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Tourist permits specifically prohibit working in Tonga. Many foreigners have set up small businesses considered beneficial for Tonga, such as tourist resorts, though before you snap up that slice of paradise on the Internet, it pays to get sound local advice. It has been said that 'for every beach in Tonga, a palangi's dreams lay buried in the sand'.

Officially, you must get a work permit from the immigration office. This requires a specific offer of employment, filing an application with the immigration office and a lengthy wait for processing.

Volunteering is a great way of gaining a rare and privileged insight into another world, one beyond the irresistible lure of unspoilt beaches, palm trees and balmy evenings. It's not, though, an option for the casual tourist: volunteer programmes require a serious and long-term commitment. Most organisations require volunteers to have tertiary qualifications or work experience in their particular field, and to hold residency in the organisation's base country. Foreign aid organisations operating in Tonga:

AusAID (www.ausaid.gov.au)

Japanese Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (www.jica.go.jp)

US Peace Corps (25467; www.peacecorps.gov)

Business hours

Business hours are flexible, but are usually from 9am until 4.30pm, with most shops open from 8.30am to 5pm on weekdays (some close for an hour at lunch), and 9am to noon on Saturday. Fale koloa (small grocery kiosks) have the longest hours, from around 6am to 10pm Monday to Saturday.

Restaurants usually operate from 8am to 10am for breakfast, noon to 2pm for lunch, and 6pm to 10pm if they serve evening meals. Larger hotels and a few Chinese restaurants open to the public on Sunday, but most restaurants are closed. Produce markets generally operate from 6am to 4pm on weekdays and are busiest from 6am to noon on Saturday.

Bakeries become the social hub on Sunday afternoon, with wafts of freshly baked bread, pastries and pies drawing customers in. They open from about noon (around 4pm on smaller islands) to anywhere between 8pm and 11pm. Note, however, that time in Tonga is tolerated rather than obeyed. Be prepared for prearranged meeting times and standard opening hours to regularly be ignored without a hint of remorse or social consequence.

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