20349 after hours.
Bus departs every hour (7am - 4pm weekdays, 8am - 1pm Saturdays) travelling clockwise. Bus departs every 25 mins past the hour (8:25am - 4:30pm weekdays, 8:30am - 12:30pm Saturdays) travelling anti-clockwise around the island.
The dominant religion of Polynesia and the Cook Islands is Christianity.
Variety, fun, easy shopping and great bargins, it's all available to visitors who would like to explore the many shops, craft places, and markets. The main shopping area is in Rarotonga, located in downtown Avarua. Rarotonga does not have precious stones, antiques or haute couture clothing. Instead, visitors will discover unique black pearls, handicrafts of excellent quality, colourful clothing and electrical goods at very reasonable prices.
In fact, the retailers in general are extremely obliging and gracious and are even inclined to refer you to another shop if they think a certain item will better suit your needs. Visitors can breathe a sigh of relief in knowing that the quality of goods is high and they are reasonably priced, If you decide to buy something do not attempt to bargain as this is not an accepted custom in the Cook islands.
SIZE & POPULATION
The total population of the Cook Islands is approximately 21,388, as of July 2005.
Don't miss the chance to see a stamina crunching game of rugby, which says something about the spirit of the Cook Islanders. Team sports are a big drawcard with the locals and it is definitely entertaining to watch them at play. The participants are often wild and frentic - join in if you are game! A well equipped stadium was built at Tereora College in 1985 for the South Pacific Mini Games. Most Fridays see some sort of sporting event held at the stadium.
The sports clubs in Rarotonga welcome visitors and will happily help you gear up for a game of any kind. Many visitors find these activities the highlight of their holiday, and they enjoy the resulting friendship.
STATES, TERRITORIES & THEIR CAPITAL CITIES
Fifteen islands make up the Cook Island chain and they are: Manihiki, Nassau, Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Manuae, Palmerston, Suworrow, Atui, Mauke, Pukapuka, Takutea, Mangaia, Mitiaro, Rakahanga, Tongareva/Penrhyn.
The hub of Cook Island activity occurs on the island of Rarotonga, where the capital city of Avarua is located. Rarotonga is the international gateway to the Cook Islands.
International Telephone, Facsimile, E-mail, Internet connections and services are available 24 hours from the telecommunications office (Telecom Cook Islands) in the main township of Avarua. Most accommodation properties have IDD facilities. There are also Cyber Cafes located in the main township.Mail and telegrams are available from the Post Office, open Monday to Friday 8:00am to 4:00pm. For your phone to work on the local network you will need to purchase a Cook Islands sim card for NZD25.00 and top up cards for $20, $50 & $100. Vodaphone or any other overseas connections will not work in the Cooks. Mobile coverage is only available on the islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki. The country dialing code is 682.
The Cook Islands are in the same time zone as Honolulu and 2 hours behind Pacific Standard Time.
Tipping is not expected and is contrary to Cook Islands custom.
You do not require any vaccinations prior traveling to the Cook Islands unless you are departing from an infected area/country.
WHAT TO WEAR
Comfortable and cool, natural fabrics such as cotton sundresses or T-shirts are perfect for daytime wear. The standard attire for men even at dinner parties is simply slacks and shirt. Women usually wear comfortable dresses in the evening and normal resort wear around the hotels.
Thanks to www.cook-islands.com for much of the information in this survival kit.