Fiji opened its borders for tourism to many countries on 1 December 2021 after nearly two years of isolation. After having the opportunity to travel to Australia’s Northern Territory, Western Australia and most recently New Zealand, we were delighted to take advantage of the opportunity to travel to Fiji just a couple of days after the borders opened. Once there, we discovered a magical place with incredibly friendly people and an easy going culture that instantly felt like home. With one of the highest vaccination rates in the world and a year-round warm climate with beautiful beaches, rainforests and outdoor activities, Fiji is the perfect destination for an international adventure in 2022. We’re excited to share these tips and tricks to travelling in Fiji in 2022!
When to travel
Fiji is a great destination year-round, with warm water and stunning beaches making for a picture perfect and super relaxing getaway year round, with some unique cultural experiences to boot (kava, anyone!?). That being said there are some times to avoid if you want the best bang for your buck. In particular, the Australian and New Zealand school holidays can be very busy, particularly the winter break (July to August) and the long summer holidays (mid-December to early February). Fiji also has a wet season with cyclones potentially forming between late November and April.
With all that in mind, the best time to go is likely to be in the September to November period if you can wrangle it. We were there in early December and it was perfectly pleasant. We experienced a couple of short storms which were over in half an hour or so. It is worthwhile keeping in mind that the western side of Fiji receives substantially less rainfall than the eastern side, so if you are coming in the wet season, keep to the areas around Nadi like the Mamanuca and Yasawa islands, or Denarau as a base on Viti Levu (the main island).
How to get there
Having only recently opened its borders, flights to Fiji are not operating at full capacity but this should increase as international tourism improves. As at January 2021, Fiji Airlines is flying to Australia, New Zealand, USA and Hong Kong. Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia are also operating flights to and from Fiji.
Most countries are visa-exempt meaning an entry visa is granted on arrival if you’re staying for 4 months or less. Advice on visa and immigration is available here.
The COVID-19 environment is very fluid and it’s important to understand the latest travel advice regarding restrictions and requirements for entering Fiji. The latest advice can be found via the Tourism Fiji website.
The Fijian dollar is the official currency in Fiji. The average currency conversion rate is around $1 USD = $2 FJD or AUD = $1.50 FJD. Cards are accepted at most businesses in tourist areas and cities. Similarly, if you are staying at an island resort or hotel, additional expenses can generally be charged to the room and settled by card at the end of your stay. One thing to be aware of is that relatively high credit card transaction fees are common in Fiji – generally in the range of 3-4%, even at major hotels and retailers. Cash may be required for smaller transactions or travel to more remote islands, so be sure to have plenty available even if you’re mostly staying on an island resort.
ATMs are common in Fiji, particularly in cities and tourist areas. Australian banks Westpac and ANZ have a presence in Fiji. Be mindful of currency conversion fees as well as international ATM withdrawal fees associated with your card. Most ATMs will also charge a local withdrawal fee of around FJ$5-10 (US$2.50-5) in addition to any charges levied by your own bank. Foreign currency can be exchanged for Fijian dollars in and around the airport and other transport terminals, as well as in cities and hotels, though hotels generally have unfavourable exchange rates.
Fiji has large Indian and indigenous Fijian populations, both with their own languages of Hindi and Fijian respectively. English is used as a common language in the country and is understood more or less universally. That being said, the locals will really appreciate efforts to learn some of the local language, like the commonly heard “Bula!” (hello) and “Vinaka!” (thank you).
Although the mainland island of Viti Levu offers plenty of great experiences, most visitors to Fiji will naturally seek out picturesque beach destinations, many of which are on the coast or on private islands. For the more budget conscious, there are opportunities to stay with local families in villages on many islands, though these options have become a little more limited in the pandemic era.
The first port of call for many first time visitors to Fiji is Denarau Island. Originally a mangrove swamp, Denarau has been developed into a luxury private resort island and is home to many international resorts including the Hilton, Sofitel, Westin and Radisson Blu. Port Denarau also offers some serviced apartments at the Palms Denarau, as well as private bungalows for longer term residents. While Denarau admittedly does not have the best beaches, it is a great starting point for families and travellers on more of a budget (this is used loosely – you’re still looking at US$200+ per night). Denarau is also a fantastic hub for those keen to take day trips into Viti Levu and the nearby Mamanuca Islands.
For those with a more generous budget, however, feel free to bypass Denarau to focus further afield. Mariott Resort Momi Bay offers a large scale luxurious experience with overwater bungalows just under an hour’s drive from Nadi. But the true magic of Fiji is its islands, and there are many resort islands to choose from. Many popular resorts can be found in the nearby Mamanuca Islands, including Castaway Island (where we stayed, one of the first island resorts to reopen post-COVID), Tokoriki, and Likuliku. The cost of these resort islands generally starts at US$500 and rises from there, with food generally available for an extra charge per person per night, though it can sometimes be included depending on the offers available. There are plenty of other options throughout Fiji, including the popular Qamea Resort in the north-east of the country, and Koru Sun resort in the north. While these were unfortunately still closed when we went, both of these are certainly on our list for when we return to Fiji! We cannot recommend the island experience enough. The resorts are generally small and highly personalised, offering a fantastic opportunity to meet the locals who work there and fellow travellers – who know, you might even make some lifelong friends!
How to get around
Once you’ve landed in Fiji, most hotels can arrange transfers from the airport as a complementary service or for a small fee. Taxis are also available for a reasonable cost (approximately FJD $30 (US$15) from the airport to Denarau, or around FJD $5 (US$2.50) for trips around Nadi town. If you’re staying on Denarau Island, the ‘Bula Bus’; a dedicated tourist bus, is available to travel to the Port, other hotels, the golf course and waterpark for FJD $8 (US$4) per day or FJD $24 (US$12) for a four day pass. For a more local experience, you can catch the local bus, ‘Westbus’, into Nadi for FJD $1 (US$0.50) each way. Ferries and speed boats are available from Port Denarau Marnia to travel to the Mamanuca or Yasawa isalnds as day trips or part of an extended stay. If you’re travelling further afield (e.g. Suva, Savusavu, Taveuni), relatively inexpensive domestic flights are available with Fiji Airways.
Budget travellers can certainly get by on a shoestring purse by focussing on local homestays and embracing the local culture – US$50 per night would be more than enough for this style of travel.
For the international resorts around Denarau, expect to budget around US$200-300 per night for accommodation, plus another US$100 or so per person for meals, transport, and other activities.
Finally, the island resorts are the epitome of luxury with global five star facilities, and prices to match. Expect to pay US$500-$1,000 per night for accommodation and around US$100 per day for meals as part of an all-inclusive package. Note that in Fiji, all-inclusive packages generally don’t include drinks other than tea and coffee. Alcoholic drinks generally go for prices similar to cocktail bars in Australia or the US. Finally, if you’re staying at one of these resorts, you probably want to budget around US$50-100 per person per day for activities.
Just for an example, we’re not heavy drinkers by any stretch of the imagination and our total bill for extras (drinks and activities, including snorkel trips and massages) came to around FJD $800 (US$400) each for 5 nights. Some of our friends who were bigger fans of the pool bar confessed to FJD $300 (US$150) cocktail sessions, so good to be aware of what you’re getting into!
Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has added an extra expense for many travellers – PCR and rapid testing! Currently you are required to get a rapid test after 48 hours of your arrival, this can be done at the hotel for around FJD $20 (US$10). When departing, many countries also require a PCR test when you return. This can generally be arranged at hotels for a cost of around FJD $150 (US$75).
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