TAHITI BEFORE YOU GO
Where do I fly into?
Airport Name: Papeete Tahiti Fa’a’ā International Airport
IATA Code: PPT
Phone: +689 40 86 60 61
Address: Fa’a’ā, French Polynesia
Tahiti Weather & Time Zone
The best time to visit Tahiti is between May and October. Although the temperatures are balmy year-round, Tahiti’s winter season enjoys less humidity. Tahiti really only experiences two distinct seasons: Winter brings less rain and pleasant temperatures while the summertime – November through April – can be unbearably hot and humid, not to mention rainy. But regardless of when you travel, you can expect hotel rates to be high. Average weather is 83-86 degrees (F)
French Polynesia is located in the same time zone as Hawaii, which is 10 hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) or Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). If you are flying from Los Angeles, the islands are just two hours behind Pacific Standard Time (PST), and three hours behind Pacific Daylight Time (March to late October). The Gambier Islands in this region are one hour ahead of Tahiti, and the Marquesas are 30 minutes ahead of Tahiti.
Passport and Visa Information
Every visitor to French Polynesia must have a return airline ticket to their resident country or to at least two more continuing destinations and sufficient funds to support themselves while in French Polynesia.
It is recommended to keep your Air Tahiti Nui e-ticket receipt with you, as it might be requested at the check-in counter or by Customs officials as proof of your return travel.
All passengers with paper tickets must be in possession of the ticket issued by Air Tahiti Nui or travel agent.
For U.S. and Canadian Citizens: Passport must be valid for a minimum of three monthsfrom the arrival date to French Polynesia. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days. A foreigner with a residence card for the U.S. is not exempt from the above requirements and should consult the French Consulate for information. American citizens may also be required to carry short-stay visas in the following cases: holders of diplomatic and official passports on assignment, students enrolled in courses in French Polynesia, journalists on assignment, crew members, as well as those who will have paid activities in French Polynesia (including scientists and artists).
For French Citizens: No visa required for French passport holders to enter French Polynesia.
New Zealand and Australian Citizens: Passport must be valid for three months from the arrival date to French Polynesia. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days for New Zealand citizens and for up to 90 days for Australian citizens.
Japanese Citizens: Passport must be valid for a minimum of three months from the arrival date to French Polynesia. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days for Japanese passport holders. Visitors must hold documents required for their next destination.Visitors must hold return or onward tickets.
Other Country Travel Documents and Visa requirements: Please check with the French Consulate and request specific information for entry to French Polynesia as these requirements can differ from France.
US Entry and Transit Requirements: Nationals of Visa Waiver Program countries* who are seeking to travel to the United States and stay for a maximum of 90 days, will have to apply for an approved travel authorization prior to departure, on the following secure website: https://esta.cbp.dhs.govAn application can be submitted at any time before your travel to the United States. However, a minimum period of 72 hours prior to departure is strongly recommended.
As a reminder, the passenger is solely responsible for complying with all laws, regulations, orders, demands and travel requirements of countries to be flown from, into or over (in transit). Once granted, and unless revoked, a travel authorization is valid for two years from the date of authorization, or until the passport expires, whichever comes first. Travelers are thus requested to keep with them a printed version of their authorization for every travel or transit in the United States. It is highly recommended to update your authorization before each travel to the United States by using the application number you have been given on the ESTA website.
Passport Requirements: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reminds travelers from the 27 Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries, they must have a machine-readable passport to enter the United States without a visa. Citizens from other countries require a tourist visa good for 90 days that can be obtained from the nearest U.S. consulate.
As Entry Requirements and Customs Regulations are subject to change without notice, always check with your travel arranger and/or the proper authorities before traveling internationally. It is the responsibility of each passenger to carry the proper travel documentation and to meet the entry conditions of each country on their itinerary.
Health and Safety
Tahiti and French Polynesia pose no major health problem for most travelers, although it’s a good idea to have your tetanus, hepatitis-A, and hepatitis-B vaccinations up-to-date.
The local equivalent to the 911 emergency line in French Polynesia is “17” for police, “15” for ambulance, and “18” for fire.
Lather Up — The sun in these latitudes can burn your skin in a very short period of time — even on what seems like a cloudy day. Limit your exposure, especially during the first few days of your trip. Be particularly careful from 11am to 2pm. Use sunscreen with a high protection factor (SPF30 or more) and apply it liberally. If you’re going snorkeling, wear a T-shirt to avoid overexposure on your back.
Minor illnesses on the islands include the common cold and the occasional outbreaks of influenza and conjunctivitis (pinkeye).
Cuts, scratches, and all open sores should be treated promptly in the Tropics. I always carry a tube of antibacterial ointment and a small package of adhesive bandages.
