Enjoy Yourself and Your Surroundings
Fiji is a country of beauty and tradition, where respect for community and family are held above all else. Here you’ll find a tropical paradise unlike any other. As you prepare to visit the incredible Fiji Islands, read on to learn a bit more about the culture, traditions, and general goings-on of this beautiful island haven.
Culture and Language
The culture in Fiji is strong, and visitors to the beautiful Fijian Islands will find that the people of Fiji are welcoming and kind. Fijians value community and family, and though things move slowly here, everything is done with great respect and kindness. The society is based on communal living, meaning everyone contributes to and benefits from the needs and returns of the community as a whole. The result is a community that truly takes care of each other, where everyone works together and divides everything evenly so everyone gets what they need.
The people of Fiji look you directly in the eye while speaking with you, and will welcome you with humbling graciousness. While most people in Fiji speak English, making it easy for you to travel around, you may hear a variety of other languages spoken across the islands including Chinese, Punjabi, Samoan, Tongan, and more. The primary and standard Fijian language spoken and written across Fiji is known as Bauan, and while it varies somewhat from the language of the island of Bau, it is also used as the written Fijian language as well. The Fijian government is working hard to preserve this indigenous language, and you can find help with basic phrasing and pronunciation here.
One of the more traditional, but possibly unexpected, visitor greetings in Fiji is a kava ceremony. Kava—a traditional Fijian drink—causes a calming effect in the drinker and is generally served to guests in half a coconut shell. Offered as a sevusevu, or gift from the host to the guest, kava is a token of respect and a way to share in a Fijian tradition with your hosts. When your host says, “E dua na bilo?” (“Try a cup?”), respond with “Vinaka vaka levu” (“Thank you very much”) to show gracious respect. As is tradition, down it in one swallow and enjoy the immediate feeling of relaxation and belonging that comes with drinking kava.
In Fiji, you’ll generally find four types of food you can enjoy. Local Fijian food, of course, is a must try. Seafood features prominently in Fijian cuisine, as do local fruits and delicacies like breadfruit, taro, cassava, bananas, and local taro or fern greens. Rounding things out, you’ll usually find rice, yams, and some meat. When you’ve had your fill of Fijian food, you’ll also be able to find Chinese, Indian, and European food on the islands, though each is likely to be heavily influenced by Fiji. Farmers markets are also popular and a great place to pick up fresh local produce. However, keep in mind that if you choose to buy and prepare your own food, you should wash any produce thoroughly and peels skins to avoid unfamiliar microorganisms.
Climate, Weather, and Geography
The weather in Fiji is variable, depending on where you are on the islands, but the climate has a wet season and a dry season. The dry season, between May and October, brings with it mild and pleasant temperatures, generally between the upper 60s and mid 80s. These are the fall and winter months in Fiji, and the humidity is much less severe during this time period. The wet season, which is hot and humid, generally lasts from November through April, with the most severe humidity taking place between January and March. The temperatures usually range from the mid 70s to the upper 80s, with frequent rain.
Fiji, in the middle of the South Pacific, is known for its spectacular beauty. Consisting of a series of about 330 islands, Fiji’s turquoise waters and white sand draws visitors from across the globe. There are two main islands in Fiji, the largest of which is Viti Levu. For comparison, Viti Levu is a touch smaller than Hawaii’s big island. The second largest island, Vanua Levu, is about half the size of Viti Levu to the northeast and is well known as an incredible tropical getaway. To the east of Vanua Levu, we have Taveuni, nicknamed the Garden Island of Fiji. This island is well known for its incredible diving, as is Kadavu, which is south of Viti Levu and has a strong presence of traditional Fijian culture. The Mamanuca Islands to the west of Viti Levu are a popular tourist destination and have been featured on television and in motion pictures.
The remainder of the islands in Fiji are primarily divided into the Lomaiviti group and the Lau group. The Lomaiviti group is in central Fiji and is home to Ovalau, where the earliest European settlement and former capital of Fiji are located. Lau is a series of islands to the east interspersed between reefs. The southern Lau islands are actually closer to Tonga than they are to Fiji, and are therefore greatly affected by Tongan culture.
Because so many of the Fiji islands are small—the result of volcanic activity—the islands of Fiji are mountainous, but lush with flora and fauna. Much of the land of Fiji is still in its natural state, allowing travelers to truly explore the wonders of these incredible tropical islands. With so many islands to explore, don’t forget to explore the waters in between. Here, you’ll find an ocean ecosystem rich with life and color. You can explore the open ocean surrounding the islands and observe dolphins, fish, and other sea life all around. Dive, fish, or boat around the many coral reefs and lagoons, each of which offers a plethora of marine life.
Activities to Enjoy in Fiji
While you’d probably be happy just enjoying your surroundings and lounging on the beach with a good book and good company, Fiji has endless opportunities for adventure. With both luscious lands and incredible waters to explore, there is no shortage of things to do here. Make a point to explore both to get the ultimate island experience.
