Practical information
Before heading to French Polynesia...


Practical mini-guide to plan your trip

Custom formalities, Vaccine, Seasons and Climate
Jetlag, Business hours, Languages, Exchange, Credit cards
Postal services, Telecoms and mobiles, Internet, Electricity
Water, Health, Cars, Corals, How much is it?
In my suitcase

 

 

Custom Formalities

 For French Nationals: In theory, just a French National identification card. However to stop in transit via the USA, French nationals need, like everyone else, to possess a passport still valid 6 months after their return.
 For E.U. Nationals, a valid passport is mandatory. For all stays longer than three months, a visa is needed. The same applies to citizens of Australia, Brasil, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, who may stay a maximum of 3 months with a passport but without a visa.
 Les ressortissants des U.S.A, du Canada, d'Argentine, des Bermudes, du Citizens of the U.S.A, Canada, Argentina, Bermuda, Brunei, South Korea, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Panama, Singapore, and Uruguay may stay a maximum of one month without visa, but with a valid passport.
 Citizens of all other countries (including aliens residing in the U.S.A) must request a visa from the French Embassy or French Consulate near their place of residence. This visa must bear the mandatory mention: "Valable pour la Polynésie Française" (Valid for French Polynesia).

► Take contact with your international airline for more information.


Vaccine

No specific vaccine is necessary to enter French Polynesia.

Seasons and climate

Actually, Polynesia is a country where it is Summer alll year round, with a pleasant tropical climate cooled off by the Pacific Trade Winds. The average temperature, depending on the season, varies only between 25 and 30° Celsius (i.e. 78 to 86 degrees Farenheit), for the greatest pleasure of visitors coming from the Northern Hemisphere. With an average temperature between 25 and 28°C (77 and 82°F), the lagoon will greet you with comfort: a true fountain of youth! Divers should know that it is slightly cooler 10 or 15 meters deep, but wet suits are seldom needed in our latitudes.
 April to October, this is the dry season, but this is also the "coolest" but the mininum seldom goes under 23°C (73°F)!
 July and August are the busiest months for tourism and it is not unusual for some islands to be all sold out... you should book in advance for this period.
 November to March,  the weather is warm and humid with frequent rain showers in November and December. This is tropical rain that often feels like a strong shower and that seldom lasts more than 30 minutes. The lagoon is warm too, often reaching 29°C  (84°F)! 

 


Jetlag

Polynesia is 10 hours behind Universal Time (GMT). In the Marquesas there is an odd half hour time difference with the other archipelagos :

Thus, when it is 9:00 AM in Tahiti, the time is:

Language

The official language is French but Tahitian (Reo Ma'ohi) is also widely used. English is generally understood and spoken in the hotels, shops and restaurants, so there is no communication problems. In some places that are very oriented toward tourism, Japanese is also spoken. 

Currency exchange

The local currency is the Pacific Franc (CFP or XPF) which has a fixed rate relative to the Euro:
1Pacific (CFP) Franc = 0.008 Euros.
1 Euro = 119 CFP.
Keep in mind:
A 10,000 CFP bill is worth 84 Euros...

The easiest is to get local currency from ATMs, with your international credit card. Note it is preferable to use a Visa or Mastercard.

Credit cards

More and more, most tourism connected businesses in French Polynesia accept major credit cards such as Visa, Carte Bleue, MasterCard or American Express. You shouldn't have particular problems in Tahiti and Moorea. BEWARE: To get cash from the Automatic Teller Machines (ATM's), it is better to use an INTERNATIONAL VISA card which will work all over French Polynesia. Some ATM's do not take other cards such as Cirrus, Mastercard or Amex. Make sure also, on islands other than Tahiti and Moorea, to bring enough cash if you stay in guest houses (they seldom take credit cards) and for your specific expenses once you are there (taxis, busses, drinks, souvenirs, restaurants, etc.). Bank offices or post offices located in the island may be able to help you, if you first take note of their business hours (they close between noon and 2PM and often after 3:30PM!) keep in mind also that the bank may be located on the other side of the island, or may be closed (local holidays, etc.).


