About 90% of Fiji’s 5100km of roads, of which about one-fifth are sealed, are on Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. Both of these islands are fun to explore by car, 4WD or motorcycle.
If you hold a current driving licence from an English-speaking country you are entitled to drive in Fiji. Otherwise you will need an international driving permit, which should be obtained in your home country before travelling.
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, however, 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. Fuel may 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.
Check the rental conditions: some agencies do not allow their cars to be driven on unpaved roads, limiting your ability to explore the highlands. Also check if the agency allows you to take the vehicles on roll-on, roll-off ferries to Vanua Levu, Taveuni or Ovalau, if these are on your itinerary. If you do take a car on to Vanua Levu it’s best to hire 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 $125 per day, excluding tax, but the same car can cost an extra 50% 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.
The minimum-age requirement is 21, or in some cases 25.
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 to services, cost of insurance, 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.
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.
Some of the more reputable car-rental agencies on Viti Levu:
Third-party insurance is compulsory. Some car-rental companies include it in their daily rates while others add it at the end (count on $25 to $30 at least). Personal accident insurance is highly recommended if you are not already covered by travel insurance. Renters are liable for the first $500 damage. Common exclusions, or problems that won’t be paid for by the insurance company, include tyre damage, underbody and overhead damage, windscreen damage and theft of the vehicle.
The perimeter of Viti Levu is easy to get to know by car. Both the Queens Road and the Kings Road are fully sealed. It takes about 3½ hours to drive the 200km from Nadi International Airport to Suva (via the Queens Road), depending on how many lorries you get caught behind on the hills. Roads into Viti Levu’s interior are unsealed and a 4WD is generally necessary.
There are unsealed roads around most of Vanua Levu’s perimeter, but there’s a sealed road from Labasa to Savusavu and the first 20km of the Hibiscus Hwy from Savusavu along the scenic coast is also paved. The remainder of the Hibiscus Hwy is quite rough.
Some locals drive with a fairly heavy foot on the accelerator pedal and many ignore the whole idea of sticking to the left-hand side when navigating bends (particularly along the Coral Coast). Local drivers also tend to stop suddenly and to overtake on blind corners, so take care, especially on gravel roads. Buses also stop where and when they please. There are lots of potholes and sometimes the roads are too narrow for two vehicles to pass, so be aware of oncoming traffic.
Watch for sugar trains in the cane-cutting season because they have right of way. Dogs wandering onto the road can be a major hazard so observe the speed-hump-enforced 20km/h rule when driving through villages. Avoid driving at night as there are many pedestrians and wandering animals – especially along the southeast coast of Viti Levu, on Vanua Levu and on Taveuni.
Drive on the left-hand side of the road. The speed limit is 80km/h, which drops to 50km/h in villages. Many villages have speed humps to force drivers to slow down. Seatbelts are compulsory for front-seat passengers.