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Fiji Survival Kit
More then anything else, Fiji is an exotic destination. It's the exhilaration of a dolphin arching high into the air beside your boat; the long gliding swoop of an orange dove through the rainforest; the smiles of excited children performing in unison to the beat of a hollow log drum.
Our 333 islands can sizzle with excitement or murmur with the quiet calm of pristine nature. Where else can you swim with huge, harmless manta rays congregating by the shore, snorkel over giant rainbow gardens of soft coral, or scuba dive the White Wall and famous Astrolabe Reef. Fiji is where the Cloud Breaker, the incredible six-meter wave found offshore at Tavarua, draws surfers from around the world. It is also where you can float in the calm, quiet waters of a turquoise lagoon at sunset or walk alone through lush rainforest. It is where the sun shines almost everyday and when it does rain, people rush outside for a rain bath in the warm, brief downpour of a tropical shower which ends as quickly as it began. This is where life is lived for the joy of it all, where rushing is rude, and the name of a new friend is never forgotten. Fiji is where people wear flowers tucked in their hair, not to impress visitors, but because they like to.
The Fiji archipelago is at the cross roads of the South Pacific. In the days of sailing ships it was known as The Cannibal Isles and carefully avoided by mariners because of its fierce warriors and treacherous waters. However, in the age of jumbo jets and global travel. Fiji has become the central hub of the exotic South Pacific. More than 85 flights land at Nadi on the main island of Viti levu every week. From there it is only a quick seven minute hop to one of the offshore island resorts, or less than an hour of flying time to Vanua Levu or Taveuni, the second and third largest islands, where then outside world is quickly left behind.
For those who like to keep their feet on the ground once they arrive, the big island of Viti Levu offers a wealth of tropical scenery, from rushing mountain rivers and waterfalls in the depths of the rainforest, to palm-fringed beaches where time seems to stop. This is where you can fish from the reef in the morning, picnic at the edge of a waterfall plunging into a rocky jungle pool at midday and eat native food cooked in an earth oven in the evening, and then dance to the beat in a swinging discotheque until long after midnight. Along with it's pristine tropical beauty, Viti levu offers several large towns and the bustling capital of Suva, a shopper's paradise and you will never have to travel more than a few hours to get anywhere on the island.
In a word, Tropical, with the best months being March through to November. Maximum temperatures rarely move out of the 87.9°F to 78.8°F range all year round. As you can see, winter is a term, not a season. A cooling trade wind blows from the east south-east for most of the year. It usually drops to a whisper in the evening and picks up again by mid-morning.
Rainfall is highly variable and strongly influenced by topography, with the prevailing south-east trade winds bringing moisture onshore and causing heavy showers in the mountain regions. The wet season is from November to April and results from the southerly movements of the South Pacific Convergence Zone. The wet season is characterized by heavy, brief local showers and contributes most of Fiji's annual rainfall.
Annual rainfall on the main islands is between 2000mm and 3000mm on the coast and low lying areas, and up to 6000mm in the mountains. The smaller islands receive various amounts according to their location and size, ranging from 1500mm to 3500mm. Cyclones are mostly confined to the period November to April, with greatest frequency in January and February. On average, some ten to fifteen cyclones per decade affect some part of Fiji, and two to four do severe damage. The dominant north-west to south-east tracks gives some increased risk of damage in the outlying north-west island groups.
Fiji Customs operates a Dual Channel System - the Red and Green Channels - for expeditious clearance of air travelers.
If you have any prohibited or restricted goods, or dutiable goods exceeding your duty/VAT free concessions, you should seek Customs Clearance. If you do not have any prohibited, restricted or commercial goods, or dutiable goods exceeding your Duty/VAT concessions, you should proceed.
Note: Your baggage may be examined by Customs. If this occurs, you will be required to open and repack your baggage.
Fiscal duty and VAT are levied on all goods in excess of concessions. Fiscal duty rates vary depending on the goods, whereas VAT is uniformly applied at 12.5%. VAT is applied on a base which includes the value of the goods plus any fiscal duty payable.
Visitors to Fiji are required to pay $20.00 departure tax in Fijian currency following check-in. Children under 12 are exempt.
Traffic moves on the left in Fiji. While most roads in urban areas are paved, roads outside the city frequently are not. In the city, driving after dark requires heightened attentiveness; outside the city, it is discouraged, except in emergency or exceptional circumstances. Stray animals, unwary pedestrians, and potholes make driving dangerous and particularly hazardous at night. Please refer to our Road Safety Page for more information at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/safety/safety_1179.html
Visit the website of the country’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at www.bulafiji.com.
The electrical current in Fiji is 240 volts AC 50 Hz. Fiji has three pin power outlets identical to Australia and New Zealand. If your applications are 110v check for a 110/240v switch; if there is none you will need a voltage converter. Leading hotels and resorts offer universal outlets for 240v or 110v shavers, hair dryers, etc.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS / VISAS
Fiji welcomes visitors and to facilitate easy entry, everything has been done to make the process as pleasant as possible. A valid passport for at least three months beyond the intended period of stay and a ticket for return or onward travel is required. Entry visas are granted on arrival for a stay of 1 month for nationals most countries, however some countries require prearranged visas. Check with your travel agent for up to date information.
