Destination travel guide for Tahiti
Tahiti is the largest of the 118 islands and atolls that constitute what is officially known as French Polynesia. The island of Tahiti and the capital city of Papeete are located in the Society Islands, an archipelago that includes the high-rising islands of Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, Taha'a, and Bora Bora. Other dramatic island groups are the Tuamotu Atolls with the slender coral wreaths of Rangiroa, Manihi, Tikehau, and Fakarava and the Marquesas - with the massive mountains on the islands of Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa.
The islands are located south of the equator, in the same time zone as Hawaii, and halfway between California and Australia. Papeete's Faa'a Airport (PPT) is under 8 hours by air from Los Angeles (LAX). From North America, nonstop flights depart LAX nearly every day on Air Tahiti Nui and Air France. Nonstop flights from Honolulu (HNL) to Papeete (PPT) are also available weekly on Hawaiian Airlines.
The islands are just two hours behind Pacific Standard Time. 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.
Upon arrival, most visitors exchange some money at the airport or at their hotels. 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 (XPF).
For stays of up to 90 days, there are no visa requirements for citizens of the Australia, U.S. or Canada carrying an Australian, US or Canadian Passport.
French and Tahitian are the official languages, but English is spoken and understood in tourist areas. Brushing up on a few basic French phrases and learning Tahitian greetings are appreciated.
Tipping is not customary in Polynesian culture and is not expected. However, tipping is welcomed for exemplary service.
Cooled by gentle ocean breezes, the climate is ideal. Being tropical but moderate, the climate features sunny, pleasant days and an average yearly air and water temperature of 80∞F. Summer is from November through April, when the climate is slightly warmer and more humid. Winter is from May through October, when the the climate is slightly cooler and dryer.
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 a camera with plenty of film.
Tap water is good in most hotels and restaurants. Bottled water is also available everywhere in stores, markets, and hotels
No shots or certifications are required from Australia & North America. Regardless of the traveler's nationality, entry from an infected area of the world as defined by the World Health Organization requires certifications.
Hotels use either 110 or 220 volts, depending on the location. A converter/adapter is often required for appliances you bring, including computers.
Direct dialing international calls is available in most hotels and phone booths. Phone cards are easily purchased in Tahiti. When calling from the U.S. to Tahiti, 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 Tahiti depending on the type of phone you have and your service provider. Visit: www.vini.pf for more information.
There are also rental options.
Many do, particularly on the islands of Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora. Most bungalows are cooled by ceiling fans that draw in the fresh trade winds.
Bargaining and haggling over prices in markets and stores is not customary.
Among Tahiti's most popular products are black pearls, tiare and coconut soaps, monoi oil, vanilla beans, shell leis, wood carvings, woven hats and baskets, and the colorful hand dyed pareu fabric worn by the island natives. The Papeete public market is a favorite with visitors. Shops usually open about 7:30am and close at 5:30pm (Noon on Saturdays) but there is always a long lunch hour. Except in hotels, all shops are usually closed on Sundays.
The most inexpensive and common form of transportation is the public bus system. On Tahiti, there are now two types of buses: the open-air trucks called Le Truck and the RTC large white coaches. Both operating frequently in Papeete and around the island. Le Truck also operates on most other islands. Taxis can be hired at most hotels, airports, and ferry terminals. For scenic tours around the islands, try escorted excursions by boat, 4x4 safari, bus, or helicopter.
Tahiti is the perfect place to do everything or nothing at all. Popular activities include 4x4 safaris, nature hikes, scuba diving, snorkeling, canoeing, sailing, jet skiing, wind-surfing, surfing, bike riding, tennis, golf on the island of Tahiti, horseback riding, deep-sea fishing, shopping, circle-island tours, helicopter tours, museums stops and archaeological tours.
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. Because of the small size of many islands, and the uniqueness of many circle island tours, you may find renting a car unnecessary.
If you are an experienced sailor, yacht and sailboat charters are available on most of the major islands for short- or long-term voyages. Some can come complete with a captain and crew. Fishing boats can also be chartered for deep-sea fishing for big species.
The islands of Tahiti offer world-class diving and are famous among divers for the large marine life, drift dives, warm and pristine waters, and uncrowded dive sites. The clear lagoons, coral gardens, underwater passes, and oceanic drop-offs all create an abundant aqua-culture with infinite sea life.
If you have at least one week, you can enroll in a complete certification course or take a shorter resort course at many of the resorts and from the cruise ships. If you are already a PADI, NAUI, or SSI member, your certification is recognized.