Practical tips to plan your trip
For E.U. Nationals, a valid passport is mandatory. For all stays longer than three months, a visa is needed. The same applies to citizens of Australia, Brasil, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, who may stay a maximum of 3 months with a passport but without a visa.
Citizens of the U.S.A, Canada, Argentina, Bermuda, Brunei, South Korea, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Panama, Singapore, and Uruguay may stay a maximum of one month without visa, but with a valid passport.
Citizens of all other countries (including aliens residing in the U.S.A) must request a visa from the French Embassy or French Consulate near their place of residence. This visa must bear the mandatory mention: "Valable pour la Polynésie Française" (Valid for French Polynesia).
► Take contact with your international airline for more information.
No specific vaccine is necessary to enter French Polynesia.
► Actually, Polynesia is a country where it is Summer alll year round, with a pleasant tropical climate cooled off by the Pacific Trade Winds. The average temperature, depending on the season, varies only between 25 and 30° Celsius (i.e. 78 to 86 degrees Farenheit), for the greatest pleasure of visitors coming from the Northern Hemisphere. With an average temperature between 25 and 28°C (77 and 82°F), the lagoon will greet you with comfort: a true fountain of youth! Divers should know that it is slightly cooler 10 or 15 meters deep, but wet suits are seldom needed in our latitudes.
April to October, this is the dry season, but this is also the "coolest" but the mininum seldom goes under 23°C (73°F)!
July and August are the busiest months for tourism and it is not unusual for some islands to be all sold out... you should book in advance for this period.
November to March, the weather is warm and humid with frequent rain showers in November and December. This is tropical rain that often feels like a strong shower and that seldom lasts more than 30 minutes. The lagoon is warm too, often reaching 29°C (84°F)!
Polynesia is 10 hours behind Universal Time (GMT). In the Marquesas there is an odd half hour time difference with the other archipelagos :
Thus, when it is 9:00 AM in Tahiti, the time is:
- in the Marquesas (+30 minutes) : 9:30 AM
- in Paris and Continental Europe (+12h in Summer; +11h in Winter) :
9:00 PM in Summer, 8:00 PM in Winter.
- in Los Angeles and Pacific Standard Time (+3h Summer; +2h Winter): 12:00 Noon in Summer; 11:00 AM in Winter.
- in Honolulu (+0h) : 9:00 AM.
- in Santiago (+6h) : 3:00 PM
- in Auckland (-2h + 1day) : 7:00 AM the next day
- in Tokyo (-5h + 1day) : 4:00 AM the next day.
- in Sydney (-5h + 1 day) : 4:00 AM the next day
The official language is French but Tahitian (Reo Ma'ohi) is also widely used. English is generally understood and spoken in the hotels, shops and restaurants, so there is no communication problems. In some places that are very oriented toward tourism, Japanese is also spoken.
The local currency is the Pacific Franc (CFP or XPF) which has a fixed rate relative to the Euro:
1Pacific (CFP) Franc = 0.008 Euros.
1 Euro = 119 CFP.
Keep in mind:
A 10,000 CFP bill is worth 84 Euros...
The easiest is to get local currency from ATMs, with your international credit card. Note it is preferable to use a Visa or Mastercard.
More and more, most tourism connected businesses in French Polynesia accept major credit cards such as Visa, Carte Bleue, MasterCard or American Express. You shouldn't have particular problems in Tahiti and Moorea. BEWARE: To get cash from the Automatic Teller Machines (ATM's), it is better to use an INTERNATIONAL VISA card which will work all over French Polynesia. Some ATM's do not take other cards such as Cirrus, Mastercard or Amex. Make sure also, on islands other than Tahiti and Moorea, to bring enough cash if you stay in guest houses (they seldom take credit cards) and for your specific expenses once you are there (taxis, busses, drinks, souvenirs, restaurants, etc.). Bank offices or post offices located in the island may be able to help you, if you first take note of their business hours (they close between noon and 2PM and often after 3:30PM!) keep in mind also that the bank may be located on the other side of the island, or may be closed (local holidays, etc.).
