Embassies & Consulates
Consulates in French Polynesia
Given that French Polynesia is not an independent country, there are no foreign embassies, only consulates, and many countries are represented in Pape’ete by honorary consuls.
The following consulates and diplomatic representatives are all located on Tahiti. Many are just single representatives and do not have official offices, so you’ll have to call or email them.
Emergency & Important Numbers
There are no area codes in French Polynesia.
|International access code||00|
Entry & Exit Formalities
- Entry procedures for French Polynesia are straightforward. You’ll have to show your passport, with any visa you may have obtained beforehand. You’ll also need to present completed arrival and departure cards, usually distributed on the incoming flight. You may also be asked to show proof of a return airline ticket.
- The duty-free allowance for visitors entering French Polynesia includes 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars, 2L of wine and 2L of spirits and 50mL of perfume.
- No live animals can be imported (if they’re on a yacht, they must stay on-board) and certification is required for plants.
- On the way out of the country you’re allowed to bring up to 10 undrilled pearls plus as much mounted jewellery as you like, tax-free.
Everyone needs a passport to visit French Polynesia. The regulations are much the same as for France: if you need a visa to visit France, you’ll need one to visit French Polynesia. Anyone from an EU country can stay for up to three months without a visa, as can citizens of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and Switzerland.
Other nationalities need a visa, which can be applied for at French embassies.
Apart from permanent residents and French citizens, all visitors to French Polynesia need to have an onward or return ticket.
Stays by foreign visitors may not exceed three months. For longer periods, you must apply to the French consular authorities in your own country for a residence permit; you cannot lodge your application from French Polynesia unless you have a sponsor or get married to a permanent resident.
Formalities for Yachts
In addition to presenting the certificate of ownership of the vessel, sailors are subject to the same passport and visa requirements as travellers arriving by air or by cruise ship. Unless you have a return air ticket, you are required to provide a banking guarantee of repatriation equivalent to the price of an airline ticket to your country of origin.
Yachties must advise the Police aux Frontières of their final departure. If your first port of call is not Pape’ete, it must be a port with a gendarmerie (police station). The gendarmerie must be advised of each arrival and departure, and of any change of crew.
Before arriving at the port of Pape’ete, announce your arrival on channel 12. Next, you’ll need to report to the Bureau des Yachts, and complete an arrival declaration.
Most nationalities can stay one to three months without a visa.
French laws concerning homosexuality prevail in French Polynesia, which means there is no legal discrimination against homosexual activity. Homophobia in French Polynesia is uncommon, although open displays of affection in public should be avoided. French Polynesia does feel remarkably heterosexual, given the preponderance of honeymooning couples, but you will meet lots of mahu (men living as women) working in restaurants and hotels.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online any time – even if you're already on the road.
- A travel-insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical problems is highly recommended. Some policies specifically exclude ‘dangerous activities’, which can include scuba diving and even hiking. Make sure your policy covers you for your activity of choice.
- You should check if your insurer will pay doctors directly rather than requiring you to pay on the spot and claim later. If you have to claim later, keep all documentation. Check that the policy covers emergency medical evacuations by air.
Checking insurance quotes…
- Thanks to the advent of smartphones, iPads and wi-fi, dedicated internet cafes have become a rarity in French Polynesia. Wi-fi access is increasingly the norm.
- Many post offices have internet posts, but don't count too much on it – they are usually ancient models that are often not functioning.
- Wireless is offered at many guesthouses and hotels (at least near the reception or the bar, if not always in each room, for which sometimes there's an additional charge) and at a number of restaurants and cafes. Some places still charge a fee.
- Connections are fairly fast and reliable in the Society Islands, which have broadband internet; elsewhere, slow connections are the norm.
- If you’re toting your own device through the Marquesas, the Australs or the Society Islands, consider buying online or from the local post office a prepaid Mana Pass (www.manaspot.pf). This allows you to access the internet at ‘Mana Spots’ (wi-fi zones) located in post offices and at some hotels, restaurants and public areas.
French Polynesia is a part of France, and is thus subject to that country’s penal system. The police rarely hassle foreigners, especially tourists. Drunk driving is a real problem on the larger islands, and police sometimes set up checkpoints on Tahiti, Ra’iatea and Mo’orea.
The map Tahiti Archipel de la Société (IGN No 3615), at a scale of 1:100,000, is readily available in Pape’ete and from map specialists abroad. It covers the Society Archipelago and is the one really useful map for travellers. IGN also publishes maps at 1:50,000 for each island in the archipelago, although these are harder to track down. The SHOM navy maps of the Tuamotus are the best available; for the Marquesas there are SHOM maps and IGN maps at 1:50,000 for Hiva Oa, Nuku Hiva and ‘Ua Pou.
