FRENCH POLYNESIA TRAVEL INFORMATION

 

BEST TIME TO VISIT FRENCH POLYNESIA

Weather in French Polynesia

French Polynesia has a tropical but moderate climate, it is always humid between 80 and 90%.

  • ​November to April is the warm rainy season (summer).

  • May to October is a cooler dry season (winter).

 

There is some slight variation in weather because the islands are widely dispersed.  In all areas except Marquesas and northern Tuamotus the rains are heavy with an annual rainfall of as much as 120 inches in the coastal areas.  Temperatures vary little in French Polynesia, for example, the average annual temperature in Papeete (the capital) is between 79 F (26 C) and the high average is 91 F (33 C) in March.  The low average drops to 70 F (21 C) in August.  The islands further south have lower average temperatures.  The lagoon waters average 84 F (29 C) in summer and 79 F (26 C) in winter.

When is the best time to visit French Polynesia?

You can visit French Polynesia any time of the year however the weather is at its driest and most comfortable during June/August.  This can be the busiest time to visit so consider months either side.  During the rainy season November to April you can visit but there will be tropical showers that come through more often than other times as it’s the rainy season.  In between the rains are sunny periods but the humidity is higher. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

TIME ZONES

French Polynesia has one main time zone (THAT).

​Tahiti – French Polynesia Time (THAT) is GMT/UTC – 10 hours during Standard Time.  French Polynesia does not use daylight savings time.  French Polynesia is in the same time zone as Hawaii.

TRAVELING IN FRENCH POLYNESIA

How will I get around in French Polynesia?

On the island of Tahiti there are transport options, the cheapest being the local bus service.  Taxi’s, scenic tours and escorted excursions are also available for booking.  To truly enjoy French Polynesia you should travel to other islands than Tahiti. You can island hop using a combination of flights and boats.  Depending on your itinerary it may be necessary to over night in Tahiti after you land there and then take flights to smaller islands the next day.  You may have to take a flight and a boat ride to reach your destination.  Air Tahiti offers regular flights between the islands.  There is a daily ferry service that operates between Tahiti and Moorea.  If you want to see multiple islands in one trip, you can get around by boat, a cruise or private catamaran.  Once on the different islands transportation will depend on what’s available. 

VISA INFORMATION

Do you need a visa to enter French Polynesia?

US Citizens do not need a visa to enter New Zealand, Cook Islands, Fiji or French Polynesia.

CUSTOMS & QUARANTINE

What items can’t I bring into French Polynesia?

The following items are prohibited in both checked and unchecked luggage: live animals and plant material; compressed gas and explosives; flammable liquids; narcotics; and poisons, irritants and other substances or materials that are oxidizing, toxic, radioactive or magnetized. Safety regulations prohibit certain articles from being carried into the aircraft cabin, including firearms, ammunition, knives, scissors and other sharp or pointed instruments. (Tahiti.com).

How much duty free can I bring into French Polynesia?

All passengers arriving in French Polynesia must clear Immigration and Customs at Faa'a International Airport (PPT).  Each person may legally bring the following items into French Polynesia duty free: 200 cigarettes, 200 cigarillos, or 100 cigars; 50 grams of perfume; 500 grams of coffee; 100 grams of tea; 10 rolls of film; and 2 liters of alcohol. Returning home, U.S. customs allow an exemption of $800 in goods per resident, including one quart of liquor and 200 cigarettes; Canadian customs also allow an $800 exemption, including 1.1 liters of alcohol and 200 cigarettes. (Tahiti.com).  Pets and plants are subject to strict regulations.

 

BANKING, MONEY & SHOPPING

What is the currency in French Polynesia?

The currency in French Polynesia is the Pacific Franc (franc cours pacifique) abbreviated to XPF or CFP.  Euros are widely accepted and usually used at all the larger resorts.

What is the currency conversion for USD to CFP?

​You can calculate the conversion rate using XE Currency Converter

Should I get money out before I go to French Polynesia and what is the best way to pay for things?