FLYING TIMES TO FIJI
Air Pacific has four non-stops and Air New Zealand has one out of Los Angeles. Flight time from LA to Fiji is 10 hrs, Auckland to Fiji 3hrs, Sydney to Fiji 3hrs 50min.
Health-care facilities in Fiji are adequate for routine medical problems. Two major hospitals, the Lautoka Hospital in the western city of Lautoka, and the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva, the capital, provide emergency and outpatient services. There is a private hospital in Suva that provides Western-style medical care, and maintains the Fiji Recompression Chamber for the benefit of scuba divers. Other hospitals and clinics provide only a limited range of health services. Medical emergencies may be referred to Australia, New Zealand, or the United States. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States or elsewhere can cost thousands of dollars. Doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for health services.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP or via the CDC's Internet site at www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at www.who.int/ith.
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1470.html.
According to Fijian legend, the great chief Lutunasobasoba led his people across the seas to the new land of Fiji . Most authorities agree that people came into the Pacific from Southeast Asia via Indonesia. Here the Melanesians and the Polynesians mixed to create a highly developed society long before the arrival of the Europeans. The European discoveries of the Fiji group were accidental. The first of these discoveries was made in 1643 by the Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman and English navigators, including Captain James Cook who sailed through in 1774, and made further explorations in the 18th century.
Major credit for the discovery and recording of the islands went to Captain William Bligh who sailed through Fiji after the mutiny on the Bounty in 1789. The first Europeans to land and live among the Fijians were shipwrecked sailors and runaway convicts from the Australian penal settlements. Sandalwood traders and missionaries came by the mid 19th century. Cannibalism practiced in Fiji at that time quickly disappeared as missionaries gained influence. When Ratu Seru Cakobau accepted Christianity in 1854, the rest of the country soon followed and tribal warfare came to an end.
From 1879 to 1916 Indians came as indentured laborers to work on the sugar plantations. After the indentured system was abolished, many stayed on as independent farmers and businessmen. Today they comprise 44 per cent of the population.
One of the great things about this Pacific paradise is that everyone speaks English as well as Fijian or Hindi - although there are a few idiosyncrasies.
Fijians are renowned for being some of the friendliest people on earth. They are privileged to live in a beautiful South Pacific island nation, and are committed to sharing that privilege with all who travel there. Like most Pacific Islanders, Fijians have a strong connection to the water, and in fact, many families depend on it for their livelihood and have done so for generations.
MONEY & BANKING
The Fijian dollar has standard decimal denominations between 1¢ and $50. Anything below $2 is a coin and $2 and above is a note. There is no limit to the amount of money to be brought in and visitors are allowed to take out currency up to the amount imported. Normal banking hours are from 9:30am to 3:00pm Monday to Thursday and to 4:00pm on Friday. All banks are closed on public holidays.
ANZ operates a 24 hour service at Nadi International Airport's Arrival Concourse. Bank of Hawaii offers Automated Teller (ATM) services in Suva, Nadi, Lautoka. ANZ offers ATM services in Suva, Nausori, Nadi, Nadi Airport, Lautoka, and Labasa, while National Bank and Westpac offer EFTPOS services in Suva, Nausori, Sigatoka, Nadi, and Lautoka. The central bank and bank of issue is the Reserve Bank of Fiji, and The National Bank is a government owned commercial bank. International cards are welcomed by most hotels, restaurants, shops, car rental companies and tour operators. American Express, Diners Club, Visa, JCB International and MasterCard have representatives in Suva. American Express and Visa can replace lost credit cards and travelers checks.
- Kava is the Fijian national drink which has narcotic (mildly mind altering) effects once drunk in quantity. The kava ceremony is one of the central Fijian traditions. If you go to a village expect to participate in a kava ceremony of some form. It is highly informal yet (like Fiji time) highly formal in its end result. Remember to bring kava to the village- as a sign of your respect for the community. It is also a central symbol of the Fijian culture so behave yourself at the kava ceremony or you will most definitely upset your hosts. Kava ceremonies can continue late into the next day - so know when to leave! (Leave whenever you want - this will not be seen as being rude.)
- Fiji is comprised of approximately 300-350 islands and islets, of which only 100 are inhabited by humans.
You will find them in all the towns and they are very well stocked for an island country. Most resorts have pharmaceutical items for sale but they will be expensive. It is best to pack a small kit containing band aids, analgesics, Imodium or similar, insect repellent, sun screen (and after-sun lotion), antiseptic cream or powder and if traveling with babies, disposable diapers. For coral cuts, hydrogen peroxide works best but the locals opt for a generous application of lemon or lime. Always consult with your personal physician before traveling if you require prescription medication.
There are numerous modern, air-conditioned coaches serving resorts and major towns. However, many visitors like the adventure of using the local open-windowed buses so they can take in the sights and sounds of the passing scene. Canvas flaps are unfurled in the event of a rain shower. Local buses also allow the visitor a chance to mingle with the people of Fiji, who by choice and tradition, treat strangers with gracious hospitality. Every town and village has a bus stop, since this is still the most common form of transportation in the islands. You can also hail any public bus from the road side merely by waving to the driver.
