Tahiti and French Polynesia, Australasia - Stein Travel
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Tahiti and French Polynesia

Captivating Tahiti and her 118 attendant islands and atolls, all radiating with iridescent green and turquoise, make up the country of French Polynesia, a French overseas territory that is spread across an area of the South Pacific that is as big as western Europe.

The earliest explorers thought they had found paradise on earth when they came across these picture-perfect islands, and today's travellers are no less entranced by the volcanic mountain peaks clothed in lush tropical vegetation and exotic flowering plants, the coral reefs, warm waters, white sand beaches and stunning turquoise lagoons. Add to this the warm hospitality offered by the friendly locals, a collection of world-class resorts, spas, fine restaurants, nightclubs, vibrant markets and enticing boutiques and one would imagine the islands would be over-run with exuberant vacationers. It is surprising then, to discover that there are more hotel rooms in a typical Las Vegas hotel than on all the islands of French Polynesia, and that Hawaii receives more visitors in 10 days than Tahiti does in a year. This means it is possible to tuck a tiare (Tahiti's national fragrant white flower) behind your ear, pack your pareu (sarong) and swimsuit, and head off to find your own idyllic piece of Polynesian paradise, which will doubtless have a melodic ancient name meaning something like 'island of the long sky' or 'place of the double rainbow'.

Information & Facts


Business etiquette is relatively informal in Tahiti and French Polynesia. French is the main language of trade, however English is often understood in more touristy areas. Business hours are generally 8am to 12pm and 1.30pm to 5.30pm Monday to Friday.


French Polynesia enjoys tropical, warm and humid weather all year round, averaging eight hours of sunshine per day over a year. The islands experience a rainy season, generally between late October and early March, when cloudy skies and brief heavy rain showers can occur. The rest of the year rain is rare and temperatures constantly high, tempered sometimes by refreshing breezes. The water temperature ranges from 79°F to 84°F (26°C to 29°C) making for extremely pleasant bathing all year round.


The international dialling code for French Polynesia is +689 and the outgoing code is 00, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). City/area codes are not in use. There are public phone booths on all the islands, most operated with phone cards called 'Telecartes', available from the airport, some bars, magazine stands and the post offices. A GSM 900 mobile network provides limited coverage on Tahiti. United States cell phones will not operate on the islands. Internet access is available in the larger hotels and resorts and the main tourist islands all have Internet cafes.


The culture in Tahiti and French Polynesia is relaxed and welcoming, with hospitality and generosity considered important values. People greet each other with a handshake or kiss on the cheek, and it is considered impolite not to greet everyone in the room unless there is a large group. Guests should remove their shoes when entering someone's home.

Duty Free

Travellers arriving in Tahiti do not have to pay customs duty on 400 cigarettes, 1 litre of alcoholic spirits or 2 litres of still wine, a reasonable amount of perfume and eau de toilette for personal use, and items valued up to CFP5, 000 (for adults) or CFP2, 5000 (children under 15 years) for gifts or personal use. The import of food, weapons or drugs is prohibited.


The electric current in most hotels is 110/220 volts AC, 60 Hz. American-style two-pin flat blade plugs and a round pin plug and receptacle with male grounding pin are used.


A yellow fever vaccination is required for travellers to French Polynesia arriving from an infected area. Immunisation against hepatitis A is recommended, and the territory is subject to increasing outbreaks of dengue fever. A typhoid vaccine is also suggested for most travellers (except short-term business travellers or cruise ship passengers). Tap water in hotels is safe to drink, but bottled water is also freely available throughout the islands. Tahiti has good health facilities with pharmacies and a large government hospital. There are a few private doctors and clinics in the outer islands. The only decompression chamber is at Papeete. Medical insurance is recommended for travellers.


French and Tahitian are the official languages; English is widely spoken.


The unit of currency in French Polynesia is the French Pacific Franc (XPF), divided into 100 centimes. The exchange rate is fairly stable as it is linked to the Euro. Banks throughout the islands are open mainly on weekdays only and are the best place to change foreign currency; rates of exchange are not as good at hotels. There are ATMs on a few of the islands, but shouldn't be relied upon. Most hotels and resorts will exchange travellers cheques in US$ or Euros, and credit cards and US currency is readily accepted on the main islands. Tourism taxes are levied for accommodation and activities.

Passport Visa

All foreigners entering French Polynesia must hold return tickets or documents for onward travel to two successive destinations. A passport valid for three months after the date of entry is also required. Extensions are possible.


Visits to French Polynesia are usually trouble-free. The crime rate is low, but sensible precautions should be taken with valuables. Tropical storms and cyclones can occur between November and April.


GMT -10 (The Marquesas Islands are half an hour ahead of the rest of French Polynesia).


Tipping in Tahiti and the islands is not required - nor expected - as it goes against local custom where hospitality is paramount. All prices quoted are all-inclusive.

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