Shops are generally open Monday through Friday from 7:30 AM to 11:30 AM and from 1:30 PM to 5 PM, 7:30 to 11AM on Saturday. Some shops sometimes remain open on Saturday afternoon. Except for the Papeete Market, where rush hours starts at 4 AM, most shops and restaurants are closed on Sunday. The Papeete Market is open every day from 4:00 AM and features many shops and handicrafts booths, not tobe missed on the second floor. An entire morning can be spent there if you are looking for a few original gifts.
The Papeete central post office is located on the waterfront near the Territorial Assembly. Business hours: 7 AM to 3 PM every day, with an window remaining open from 3PM to 6 PM for rush transactions. Most townships around Tahiti have their own post office with almost identical business hours. Every island in French Polynesia has its own local OPT (Office des Postes et Télécommunications) office.
- From Europe, to telephone to Tahiti, dial: 00 (to access the international network) + 689 (French Polynesia's country code) + your correspondent's 8-digit number.
- From the USA and the Canada, to call Tahiti, dial: 011 international network) + 689 (French Polynesia's country code) + your correspondent's 8-digit number .
- From Tahiti, to call, for example, the United States, dial: 00 (to access the international network) + 1 (USA/Canada country code) + your correspondent's full number.
- From Tahiti, to call France, dial: 00 (to access the international) + 33 (France's country code) + your correspondent's last 9 digits (without the first 0).
Tahiti's telecommunication network is one of the best in the world. Telephone conversations are carried via sattelites and all telecommunication services (telex, minitel, operator, fax, etc.) are available. Many phone booths are located within Papeete and around the island of Tahiti. See our Cartazooms to locate phone booths in the other islands. Most of them work with phone cards, available in many stores and in the post offices.
Tikiphone and Vodaphone are the only providers of mobile telephone communications in French Polynesia. Tikiphone's network, called VINI, operates a GSM 900 MHZ network in the Society Islands, Tuamotu, Australs and Marquesas islands.
So, bring your own usual GSM mobile phone along if is operates under this standard! Before leaving your country, call your Customer Service to make sure you have the International option. Upon your arrival in Tahiti, you will just need to switch on your mobile phone : you will see the "F VINI" displaid on the screen which means you are connected to Vini network. If your operator is not in the list of Vini's international partners, you'll just have to purchase a local temporary prepaid VINI CARD which you will insert inside your mobile phone. You can renew this card by buying a VINI CARD recharge card among the 150 retailing shops in French Polynesia. This subscription will assign you a temporary phone number (valid 3 months), supply you with voice mail and let you call anywhere. Be aware however that given the rates to call abroad, it is better to receive calls than to make them. It is anyway an ideal way to keep in touch with your friends and family back home,... but use it cautiously.
The main service provider in French Polynesia is called VINI. It is possible to purchase a prepaid connection kit from VINI or from Hotspots. The most economic way to stay online is still from hotels and lodgings which often provide you a free WiFi connection: an ideal way to send a picture of yourself sitting in the lagoon to your friends at work back home!
All electrical power is supplied in 220 Volts – 60 Hz. It is often supplied from generators, sometimes rather noisy and started at some given times of the day or night. More and more however, solar panels are appearing in many hotels and guest houses. Remember to bring transformers if your electric appliances run on 110 volts, and also adapters to connect to round plugs (European types)
► Tip: take along with you multiple sockets to recharge your equipment, since in certain rooms there will be only one socket available.
Although water is drinkable in Tahiti, we recommend that you always drink bottled water. In the other islands, even if the water seems drinkable, it is also better to drink bottled water. Local bottled spring waters are Eau Royale and Vaimato. Most French mineral waters are also found in the stores. In the atolls (Tuamotu), water is a rare and precious commidity. There is often no natural water reservoir and the islanders often collect rain water in cisterns. It is not always drinkable but it can be used in the bathroom. During heavy rains, water can come out brown from the faucet.
