Tonga, Australasia - Stein Travel
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Tonga was referred to by Captain Cook as "The Friendly Islands". Spread south of Samoa for 500 miles(800 km), the 171 islands comprise the Pacific's last monarchy and only Pacific nation never to be colonized. Proud of their history, Tongan culture runs deep in the 48 inhabited islands.

The image of an idyllic island kingdom was tarnished recently when the beloved King Tupou IV died and succession was handed to his less revered son King George Tupou V. Never one to mingle with locals, King Tupou V preferred a British aristocratic manner. Known for his fondness for ornate military uniforms and travelling in a chauffeured British taxi to and from his hillside villa, the Tongan people finally had enough. Pro Democracy riots damaged much of the capitol Nukualofa in 2006. Just before coronation King Tupou V relinquished much of his power as well as many private businesses interests in appeasement. Yet such an ornate dresser was not to become king without style as he threw a party worth $2.5 million, a significant part of the country's annual budget.

Tonga has returned to a relaxed atmosphere where travellers usually find a bit of respite from the stressors of the modern world. It is often the destination of water sports enthusiasts. Yacht charters are popular for exploring the islands of Vava'u and Neiafu. Diving off coral reefs or snorkelling close to shore are both available for beginners to experts on many of the islands. Coral reef surfing swells are reserved for experienced water souls. The presence of humpback whales in Tongan waters make this a winter holiday destination too.

While the people are friendly and the culture relaxed, traditional Christian values predominate. However, many Christian traditions are mixed with older Polynesian customs and festivals. The capitol and commercial centre Nukualofa is also experiencing a blend of western influence.

Getting to Tonga is easy as regular flights arrive from many destinations to the main island Tongatapu. Travel within the islands is through ferry service or plane and one should not expect the same degree of tourist development as many popular beach destinations; yet this isolation is intrinsic to Tonga's charm.

Information & Facts


Local customs in Tonga tend to be conservative, and the population is predominantly Christian. Toplessness is illegal for both men and women, and it is advised to keep your knees covered at all times. When greeting a stranger, a handshake is appropriate, however family members will press their noses together and exhale loudly. It is acceptable to eat with your hands, and it is customary to wash your hands before and after the meal. Sundays are reserved mainly for religious worship and most restaurants and shops will be closed. While Tonga culture is conservative, its people are warm and hospitable. If staying with or visiting a local family, it is customary to bring a gift.

Duty Free

Visitors to Tonga over the age of 18 years may freely import a camera and personal belongings; 500 cigarettes or 500g of cigars or 250g of loose tobacco; and 2.25 litres of spirits or 4.5 litres of wine or beer for those over 21 years. Restrictions apply to fresh foodstuffs such as meat and dairy products.

Passport Visa

Visitors must hold documents and tickets for their return/onward journey and sufficient funds to cover their stay. It is highly recommended that passports have 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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