There are plenty of mosquitoes, but they do not carry deadly endemic diseases such as malaria. From time to time, the islands will experience an outbreak of dengue fever, a viral disease borne by the Adës aegypti mosquito, which lives indoors and bites only during daylight hours. Dengue seldom is fatal in adults, but you should take extra precautions to keep children from being bitten by mosquitoes if the disease is present. (Other precautions should be taken if you are traveling with children;.)
Bugs, Bites & Other Wildlife Concerns — Living among the friendly Tahitians are some of the world’s friendliest ants, roaches, geckos, crabs, and insects.
Indeed, the islands have multitudes of mosquitoes, roaches, ants, houseflies, and other insects. Ants are omnipresent here, so don’t leave crumbs or dirty dishes lying around your room. A few beaches and swampy areas also have invisible sand flies — the dreaded no-seeums or no-nos — that bite the ankles around daybreak and dusk.
Insect repellent is widely available in most drug stores and grocery shops. The most effective contain a high percentage of “deet” (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide).
I light a mosquito coil in my non-air-conditioned rooms at dusk in order to keep the pests from flying in, then start another one at bedtime. Grocery stores throughout the islands carry these inexpensive coils. The Fish brand coils, made by the appropriately named Blood Protection Company, seem to work best.
Multitudes of Animals
Don’t bother complaining about the multitude of dogs, chickens, pigs, and squawking myna birds running loose out here, even in the finest restaurants. They are as much a part of life as the islanders themselves. And don’t be frightened by those little geckos (lizards) crawling around the rafters of even the most expensive bungalows. They’re harmless to us humans, but lethal to insects.
The tropical sun in the islands can be brutal, even on what seems like an overcast day. Accordingly, it’s important to use sunscreen whenever you’re outdoors, especially at midday. This is particularly true for children.
Sexual relations before marriage — heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual — are more or less accepted in the islands (abstinence campaigns fall on deaf ears). Both male and female prostitution is common in Papeete. HIV is present in the islands, so if you intend to engage in sex with strangers, you should exercise at least the same caution in choosing them, and in practicing safe sex, as you would at home.
Be Careful in the Water
Most of French Polynesia’s marine creatures are harmless to humans, but there are some to avoid. Always seek local advice before snorkeling or swimming in a lagoon away from the hotel beaches. Many diving operators conduct snorkeling tours. If you don’t know what you’re doing, go with them.
Wash and apply a good antiseptic or antibacterial ointment to all coral cuts and scrapes as soon as possible. Because coral cannot grow in fresh water, the flow of rivers and streams into the lagoon creates narrow channels known as passes through the reef. Currents can be very strong in the passes, so stay in the protected, shallow water of the inner lagoons.
Sharks are curious beasts that are attracted by bright objects such as watches and knives, so be careful what you wear in the water. Don’t swim in areas where sewage or edible wastes are dumped, and never swim alone if you have any suspicion that sharks might be present. If you do see a shark, don’t splash in the water or urinate. Calmly retreat and get out of the water as quickly as you can, without creating a disturbance.
Those round things on the rocks and reefs that look like pincushions are sea urchins, and their calcium spikes can be more painful than needles. A sea-urchin puncture can result in burning, aching, swelling, and discoloration (black or purple) around the area where the spines entered your skin. The best thing to do is to pull any protruding spines out. The body will absorb the spines within 24 hours to 3 weeks, or the remainder of the spines will work themselves out. Contrary to popular advice, do not urinate or pour vinegar on the embedded spines — this will not help.
Jellyfish stings can hurt like the devil but are seldom life-threatening. You need to get any visible tentacles off your body right away, but not with your hands, unless you are wearing gloves. Use a stick or anything else that is handy. Then rinse the sting with saltwater or fresh water, and apply ice to prevent swelling and to help control the pain. If you can find it at an island grocery store, Adolph’s Meat Tenderizer is a great antidote.
The stone fish is so named because it looks like a piece of stone or coral as it lies buried in the sand on the lagoon bottom with only its back and 13 venomous spikes sticking out. Its venom can cause paralysis and even death. You’ll know by the intense pain if you’re stuck. Serum is available, so get to a hospital at once. Sea snakes, cone shells, crown-of-thorns starfish, moray eels, lionfish, and demon stingersalso can be painful, if not deadly. The last thing any of these creatures wants to do is to tangle with a human, so keep your hands to yourself.
While international terrorism is a threat throughout the world, the islands are among the planet’s safest destinations. Tight security procedures are in effect at Tahiti-Faaa International Airport, but once you’re on the outer islands, you are unlikely to see a metal detector, nor is anyone likely to inspect your carry-on.