There are regular ferry services scheduled between the major island. If you have the time and a taste for adventure, you'll find voyaging scenic and exciting, a taste of true island travel. While Fiji has many luxurious cruise ships, inter-island vessels carry freight as well as passengers. Deck passage is the usual way to go, with a few cabins available on some of the ships on a first-come, first-served basis.
Fiji is a country which carefully guards itself against human, animal and vegetable pests and diseases. It is free of all the serious plant and animal pests and diseases and it wants to maintain this privileged state. The importation of vegetable matter, seeds, or any animal product is prohibited without the relevant import permits from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests.
Fiji is free from malaria, yellow fever and major tropical diseases that are endemic to most tropical countries. It has an effective medical system in place although local people still believe in the efficacy of age-old herbal remedies. Fresh water reticulated in Suva, Lautoka and the other major towns has been treated and is safe to drink from the tap. This also applies to hotels and resorts. Some resorts use artesian water for bathing, but provide drinking water separately. If this is the case, visitors will be advised.
A multiracial, multicultural nation, Fiji is represented by major religions of the world. Visitors will see Christian churches, Mosques, Sikh and Hindu temples in the towns and the countryside. The majority of Fijians are of the Wesleyan persuasion, but all the other Christian denominations are represented. Visitors are welcome at Sunday worship throughout the Fiji Islands.
SIZE & POPULATION
Fiji's population of around 800,000 people is made up of indigenous Fijians (50%), Indians (47%) with Europeans, Chinese and South Pacific Islanders making up the remaining 3%
Fiji offers a diversity of sports, from Scuba diving to sky diving, from badminton to beach volleyball. Being a small island nation with abundant natural resources, our islands are blessed with year-round warm weather, golden sandy beaches, clear blue water, attractive coral reefs and exciting high waves. Challenge a round of golf, venture out for a dawn surf, be tempted by a two-day trek through ancient sand dunes, or simply join the locals for a darts session in a nearby club.
STATES, TERRITORIES AND THEIR CAPITAL CITIES
Fiji is an island nation, made up of approximately 300 islands of which 100 are inhabited by humans. Fiji is generally grouped into two regions, designated by the two largest islands; Vanua Levu and Viti Levu.
The main cities on Vanua Levu include; Savusavu and Labasa. On the island of Viti Levu the main cities include; Suva (the capital of Fiji) and Nadi. There are many other islands around the larger 2, and many of them have resorts and other tourist attractions.
Most hotels have direct dialing facilities. Check with the operator for long distance and international charges, which may also be found in the telephone directory. Please note that the international country IDD code for Fiji is 679. There are no area codes. Thus, when dialing any part of Fiji from overseas the procedure would be:
access code (679) plus the Fiji subscriber number.
Fiji has frequently been called "The Crossroads of the Pacific" because the 180th Meridian passes through the islands. In fact, The International Date Line has been adjusted so the entire archipelago falls into the same time zone - 12 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. For a quick reference of the date and time in Fiji, or any other country, check out www.timeanddate.com.
Tipping is not encouraged anywhere in Fiji. Tip with a smile and 'vinaka', which is Fijian for 'thank you'. Some resorts however operate a staff Christmas fund - a box will usually be found near reception and donations are purely voluntary. Though tipping is not local custom, you may see examples of what looks like tipping. Fijians ritually exchange gifts of food, clothing, kerosene, and even money during important social occasions but it's more an act of sharing.
If you are traveling from the United States or Canada directly into Fiji, no vaccinations are required.
Yellow Fever and Cholera vaccinations are only required if coming from an infected area as designated by the World Health Organization. Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is required for travelers over I year of age coming from an infected area.
WHAT TO WEAR
Casual for both night and day. Pack t-shirts, shorts, light cotton dresses and swimwear. Jeans will be too hot and uncomfortable. For cooler evenings or for out on the water, a jacket is a good idea. Sunscreens and hats are a must and joggers or sandals are good protection for walking and swimming around coral. If you do happen to cut yourself on coral, lemon or lime juice will relieve the pain - as will hydrogen peroxide. "Sulus" (known also throughout the Pacific as pareau, lavalava or sarong) are a must for both men and women. The wrap-around sulu is Fiji's most distinctive and versatile form of dress. For women there at least ten different ways it can be used, even for evening wear. Ask your resort staff for hints on tying and wearing your sulu. Visitors are asked to be careful not to offend local sensibilities. Wearing bikinis and ultra-brief swimming costumes is fine at a resort but not when visiting villages or shopping in town. This is where a sulu comes in handy.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION
Americans living or traveling in Fiji are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Suva through the State Department’s travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Fiji. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at 31 Loftus Street in Fiji’s capital city of Suva. The telephone number is (679) 331-4466; the fax number is (679) 330-2267. Information may also be obtained by visiting the Embassy’s home page at www.amembassy-fiji.gov.