The Pacific Islands - tips

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In short The old domain of Captain Cook. Lots of pristine beaches, lots of unspoilt coral reefs and lots of indigenous people. However in general most Pacific countries are much less "virgin" and more westernized than you should think.

Still, the region will never become a classic backpacker destination, for trhe simple fact that it's bloody expensive.

Highlights Due to its etnic mixture of Indians (45 %) and Melanesians (55 %), Fiji is the culturally most interesting country. Just get away from Nadi and Eastern Viti Levu.

Niue is an undiscovered gem, especially for divers and sports fishermen, although the hurricane Hattie in 2003 caused much damage. Samoa is pretty wild as well, especially the western island of Upolu.

Historically, Tonga is quite interesting, since they were never colonized and therefore have maintained a funny dress code - the Tao'vala. Sadly, the Christain missionaries have "educated" the people from their original dress code: virtually nothing.

Easter Island is a bit out of the way compared to most of the others, but historically the most interesting of the smaller islands due to the fantastic "moais".

For real "people buffs", however, nothing beats the highlands of Papua New Guinea. A Stone Age world in the 21.st century. PNG is a bit like the "missing link" in between the 21st century and something way back. The fellow-Melanesian countries of Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and partly Fiji are slightly less weird, but much more so than the more "European" Polynesian countries (like Tonga and Samoa).

Photos: Pacific Islands, Papua New Guinea

Slide shows on Pacific Islands and Papua New Guinea.

Article on PNG trekking (sorry, in Danish)

Places to avoid Not really. Tahiti maybe, but mostly because of the unlucky combination in between a high price level and French arrogance.
Seasons South of Equator: Best from May to October; North of Equator: The opposite.
Do's and don'ts Most of the Pacific is strictly Christian comprising every possible variety of the religion, from Babtists and Adventists through Mormons and Anglicans to Catholics and Lutherans. Consequently, alcohol is not that popular, and Sunday is very sacred. Nothing happens and everything is at a virtual standstill.

Be very polite when invited to someones home. It's a great honour, and hospitality is taken very seriously so bring a small gift.

Visa In most cases, no visas are needed for Europeans. Marshall Islands are different - and expensive for visas, unless you are American.
Value for money The countries south of Equator seem to be much better value-for-money than the ones north of Equator (Palau, Micronesia, Marshall Islands), partly because the islands are less distant (and so planes are cheaper), but also because accomodation seems much cheaper. Still, it's an expensive region, mainly due to the transport costs. Especially, the flight tickets in the northern half are going to prevent lots of people from gooing there. United Airlines virtually has a monopoly - and they use it. Including flights, you'll be paying close to $100 a day, even if two of you are travelling together.

Fiji and Niue are relatively better, while Easter Island, Tonga and Cook Islands are more expensive. Count on 40 $/day for a good living - and then the plane tickets. Not exactly a classic backpacker destination.

French Polynesia are by far the most expensive islands, mainly due to accomodation costs. However, it's the only place where you are allowed to pitch a tent, making them the potentially cheapest islands.

In PNG, tourism suffers from the fact that absolutely no PNG's would ever consider staying at a hotel. Therefore, hotels and hostels are ridiculously expensive compared to the local price level, and travelling in PNG may prove a bit steep. On the other hand, if you don't mind staying with the hospitable locals, you can go there for free - well, almost.

Others Difficult and expensive to get to, unless you buy a round-the-world ticket. If so, Tonga and Fiji should be easy to fit into the schedule, while Tahiti and French Polynesia can de "done" while jumping across the Pacific from Easter Island. The trouble is getting further west from Tahiti.

Crime in PNG is bad, at least in the bigger towns such as Port Moresby and Lae. Take extreme care, also in the highlands, whereas the lowlands and the smaller islands are much safer. The Polynesian islands (Tonga, Cooks, Samoa, Niue etc.) are very safe.

 

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