TRAVEL TO THE COOK ISLANDS
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WELCOME TO THE COOK ISLANDS
The Cook Islands, named after Captain James Cook who landed there in 1773, are made up of fifteen small islands and two reefs located in the South Pacific Ocean northeast of New Zealand, between French Polynesia and American Samoa. Altogether they have a land area of 92.7 square miles (240 kms). The fifteen major islands are divided into two groups, the Southern Cook Islands and the Northern Cook Islands.
The Cook Islands are a self governing island country in free association with New Zealand who is responsible for the Cook Islands defense and foreign affairs. Cook Islanders are citizens of New Zealand with Cook Island national status. Approximately 20 000 people live in the Cook Islands (a July 2000 estimate) but many more Cook Islanders live in New Zealand. Most people live in the Southern group of islands which due to volcanic activity are hilly and have more vegetation and wildlife than the Northern group which is mostly coral atolls. The main population is on the island of Rarotonga with the next highest population on Aitutaki. The capital of the Cook Islands is Avarua, the main town of Rarotonga. When you fly to the Cook Islands you fly into Rarotonga International Airport.
COOK ISLANDS TRAVEL INFORMATION
BEST TIME TO VISIT THE COOK ISLANDS
Weather in the Cook Islands
The Cook Islands has a warm tropical climate all year round.
November to February have the heaviest rainfalls and humidity. Temperatures range from 71.6 F to 82.4 F with the average temperature sitting around 77 F.
April to November are the drier months with average temperatures of 78.8 F.
When is the best time to visit the Cook Islands?
With a consistent climate and warm water temperatures the Cook Islands makes a great year round destination.
The Cook Islands has one main time zone (CKT).
Cook Islands is 10 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT -10). There is no daylight saving in Cook Islands.
TRAVELING IN THE COOK ISLANDS
How will I get around in the Cook Islands?
There are several transport options. Many people opt to hire a car, please note that they drive on the left hand side of the road. The advantage of hiring a car is that you get to explore the island at your leisure. Other options are using the regular bus service, taxis or bicycles.
VISA & ENTRY INFORMATION
Do you need a visa to enter the Cook Islands?
US Citizens do not need a visa to enter the Cook Islands.
Requirements to enter the Cook Islands
All international passport holders must have a passport valid for a period of at least 6 months beyond their departure date from the Cook Islands.
You need evidence of a valid outbound ticket or return ticket to your port of origin.
You need proof of accommodation during your stay in the Cook Islands.
CUSTOMS & QUARANTINE REGULATIONS
What items can’t I bring into the Cook Islands?
You can’t bring any foreign fruit, vegetables or prohibited items into the Cook Islands. There are disposal bins on the arrival area of Rarotonga Airport. You can throw them in there before you go through customs and immigration.
Prohibited times include fruit, meat, livestock, drugs, narcotics, pornographic material, fireworks, firearms and gunpowder.
How much money can I bring into the Cook Islands?
You are required to declare on arrival if you are carrying more than $10,000 NZD in currency.
How much duty free can I bring into the Cook Islands?
Duty free allowances apply to any visitors 18 years and over. These include:
2 litres of spirits or wine, or 4.5 litres of beer
200 cigarettes or 20 cigars or 250g of tobacco
Perfume for personal use only
A reasonable amount of gifts
Other goods not for resale up to $750 NZD
More information about Cooks Islands customs regulations can be found here.
BANKING, MONEY & SHOPPING
What is the currency in the Cook Islands?
The currency in the Cook Islands is New Zealand dollars NZD. Notes have denominations of $100, $50, $20, $10, $5 and coins $2, $1, 50c, 20c and 10c.
What is the currency conversion for USD to NZD?
You can calculate the conversion rate using XE Currency Converter
Should I get money out before I go to the Cook Islands and what is the best way to pay for things?
There are banking facilities at the Rarotonga International Airport and they are available to all international arrivals in the international arrivals terminal. Westpac and ANZ banks are in downtown Avarua. You can also find ATM’s for use at the banks and some stores. On Aitutaki you can find limited banking and ATM’s.
Normal banking hours are 9:00am to 3:00pm, Monday to Friday.
What you need to know about Value Added Tax (VAT).
There is a 12.5% Value Added Tax (VAT) on all goods and services. Usually this tax is included in the displayed price.
Do I tip for services in the Cook Islands?
Tipping is not customary or expected in the Cook Islands.
Can I bargain with retailers and in markets for a better price?
Bargaining can be considered an insult so it is recommended you play the asked price for goods and services.
OTHER USEFUL INFORMATION
What language is spoken in the Cook Islands?
There are three languages spoken in the Cook Islands; Maori, English and Pukapukan. Each island has its own dialect of Maori and the islands of Pukapuka and Nassau speak Pukapukan. English has been the official language since 1915 and most Cook Islanders are bi-lingual.
Are there any etiquette or customs I should be aware of?
The dress code in the Cook Islands is informal. Men and women can wear shorts (of a respectable length) during the day. Beach attire is for the beach only, nudity is illegal including topless sunbathing.
What is the power in the Cook Islands and will I need an adapter?
The voltage is 220 - 240V, AC 50 Hz. It would be wise to pack an adapter to plug in electronics like laptops, ipads, iphones etc. What you need to get is a Type 1 plug like this one at World Standards. It is the same adaptor that would be required for New Zealand and Australia.
What is the emergency number in the Cook Islands?
The emergency number for police is 999, ambulance or hospital is 998, fire 996. Non emergency policy number is 22-499.
What is the mobile coverage like in the Cook Islands?
Mobile phone coverage is available in Rarotonga and Aitutaki. For cellphone coverage areas you can use Open Signal.
Where can I find WiFi?
All accommodations will have internet access for their guests you can check this when making a reservation. There are several internet cafes in Avarua. You can also find Wi-Fi hot spots in various locations which can be accessed with a prepaid wireless access card available from Telekom and many shops.
Can I use a drone in the Cook Islands?
You can fly a drone in the Cook Islands but you have to abide by the regulations. More information can be found at the Pacific Aviation Safety Office.