Fiji in a Glimpse
Is a Melanesian country in the South Pacific Ocean. It lies about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand and consists of an archipelago that includes 332 islands, a handful of which make up most of the land area, and approximately 110 of which are inhabited.
Fiji is the product of volcanic mountains and warm tropical waters. Its majestic and ever-varied coral reefs today draw tourists from around the world, but were the nightmare of European mariners until well into the 19th century. As a result, Fijians have retained their land and often much of the noncommercial, sharing attitude of people who live in vast extended families with direct access to natural resources. When it came, European involvement and cession to Britain was marked by the conversion to Christianity, the cessation of brutal tribal warfare and cannibalism, and the immigration of a large number of indentured Indian laborers, who now represent nearly half of the population, as well as smaller numbers of Europeans and Asians. Today, Fiji is a land of tropical rainforests, coconut plantations, fine beaches, fire-cleared hills. For the casual tourist it is blessedly free of evils such as malaria, landmines, or terrorism that attend many similarly lovely places in the world.
Internal political events in the recent past resulted in a reduction in tourism. The Fiji tourism industry has responded by lowering prices and increasing promotion of the main resort areas that are far removed from the politics in and around the capital, Suva.
Tropical marine; only slight seasonal temperature variation. Tropical cyclonic storms (The South Pacific version of Hurricanes) can occur from November to April. Temperature sensitive visitors may wish to visit during the Southern Hemisphere winter.
Fiji has a variety of public transport options, including buses, "share taxis", and private taxis. Rates are very cheap: F$1-2 from Colo-i-Suva to Suva bus station by bus, F$17 from Nadi bus station to Suva by share-taxi (share-taxi's are usually white mini-vans that congregate together and set-off when they reach their capacity of 6-8), or approximately F$80 from Suva airport to Sigatoka by private taxi. On the main road circling Viti Levu buses run every half hour and taxis are a substantial proportion of traffic, while on western Taveuni buses make only a few runs per day and very little traffic is present. If taxi has a meter, ask the driver to switch it on - the ride will be lot cheaper than with negotiated price.
The current going rate from resorts on Nadi beach to Nadi downtown is $8 per passenger, and $12 to the airport -- you should be able negotiate this price reasonably easily.
While there is rarely much traffic present, most vehicles run on diesel and pollution on major roadways can be severe. A national speed limit of 80 km/h is usually observed; village speed limits are all but entirely ignored, but drivers slow down for several speed humps distributed within each village. Seat belts are advised on taxis but are rarely evident and apparently never used.
Road travel tends to be more dangerous than many people are used to, and many embassies advise their citizens to avoid pretty much any form of road travel. Pot holes, washouts and dilapidated bridges are commonplace. Buses are the best, unless you are truly comfortable and capable of renting and driving a car on your own - most people are not even if they think they are. Avoid travel at night, especially outside of urban areas. Another option is hop-on, hop-off bus passes which allow you to tour Fiji at your own pace for a fixed price. These are a more expensive way to travel but feature inclusions like tours and activities. However, some like Feejee Experience web are limited to Viti Levu and trips to Beachcomber island and don't include the more remote islands.
South Sea Cruises web operates daily inter-island ferry transfers throughout Fiji's Mamanuca Island resorts. Awesome Adventures Fiji web provides daily ferry transfers out to the remote Yasawa Islands. Inter-island ferries are reasonably priced and the larger ones (especially those large enough to accommodate cars and trucks) have a good safety record, though they may be overcrowded at the beginning and end of school holiday periods. Ferries offer two or three classes (depending on the ship). Economy (F$65 pp on Suva-Taveuni route) is the cheapest option, but requires you to sleep on chairs or on the floor. Sleeper (F$104 pp, Suva-Taveuni) is dormitory-like accomodation. Cabin (F$135 pp on MV Suiliven, F$95 pp on SOFE, Suva-Taveuni) is not necessarily the best option, as the space is very limited, cabin can be shared (4 beds) and can have hords of bugs.
Do not attempt to take a car to another island unless you own it or have made clear special arrangements - most rental companies forbid it and they do prosecute tourists who violate this clause in the contract.
