Dangers & Annoyances
Tonga, in general, is a safe country to visit, though late nights and booze can be a bad mix: the big boys sometimes brawl in the bars.
Dogs can be aggressive: cross the street to avoid packs.
Watch out for coral cuts, which tend to get infected.
Embassies & Consulates
The following foreign diplomatic representatives are all in Nuku’alofa. The nearest UK and US consulates are in Suva, Fiji.
Emergency & Important Numbers
Entry & Exit Formalities
Most countries’ citizens are granted a 31-day visitors' visa on arrival. You’ll need a passport with at least six months’ validity and an onward ticket. One-month extensions are granted for up to six months at T$69 per month: contact the Immigration Division, Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade.
Those intending to fly in and depart Tonga by yacht require a letter of authority from a Tongan diplomatic mission overseas or the immigration division.
You may bring two cartons of cigarettes and 2.25L of spirits or 4.5L of wine or beer into Tonga duty free.
Gay & Lesbian Travellers
Homosexuality is technically illegal but remains an accepted fact of life in Tonga: you’ll see plenty of gay men around. The fine old Polynesian tradition of fakaleiti is alive and well, but the lesbian population is much more underground. Public displays of sexual affection are frowned upon, whether gay or straight.
A comprehensive travel-insurance policy is a no-brainer for Tonga: check whether you're covered for 'dangerous' activities like surfing, snorkelling, diving etc.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
Internet cafes crop up in Nuku'alofa and Nieafu. Charges are around T$6 per hour. Most guesthouses have wi-fi, often for free, but often with dazzlingly censorious browsing blockers in place (Tonga is a church-going nation – you're not supposed to be watching YouTube on a Sunday morning).
Tonga is generally a very law-abiding country, and it's unlikely you'll need to have anything to do with the police. Watch out for speed cameras when driving on Tongatapu, especially between the airport and Nuku'alofa.
Cash is king in Tonga (dig the new plastc notes to celebrate King Tupou VI's coronation): be sure to take plenty with you to Ha’apai and ‘Eua which are ATM-free. There are ATMs, however, in Tongatapu and Vava’u, and it’s easy to change major currencies at local banks.
Credit cards are accepted at many tourist facilities but often attract a 4% to 5% transactions fee. Visa and MasterCard are the most common.
Tongans don’t expect tips but you won’t cause offence by rewarding good service with a few pa’anga.
Following are some standard opening hours, but remember, time is a flexible entity in Tonga! Virtually everything is closed on Sundays.
Banks 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday
Bars 11am to 12.30am Monday to Friday, to 11.30pm Saturday
Cafes 7am to 10.30pm Monday to Saturday
Post Offices & Government Offices 8.30am to 4pm Monday to Friday
Shops 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday, to 1pm Saturday.
Photography Politeness goes a long way: always ask before taking pictures of people. Check out Lonely Planet’s Travel Photography guide for inspiration.
In addition to New Year’s Day, Easter, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, public holidays in Tonga include the following:
Anzac Day 25 April
Emancipation Day 4 June
King Tupou VI's Birthday 4 July
Crown Prince-Tupouto’a-‘Ulukalala's Birthday 17 September
Constitution Day 2 November
King George Tupou I Commemoration Day 4 December
The country code for Tonga is 676; there are no local area codes. Dial 913 for the international operator and 910 for directory enquiry.
There are public phones throughout Tonga (buy a phonecard to make calls), but a mobile (cell) phone is a more reliable bet. Most foreign phones set up for global roaming work here and coverage is reasonably good throughout the islands.
The two telecommunication companies are Tonga Communications Corporation and Digicel; a cheap local phone, including SIM, will cost you around T$60. Digicel also offers a T$20 Visitor SIM that expires after 30 days.
Time Tonga is 13 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, making it the first country in the world to start each new day. Tonga does not observe daylight savings.
Tongan toilets are of the sit-down Western variety. Public toilets are few and far between, and are often closed for repairs.
Online, check out www.lonelyplanet.com/tonga for planning advice, recommendations and reviews.
The official Tongan tourism websites are www.thekingdomoftonga.com and www.tongaholiday.com.
- Vavu’a Islands (www.vavau.to)
- Ha’apai Islands (www.haapai.to)
- ‘Eua Island (www.eua-island-tonga.com)
- Matangi Tonga (www.matangitonga.to)
Travellers With Disabilities
Tonga isn't an easy place to visit for mobility- or vision-impared travellers: footpaths (sidewalks) are almost nonexistant, roadsides are potholed and dusty/muddy, and most accommodation, tours, transport etc isn't set up for wheelchairs.
Volunteering opportunities in Tonga are best organised through international agencies. See also Lonely Planet’s Volunteer: A Traveller’s Guide to Making a Difference Around the World for useful information about volunteering.
Tonga is generally a safe and respectful place for women travelling solo, but exercise the usual precautions: don't walk around alone at night, avoid the bars at closing time, don't bother with hitchhiking etc.
There are penalties in place for working in Tonga whilst visiting on a tourist visa. Contact the Immigration Division, Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade for information before you arrive if you plan to conduct business or gain empolyment in Tonga.