The unit of currency in French Polynesia is the cours de franc Pacifique (CFP; Pacific franc), referred to simply as ‘the franc’, and it’s pegged to the euro.
- Known as distributeurs automatiques de billets (DABs) in French, ATMs will give you cash via Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus or Maestro networks.
- International cards generally work only at Banque Socredo ATMs; luckily most islands have at least one of these. You’ll need a four-digit pin number.
- There’s a Socredo ATM at Faa’a International Airport.
- Some post offices are also equipped with ATMs.
- There are three major banks operating in French Polynesia: Banque de Tahiti, Banque de Polynésie and Banque Socredo. They change major foreign currencies, but a transaction fee applies – usually from 600 CFP to 950 CFP.
- The best currencies to bring are US dollars and euros.
- All the main islands in the Society group, apart from Maupiti, have at least one banking agency. In the Tuamotus, only Rangiroa has a permanent banking service. In the Marquesas, there are Socredo agencies on ‘Ua Pou, Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa. In the Australs group, Rurutu and Tubuai have some banking services.
All top-end and midrange hotels, restaurants, jewellery shops, dive centres and the bigger supermarkets accept credit cards, sometimes exclusively Visa or MasterCard, but they usually require a 2000 CFP minimum purchase. You can also pay for Air Tahiti flights with a card. Most budget guesthouses and many tour operators don’t accept credit cards.
Tipping is not a part of life in French Polynesia. The price quoted is the price you are expected to pay, which certainly simplifies things. In special circumstances, such as an excellent tour or great service by the hotel cleaning crew, a tip is appreciated.
Check with your bank before you leave home to ensure that the card you plan to use to withdraw cash doesn’t have a low daily or weekly limit. Some travellers (particularly those with European-based cards) find that they are only able to take out 35,000 CFP per week in French Polynesia – not nearly enough if you plan on going to smaller guesthouses or restaurants that don’t take credit cards.
|Euro zone||€1||119 CFP|
|New Zealand||NZ$1||74 CFP|
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com
ATMs are found on main islands. Credit cards are accepted at hotels and restaurants on main islands, but not at family pensions or on remote islands.
Typical business hours are as follows:
Banks 8am to noon and 1.30pm to 5pm Monday to Thursday, to 3pm Friday
Businesses 7.30am to 11.30am and 1.30pm to 5pm Monday to Saturday
Government offices 7.30am to noon and 1pm to 5pm Monday to Thursday, to 3pm Friday
Restaurants 11.30am to 2pm and 6.30pm to 9pm
Supermarkets 6.30am to 7pm Monday to Saturday, 6.30am to 11am Sunday
Opening hours vary. On Tahiti, businesses are less likely to close for lunch (although some do).
Banks 8–11.30am & 1–4pm Monday to Friday
Restaurants 11.30am–2pm & 6.30–9pm
Bars & Clubs 9pm–2am
Shops 8am–noon & 1.30–5pm
- The postal system in French Polynesia is generally quite efficient, and there are modern post offices on all the main islands.
- Mail to Europe, the USA and Australia takes about a week. Postcards or letters weighing up to 20g cost 100 CFP to France, 140 CFP to anywhere else.
- FedEx and DHL Express have offices in Pape’ete. If you need to send something fast from the outer islands, they can usually help out – although it will probably involve sending the item by freight on Air Tahiti.
Public holidays, when all businesses and government offices close, include the following.
New Year’s Day 1 January
Arrival of the First Missionaries 5 March
Labour Day 1 May
VE Day (Victory in Europe Day) 8 May
Ascension Late May
Pentecost & Pentecost Monday Early June
Internal Autonomy Day 29 June
Bastille Day 14 July
Assumption 15 August
All Saints’ Day 1 November
Armistice Day 11 November
Christmas Day 25 December
There is a wide variety of accommodation options in French Polynesia.
The following price ranges refer to a double room with bathroom in high season unless otherwise specified. Prices include all taxes.
$ less than 10,000 CFP
$$ 10,000–20,000 CFP
$$$ more than 20,000 CFP
- French Polynesia’s country code is 689.
- There are no area codes in French Polynesia.
- To call overseas, dial 00 plus the country code followed by the phone number.
- From a landline, local phone calls cost 18 CFP per minute or 29 CFP per minute to a mobile phone.
- You can buy prepaid cards to call overseas at most post offices.