The bank and ATM at Faa'a International Airport is open for the arrival of all international flights, so you can exchange money on arrival. There are international banks in Papeete.  International hotels will also exchange currency for a higher exchange rate.

 

Banks have limited hours on Saturdays and are always closed on Sunday’s.  You will find plenty of ATM’s downtown.  Credit cards are widely accepted in tourist areas throughout the main islands.  Visa and Mastercard are the most accepted cards.  Some hotel and restaurants won’t accept American Express.  Cash is usually required at stores and restaurants in more isolated areas such as Manihi and Fakarava.

Do I tip for services in French Polynesia?

Tipping is not customary or expected in French Polynesia.  You can choose to tip for excellent service and it will be gratefully accepted.

 

Can I bargain with retailers and in markets for a better price?

Bargaining is not expected however sometimes it’s possible to get a discount on black pearls or artists works when buying directly with the supplier.

 

OTHER USEFUL INFORMATION

What language is spoken in French Polynesia?

Most people French Polynesians speak both French and Tahitian which is the dominant Polynesian language.  These are the official languages however English is widely spoken.  In some of the more isolated islands older residents speak the local Polynesian language and these can differ from island to island.

 

Are there any etiquette or customs I should be aware of?

The culture in French Polynesia is very laid back.  Dress is casual with common attire being sarongs, shorts and T-shirts. If you’re attending a church service then you will need to wear appropriate clothing.

When visiting a local home, it is expected and polite for you to remove your shoes before entering.  Leave them at the front door.  

 

What is the power in the Cook Islands and will I need an adapter?

The voltage in French Polynesia is 220 volts (60 Hz).  Hotels use either 110 or 22OV and the outlets require Type E and C plus like the ones used in Europe.  You can see what the plugs look like at World Standards. Bring an adapter or converter with you and double check the voltage requirements before plugging in your device.  The adapter or converter is one suitable for Europe/Asia.

What is the emergency number in French Polynesia?

Ambulance 15, Fire 120 and Police 20.  

 

What is the mobile coverage like in French Polynesia?

French Polynesia uses GSM (Global System for Mobiles) so you will need a GSM enabled phone to access cell signals.  If necessary you can rent a phone or buy a local SIM card from the local mobile network Vinia (www.vini.pf) when you arrive.

 

Where can I find WiFi?

You can find internet access most places in Tahiti.  Not all hotels are fully wifi enabled with some only offering wifi in common areas.  It’s likely you’ll need to use the ethernet cable in your hotel room. Note, not all hotels offer free internet access. 

Can I use a drone in French Polynesia?

​You can fly a drone in French Polynesia but you have to abide by the regulations.  The rules for flying a drone in French Polynesia are the same as flying one in France.  More information can be found at the French Transports Ministry (Ministère de l’Environnement, de l’Energie et de la Mer)

TRAVEL ADVICE

 

Facts about French Polynesia

  • Tahiti was the first island to experience European conquest.

  • King Pomare V was Tahiti’s last monarch, and he was forced to cede Tahiti’s sovereignty to France in 1880.

  • In 1996 the French government conduced the last 193 nuclear bomb tests around the Fangataufa and Moruroa atolls. These tests had been happening over a 30 year period.

  • French Polynesian citizens have the same political and civil rights as mainland French citizens.

  • In the 18th century Tahiti had 2 famous European visitors – English naturalist Charles Darwin and American artist Alfred Thomas Agate.

  • The Europeans introduced guns, alcohol and many fatal diseases to the Tahitians such as smallpox, influenza and typhus.

  • French Polynesia use the Metric scale for distance and Celsius scale for temperature.

  • The main industry on the island is tourism, pearls, handicrafts, agricultural processing and phosphates.

  • French Polynesia exports coconut products, pearls and vanilla.

  • There are no area codes used when making calls in French Polynesia.

  • The most visited islands are Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, Taha’a and Rangiroa.

