Kiribati, Australasia - Stein Travel
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Kiribati

Known to many under British rule as the Gilbert Islands, Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas) may be a tiny nation in the central tropical Pacific Ocean, but its 33 atolls, mostly surrounding turquoise lagoons and barely rising above the surrounding ocean, span a whopping 1.4 million square miles (3.5 million sq km) of the Pacific Ocean.

First sighted by British and American ships in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the main chain of islands was named the Gilbert Islands in 1820 after a British captain who crossed the archipelago on route to China in 1788.

Only two thirds of the islands are actually inhabited and interestingly, uninhabited Caroline Island was the first to usher in the millennium giving Kiribati much needed publicity and a helping hand onto the world's stage. The increased number of tourists in the past decade is proof of this.

Kiribati's islands offer a multitude of fascinating and exquisite tourist attractions. Christmas Island, located in the southern part of the Line Islands, is a bird-watcher's paradise and is an important breeding habitat for the seabirds that flock to these islands to swoon over the surface tropical fish, squid and tuna. Common sightings include the Wedge-tailed, Christmas, and Audubon's Shearwaters, as well as the Masked, Brown, and Red-footed Boobies.

The clear turquoise waters teem with unique biodiversity of unique marine life found off the shores of the Kiribati islands, considered to be one of the few unspoiled and unexplored underwater sanctuaries remaining in the world.

The locals in the outer islands survive on coconuts, breadfruit and fish as Kiribati's recent colonial and WWII history has had little impact on them, but the main island of Tarawa was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles in WWII history when more than 7,000 Japanese and American soldiers lost their lives. The locals here still reside in thatched houses, but there are signs of a stronger Western influence with more cars, movies, bars and Internet access available.

Many people come here to sunbathe on one of the countless sandy white beaches, sip on an exotic cocktail and watch other beach goers partake in volleyball, surfing, kayaking and jet skiing. The Taiwan Park and Dai-Nippon Causeway in the eastern tip of the Betio Islet in Tarawa are definitely worth a visit.

Nothing really happens too fast here and visitors will enjoy slowing down and living on Kiribati island time.

Information & Facts

Customs

Travellers to Kiribati will encounter a strange mix of informality and rigidity in terms of social mores and customs. Generally, Kiribati boasts a relatively classless society, where people are known by their first names, and talk freely and good-humouredly amongst each other. However, despite this general bonhomie, there are certain codes of behaviour that are strictly observed. In all aspects of social life, modesty and humbleness are considered desirable traits - direct eye contact is not often made, women are expected to dress conservatively, and aggressive or confrontational behaviour is heavily frowned upon. Travellers to Kiribati should note that the top of one's head is considered a sacred, deeply personal area. Under no circumstances should you touch someone on the top of their head (unless invited to do so), and if you are walking past someone who is lying down, give them a wide berth to ensure that you don't cause offence. In general, don't pass through crowds of people, especially if they are engaged in the 'circular' discussions that characterise Kiribati's social life.

Duty Free

Visitors to Kiribati may import the following goods duty-free: 200 cigarettes/50 cigars/225g of tobocco, an mount of perfume reasonable for personal use, a reasonable amount of gifts, one still and one movie camera and a reasonable amount of film, and sports equipment for personal use. Those 21 and older may bring one litre of spirits and one litre of wine.

Passport Visa

All foreign passengers to Kiribati must hold proof of return/onward tickets (or sufficient funds to purchase them), and proof of sufficient funds to cover their expenses while in the country. Generally, visa-exempt visitors are granted an initial stay of 30 days. An extension of stay is possible, provided that it does not exceed four months in any calendar year. Note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Kiribati, if arriving within six days of leaving or transiting through an infected area. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

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