- There are two mobile phone operators in French Polynesia: Vini and Vodafone.
- Mobile-phone services operate on 900 GSM and 98% of the inhabited islands have cellular coverage.
- Many foreign mobile services have coverage in Tahiti, but roaming fees are usually quite high.
- You can buy a local SIM card for around 1000 CFP and use it in your own phone if it's unlocked (check with your provider before you leave). Talk isn’t cheap, however: calls from a mobile cost 30 CFP to 60 CFP per minute (and from 60 CFP to 110 CFP per minute if you call overseas).
- Both providers have offices in Pape'ete. Top-ups can be purchased online or at various shops and most post offices.
- If your phone is locked by your phone company, there are often good deals at Champion and Carrefour supermarkets on phones – you can get a basic phone plus SIM card for less than 5000 CFP.
- Local mobile-phone numbers begin with 87 or 89.
- 3G is available on Tahiti, Mo'orea, Huahine, Ra'iatea and Bora Bora.
Local SIM cards can be used in unlocked GSM-compatible phones. Other phones can be set to roaming.
- TAHT (Tahiti Time) is 10 hours behind GMT/UTC. When it's noon in Pape'ete, it's 10pm in London, 2pm or 3pm in Los Angeles and 9am (the next day) in Sydney; the region is just two hours east of the International Date Line.
- There is no daylight-saving time.
- The Marquesas are a half-hour ahead of the rest of French Polynesia (noon on Tahiti is 12.30pm in the Marquesas).
- The Gambier Archipelago is one hour ahead of the rest of French Polynesia (noon on Tahiti is 1pm in the Gambier).
The main tourist office is the Office du Tourisme de Tahiti et ses Îles in the centre of Pape’ete.
For information before you leave home, visit www.tahiti-tourisme.com, which has several international tourism office links.
With narrow flights of steps on boats and difficult boarding facilities on Air Tahiti aircraft, French Polynesia resembles a tropical obstacle course for those with restricted mobility. What’s more, hotels and guesthouses are not used to receiving guests with disabilities. However, all new hotels and public buildings must conform to certain standards, so change is happening.
Travel With Children
Best Regions for Kids
The best beaches, dolphin- and whale-watching, horse riding, dive centres catering to kids and lots of amenities.
A true Polynesian cultural experience, plus soft, white beaches and places to swim and snorkel. Enjoy a history lesson by taking an island tour and strolling the Maeva archaeology site.
- Bora Bora
The lagoon is like a giant swimming pool and resorts will cater to your every need, including babysitting. Cycling around the island is a good family outing.
Great for teens, with lively beaches, dances and a surf scene. Hike, surf, horse ride and find dive centres with kids' programs.
For water- and beach-loving families wanting to dive, snorkel and watch dolphins frolicking at sunset.
Beach & Shallow-Water Critters
Wear plastic or protective sandals when playing in the water to guard against stonefish – fish that look exactly like a piece of rock or coral and have poisonous spines that can potentially ruin your trip.
Another critter to look out for is the sea urchin, which often live on coral and in crevices. They are less present in the daytime but are another great reason to protect your feet in the water and never walk on coral.
What you’re more likely to see are black or beige sea cucumbers in the shallows that can be picked up safely. Be gentle! Hermit crab races make for hours of fun. Then, most importantly, put the track star crabs, or whatever else you've found, back where you found them.
Whatever you do, never, ever pick up a cone-shaped shell. Not all are dangerous but there are a variety or two that are deadly. They sting from the bottom opening where the spine comes out, so are not dangerous unless you touch that one area of the shell.
What to Pack
All ages need the usual suspects: sunscreen (expensive in French Polynesia), insect repellent and rain gear.
Babies & Toddlers
- a folding pushchair is practical for most areas of this guide, while a baby carrier is a better option if you plan on hiking or exploring archaeological sites
- a portable changing mat, handwash gel etc (baby-changing facilities are a rarity)
- nappies (diapers) are available but are pricey (about 2000 CFP for 38 nappies)
Six to 12 years
- binoculars for young explorers to zoom in on wildlife, surfers riding reef-breaking waves etc
- a camera to inject newfound fun into ‘boring’ grown-up sights and walks
- field guides to Polynesian flora and fauna
- a French phrasebook
- mask, snorkel and flippers
- a copy of Mutiny on the Bounty
French Polynesia for Kids
French Polynesia is a water playground for all ages. But beyond sun and swimming it’s also a place of gentle culture and adventures to caves and waterfalls.