The islands have seen increasing property theft in recent years, however, including occasional break-ins at hotel rooms and resort bungalows. Although street crimes against tourists are still relatively rare, friends of mine who live here don’t stroll off Papeete’s busy boulevard Pomare after dark. For that matter, you should stay alert wherever you are after dusk.
Don’t leave valuable items in your hotel room, in your rental car, or unattended anywhere.
Women should not wander alone on deserted beaches at any time, since some Polynesian men may consider such behavior to be an invitation for instant amorous activity.
When heading outdoors, keep in mind that injuries often occur when people fail to follow instructions. Believe the experts who tell you to stay on the established trails. Hike only in designated areas, follow the marine charts if piloting your own boat, carry rain gear, and wear a life jacket when canoeing or rafting. Mountain weather can be fickle at any time. Watch out for sudden storms that can leave you drenched and send bolts of lightning your way.
The French gendarmes will come to rescue you if you get into trouble out in the wild, but believe me, they do not appreciate tourists blundering into trouble.
Tahiti Currency, Exchange
The Tahiti currency is the same currency used in all of French Polynesia. The Franc of the “Compagnie Française du Pacifique” or Pacific French Company is most commonly called the French Pacific Franc. Generally abbreviated to CFP or XPF, the currency in Tahiti features both coins and bank notes. Coins come in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 while notes are available in denominations of 500, 1000, 5000 and 10 000. Similar to Australian dollars, the notes of Tahiti’s currency are colourful and feature the faces of famous Tahitian figures.
The currency of Tahiti’s exchange rate with the Euro is at a fixed flat rate with no fluctuation.
119.33 Pacific Franc (XPF) = 1 Euro (€)
108 Pacific Franc = 1 US dollar (*)
1,000 Pacific Franc = 8.39 US dollars (*)
(*) Approximate exchange rate in May 2015
Some tourist places including excursions and stores will accept US dollars, however the exchange rate offered is very poor and US dollars are not widely accepted. We recommend you exchange your money into Tahiti currency at any bank in Papeete or at the Tahiti International Airport. Currency exchange is located to the left of the customs and immigration exit and is open for all incoming flights, including those that arrive during the night.
Although many resorts and larger stores will take credit cards, most small shops won’t accept credit. However the exchange rate is usually quite good with credit cards, so try to take advantage of using your credit card when you can. Just be sure to call your bank or card issuer before you leave to tell them you will be travelling overseas. Unexpected overseas activity on your card could cause your credit card company to freeze your account, making payment difficult while you are away. It’s also wise to check the conversion fees as these are different between banks and you want to make sure you are getting the best deal before racking up charges on your card.
The bank and ATM at Faa’a International Airport are open to meet all international flights, meaning you can exchange money upon arrival. The international banks in Papeete include Banque de Polynésie (www.sg-bdp.pf), Banque Socredo (www.socredo.pf) and Banque de Tahiti (www.banque-tahiti.pf). The international hotels will also exchange currency, but usually at a higher exchange rate. The banks are always closed on Sunday with limited hours on Saturday, but there are plenty of ATMs located downtown. Since credit cards are often accepted in the tourist areas, it is not necessary to exchange large amounts.
Credit cards are widely used throughout the main islands. The more commonly accepted credit cards include Visa and Mastercard, followed by American Express. Please note that not all hotels and restaurants accept American Express. Once you get to the smaller, more isolated atolls such as Manihi and Fakarava, you will most likely need to carry cash for the stores, restaurants and pensions located away from the major resorts.
Dressing on a Tahitian Trip
Focus on packing casual, comfortable, warm weather clothing. In even the best restaurants, the dress code is island casual. Sandals and espadrilles are acceptable everywhere, and men can leave their ties home.
For women, sundresses or shorts are always suitable. Local residents really do wear pareos (sarongs) as everyday dress. Men wear shorts and T-shirts or short-sleeved shirts.
Because so much of a Tahiti trip will center around water activities, pack at least two bathing suits, along with amphibious, or water shoes, since some parts of the ocean floor are covered in coral. Flip flops are fine for the beach.
Electricity & Water
The power supply in French Polynesia is 220 Volts (60 Hz). Hotels use either 110 or 220V, depending on the location. The outlet, which accepts Type E and C plugs primarily used in Europe, has two round prong holes and an outward grounding pin. Be sure to check compatibility before plugging in any electrical appliance. Some hotels may have an adapter or converter on hand, but we recommend traveling with your own. You can purchase one at most hardware or department stores. Look for the product marked Europe/Asia. In most cases, you will only need an adapter. In some cases, like when using certain single-voltage devices, you may need a converter.
Tap water is safe to drink only in the city of Papeete on Tahiti and on Bora Bora. You can buy bottled spring water in any grocery store.
