By using local buses, carriers (small trucks) and ferries you can get around Fiji's main islands relatively cheaply and easily. If you'd like more comfort or are short on time you can use air-conditioned express buses, rental vehicles, charter boats and small planes.
With the exception of the Mamanuca and Yasawa groups, and upmarket resort islands, often the only means of transport to and between the islands is by small local boats, especially for the backpacker resorts. Life jackets are rarely provided on the small boats and usually they have no radio-phones as well. If the weather looks ominous or the boat is overcrowded, consider postponing the trip or opting for a flight.
In other areas, it is difficult to explore and hop from island to island unless you have a charter boat or yacht. On Kadavu, for example, transport is mostly by small village or resort-owned boats. Apart from the Suva-Kadavu ferry, there is no organised transport here and most resorts have their own boats.
Hitching is never entirely safe in any country, and we don't recommend it. Travellers who decide to hitch should understand that they are taking a small but potentially serious risk.
Hitching in Fiji, however, is common. Locals do it all the time, especially with carriers. It is customary to pay the equivalent of the bus fare to the driver. Hitchhikers will be safer if they travel in pairs and let someone know where they are planning to go. Crime is more prevalent around Suva, although there have been cases of hitchhikers being mugged around Nadi.
Fiji's larger islands have extensive and inexpensive bus networks. Local buses are cheap and regular and a great way to mix with the locals. While they can be fairly noisy and smoky they are perfect for the tropics, with unglazed windows and pull-down tarpaulins for when it rains. There are bus stops but you can often just hail buses, especially in rural areas.
Reservations are not necessary for local buses. If you are on a tight schedule or have an appointment, though, it's a good idea to buy your ticket in advance, especially for bus trips and tours over longer distances (eg Suva to Nadi). Pacific Transport and Sunbeam issue timetables (available from the Fiji Visitors Bureau; FVB), but for most local buses just ask around the bus stations.
Petrol stations are common and easy to find on Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. They are most prolific and competitive in the cities. Once you get off the beaten track they become fewer and further between. If you plan to do some driving by 4WD into Viti Levu's interior you should take a full tank with you. If you do run out of fuel, it might be available in village shops (but don't assume so).
Rental cars are relatively expensive in Fiji. Despite this, it is a good way to explore the larger islands, especially if you can split the cost with others.
Some rental agencies will not allow their cars to be driven on unpaved roads, which greatly limits exploration of the highlands. It is possible to take vehicles on roll-on, roll-off ferries to Vanua Levu or Taveuni, but again, some companies do not allow this. The ferry costs are pretty expensive and vehicles are available to rent on both these islands anyway. If you do take a car on a ferry to Vanua Levu, it's best if it's a 4WD.
The shorter the hire period, the higher the rate. Delivery and collection are often included in the price. Rates for a week or more with an international company start at around $70 per day, excluding tax, but the same car can cost twice as much per day for just one or two days' hire. Some companies will hire at an hourly rate or per half-day, while some have a minimum hire of three days. It's usual to pay a deposit by credit card. If you don't have a credit card you'll need to leave a hefty cash bond.
A valid overseas or international driving licence is required. The minimum-age requirement is 21, or in some cases 25.
Ask the FVB about the various companies. Generally, the larger, well-known companies have better cars and support, but are more expensive. Consider what's appropriate for you, including how inconvenienced you might be if the car breaks down, what support services are provided, the likely distance, insurance to travel, if value-added tax (VAT) is included and the excess or excess waiver amount. Regardless of where you rent from check brakes, water, and tyre pressure and condition before heading off.
The easiest place to rent vehicles is on Viti Levu. Most rental agencies have offices at Nadi International Airport; the established companies also have offices in other towns and rental desks at larger hotels. Car-rental agencies on Vanua Levu and Taveuni have mostly 4WDs due to the islands' rough roads.
Some of the more reputable car-rental agencies on Viti Levu include:
Although not widely available, motorcycles and scooters are not a bad way to travel in Fiji. Similar traffic rules and rental conditions as mentioned previously for car rental apply to motorcycles and scooters. Rental per day starts at around $35/60 for scooters/125cc motorcycle.
