The South Pacific islands are safer travel destinations than most places in the world, and the locals are some of the friendliest you’ll ever meet. But, as when travelling anywhere on the planet, it pays to use a little common sense.
Even in the larger cities, assaults and violent crime are uncommon, but they do occur. Play it safe when walking around at night: stick to well-lit areas where there other people are hanging around, and avoid situations where you might be vulnerable.
You won't see many local ladies travelling solo, but the South Pacific is generally a safe and respectful region for visiting women to navigate alone.
More medically, grazes, coral cuts and even insect bites can quickly become infected in tropical climes: slather any lesions with antiseptic. Pay the tropical sun maximum respect and keep yourself hydrated.
In the Water
Many Pacific islands have sheltered lagoons inside protective reefs that offer safe swimming and snorkelling. But currents can be strong around passages and channels that drain the lagoon into the open sea on a falling tide. If there are no other swimmers around, ask a local before plunging in. Avoid swimming alone.
Watch out for venomous sea life – the lionfish is perhaps the most significant of these because it’s mobile (though not aggressive) and has long venomous spines that cause extremely painful wounds. Most other beasties – eg sea urchins, stonefish, cone shells – sit placidly on the seafloor. The simple rule is look but don’t touch – reef shoes (or old runners) can be useful. Stings and bites are extremely rare.
Shark attacks are also rare, but do occasionally happen. Swimming inside a reef offers some protection. Blacktip reef sharks look menacing, can grow to 2m long and sometimes swim in groups in shallow waters, but are harmless unless you pick a fight.
Malaria exists in western regions of the South Pacific – particularly the Solomons and Vanuatu – but even where mosquitoes don’t carry malaria, their bites can cause discomfort and, in some cases, dengue fever. Mosquitoes are less of a problem around the coast where sea breezes keep them away, but inland they can be a pest.
Petty thefts from hire cars, beach bags and hotel rooms do occur. Look after your valuables and keep them out of sight (passports, papers, tickets, cash). Money belts are a hassle in the heat – an ordinary wallet is better for cash. Valuables are normally safe in a locked hotel room if you’re heading out for the day, but tuck them out of sight or stick them in a safe. Many South Pacific cultures have relaxed attitudes to property – it’s best not to leave expensive gear lying around.
Government Travel Advice
The following government websites offer travel advisories and information on current hot spots.
- Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (www.smarttraveller.gov.au)
- British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/fco)
- Government of Canada (www.travel.gc.ca)
- New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade (www.safetravel.govt.nz)
- US State Department (www.travel.state.gov)