The endless white beaches and crystal-clear waters had us instantly sold on Fiji.
Although nothing can quite prepare you for how unique this tropical paradise really is, with this list we will try.
Without giving too much away, we share the few facts we wished we’d known before our trip to Fiji and the insider tips to avoid making the mistakes we did. Without a doubt, you will arrive with expectations of a tropical paradise but leave with a heart full of memories and realization that the Fijian culture is so much more than white beaches and turquoise waters. Fiji is a way of life and one you will never forget.
10 Things to Know Before Going to Fiji
1. Fiji Time
From the minute you step off the plane, you will learn about Fiji time.
Whether it’s flights, tour guides or meal times, nothing runs on schedule. To many this is incredibly frustrating but embrace it, it is very much part of the Fijian culture. It can be surprising how quickly you can adjust to life without a watch. The sense of freedom definitely makes up for the lack of urgency.
If only “Fiji time” could apply to Monday mornings at home…
2. There are no cash machines
Firstly, there are some. However, when traveling the Yasawa islands in particular, due to the nature of these secluded islands there are no cash machines.
Some resorts only accept cash, others card so beware of this. We often found conflicting advice from online and the resorts themselves so we carried both.
It is best to take out cash at the airport, with the local currency being Fijian Dollars.
3. It’s not always tropical paradise
Picturing Fiji you imagine white sand, blue skies and the lowest temperatures being 18 degrees Celcius (64F). And you aren’t wrong. Fiji is a tropical paradise that does offer all of that. However, from November until April you want to pack an umbrella with that bikini as downpours are likely. It is also during this time that cyclone season hits Fiji.
We visited in February and several of our excursions and activities were cancelled due to a cyclone. And with the only mode of transport being boats, the journey between islands occasionally got particularly rough and at times was cancelled completely – not so handy when you have a flight to catch!
4. Expect to be sung to. A LOT.
When we arrived at the airport greeted by smiling, singing locals with ukuleles we thought this was an extraordinary one off. We were so wrong.
Every single time we arrived in a new resort and on a new island we were welcomed by the most amazing singing. Then as you leave, a farewell song will be sung with each resort having their own version. It just makes your stay even more memorable!
5. Learn the words ‘Bula’ and ‘Vinaka’
When traveling to Fiji you will quickly understand why the Fijian people deserve their reputation as some of the friendliest people on earth.
Constantly you will hear the word ‘Bula’ which can have many meanings including ‘welcome’, ‘hello’ and ‘how are you?’. And similar to how Aloha is used in Hawaii, it’s a way of life.
‘Vinaka’ is Fijian for ‘thank you’.
Locals take such pride in their culture that they genuinely appreciate your efforts in learning a word or two. Making the effort to communicate with locals is particularly important non-verbally also. This is because there are only approximately 10,000 words in the Fijian language, so there is a large emphasis on body language and facial expressions to communicate – worthwhile keeping in mind when traveling to Fiji!
6. On a Sunday, everyone goes to church
On a Sunday expect Fiji time in extra force as businesses generally do not open and even staff from our accommodation left to attend church.
Sundays are a day of rest, so bare this in mind when planning a jam-packed itinerary. Boats may not run and some tourist sites will be closed.
Alternatively, simply ask a local if you can attend their church. A Fijian church service is so heart felt and welcoming that it will probably be one of the most memorable experiences of your trip. Even if you are not religious, it is beautiful to see locals in their traditional dress and partake in their fabulous singing!
7. Enjoy a cup of Kava
I could place money on the fact that you will not leave Fiji without trying, or at least being offered, a cup of Kava.
Kava is a traditional Fijian drink that is made from ground pepper plant. To a westerner, it looks and smells like earthy water and to be honest it doesn’t taste much better either. Although it’s not spicy as you may expect from the pepper, Kava does have a slight numbing effect on the tongue and lips. It is enjoyed socially by locals in the same way we would enjoy alcohol, as a way to relax.
A traditional Kava ceremony is common in local villages and resorts alike and is a must do on your trip. A little tip: if you are offered a “high tide” cup this means a full cup or a bowl and if you are offered “low tide” this means a half cup or a half bowl.
8. Rugby is taken very, very seriously
Do not refuse the opportunity to attend a Fijian rugby match.
Even in a local village, men, woman and children will all gather to watch the game and it is an amazing way to witness their passion for the sport.
If playing internationally, expect Apocalyptic type scenes – empty streets, shops closed and no one in work. Rugby is basically a religion in Fiji. No wonder they are world champions!
9. Don’t sit under palm trees
Naively, we had never considered this prior to our trip to Fiji and being Scottish we often sat under the palms for shade.
This was until we were told that if you see coconuts lying nearby, never sit under that tree as over 150 people a year are killed by coconuts worldwide. That’s a crazy comparison to only 5 a year from shark attacks!
10. Fiji is one of the happiest countries in the world
In a 2014 global poll, 93% of respondents from Fiji voted either ‘happy’, or ‘very happy’.
When your daily life consists of constant singing, sunshine and sea it is hard to imagine how anyone could be unhappy there. And undeniably when you leave, the Fijian culture will rub off on you too!
We hope this list of things to know before traveling to Fiji has helped prepare you for your trip and we are sure you will enjoy this tropical paradise!
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