This Melanesian paradise has long been a popular English-speaking stop off for beach bunnies on their way to or from other major destinations that require a long-haul flight across the Pacific Ocean. Encompassing over 300 islands which boast a rich colonial history, visitors can enjoy island-hopping and top-notch diving as well as endless beaches. Not entirely devoid of trouble, the islands are susceptible to the occasional coup, but on the plus side, there has been a drop in resort prices meaning you can have a first-rate holiday without a bank-breaking dent in your pocket.
Why You Should Go
What’s Cool: Rainforests, no malaria, year-round tropical weather, English is the official language, getting drunk on yaqona, idyllic beaches, world-class diving, deliciously fresh seafood.
What’s Not: History of cannibalism, cyclones, political turmoil, diesel pollution, high prices in tourist regions, taxi drivers drunk on yaqona, shops close on Sundays, high incident of road accidents, persistent vendors.
When to Go
A tropical marine climate ensures that there is no bad time to visit Fiji, unless of course you want to avoid the cyclone season, which is from November to January.
Summer (November to April) is hotter and more humid than other seasons, with occasional downpours and temperature in the low 80s (°F).
Winter (May to October) is a little cooler with occasional rain, ensuring no more sticky nights.
Getting There & Away
Visitors can fly into Nadi International Airport, while the airport at Suva also offers some long-haul flights. Some boats also arrive from Australia, but this is not a common means of getting here. Public transport consists of inter-island ferries, buses, shared taxis and private taxis, which are all inexpensive. Traffic is never heavy, but the pollution from diesel vehicles is. Renting a car to get around is not advised, even if you think you are a pro, and if you do fancy taking your chances, never take a rental car from one island to another without prior permission unless you want to be prosecuted.
Health & Safety
Fiji is prone to the occasional coup, with the last one being in December 2006, albeit a bloodless one. Visitors are advised to check with their Foreign Office for up-to-date information prior to travel. Road rules are often ignored and seatbelts are rarely seen in use. Avoid traveling with taxi drivers who look like they’ve had one too many glasses of yaqona. Crime is uncommon, but keep a close eye on your stuff in busier places such as Suva and Nadi. Don’t automatically assume something has been stolen; Fijians are known to ‘borrow’ things you leave lying around. The island is malaria-free, but you still need to protect yourself against mosquito bites if you want to avoid dengue fever and other unwanted diseases. Healthcare is good in urban areas, but almost non-existent in remote parts.
Food & Hospitality
Fiji is swarming with travel agents that receive up to 20 percent commission for booking you into a particular resort; be aware that they will usually try to book you into the place that pays them the most, not necessarily the most suitable resort for you. The locals are terrifically friendly, and learning a few words of Fijian will go along way to cementing your friendships. While some resorts have seen a drop in price thanks to political instability, the prices in tourist areas are affected by high inflation, so don’t expect everything to be a bargain. One thing that is inexpensive however is food, with small cafés and restaurants aplenty although food is included at many hotels. Try fish and chips or an Indian style curry and wash it all down with a glass of yaqona, an unusual drink made from the roots of pepper plants that will leave your mouth numb for at least 5 minutes and give you a pleasant, intoxicated feeling.
One week is enough to get a feel for Fiji, but beach babes may need a minimum of two weeks for the perfect tan.
One night in Nadi before heading to greener pastures.
Two days exploring Lautoka and the nearby Koroyanitu National Park.
Three days soaking on the sun on the island of your choice.
A daytrip to the capital Suva, for hustle, bustle and a taste of luxury.
A week relaxing and diving at one of Fiji’s idyllic resorts.
A daytrip to Rakiraki to soak up its colonial charm.
Turtle Island: having recently gained notoriety as a celebrity holiday hotspot, there are some great beaches here as long as you don’t mind sharing them with Britney Spears.
Lautoka: the nation’s second largest city attracts few visitors, but is well worth a visit for its proximity to the nearby mountains and Koroyanitu National Park.
Nadi: this is the tourist and transit hub of Fiji, home to the largest Hindu temple in the Pacific.
Garden of the Sleeping Giant: popular location for botanic walks and close up looks at some of Fiji’s most beautiful orchids.
Rakiraki: popular for its old-world charm and colonial character, come and see an altogether different side of Fiji.
Suva: the capital is home to Fiji’s tallest building, botanical gardens, a charming waterfront and some first-class hotels.
Diving and snorkeling: almost all of the islands have abundant reef life, with many beautiful and unspoiled spots where you can mingle with the local marine life.
Hiking: trek through Koroyanitu National Park and explore the highlands, waterfalls, semi-rainforest and remote villages.
Sea kayaking: is popular in Fiji and a great way to get a different perspective of the islands.
Fishing: daytrips are easily organised through a travel agent, with top-notch deep sea fishing available.
Shopping: local handicrafts such as baskets and woven bracelets are sold for next to nothing here.
Festivals & Events
Fijians love a good party, with yaqona-fuelled celebrations often starting well before the recommended date and finishing long past.
January: New Year’s Day is the start of a week-long party, which can sometimes stretch into a month-long celebration.
October: Fiji Day celebrates the nation’s independence with religious and cultural celebrations.
September: Sugar Festival is celebrated in Lautoka with fervour and naturally lenty of yaqona.
Year-round: Yaqona ceremonies take place on many islands throughout the year. Locals are often invited to join in, with declining being considered very rude.