Fiji has many companies providing tours within the country, including trekking, cycling, kayaking, diving, bus or 4WD tours. Cruises to the outer islands such as the Mamanucas and Yasawas are popular. There is also a sailing safari on the Tui Tai from Savusavu to Taveuni, Kioa and Koro.
Feejee Experience (672 0097; www.feejeeexperience.com) offers coach and accommodation packages for budget travellers. It can be a fun and social way to get around, especially if you are short on time. Travel passes allow you to hop-on-and-off as you like within six months; the six-day 'Lei Low' ($600) includes Natadola Beach, sandboarding down the Sigatoka Dunes, the Coral Coast, highland trekking, tubing on the Navua River, Suva nightclubs, bilibili (bamboo raft) trips, kayaking, snorkelling and a night on Nananu-i-Ra and Beachcomber Island. The four-day 'Hula Loop' ($425) includes slightly less.
Green Turtle Tours (672 8889; www.greenturtletours.com/fiji) offers small group tours around Viti Levu that include highland villages, Nananu-i-Ra and islands in the Yasawa and Mamanuca groups. Three-/four-day tours costs $720/1100 including all accommodation, meals and activities.
There are also live-aboard dive boats.
Regular ferry services link Viti Levu to Vanua Levu and Taveuni, and also Viti Levu to Ovalau. The Patterson Brothers, Beachcomber Cruises and Consort Shipping boats are large roll-on, roll-off ferries, carrying passengers, vehicles and cargo. They have canteens where you can buy drinks, snacks and light meals. Ferry timetables are notorious for changing frequently; boats sometimes leave at odd hours and there is often a long waiting period at stopovers. The worst thing about the long trips is that the toilets can become disgusting (take your own toilet paper). There are irregular boats that take passengers from Suva to Lau, Rotuma and Kadavu.
South Sea Cruises (675 0500, www.ssc.com.fj) operates two fast catamarans from Denarau Marina to most of the Mamanuca islands, including Malolo, Walu Beach, Castaway Island, Mana, Treasure Island, Beachcomber Island, Bounty Island, South Sea Island, Matamanoa and Tokoriki.
Awesome Adventures (675 0499, www.awesomefiji.com), which is the same company as South Sea Cruises, operates the lurid yellow Yasawa Flyer, a large catamaran that services all the resorts in the Yasawa islands plus some of the Mamanuca resorts daily. It's a large boat with a comfortable interior including a snack shop and toilets but you'll still feel the swell on choppy days.
Consort Shipping (330 2877; fax 330 3389; Ground fl, Dominion House Arcade, Thomson St, Suva) sails three times a week from Suva to Savusavu ($80/50 for cabin/seat), departing Suva at 6pm on Monday and Friday and noon on Wednesday. It takes 12 hours to reach Savusavu. On Wednesday and Friday it continues for another eight hours on to Taveuni ($90/55 from Suva for cabin/seat). On the way back it departs Taveuni around noon on Friday and Sunday, arriving in Savusavu at around 5pm. This service sometimes stops at Koro - a nine hour trip.
Beachcomber Cruises Lautoka (666 1500; fax 666 4496); Savusavu (885 0266); Taveuni (888 0036) has a 500-passenger ship the Adi Savusavu, which has good facilities and runs three times a week between Suva and Savusavu ($45/65 for economy/1st class). The journey takes 11 hours and departs Suva at 10am on Tuesday, noon on Thursday and 6pm on Saturday, returning from Savusavu at 8pm on Wednesday and Friday and 7pm on Sunday. The boat also travels between Savusavu and Taveuni ($25/45 for economy/1st class), departing Savusavu at 1am on Wednesday and Friday, returning from Taveuni at noon on Wednesday and Friday. This journey takes five hours.
Patterson Brothers Shipping Labasa (881 2444; Nasekula Rd); Lautoka (666 1173; 15 Tukani St); Levuka (344 0125; Beach St); Suva (331 5644; fax 330 1652; Suites 1 & 2, Epworth Arcade, Nina St) travels this route twice a week ($60). It involves a bus ride (3½ hours) from Lautoka, a trip on the Ashika ferry (3¾ hours) and a trip on another bus to Labasa (four hours). Buses depart from outside the Lautoka office at 4am on Friday and Monday, and from Labasa at 6am on Sunday and Wednesday.