Bicycles are becoming more popular in Fiji in recent years for locals and tourists alike. In many ways, Fiji is an ideal place for a rugged bike tour. However, the motor vehicle traffic can be intimidating on well-travelled roads, and there is a lack of accommodation along secondary roads. Cycling is a great way to see Fiji but make sure you carry all your own spares and supplies as bike shops are scarce. It is a good idea to carry plenty of water, a camelbak is great, as it is very hot and humid almost year round.
The main Road around the largest island, Viti Levu, is sealed except for a 40 km section on the eastern side. A sturdy road, touring or hybrid bike is suitable.
Bike rental can be quite expensive comparing to other options: on Taveuni bike for full day costs F$25. With two persons the cost is similiar to renting a car.
Most crime takes place in Suva and Nadi away from the resort areas. The best advice is to stick to hotel grounds after dark, and to use extreme caution in Suva, Nadi and other urbanised areas after nightfall. Travelers have been victims of violent crime, particularly in Suva. Travelers have reported the regularity of petty robberies, muggings, and also home-invasions/rape, etc. You will notice the predominance of bars on most peoples' homes. Economic and ethnic strife has led to a low-level hum of violent crime. Some resorts and hotels have more extensive security measures than others which should be taken into account.
Muggings are often carried out by large groups of men so being in a group won't necessarily be a deterrent. Police forces sometimes have difficulties responding to crime, potentially for reasons as mundane as being unable to pay for petrol.
Fijian culture encourages sharing and sometimes small things like shoes will be "borrowed". Often by speaking with the village chief it can be arranged to get things returned.
Also, be aware that homosexual sex may be a crime in Fiji. While Fiji claims to welcome gay travelers, there has been a recent case where a visitor to the country was initially jailed for 2 years for paying a local for homosexual sex. He was later freed on appeal.
Fiji is still run by a military government, following a coup in December 2006. Although its effect has not been prominent in the resort areas of Nadi, it has led to economic decline, and a decrease in the rule of law. Journalists may be blacklisted for political reasons. Those whose employment involves reporting controversial political activities should take extra care to ensure that their visas are in order before visiting Fiji.
Fiji is relatively free of disease compared to most of the tropics. Avoid mosquito-borne illnesses, such as dengue fever and even elephantiasis by covering up thoroughly or using repellents while outdoors at dawn or dusk. Local water is generally safe, though filtering or boiling is advisable when unsure. Urban tap water is treated and nearly always safe. When exceptions occasionally arise, there are public warnings or radio and print media warnings. Contaminated food is uncommon, though on occasion, mature reef fish can contain mild neurotoxins they accumulate in their bodies from freshwater algaes that wash into the ocean. The effects of such "fish-poisoning" are usually intense for only a day or two, but tingling lips and unusual sensitivities to hot and cold can linger for a long time.
Drownings are common, and automobile and other motor vehicle accidents (often involving animals or pedestrians) are very common. Local emergency medical care is very good on the basics in urban areas. Expect long waits in government-run clinics and hospitals. Treatment for serious conditions often requires an evacuation to New Zealand or Australia. Even the most basic medical care is usually not available outside of urban areas.
Fiji, like most of the South Pacific, can have intense solar radiation that can cause severe skin-burns in a short amount of time. Be sure to use hats, sunglasses and liberal amounts of high-SPF value sunblock on ALL exposed skin (including ears, noses and tops-of-feet) when out in the sun. On top of that tropical boils are a common inconvenience in Fiji, this can be avoided by giving those sweaty sections of the body a soapy scrub more than once a day.
Fiji, like many Pacific Island states, has a strong Christian moral society; having been colonised and converted to Christianity by missionaries during the 19th century. Do not be surprised if shops and other businesses are closed on Sunday. The Sabbath starts at 6PM the day before, and some businesses celebrate the Sabbath on a Saturday instead of a Sunday. Many Indians are Hindu or Muslim.
Also, dress modestly and appropriately. While Fiji is a tropical country, beach-wear should be confined to the beach. Take your cues from the locals as to what they consider appropriate dress for the occasion. When visiting towns and villages, you should be sure to cover your shoulders and wear shorts or sulus (sarongs) that cover your knees (both genders). This is especially true for visiting a church, although locals will often lend you a sulu for a church visit.