  • Papeete (Tahiti’s capital) translates into English as “water basket”.

  • Moorea is known as “The Island of Love”, it is also heart-shaped.

  • Bora Bora is known as “The Romantic Island”.

  • Moorea means “yellow lizard”.

  • Locals on the Austral Islands grow foods rich in fluoride, so they have white teeth.

  • Black pearls that are treasured by both locals and tourists are indigenous only to the Tuomotu Islands of French Polynesia.

  • There is a Pearl Museum on Tahiti displaying the history and practice of cultivating pearls.  It is the only museum in the world dedicated solely to pearls.

  • The most photographed isle in French Polynesia is Motu Tapu, a private island. It is very close to the main island of Bora Bora.

  • The first over water bungalows were created in the 1960’s on the island of Moorea.

  • French Polynesia is home to the only coral atoll vineyard on Tuamotu Archipelago – Domaine Dominque Auroy Winery.

  • There are no poisonous snakes or insects on French Polynesia.  You only have to worry about mosquitoes, sandflies and sun burn.

  • The Tiare Apetahi flower (fragrant white blossom) worn behind locals ears only grows on the island of Raiatea on Mount Temehani.

 

Facts about French Polynesia food

  • ​Local dishes often contain fish and seafood which is abundant. 

  • For a traditional feast pork, chicken, fish and vegetables are cooked in a traditional oven dug into the ground. It takes a few hours for the food to cook over hot stones underground and then it’s eaten buffet style. Music and songs are part of the celebration.  

Facts about French Polynesia Culture

  • Traditional Tahitian culture is laid back and they describe it as aita pea pea or “not to worry” in English.

  • Tahitians are known to be generous and friendly to each other and to island visitors.

  • Polynesian cultural traditions are found throughout French Polynesia however each island group has variations.  All islands are united by over a century of colonial administration but the cultural differences between islands is blurring due to improve transport between islands, education and communication networks.

  • Tahitian traditions and oral legends date back to their ancestors. They still live in bamboo huts with pandanus roofs.

  • Locals grow coconuts, vegetables, vanilla, coffee and fruits.  They also farm poultry and cattle, producing dairy products.  Fish and seafood are also abundant.

  • Tahitian celebrations often involve a feast where layers of hot rocks cover the underground oven where suckling pig, bananas, breadfruit and other popular local foods are cooked.

  • Before European settlement Tahitians used to practice child sacrifice and cannibalism.

  • If you are single, its common to put a native flower, the Tiare Apetahi (white blossom) behind your right-hand ear.  If you’re in a relationship, you put it behind your left-hand ear.

  • Tahitians are well known for their hospitality.

  • The Chinese arrived on French Polynesia from Hong Kong in 1865 to work in the cotton fields, coffee and sugar plantations.  They recently celebrated 150 years on the island.

  • The Chinese population on French Polynesia dominate the retail trade. When people refer to going shopping, they say they are going “la Chine” which translates to “to the Chinese”.

  • Black pearls are important in cultural art, history, mythology and religion in French Polynesia.

  • Stone Fishing is a traditional method of catching fish.  It is performed today for special festivals.  It involves outrigger canoes creating a semicircle in the water, then the men beat the water with stones tied to ropes.  The noise and commotion cause the fish to move away from the outriggers towards the beach.  Once closer to the beach the men jump from the canoes and continue yelling and beating the water to drive the fish ashore.

  • Tattoos are considered a sign of beauty and young adults used to be tattooed upon reaching adolescence.

  • Tattoos are an important part of Tahitian society and play an important role in Polynesian history.  Often the tattoos were a status symbol signifying rank, wealth and tribe.

  • Tahitian residents get a French bread delivery in a box outside their house twice each day.  The boxes look like they are for mail delivery but they are actually for bread.

  • There is no mail delivery, locals must collect their mail from the post office.

  • On the island of Fakarava is one of the oldest Catholic churches in Polynesia.  The interior is made solely out of coral. 

WEIRD & INTERESTING FACTS

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