Patterson Brothers Shipping travels this route ($45 one way) on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Again it involves a bus ride (1½ hours) from Suva, a ferry trip (4½ hours) and another bus to Labasa (four hours). Buses depart the Suva office at 4.30am.
Patterson Brothers Shipping operates a daily service ($24 one way), which involves a bus ride (1½ hours) from Suva (Western Bus Terminal, Rodwell Rd) to Natovi Landing, followed by a ferry to Buresala Landing (one hour) and another bus to Levuka (one hour). Buses depart Suva at 2pm and Labasa at 5am.
There are services from Suva to Leleuvia via Bau Landing ($30 one way) and from Leleuvia to Levuka ($20 one way).
Kadavu Shipping (331 1766, 339 5000, 339 5788; Rona St, Walu Bay, Suva) has irregular passenger services on the MV Bulou-ni-Ceva ($45 one way).
Saliabasaga Shipping (330 3403; Walu Bay, Suva) has fortnightly trips aboard the MV Tunatuki to Lakeba, Nayau, Cicia, Tuvuca, Vanua Balavu and occasionally Moce and Oneata. The one way fare to Vanua Balavu is $90/120 for deck/cabin including meals.
Kabua Development Corporation (330 2258; fax 332 0251; Muaiwalu Complex, Old Millers Wharf, Rona St, Walu Bay, Suva) has fortnightly trips aboard the Taikabara to the southern Lau Group. It visits Lakeba, Vanuavatu, Komo, Kabara, Moce, Fulaga, Namuka, Vatoa, Ogea Levu and Ono-i-Lau (deck/cabin including meals $75/85 one way). It costs an extra $10 to visit the far south of the group (Vatoa and Ono-i-Lau). Boats can take up to a week to get to these distant outer islands.
Khans Shipping(/fax 330 8786; Mauiwalu Complex, Rona St, Walu Bay, Suva) visits islands in southern Lau about once a month. It's best to talk to them about their itinerary as it varies depending on demand. The journey takes about 10 hours and costs $80 each way.
There is no accommodation for visitors on the Moala islands - you would need to be invited to stay by a local. Khans Shipping has monthly trips to Moala, Matuke and Totoya in the Moala group. The journey takes about eight hours and a one-way fare is $80.
Many locals drive small trucks (known as carriers) with a tarpaulin-covered frame on the back. These often have passenger seating and some run trips between Nadi and Suva. You can pick one up in Nadi's main street; they leave when full and are quicker than taking the bus.
Minivans are also an increasingly common sight on the road. Popular with locals, they're also quicker and more expensive than a bus but much cheaper than a taxi. Your ride won't necessarily be more comfortable, though - it's generally a sardine-type affair. Minivans plough up and down the Queens Road around Nadi.
You will find taxis on Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, Taveuni and Ovalau. The bus stations in the main towns usually have taxi depots and there is often an oversupply of taxis, with drivers competing for business. There are some good cabs, but most are rickety old dinosaurs bound for or retrieved from the wrecker. Most taxi drivers are Indo-Fijians keen to discuss life and local issues. They invariably have relatives in Australia, New Zealand or Canada.
Unlike in Suva, the taxi drivers in Nadi, Lautoka and most rural areas don't use their meters. First ask locals what is the acceptable rate for a particular trip. Then, if there is no meter, confirm an approximate price with the driver before you agree to travel. Cabs can be shared for long trips. For touring around areas with limited public transport such as Taveuni, forming a group and negotiating a taxi fee for a half- or full day may be an option.
Always ask if the cab is a return taxi (returning to its base). If so, you can expect to pay $1 per person or less, as long as the taxi doesn't have to go out of its way. To make up for the low fare, the driver will usually pick up extra passengers from bus stops. You can usually recognise a return taxi, as most have the name of their home depot on the bumper bar.