Tipping in French Polynesia isn’t a standard practice as it isn’t typically part of the culture. Hotels and restaurants may include a service charge in the final bill, especially in Tahiti and its islands, so tipping isn’t required or expected. This, however, doesn’t mean tipping is taboo, as it’s still a good way to show appreciation for a job well done. The amount to tip is up to you, but it should be reflective of the service you’ve received.
Though tipping might not be a standard practice, it is considerate to leave a little extra for great service. This French Polynesia tipping guide will help you navigate when/where to tip.
Restaurant Server: Since many restaurants include a service charge in the final bill, tipping isn’t obligatory and is not expected by servers. Exceptional service, however, may deserve more than is included and is up to you how much to leave.
Bartender: There’s no obligation to tip at a bar, but rounding up is a nice way to show appreciation for great service.
Tour Guides: It isn’t obligatory to tip, but you may want to leave a little extra for an informative and fun tour.
Taxis: A tip isn’t required, but a little extra for help with luggage is always appreciated.
Doorman: Hotels may include a service charge in the final bill, so a tip isn’t necessarily required. It is up to you if exceptional service deserves a little extra
Bellhop: Hotels may include a service charge in the final bill, so a tip isn’t necessarily required. It is up to you if exceptional service, such as delivering your luggage to your room, deserves a little extra.
Housecleaning: Hotels may include a service charge in the final bill, so a tip isn’t necessarily required. It is up to you if exceptional service, such as ensuring a squeaky-clean stay, deserves a little extra.
Concierge: Hotels may include a service charge in the final bill, so a tip isn’t necessarily required. It is up to you if exceptional service deserves a little extra.
Stylist: It isn’t obligatory to tip, but leave a little extra for a fantastic new look.
Spa Service Provider: Tipping is not obligatory, but you can leave extra for exceptional service.
To get a taste of some local Tahitian culture, you should board the Le Truck bus. Not only will this form of transit give you a great introduction to the island, it’s also cheap. Le Truck offers several routes: The red and white buses travel 5 miles along the island’s west coast; the green and white buses travel 6 miles along the east side of the island; and the long-distance orange and white buses travel all the way around the island. In Pape’ete, you can catch the west coast buses near the marketplace on Rue du Marechal Foch and the east coast buses from Boulevard Pomare opposite the cruise ship dock. Along the routes, you can simply flag a Le Truck down from the side of the road. Expect to pay the driver before disembarking; fares are based on distance traveled but you shouldn’t expect to pay more than 100 to 200 French Polynesian Francs (about $1 to 2) a trip
Taxis are very expensive and un practicale – but when you are in a bind you will see the queing at the airport, and Pape-etes Centre Valma. You can hail them on the street just as easy – but you will pay roughly 3,000 French Polynesian Francs (or about 33$ USD) to go just a few miles.
French is the official language in Tahiti but the locals also speak Tahitian. English is widely spoken and understood in most hotels, restaurants and shops. Still, learning a little Tahitian is always encouraged and appreciated. Below are some commonly used words and phrases. There are only thirteen letters in the Tahitian alphabet, including vowels a (ah) as in spa, e (ay) as in hey, i (ee) as in ski, o (oh) as in low, and u (oo) as in due; and consonants f, h, m, n, p, r, t and v, which are pronounced the same in English.
hello: ia orana (yo-rah-nah)
goodbye: nana (nah-nah)
welcome: maeva (mah-ay-vah)
thank you: mauruuru (mah-roo-roo)
cheers: manuia (mah-new-yah)
What to pack for a trip to Tahiti
Beware of the Tropical Sun
On a trip to Tahiti, never underestimate the power of the tropical sun. Everywhere visitors will spot tourists who failed to appreciate the dangers of being in the tropics, as proven by their bright crimson cheeks and shoulders.
To keep from becoming one of the red-skinned tourists you’ll see everywhere, bring plenty of sunblock, a sun hat, and a sun-proof shirt that will shield you from the merciless rays.
While luminescent pearls and colorful pareos are available at every turn, finding necessities on Tahiti and the other islands of French Polynesia can be a challenge. Since nearly everything on the islands is imported, even the most common items are expensive and hard to find.
When packing for Tahiti, visitors should therefore bring everything they need with them, from combs to condoms and other personal items. Hotels are often located in remote areas, and while they generally have a shop on site, their inventory tends to be minimal — mainly handicrafts, T-shirts, postcards, and a few sundries.
Things to carry on with you
- A copy of your passport and driver’s license.
- Your emergency telephone list of phone numbers from back home.
- A business card showing the phone and address of your hotel.
- Cash cards only if you plan to go to the bank.
- Credit cards only if you plan to go to the bank, major shopping, or to a nice restaurant