Shops' business hours

Shops are generally open Monday through Friday from 7:30 AM to 11:30 AM and from 1:30 PM to 5 PM, 7:30 to 11AM on Saturday. Some shops sometimes remain open on Saturday afternoon. Except for the Papeete Market, where rush hours starts at 4 AM, most shops and restaurants are closed on Sunday. The Papeete Market is open every day from 4:00 AM and features many shops and handicrafts booths, not tobe missed on the second floor. An entire morning can be spent there if you are looking for a few original gifts.

Postal services

The Papeete central post office is located on the waterfront near the Territorial Assembly. Business hours: 7 AM to 3 PM every day, with an window remaining open from 3PM to 6 PM for rush transactions. Most townships around Tahiti have their own post office with almost identical business hours. Every island in French Polynesia has its own local OPT (Office des Postes et Télécommunications) office.

Telecommunications

Tahiti's telecommunication network is one of the best in the world. Telephone conversations are carried via sattelites and all telecommunication services (telex, minitel, operator, fax, etc.) are available. Many phone booths are located within Papeete and around the island of Tahiti. See our Cartazooms to locate phone booths in the other islands. Most of them work with phone cards, available in many stores and in the post offices. Rates within the island of Tahiti are about 14 CFP/minute, ot 0,12 Euros/minute.

Mobile Telephones

Tikiphone is the only provider of mobile telephone communications in French Polynesia. Its network, called VINI, operates a GSM 900 MHZ network in the Society Islands, Tuamotu, Australs and Marquesas islands.
So, bring your own usual GSM mobile phone along if is operates under this standard! Before leaving your country, call your Customer Service to make sure you have the International option. Upon your arrival in Tahiti, you will just need to switch on your mobile phone : you will see the "F VINI" displaid on the screen which means you are connected to Vini network. If your operator is not in the list of Vini's international partners, you'll just have to purchase a local temporary prepaid VINI CARD (sold at the Tahiti Faa'a airport or in Papeete) which you will insert inside your mobile phone. You can renew this card by buying a VINI CARD recharge card among the 150 retailing shops in French Polynesia. This subscription will assign you a temporary phone number (valid 3 months), supply you with voice mail and let you call anywhere. Be aware however that given the rates to call abroad, it is better to receive calls than to make them. It is anyway an ideal way to keep in touch with your friends and family back home,... but use it cautiously.

Internet

The only service provider in French Polynesia is called "MANA". For the addicts who bring their friendly laptops along with them in Paradise, it is possible to purchase a temporary connection kit from MANA. The most economic way to stay online is still from hotels which often provide you a free WiFi connection: an ideal way to send a digital picture of yourself sitting in the lagoon to your friends at work back home.


 

 

Electricity 220 Volts - 60 Hz

All electrical power is supplied in 220 Volts – 60 Hz. It is often supplied from generators, sometimes rather noisy and started at some given times of the day or night. More and more however, solar panels are appearing in many hotels and guest houses. Remember to bring transformers if your electric appliances run on 110 volts.
► Tip: take along with you multiple sockets to recharge your equipment, since in certain rooms there will be only one socket available.


Water

Although water is drinkable in Tahiti, we recommend that you always drink bottled water. In the other islands, even if the water seems drinkable, it is also better to drink bottled water. Local bottled spring waters are Eau Royale and Vaimato. Most French mineral waters are also found in the stores. In the atolls (Tuamotu), water is a rare and precious commidity. There is often no natural water reservoir and the islanders often collect rain water in cisterns. It is not always drinkable but it can be used in the bathroom. During heavy rains, water can come out brown from the faucet.