The international airports on Viti Levu, at Nadi and Nausori (near Suva), are also the main domestic hubs. Other domestic airports include Savusavu and Labasa on Vanua Levu; Matei on Taveuni; Vunisea on Kadavu; Bureta on Ovalau and; in the Mamanucas, Malololailai and Mana. Many other small islands also have airstrips. There are flights to some outer islands where there is no accommodation for tourists and an invitation is needed to visit - in some cases it is illegal to turn up uninvited. Rotuma, Gau, Koro, Moala and Vanua Balavu, and Lakeba in Lau have airstrips but receive few visitors, while other islands such as Vatulele, Yasawa and Wakaya have their own airstrips that serve the upmarket resorts.
Fiji is well serviced by internal airlines, which have frequent and generally reliable flights. Some may find the light planes scary, especially if it's windy or turbulent, but the views of the islands, coral reefs and lagoons are fantastic.
Air Fiji and Sun Air have regular interisland flights by light plane. Most of Air Fiji's services operate out of Nausori, while Sun Air is based in Nadi. Sun Air often transports passengers' luggage in a separate plane, and arriving before or after your possessions is a common occurrence. Prices on routes shared by the airlines are almost identical.
Air Fiji (331 3666; www.airfiji.com.fj) operates flights from Suva to Nadi, Kadavu, Koro, Labasa, Lakeba, Levuka, Moala, Rotuma, Savusavu, Taveuni and Vanua Balavu. From Nadi, there are flights to Suva, Labasa, Malololailai, Mana, Savusavu and Taveuni.
Charter services and joyflights are available.
Island Hoppers (672 0410; email@example.com) offers transfers to most of the Mamanucas island resorts, as well as helicopter flights departing from Denarau island and Nadi airport. A flight to Malololailai by helicopter costs $210 one way per person. A 20-minute flight over the Sabeto mountain range and the gorges of Koroyanitu (Mt Evans), east of Lautoka, costs $170 per seat (four to six passengers). A 25-minute flight over the Mamanuca islands is $200 per seat and a combination of the two - the 'Islands & Highlands' trip, costs is $260 per person and lasts 35 minutes.
Turtle Airways (672 1888; firstname.lastname@example.org) has a fleet of seaplanes departing from New Town Beach or Denarau, near Nadi. As well as joyflights, it provides transfer services to the Mamanucas, Yasawas, the Fijian Resort (on the Queens Road), Pacific Harbour, Suva, Toberua Island Resort and other islands as required. Turtle Airways also charters a five-seater Cessna and a seven-seater de Havilland Canadian Beaver. Contact them for rates.
Pacific Island Seaplanes (672 5644; www.fijiseaplanes.com) also offers transfers to islands in the Mamanuca, Yasawa and Lau Groups.
Fiji's larger islands have good potential for cycling, although some areas are too hilly and rugged. Viti Levu has long, flat stretches of sealed road along the scenic Coral Coast, and it is possible to cycle around the perimeter of the island by the Kings and Queens Roads.
The best time to go is the drier season (May to October), and note that the eastern sides of the larger islands receive higher rainfall. Mountain bikes are best for exploring the interior. If you intend to cycle around Fiji as a main form of transport bring your own bike, helmet, waterproof gear, repair kit and all other equipment. It is difficult to get bike parts in Fiji. Maps are available from the government Map Shop (321 1395; Rm 10, Department of Lands & Surveys) in Suva. If you wish to take a bike on a domestic flight, make sure it is demountable.
The biggest hazard is the unpredictable traffic - Fijian drivers can be pretty manic and are not used to cyclists. Avoid riding in the evening when visibility is low. Travel light but carry plenty of water - it can be hot and dusty or humid. You can usually buy coconuts and bananas from villages along the way. Storage at Nadi airport is relatively expensive; the cheapest place to store bikes is at backpacker hostels.
Bicycles can be rented in Nadi, the Coral Coast and Ovalau and cost around $25 to $40 per day. A security deposit is not generally necessary. Wacking Stick Adventure Tours near Nadi runs mountain-bike tours. Rental bikes can be in pretty poor condition, so test the brakes and gears beforehand. Also helmets aren't provided by all operators.