FAQs and Travel Tips
Tahiti is 8½ hours flight time from LAX. There is also non-stop service from New York taking approximately 12 hours.
French Polynesia’s climate is tropical all year round. And being near the Equator ensures mild, sunny days with an average temperature about 80°F (24°C). Since it below the Equator, seasons are reversed. Summer (November through March) is generally warmer and humid [86°F (30°C)], while the austral winter (April through October) tend to be cooler and drier [80°F (24°C). Ocean and lagoon temperatures average around 80°F (24°C) year-round.
The winter months coincide with most Northern hemisphere’s holiday periods as well as the month-long Heiva-i-Tahiti festival which incorporates Bastille Day celebrations on the 14th of July. This is a very popular time to visit and advanced flight and hotel bookings are definitely a must.
It is always recommended to buy travel insurance, especially a policy that includes accidents, medical problems, theft and loss. Yes. However, you don’t need special shots for as there are no major epidemics or infectious diseases. The drinking water is purified at hotels and restaurants and there is bottled water available to take on the road or when visiting remoter areas.
All visitors will need a valid passport and a return ticket (or at least two more continuing destinations). For stays of up to one month, no visa is required from citizens of the US, Canada and Mexico. A foreigner with a US residence card should is not exempt from this requirement and should consult with the nearest French Consulate for information. Citizens of EU countries do not require a visa for stays of up to 3 months.
NOTE: It is the sole responsibility of the passenger to check which documents are needed for travel and have to these valid documents in order before departing.
Close to 250,000 people live amongst the islands of French Polynesia. Approximately 70% of these are native Polynesian or Tahitian, as the locals call themselves. About 15% are of mixed parentage (Tahitian-European and Tahitian-Chinese), 5% purely Chinese and the remainder are predominantly French with a smattering of Australians and Americans. About half the population lives in and around Papeete and the Society Island group is home to about 85% of the population.
Both French and Tahitian are recognized as official languages and you can easily pick up some basic phrases in both. However, English is spoken in most of the tourist areas. But in reality, if you’re trying to get by on the French you studied in high school more than two decade ago, it is best to stick to English.
Here are few key words in the local Tahitian dialect.
- hello, good day, friendly greeting – ia orana.
- goodbye – nana
- welcome – maeva
- thank you – mauru’uru
- how are you? – eaha te huru
- good! – maita’i
- to your health, toast – manuia
- man – tane
- woman – vahine
- child – tamarii
- yes – e, oia
- no – aita
- small – iti
- big/large – nui
Get used to the fact that French Polynesia uses the metric scale for distance and Celsius scale for temperatures.
- 10kms = 6 miles
- 1 meter = 3.3 feet
- 17 Celsius = 63 Fahrenheit
- 50kms = 30 miles
- 12 meters = 40 feet
- 25 Celsius = 82 Fahrenheit
In a word, efficiently. The reason to mention the luggage requirements is NOT to over pack for Tahiti especially if you flying within the country. Luggage allowances on domestic airlines are limited generally to 15kg (42 lbs). You may have to store excess luggage or pay overage charges.
The climate and lifestyle on the islands call for casual and comfortable clothing. Pack loose-fitting, natural fabrics and plenty of shorts. Pareus and swimsuits can be worn during the daytime at the resorts, while casual shirts and walking shorts provide the most comfort during island explorations. For dinner, casual slacks and sport shirts are the best choice for men while cool sundresses are most appropriate for women.
Sunscreen, brimmed hats, sunglasses, swimsuits, reef-walking shoes, bug repellent, prescription medicine, and still and/or video camera. Light clothing, a sweat shirt or a windbreaker are recommended Most of you will be forgiven for being “snap happy” with the stunning Tahitian scenery. So make sure you have plenty of batteries and memory cards for digital still or video cameras, as they will be either overpriced or not readily available. If you use non-digital cameras, be sure to bring many rolls of film with you as it is more expensive in the islands. You are allowed to bring up to 10 rolls duty-free. If snorkeling, you’ll want to bring your own mask. For diving, bring your own regulator and dive certification card.
Hotels use either 110 or 220 volts, depending on the location. It is best to travel with a converter/adapter kit.