Diving, Snorkelling & Swimming
Babies and toddlers will be happy on a soft beach and perhaps with a hermit crab to hassle. For slightly older children, any place with a shallow sandy bottom is a great place to learn to swim. Seasoned swimmers can paddle around the lagoon in areas free of currents and boat traffic.
Once kids are comfortable in a mask and snorkel, it can be hard to get them out of the water. Just be sure that they don’t touch or walk on coral, both for their safety and for the preservation of the underwater environment. If no one touches anything, there are few dangers beyond sunburn.
Many dive centres offer ‘Bubble Maker’ courses for children eight years and up, where kids take their first breaths under water. Good swimmers over nine years can enrol in junior PADI open-water courses, and in some cases even get school credit for it; see www.padi.com.
Dolphin- and whale-watching will thrill kids, but if it’s rough out, the unpleasantness of seasickness may outweigh the excitement of seeing marine mammals. Snorkelling with myriad fish can be tons of fun for all ages, from shallow sandy-bottom areas to coral reef passes filled with sharks – depending on the children's ages and swimming experience, of course.
Surfing & Boogie Boarding
It can be hard to find a board in French Polynesia, but some hotels and pensions have them for guests. Boogie boards are often on sale in local shops; if you can buy one, you’ll make a local kid’s year by leaving it with them when you leave. The best beach breaks are found almost exclusively on Tahiti and Mo’orea. Surf lessons are available on Tahiti.
Hiking & Canyoneering
Kids aged over eight will love Tahiti’s interior, which is chock-a-block with waterfalls, many with icy pools to swim in. There are also plenty of dark caves, though these can be scary so take it slow.
French Polynesian archaeological sites are fun for kids because there is tons of open space. You can climb on almost anything and the surrounding jungles often hold discoveries such as wild passionfruit. Remember the mosquito repellent.
Horse Riding & Biking
There are several places for horse riding on Tahiti, Mo’orea, Huahine and in the Marquesas. In general, the routes go through hilly regions and plantations, and are geared to all ages.
Bicycles can be rented on most islands and, other than on Tahiti, traffic is light. Child-sized bicycles can be hard to find, however.
French Polynesian food is rarely spicy and it’s easy to find kid-friendly dishes on most menus. Don’t expect booster seats or high chairs, but do expect a welcoming atmosphere in most eateries. Kids will love digging into dishes such as chevrettes (freshwater shrimp), brochettes (shish kebabs of meat or fish) or poisson cru (fish in coconut milk). Western-style food is also widely available.
For babies, jarred baby food and infant formula can be found even in remote areas. Polynesians love children; don’t be afraid to ask for assistance in finding certain foods or cooking facilities.
The water is safe to drink in Pape’ete (and other select areas of Tahiti), on Bora Bora and on Tubuai, but you may like to buy bottled water anyway. On the other islands, you will all be dependent on bottled or filtered water.
It’s normal in French Polynesia for whole families to party together; teens are welcome, and usually show up in numbers at any sort of local dance performance or show.
In Pape’ete, discotheques such as Mana Rock Café are swarming with high-schoolers. Be warned that alcohol flows freely and it’s a meat-market atmosphere.
- Swimming & Splashing Temae Beach (Mo’orea) is like a giant swimming pool; Matira Beach (Bora Bora) has gorgeous white sand and shallow swimming; Fare (Huahine) is a mellow, white beach with swimming and snorkelling in front.
- Surfing Teahupoo (Tahiti) has a great beach break at the river mouth that’s swarming with local kids; Papenoo (Tahiti) is where the island learns to surf thanks to the line-up of easy waves.
- Snorkelling Plop in almost anywhere in the lagoon in the Tuamotus, but be prepared to see sharks (attacks to swimmers are unheard of); Temae Beach and Hauru Point on Mo’orea offer easy, shallow snorkelling; plunge in from Fare Beach on Huahine for some beautiful underwater life; sandy Bora Bora is a good spot for beginners; the motu (small islands) of Maupiti are better for confident swimmers, with plenty of fish and corals.
A History Lesson
- Archaeology Taputapuatea (Ra’iatea) is big so it’s great to run around while learning about it; the tiki (sacred statues) at Iipona (the Marquesas) will make older kids feel like Indiana Jones; look for wild passionfruit around Marae Titiroa (Mo’orea).
- European & American Contact Pointe Vénus (Tahiti), where Captain Cook first landed, and Cook’s Bay (Mo’orea); Bora Bora’s WWII guns for war chitchat; the Gambier for European-style churches built out of coral.
