Dangers & Annoyances
Swimming is very safe in the sheltered lagoons but be wary around reef passages, where currents are especially strong. Rarotonga’s main passages are at Avana Harbour, Avaavaroa, Papua and Rutaki. They exist on other islands as well, often opposite streams.
Mosquitoes can be a real nuisance in the Cooks, particularly during the rainy season (around mid-December to mid-April). Use repellent, and mosquito coils are available everywhere.
240V AC, 50Hz, using Australian-style three-blade plugs. Power is available 24 hours throughout the Southern Group.
Embassies & Consulates
Emergency & Important Numbers
Entry & Exit Formalities
The following restrictions apply: 2L of spirits or wine or 4.5L of beer, plus 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco. Quarantine laws are strictly enforced, and plants, animals or any related products are prohibited. Firearms, weapons and drugs are also prohibited.
BlueSky Teleshops in Avarua, Muri Beach and on Aitutaki offer internet access and sell prepaid wi-fi access which can be used at hotspots around the main islands and also on 'Atiu. Convenience stores also sell this pre-paid wi-fi access in denominations of NZ$10 (150MB), NZ$25 (500MB), and NZ$50 (1.25GB). Another option is to buy a local Kokanet 3G SIM card (NZ$25) for your smartphone or tablet, and purchase data for 20 cents per MB up to 1GB for NZ$50. Note that at the time of writing, 3G service was limited to Rarotonga. Most Telecom offices on the outer islands have small cyberbooths, though the connections are slow and expensive.
DVDs Can be hired all over Rarotonga and many accommodation places can provide DVD players.
Newspapers Rarotonga’s Cook Islands News is published daily except Sunday, and the Cook Islands Herald comes out on Wednesday. Both feature local and international news.
Radio Radio Cook Islands (630 kHz AM; www.radio.co.ck) reaches most islands and broadcasts local programs, Radio New Zealand news and Radio Australia’s world news. The smaller KC-FM (103.8 MHz FM) station can be received only on Rarotonga.
TV Cook Islands Television (CITV) screens across Rarotonga; international cable channels are available at some hotels. On outer islands, Sky Fiji is available and programming is usually controlled by each island’s mayor. If you’re engrossed in CNN or a wildlife documentary, there’s every chance it will be switched mid-program to the rugby. Only in the Pacific! Aitutaki has a small station that broadcasts intermittently on local issues.
New Zealand dollars are used in the Cook Islands. You’ll probably get a few Cook Islands coins in change (in denominations of 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, $1, $2 and $5). The Cook Islands prints a $3 note that’s quite collectable and available at the Philatelic Bureau in Avarua. Note that Cook Islands currency cannot be exchanged anywhere in the world.
There are limited ATMs and banks on Rarotonga and Aitutaki, and using credit cards is also widely accepted on the nation’s main two islands. Credit cards are accepted at the larger hotels on Aitutaki and at some places on ‘Atiu, but for other islands cash is essential.
A 15% VAT (value-added tax) is included in the price of most goods and services. All prices quoted include VAT. A departure tax when leaving the Cook Islands is already incorporated into international air tickets.
Tipping is not customary in the Cook Islands, but it’s not frowned upon for exceptional service. Haggling over prices is considered rude.
Sunday is largely reserved for churchgoing and rest, although a few cafes and restaurants around Rarotonga and Aitutaki open in the afternoon.
Banks 9am to 3pm on weekdays. Only Avarua’s Westpac is open on Saturday morning.
Businesses and shops 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday, most shops open until noon on Saturday.
Small grocery stores 6am or 7am until 8pm or 9pm.
Poste-restante mail is held for 30 days at post offices on most islands. To collect mail at the post office in Avarua it should be addressed to you c/o Poste Restante, Avarua, Rarotonga, Cook Islands.
New Year’s Day 1 January
Good Friday & Easter Monday March/April
Anzac Day 25 April
Queen’s Birthday First Monday in June
Gospel Day (Rarotonga only) 25 July
Constitution/Flag-Raising Day 4 August
Gospel Day (Cook Islands) 26 October
Christmas Day 25 December
Boxing Day 26 December
The Cook Islands are east of the International Date Line, 10 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). The country has no daylight-saving time. When it’s noon in the Cooks it’s 10pm in London, noon in Tahiti and Hawai’i, 2pm in LA, 10am the next day in Fiji and New Zealand, and 8am the next day in Sydney.
All the islands are connected to the country’s modern telephone system. Each island has a BlueSky Telecom office, usually incorporating a payphone and an internet booth. Most of these offices also offer a pre-paid wi-fi service.
The country code for the Cook Islands is 682, and there are no local area codes. Dial 00 for direct international calls and 017 for international directory service. The local directory operator is 010. You can make collect calls from any phone by dialling 015.
For mobile phones, a GSM network is available through BlueSky, and international roaming and local SIM cards available. 3G data services are available on Rarotonga only.
Travel with Children
Travelling with kids presents no special problems in the Cook Islands, although many smaller hotels and bungalows don’t accept children aged under 12 – ask about the policy before booking.
Weights & Measures
Weights & Measures Metric system.
Language Cook Islands Maori – closely related to the Maori language of New Zealand – is the local language, but virtually everyone also speaks English.