Generally communication from the islands is modern and up to date. Although broadband and high speed internet is not available all over.
Direct dialing international calls are available in most hotels and phone booths. Phone cards are easily purchased in Tahiti. When calling from the US to French Polynesia, dial 011 and then the country code of 689 along with the local number. Your cell phone with U.S. service may not work in the islands depending on your service provider. Called VINI, the tikiphone cellular network is licensed with a GSM 900 MHz bandwidth and has reciprocal agreements with certain US carriers. Phones can also be rented upon arrival at Faa’a airport. For more information visit www.vini.pf
There are many options including dial-up, broadband, Wi-Fi, DSL in hotel rooms and cyber cafés. Mana is the name of the internet provider throughout French Polynesia. High speed data internet communications is also available on Tahiti and Moorea.
The islands are just two hours behind Pacific Standard Time and in the same time zone as Hawaii. During Daylight Saving Time (April to late October) they are three hours behind. Time in the Marquesas is half an hour ahead of the rest of the islands.
Currency – Upon arrival most visitors exchange some money at the Faa’a Airport, at their hotels or on their cruise ship. Since most credit cards are readily accepted in all tourist areas, it is not necessary to exchange large amounts. The currency is the French Pacific Franc, referred to as CPF or XPF. It is divided into 500, 1000, 5000, and 10,000 notes and coins are minted in 1,2,5,10,20,50 and 100 denominations. The average exchange rate is 1 USD = 77.50 XPF. But due to currency fluctuations, do check with your financial institution.
Cash Machines – ATMs are becoming more prevalent throughout the islands. However check with your cards' issuing bank, if you are able to use it in Tahiti.
Banking hours – Monday to Friday: 8:00am to 3:30pm and Saturday mornings (times vary).
Credit cards – Visa and MasterCard are accepted in most tourist destinations; American Express less so. Diners Club is accepte
Travelers Checks – It is advisable to take travelers checks in smaller, easy-cashed denominations (20s or 50s). You can cash TCs at banks for the best rates. Hotels do not offer competitive rates but are convenient. This work's best when you want to shop at local markets or villages.
You will arrive at Faa’a International Airport at Papeete (Pah-pey-eh-tey -translation from Tahitian means “water from a basket”).
- For transiting passengers, you will be directed to a secure area until your next flight. The transit area has a few boutiques and a bar to ease your wait.
- For those entering the country, you will proceed directly to the arrivals hall to clear passport control. Then on to luggage claim where there are a few duty free shops to browse through. After leaving the Customs Hall, you can change travelers checks at the Banque de Polynesie or Banque Socredo.
- All items brought in by travelers for their personal use are duty-free, provided they are non-prohibited items and are re-exported out of French Polynesia within six months. These include 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, 50 grams of perfume, 500 grams of coffee, 100 grams of tea, and 2 liters of alcohol, champagne, or wine. No one under 17 years of age is entitled to duty-free tobacco or alcohol.
- Strictly prohibited imports include live animals, all plant material, flowers, fruits, and cultured pearls of non-French Polynesian origin. Guns and weapons of any kind, ammunition, counterfeit items, and narcotics are prohibited outright.
- You must keep receipts for anything purchased while in the country, especially for medicines, pearls, works of art, antiques, and unusual items. Customs officials are quite scrupulous in checking departing passengers.
- You are allowed 2 pieces of luggage not exceeding 23 kgs (58 lbs) and one small carry-on bag not exceeding 4 kgs (10 lbs). For those flying business class, you are allowed an extra 10kgs on luggage.
- Amateur still and video cameras are fine but if you are bringing in professional grade equipment, have a copy of receipts and registration numbers.
If you have pre-planned your trip, you will be greeted on arrival by a representative from your hotel or transfer service. If not, local taxis are numerous and quite dependable. A 10-minute ride from the airport to your hotel costs about USD20. Mini-van transports are also available.
Rental cars are available at most airports for drivers over 21 years of age with a valid driver’s license. Major credit cards are usually required for drivers under 25. You do not need an international license. Given the large size of the island and availability of circle island tours, Tahiti may be the only viable island where rental cars are necessary. Because of the small size of many islands, and the uniqueness of many circle island tours, you may find renting a car unnecessary.