- Museums Musée de Tahiti et des Îles (Tahiti) has great history displays plus it’s right on the beach; older kids who know the Mutiny on the Bounty story will appreciate seeing how the author lived at the House of James Norman Hall (Tahiti); Espace Culturel Paul Gauguin (Hiva Oa) in the Marquesas, has a life-sized replica of Gauguin’s house and Jacques Brel’s airplane.
- Caves Mara’a Grotto (Tahiti) is set in a lush, fairytale-like park; the brave can swim to the back of a pitch-black cave at Vaipoiri (Tahiti) and let their eyes adjust to the light; Hitiaa Lava Tubes (Tahiti) is best for older kids who can swim and hike well (guides often provide wetsuits for the cold water); Rurutu has tons of easy-access caves full of stalactites and stalagmites.
- Gardens Tahiti’s botanical gardens is one of the best places for kids on the island with plenty of space to run around, vines to swing on, and ducks and two Galapagos turtles to ogle.
- Waterfalls At Faarumai Waterfalls (Tahiti) look for star fruit along the way and crane your head to see the tops of these incredibly high falls; Vaipahi Spring Gardens (Tahiti) has a beautiful landscaped area around its waterfall.
- Dolphin- & Whale-Watching Mo’orea has heaps of boats available; Tahiti is less popular, so you can avoid the crowds; Rurutu is better for older kids who are more confident on big adventures.
Where to Stay
Choosing the right place to stay in French Polynesia is important. The majority of French Polynesia’s lodgings will cater to children, but some are geared more towards families than others. Some resorts offer kids' clubs and babysitting, while family pensions are usually a great place for your children to play with local youngsters!
The Carte Famille entitles you to significant reductions on some flights. At hotels and guesthouses, children under 12 generally pay only 50% of the adult rate; very young children usually stay for free.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures French Polynesia follows the international metric system.
- French Polynesia is a great place for solo women. Local women are very much a part of public life in the region, and it’s not unusual to see Polynesian women out drinking beer together or walking alone, so you will probably feel pretty comfortable following suit.
- It is a sad reality that women are still required to exercise care, particularly at night, but this is the case worldwide. As with anywhere in the world, give drunks and their beer breath a wide berth.
- Perhaps it’s the locals getting their own back after centuries of European men ogling Polynesian women, but there is reportedly a ‘tradition’ of Peeping Toms in French Polynesia, mainly in the outer islands. Take special care in places that seem to offer opportunities for spying on guests, particularly in the showers, and make sure your room is secure and locked at night.
French citizens aren’t required to comply with any formalities, but for everyone else – even other EU citizens (with the exception of those with very specialised skills) – it’s difficult to work in French Polynesia. Unless you’re a pearl grafter, a Chinese chef or a banking executive, you stand little chance. Authorisation to take up paid employment is subject to the granting of a temporary-residence permit, issued by the French state, and a work permit, issued by the territory.
- Newspapers The weekly English-language tourist paper Tahiti Beach Press includes some local news coverage. If you read French, there is one Tahitian daily, La Dépêche de Tahiti (www.ladepeche.pf), while Tahiti Infos (www.tahiti-infos.com) is published five times a week.
- Radio There are about 10 independent radio stations that broadcast music programs with news flashes in French and Tahitian along with the occasional interview. Among the best-known stations are Tiare FM (the pioneer nongovernmental radio station; 104.2 FM), NRJ (103 FM) and Radio Polynésie 1ere (95.2 FM).
- TV The two local TV channels are Polynésie 1ere and TNTV.
There's no shortage fresh seafood and tropical fruit in the cuisine of French Polynesia.
Eating Price Ranges
The following price indicators refer to a standard main course.
$ less than 1400 CFP
$$ 1400 CFP to 2400 CFP
$$$ more than 2400 CFP
- Overall, French Polynesia is relatively safe compared with most Western countries, but occasional robberies do occur, and there has been a rise in muggings in Pape'ete in recent years. Avoid walking alone at night in the capital.
- Don't leave anything of value in a rental car or on the beach and ensure that your room or bungalow is securely locked.
- There are a lot of dogs roaming around French Polynesia; a few (especially when they're in packs) are aggressive. Pretending to throw a stone often discourages them.
- Swimmers should always be aware of currents and riptides. If you're not familiar with water conditions, ask around. It's best not to swim alone in unfamiliar places.
- When sunbathing or walking around a coconut grove, beware of falling coconuts – they can cause severe head injuries.
- French Polynesia has a bad record when it comes to road safety, which means that you must drive defensively at all times. Potential dangers include drunk drivers and excessive speed.