Polynesia has many high quality medical and dental offices. Pharmacies, private clinics, specialists and dental offices are gathered around the very modern Territorial Hospital Center. In the islands, hospitals and infirmaries take over with efficiency as well as general practitioners offering excellent medical care. The local Government sponsored Health Insurance program makes it possible to give the Polynesians and also to tourists the best medical care and coverage agreements negotiated with most major countries. It is better however to be covered for this type of unpleasant matters before leaving home and get information from your own insurance provider or your travel agency regarding medical care reimbursement. In principle, credit card holders benefit from minimal travel insurance covering relatively well various losses as soon as you pay for services with their cards.
No vaccination is required to enter French Polynesia, except of course in case of epidemics.
One of the rare disease a tourist can catch in French Polynesia is dengue fever, a kind of tropical flu. Sudden fever, migraines and muscle aches are the most common symptoms. Except for very rare complications, the only treatments for dengue fever are anti inflamatories and vitamin C. Take absolutelyno aspirin, which would only accelerate blood thinning and could cause serious internal bleeding problems. See a doctor as soon as possible.
Driving is on the right side everywhere in French Polynesia. The major rental companies are Europcar, Hertz and Avis. Roads are generally good, with the particularity that speed is slow as they are narrow, windy and genrally one way each side. Respect the average 50 to 60km /hour speed limit. Do not try to pass, and be extra careful at night as bicyclists and pedestrians could be on the road without lights. So, take your time, distances are short and it would be too bad to spoil your vacation while trying to save a few seconds.
Only home burglaries and car thefts are frequent. But like anywhere else, do not leave anything visble in your rented car and lock it as soon as you leave it. At your hotel, when you leave the room do not leave anything on display (purses, jewelry, money, papers). When you leave your room or your bungalow, lock doors and windows and close the drapes to prevent eventual temptations. Hotels and lodgings often have safes in the rooms. In other hotels, leave your valuables at the reception office.
Beware of coral cuts. Be especially careful on the lagoon side ladders, which are often very slippery and often covered of lagoon micro-organisms that cause allergic reactions to some people. Do not forget that lagoons have superb coral formations that are often also very sharp. If you get cut, even slightly when touching these coral heads, do not hesitate to take care of it with lime juice to prevent scars and infections, even if it stings a little! Just a simple matter of local habit!
• A beer at a sidewalk café : 600 CFP = 5 €
• "Poisson cru" in a snack : 1,200 CFP = 10 €
• Lunch in a restaurant: 3,600 CFP = 30 €
• Dinner in an upscale restaurant: 3, 500 to 7, 000 CFP = 30 € to 60 €
• Bottle of wine in a restaurant: 2,500 to 4,500 CFP = 20 € to 38 €
• Pareo at the market: 1,200 CFP = 10 €
• Necklace with a nice pearl: 18,000 CFP = 150 €
• Trip on "Le Truck": 150 to 300 CFP = 1 to 2.5 €
• Ten kilometers in taxi: 2,000 CFP = 17 €
• One day car rental: 10, 000 CFP = 84 €
• Round trip to Moorea by ferry: 2,000 CFP = 17 €
• One way to Bora Bora by plane: 18,000 CFP = 150 €
Tipping is not a local tradition... in theory. However, like everywhere, a tip will open many doors and generate many smiles. Have your own experience and reward outstanding service.
In my suitcase (a quick inventory)
Passports, flight tickets, and lodging reservation receipts
Credit card & money (ask your credit card company about their ATM compatibility in French Polynesia). Prefer Visa or Mastercard.
Sunscreen/Sunburn relief product
Insect repellent, and relief product (excellent product is sold in Moorea though!)
Hat or cap
Swimsuits (more than one per person as they don’t always dry out completely)
Plastic shoes to walk in the water
Snorkeling equipment is often provided for mid-size.
A small flashlight (always usefull)
One set of warmer clothes (sweater)
A set of long-sleeved layer and lightweight long pants, which can also be useful for mosquitos
Boat shoes (timberland type) because they are easy going with water and sand
Non-prescription drugs for headaches, allergies, stomach aches, etc. and simple first aid supplies
Extra eyeglasses or lenses and prescriptions
Plenty of memory for photos and videos and extra batteries
Favorite CDs and DVDs and related players
Favorite reading material
An open mind and an adventurous spirit!
So, are you ready?