On the water, you can go surfing, paddle boarding, snorkeling, dolphin-watching, swimming, fishing, or experience world-class scuba diving. On the land, you can go golfing, horseback riding, seek out waterfalls or go hiking through the rain forest, and eventually make your way to some tide pools or hot springs for some relaxation. Guided tours are also available if you’re interested in a more formal, informative exploration of the incredible landscape or local villages. If you need an indulgent respite from the day, book some time at a local spa for some down time and healing pampering.
What to Wear and What to Pack
When you’re packing for a luxurious vacation, you want to make sure you bring the right clothes. Doing a little shopping can be fun, but you don’t want to get caught without the things you’ll need. These are things you’ll want to make sure to pack:
- Swimsuits: An island vacation offers ample opportunities to spend time in—and near—the water. You’ll swim in the ocean, lagoons, hot springs, and pools, so it’s best to bring multiple bathing suits so you don’t have to wait for one to dry.
- Sulu: Fijians wear “sulus”—also known as sarongs—with their swimwear. Both men and women are expected to wear sulus (rather than bathing suits) when visiting villages and towns outside resorts, so as a sign of respect for the local culture, make sure you bring one or two along for yourself.
- Flip flops: Since you’ll move in and out of the water with some regularity, bring shoes for tossing on and off as you stroll the beaches and relax poolside.
- Hiking shoes: Fiji’s landscape is spectacular, so for hiking on mountainous terrain and exploring the beautiful tropical forests, hiking shoes are a must.
- A wide-brimmed hat: The sun is hot in the South Pacific, and a wide-brimmed hat will protect your skin and keep you cool. A big floppy hat is chic for her, while a straw fedora is a classic choice for him.
- Clothing that goes from casual to romantic: A long, flowy maxi for her; crisp khakis and a short-sleeved linen button down for him. She can throw her dress on with flip-flops over her bikini, or dress it up with jewelry and nicer shoes. He can throw his shirt over his swim trunks, or opt for buttoning up with khakis and oxfords.
- Layering pieces: Tropical locations bring tropical weather. Be prepared for storms to sweep in and make sure you’ve brought light cardigans or jackets to toss over your clothes. If you plan to head out on a lot of excursions, toss a lightweight rain shell in your suitcase, too.
- Lots of sunscreen and insect repellent: Protect your skin from the sun and insects so you can enjoy your trip without any burns or bites.
Helpful Travel Information
Fiji’s currency is the Fijian dollar, called “notes” rather than bills in Fiji. The notes are available in denominations of F$1, F$2, F$5, F$10, F$20, and F$50, and coins come in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cent denominations, as well as F$1 and F$2. It’s recommended that you carry small change for use at the local markets or in taxis, allowing you to avoid any awkwardness in trying to get exact change. You can figure out the exact exchange rate for the US dollar to the Fijian dollar here.
You’ll find that tourism is a big business in Fiji, which means you’ll see a number of travel oriented taxes popping up as you make plans. There’s the departure tax—currently about $85 included with your airline ticket—and the 9% “Value Added Tax” on all goods and services. Hotels and resorts charge a 10% “Hotel Turnover Tax” and you’ll find an Environment Levy of 6% on any service that may impact the environment. While these items do add up, the exchange rate is still favorable to the US dollar, so keep that in mind as you look over your expenses.
Tipping in Fiji is not required, and it’s not part of Fijian custom. Because of Fiji’s culture and strong ties to community, businesses tend to share the wealth among all the staff. You’ll often see a communal “Christmas Box” for shared tips. It’s unlikely that you’ll be asked not to tip any longer, but an alternative may be to donate to the staff fund that distributes evenly to each member of the staff. This method is in the spirit of Fijian culture, and is heartily welcomed.
Passports and Visas
When you make your arrangements to visit Fiji, make sure your passport is valid for at least an additional 6 months after you plan to return home. Travelers often fall in love with Fiji and choose to stay beyond their original return date. Planning with ample time on your passport allows flexibility. However, if you know you’ll be in Fiji for an extended time, visas are necessary for visits longer than 4 months. If you need to renew a visa, go directly to the immigration office in Suva on Viti Levu in person. Make sure all of your documents are up to date and keep them safely with you while you travel.
Electricity in Fiji runs at 240 volts AC 50Hz, with the standard 3-pin outlets. This is the same voltage as Australia and New Zealand, so those traveling from those countries will find themselves at home. Most leading hotels and resorts offer universal outlets for 240v or 110v appliances, or offer 110v adapters.
Most hotels offer direct dialing services for making phone calls. There are no area codes in Fiji, but the international IDD country code for Fiji is 679. Outbound international calls should use the code 05 to dial out, followed by country code and complete telephone number. Mobile (or cellular) phones can usually be used in Fiji as well, though you’ll want to make sure you’ve enabled roaming. Reception is not always reliable, but it’s recently improved quite a bit. Similarly, the Internet connection can be slower in Fiji than other parts of the world, though resort-wide WiFi is offered by Namale.
Now that you know a bit more about how to plan and what to expect when you travel to beautiful Fiji, you can prepare for your vacation, worry-free. Once you arrive, remember that Fijians are eager to help and make you feel at home. A trip to Fiji is sure to be a blissful experience and provide you with incredible memories to last a lifetime.