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The islands of Fiji are surely the essence of a tropical island paradise with white sandy beaches, swaying coconut trees and azure waters.
Fiji consists of a cluster of more than 332 islands, with only 110 of them being inhabited, and more than 500 islets. The two major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, account for 87% of the population of almost 850,000, while the Mamanuca Islands and Yasawa Islands are less populated. The capital and largest city Suva is on Viti Levu as is the popular town of Nadi.
The main towns on Vanua Levu are Labasa and Savusavu. As well as tropical beaches where you can go scuba diving, snorkelling, kayaking, surfing, and sailing, Fiji is also home to rugged mountains, lush green rainforest, waterfalls and remote villages. Culturally the influences of Pacific, Indian, European and Chinese cultures are reflected in the food, architecture, language and religion. BULA, is a word you will hear many times a day in Fiji. It means “hello” and is pronounced either “boola” or ‘mboola”. Either way it is always pronounced with a smile!
Flowers there are aplenty blooming on these scenic, lush islands where the sun shines every day and orchids hang over waterfalls that plunge into jungle pools behind palm-fringed beaches. Visitors here can swim with manta rays, snorkel over coral gardens, scuba dive on the famous Astrolabe Reef, or ride the amazing 20ft (6m) waves known as the 'Cloud Breakers' off Tavarua.
The Fiji archipelago is the hub of the South Pacific with more than 85 flights a week landing at Nadi airport on the main island of Viti Levu.
Business is relatively casual in Fiji. Only for very formal meetings would suits need to be worn, otherwise a fairly casual, but neat approach to dress is taken. Patience is necessary as meetings rarely start at scheduled times. Fijians prefer using first names as opposed to titles. Business hours are generally 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.
Fiji enjoys a typical tropical climate, with a trade wind blowing across the islands to cool things down during most of the year. Maximum summer temperatures average 88ºF (31ºC), with the winter average not far different at 84ºF (29ºC). Rain can be expected at any time of year. The driest months are April, May, June and October.
The international country dialling code for Fiji is +679. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). There are no area codes and all numbers are seven digits. Most hotels have direct dialling facilities. Vodaphone Fiji Ltd has active GSM roaming agreements with most international networks. There are a few Internet cafes, but connection times are very slow.
Visitors to Fiji should be careful not to offend local sensitivities. Wearing bikinis and swimming costumes is fine at the resorts but not when visiting villages or shopping in town. A sulu (a sarong that can be worn by men and women) is useful as a wrap-around so no offence is caused when wearing shorts or sleeveless tops away from hotels or resorts. Topless bathing and nudity in public is forbidden.
A popular excursion for visitors to Fiji is a visit to one of the traditional villages. Guests in villages should show respect and avoid wearing hats, as they are a sign of disrespect, and remove shoes before entering a house. When visiting a village it is customary to present a gift of yaqona, which is also known as kava and is the national drink. Avoid overly praising an object, as Fijians will feel obliged to give it as a gift. Homosexual acts, even in private, are prohibited and carry jail sentences.
Travellers to Fiji over 17 years do not have to pay duty on 250g of cigars or 250 cigarettes or a combination of tobacco products not exceeding 250g; 2.25 litres of liquor, or 4.5 litres of wine or 4.5 litres of beer or a combination of all these not exceeding the prescribed limit for one; perfume for personal use up to 118ml; and other goods to the value of F$400 per person.
Restrictions apply to firearms and ammunition and meat and dairy products from Tasmania. Travellers who have been on a pilgrimage and return to Fiji with holy water will be checked to ensure it is accompanied by certification declaring it sterile and free from contaminants.
Electrical current is 240 volts, 50Hz. Plugs have three oblique flat pins.
No vaccination certificates are required for entry to Fiji, but a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travellers entering Fiji within 10 days of having stayed overnight or longer in infected areas. Visitors to Fiji should practice strict food, water and personal hygiene precautions to prevent typhoid as well as other diarrhoeal illness. A typhoid vaccine is recommended for all travellers to Fiji, except short-term visitors who dine only at major restaurants and hotels, such as cruise passengers.
Visitors must drink only bottled water, The mosquito-borne disease, dengue fever, is a serious risk between November and April. Preventive measures include wearing long clothes and using insect repellent at all times. Medical facilities are adequate for uncomplicated treatment, but travel insurance with provision for medical evacuation to Australia or New Zealand is advised.
The official languages are Fijian and Hindustani, but English is widely used and understood.
The Fijian dollar (FJD) is the unit of currency, with 100 cents to a dollar. Major credit cards are accepted at most hotels, restaurants, shops, rental car agencies and travel agents. The best currencies to carry are Australian, New Zealand or US dollars, which can be exchanged at all banks. Most ATMs accept the full range of international credit cards and travellers cheques and cash can be exchanged in banks and currency exchange bureaux throughout the islands.
All foreign passengers to Fiji must have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the date of their arrival in the country. A return or onward ticket to a country to which passengers have right of entry is required, as are sufficient funds to cover the period of stay in Fiji. Visitor permits are obtainable on arrival, and are valid for up to four months. Visitors can apply for two-month permit extensions (for an aggregate of six months).
A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required, if arriving in Fiji within ten days of leaving or transiting through an infected area. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Fiji does exhibit some socio-political tension and visitors need to be vigilant and avoid political rallies and public demonstrations. On 5 December 2006 the military moved into Suva, and took over the running of the country in what was the fourth coup in 20 years. Visitors are advised to keep up to date with the current situation and avoid all large gatherings of people.
The uncertain political situation, poor economic climate and unemployment mean the crime rate is high and it is unwise to carry large amounts of cash or wear expensive clothes or jewellery. Pickpockets are active at bus stations and taxi ranks and women on their own should be cautious. There has been an increase in the number of violent robberies, which have occurred against foreigners, particularly at night and in urban areas. Natural dangers exist in the form of rip tides along the reefs and river estuaries and care should be taken when swimming or boating. There is also the possibility of shark attacks. On the roads reckless driving is common and animals on the road pose a hazard, particularly after dark. Cyclone season is usually from November to April.
Local time is GMT +12.
Tipping is not encouraged in Fiji but small tips are appreciated for good service. Some resorts operate a staff Christmas fund where tips are shared, instead of tipping staff daily.