Travel Tips and Facts For Tahiti and Her Islands
Location And Time Zone
Tahiti is in the same time zone as Hawaii, and is two hours behind the West Cost during Pacific Standard Time, and is located south of the Equator. The islands are approximately mid way between Los Angeles, California and Sydney, Australia.
Weather And Climate
French Polynesia enjoys warm, tropical weather year-round. Cooled by the gentle breezes of the Pacific, the climate of these islands is sunny and pleasant. Because Tahiti and her islands are below the Equator, the seasons are the reverse of those in the Northern Hemisphere. Roughly speaking, there are two seasons: from November through May the climate is warmer and humid, with daily temperatures of about 85 degrees F and from June through October the climate is cooler and drier with daily temperatures of about 82 degrees F. The year-round low is about 70 degrees F. Most of the rain falls during the warmer season, but there are also many lovely sunny days with refreshing trade-winds during these months. Tropical rain showers are usually short in duration. The average ocean water temperature is in the low 80’s.
Tahitian and French are the main languages spoken throughout French Polynesia. English is spoken in most major hotels, shops and restaurants. Tahitians are very friendly and courteous, but they are generally shy and their limited English language skills may prevent them from engaging in a lengthy conversation with you. Therefore, it can also be helpful, but not mandatory, to brush up on a few basic French phrases and Tahitian greetings.
Getting To Tahiti
French Polynesia is easily accessible by air from most parts of the world including the United States, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Easter Island. Air Tahiti Nui is the primary flight carrier servicing Tahiti from North America, including daily flights from Los Angeles and weekly flights from New York. Weekly flights are also available from Los Angeles on Air France and from Honolulu on Hawaiian
Airlines. All international air traffic pass through Faaa Airport in Papeete on Tahiti. Flying time is approximately 8 hours from Los Angeles, 13 hours from New York, and 5 hours from Hawaii.
Entry Requirements For Tahiti
All travelers must present a valid passport to board a flight to French Polynesia. Your first and last name on your passport must match your international air tickets. You will also be asked to present your passport to clear “Customs” in French Polynesia and upon return from French Polynesia. Your passport must be valid for 180 days beyond your return date. U.S. and Canadian citizens only need a valid passport and do not need a VISA to enter French Polynesia. Citizens of all other countries may need a VISA in addition to a valid passport and should consult the nearest French Consulate or French Embassy as early as possible. It can take several weeks to obtain a VISA. It is solely the passenger’s responsibility to ensure that all needed documents are complete and up to date for valid entry into the country.
Transportation Between The Islands Of Tahiti
Air Tahiti, a sister company to Air Tahiti Nui, offers the primary mode of service between the islands, including regular inter-island flight service to 46 islands from Tahiti. Inter-island travel by boat is less common and frequent. The islands of Moorea and Huahine can be reached by ferry or catamaran service from Tahiti. Weekly departures are offered to Huahine and daily service is offered between Tahiti and Moorea. Travel time between Tahiti and Moorea by ferry is approximately 30 minutes one way.
Transportation On The Islands Of Tahiti
Tahiti and the developed islands operate a local-bus service known as Le Truck which is inexpensive and reliable. Taxis are available for hire, but can be expensive. Rental cars and motor scooters can be rented to easily navigate the islands of Tahiti, Moorea, Huahine, Bora Bora, Raiatea and Tahaa. Rental cars are not needed on the Tuamotu Islands. On the Marquesas, four wheel drive vehicles are available for rent and needed to get around on the island. Rental car inventories include some cars with air-conditioning and automatic transmission. Due to the limited number of rental cars on each island, it is recommended to reserve the car prior to arrival in Tahiti.
Health Certification/Medical Care
As a French protectorate, health standards in Tahiti are on par with those found in Western Europe. For U.S. and Canadian citizens arriving from North America there are no special shots or inoculations needed for entry into Tahiti. Visitors arriving from other countries that have symptoms of contagious diseases as defined by the World Health Organization may be asked to present certificates of inoculations to gain entry.
French Polynesia enjoys a high standard of health, with excellent medical and dental services, pharmacies, private clinics and a large government hospital in Tahiti. The outer islands have hospitals or dispensaries, and a few private practitioners. All the islands maintain hygienic controls to combat potential epidemics of tropical diseases.
There are no snakes, poisonous spiders or fearsome animals in these islands, and hotels and dispensaries on each tourist island and atoll keep first aid supplies on hand to treat coral cuts, sunburn and the extremely rare case of poisoning, when the barefoot swimmer steps on the toxic spines of the stonefish.
A good sun screen is essential (sun block is suggested for the first few days) to prevent burning. As in all tropical locales, French Polynesia has its share of mosquitoes; the hotels do their part to keep this problem to a minimum, but it is still wise to pack an insect repellent. Medications, even aspirin, should be brought from home, as pharmacies are not always convenient to the hotels.
Tap water in hotels and restaurants is generally safe to drink. A local mineral water « Eau Royale » and all sorts of French mineral waters are available.
Currency And Exchange
The Pacific French Franc (CFP) is the currency used in French Polynesia. It is not valued the same as the EURO. The average value of the CFP in relation to the US Dollar has been ranging from 75-100 CFP per $1 US.
Foreign Exchange counters are available at Faaa International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport. Alternatively, you may exchange cash at the bank on the major islands. Hotels also exchange currency and traveler checks but may give a less favorable rate.
Credit Cards Or Cash?
Bring both. You will often get a better exchange rate paying by credit card than paying by cash or traveler check. Major credit cards (American Express, Visa and MasterCard) are accepted at hotels, most restaurants and shops on larger islands. However, you may find that credit cards are not widely accepted on smaller islands such as Huahine, Rangiroa, Tikehau, and Manihi.
Traveler checks are widely accepted. Generally, a better exchange rate is given for traveler checks than for cash.
U.S. currency may be accepted as direct payment in hotels, restaurants and large shops, but will get a low rate of exchange. There are a few ATM machines available on the main islands of Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora, which you may use with your debit or major credit cards.
Please note that some credit card issuers may charge a fee for any transactions outside of the U.S., so you should contact your provider to verify any charges you may incur for using your credit card in French Polynesia.