Health

Polynesia has many high quality medical and dental offices. Pharmacies, private clinics, specialists and dental offices are gathered around the very modern Territorial Hospital Center. In the islands, hospitals and infirmaries take over with efficiency as well as general practitioners offering excellent medical care. The local Government sponsored Health Insurance program makes it possible to give the Polynesians and also to tourists the best medical care and coverage agreements negotiated with most major countries. It is better however to be covered for this type of unpleasant matters before leaving home and get information from your own insurance provider or your travel agency regarding medical care reimbursement. In principle, credit card holders benefit from minimal travel insurance covering relatively well various losses as soon as you pay for services with their cards.
No vaccination is required to enter French Polynesia, except of course in case of epidemics.
One of the rare disease a tourist can catch in French Polynesia is dengue fever, a kind of tropical flu. Sudden fever, migraines and muscle aches are the most common symptoms. Except for very rare complications, the only treatments for dengue fever are anti inflamatories and vitamin C. Take absolutelyno aspirin, which would only accelerate blood thinning and could cause serious internal bleeding problems. See a doctor as soon as possible.

Cars

Driving is on the right side everywhere in French Polynesia. The major rental companies are Europcar, Hertz and Avis. Roads are generally good, with the particularity that speed is slow as they are narrow, windy and genrally one way each side. Respect the average 50 to 60km /hour speed limit. Do not try to pass, and be extra careful at night as bicyclists and pedestrians could be on the road without lights. So, take your time, distances are short and it would be too bad to spoil your vacation while trying to save a few seconds.

Safety

Only home burglaries and car thefts are frequent. But like anywhere else, do not leave anything visble in your rented car and lock it as soon as you leave it. At your hotel, when you leave the room do not leave anything on display (purses, jewelry, money, papers). When you leave your room or your bungalow, lock doors and windows and close the drapes to prevent eventual temptations. Hotels often have safes in the rooms. In other hotels, leave your valuables at the reception office.

Corals

Beware of coral cuts. Be especially careful on the lagoon side ladders, which are often very slippery and often covered of lagoon micro-organisms that cause allergic reactions to some people. Do not forget that lagoons have superb coral formations that are often also very sharp. If you get cut, even slightly when touching these coral heads, do not hesitate to take care of it with lime juice to prevent scars and infections, even if it stings a little! Just a simple matter of local habit!

 

 

How much is it?

• A beer at a sidewalk café : 400 CFP = 3 €
• "Poisson cru" in a snack : 1,000 CFP = 8 €
• Lunch in a restaurant: 1, 800 CFP = 15 €
• Dinner in an upscale restaurant: 3, 500 to 7, 000 CFP = 30 € to 60 €
• Bottle of wine in a restaurant: 2,500 to 4,500 CFP = 20 € to 38 €
• Pareo at the market: 1,200 CFP = 10 €
• Necklace with a nice pearl: 18,000 CFP = 150 €
• Trip on "Le Truck": 150 to 300 CFP = 1 to 2.5 €
• Ten kilometers in taxi: 2,000 CFP = 17 €
• One day car rental: 10, 000 CFP = 84 €
• Round trip to Moorea by ferry: 1, 600 CFP = 13 €
• Round trip to Bora Bora by plane: 21,000 CFP = 176 €

 

Tipping
Tipping is not a local tradition... in theory. However, like everywhere, a tip will open many doors and generate many smiles. Have your own experience and reward outstanding service.

 


 

In my suitcase (a quick inventory)

·         Things to bring:
Passports, flight tickets, and lodging reservation receipts
Credit card & money (ask your credit card company about their ATM compatibility in French Polynesia). Prefer Visa or Mastercard.
Sunscreen/Sunburn relief product
Insect repellent, and relief product (excellent product is sold in Moorea though!)
Sunglasses
Hat or cap
Swimsuits (more than one per person as they don’t always dry out completely)
Plastic shoes to walk in the water
Snorkeling equipment is often provided for mid-size.
A small flashlight (always usefull)
One set of warmer clothes (sweater)
A set of long-sleeved layer and lightweight long pants, which can also be useful for mosquitos
Windbreaker-type jacket
Boat shoes (timberland type) because they are easy going with water and sand
Non-prescription drugs for headaches, allergies, stomach aches, etc. and simple first aid supplies
Extra eyeglasses or lenses and prescriptions
Plenty of memory for photos and videos and extra batteries
Favorite CDs and DVDs and related players
Favorite reading material
An open mind and an adventurous spirit!

 

 

So, are you ready?

 ... discover how to book your journey!

 

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