Preparing for your trip to Polynesia
How to organize to go to Polynesia for a month? That's a great question.
After leaving you reluctantly 19 years ago, my beautiful Polynesia, here I am again soon. 19 years ago, francs were still used, Chirac was president, the internet was still in its infancy, social networks did not exist and O Tahiti E won the Heiva Nui. We're even back to a new millennium. As you will have understood, things have changed enormously and I can no longer rely on what I knew of you to organize my trip.
I can't wait to meet you, and at the same time I'm very apprehensiable. Will I still love you so much? What am I going to find? What will belong forever to the past? I would finally have the answer in September. But one thing hasn't changed, Polynesian culture is an oral culture, so it's always as difficult to find information about you. But as I love you very much and I have a lot of friends and readers I took the time to write this article for them.
After telling you about my relationship to Tahitian dance in this article, this one is mainly intended to help you organize, I preferred not to talk about culture or traditions, as I did with dance, because it would be far too long. However, here's what you need to know in order to organize to go to Polynesia.
What is Polynesia?
For many, Polynesia is the journey of a lifetime. Between turquoise waters and lush nature, we are very close to the definition of Paradise. However, Polynesia remains relatively untouched by mass tourism. You could almost think of the territory as off the beaten track. Every year, only about 200,000 tourists tread the fine sands of the beautiful beaches of this idyllic territory, as much as in Hawaii in a month.
Polynesia is great: there are five archipelagos, comprising a hundred and eighteen islands, of which sixty-seven are inhabited, with more than five hours of flight between the southernmost airport in the Southern Archipelago, and the northernmost one in the Marquesas. It is therefore not surprising that Wallis, Cook and Bougainville discovered Tahiti only at the end of the 18th century. Under the aegis of the Pomare dynasty, the kingdom of Tahiti was quickly colonized. Between forced conversion to Protestantism, a ban on dance deemed too provocative and the banishment of languages, Polynesian culture, which is an oral culture, could have suffered enormously. However, thanks to some very invested people, such as Makau Foster with dance, Ma'ohi culture is even booming! If you are interested in the history of French Polynesia and colonization, I refer you to this article written by Camille Graindorge, a student at the Louvre school.
When to go to Polynesia?
With a time difference of 11/12 hours (depending on the season) and a trip of more than 20 hours to get there, 15 days is really a minimum if you make the round trip with the metropolis, three weeks or even a month are ideal. Personally, I decided to leave for a month from mid-September to mid-October, to take the time to enjoy life there. If you have a choice, avoid the month of July as airfares can reach 3000 euros per person at the time of the famous Heiva i Tahiti. Although it's an incredible event, it greatly increases the overall budget of your trip… But don't worry, in November there is the Hura Tapairu which is growing in size and is just as beautiful to see!
To choose your period, keep in mind that the seasons are reversed, the months of June, July and August are the ones when it is the coolest and where nature is the least lush. On the other hand, in November you will find a lot of fruit and flowers.
Here are the recommended periods:
- The Society's islands (including Tahiti and Bora Bora): the best period is from June to September, the least rainy and less hot period. However in January the temperatures do not exceed much 30oC, it is mainly the rain that becomes more present. The sea temperature is almost constant all year round, even at depths, ranging from 26 to 29 degrees Celsius.
- The Tuamotu: climate quite similar to that of the Society Islands, although the lack of water at the end of the southern winter (October) can become problematic for some dwellings.
- The Marquesas Islands: being located further north it is generally warmer and therefore the seasons are slightly out of step with the Islands of the Society. Here the best period is from August to November.
- The Southern Islands: these are the southernmost archipelagos of Polynesia. Temperatures here are generally cooler than on the Society Islands, with averages of 25oC in January and 20oC in August. These islands are also much rainier all year round. So there is really no better season to visit this archipelago.
Paperwork and budget
First of all, you'll need a passport! Travel outside Europe means passport. If you are comfortable with the internet I recommend you take all the steps online so that your appointment in the town hall is as fast as possible. You can make your pre-request here. Beware, your photo ID must be less than six months old! Find out about delays ranging from 4 weeks to 3 months depending on the region…
As the stopover is in the United States, you will need to apply for an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Organization) required to enter U.S. soil even for a simple stopover. Very fast, it only takes a few minutes online and will cost you $14 (about 12) for a validity period of 2 years.
I advise you to have cash on you because credit cards are not accepted everywhere, much like in Italy! Unlike Reunion, the Pacific franc is used here, as in New Caledonia. The parity with the euro is fixed: 1000 CFP – 8.38 euros // 1 – 119.3 CFP. So you have several solutions: have a cash prize pool that you will change at the airport when you arrive or withdraw money on the spot but you will be capped at 30,000 cfp (250 euros) per withdrawal. most of the time there are no bank charges. Be careful not to bring Pacific Francs back to the metropolis because you will not be able to exchange them again in euro, except in Paris or at the Bank of France… In order to reduce on-site transactions, you can book and pay for a number of activities in advance on the internet. Otherwise there is always the Bank of France!
As far as medications are concerned, if you are a migraine sufferer like me, it is better to have something to treat yourself with you because on the spot the prices are higher than in Metropolis. Ditto if you are taking any special treatment, including some cortisone-based medications, keep your prescription with you.
Then comes the bulk of the budget… The plane ticket. Depending on where you start there are several solutions. From Paris, Air Tahiti Nui is the historic airline. There are others from Bale, for example. Personally my choice was on the new french bee company because of the price: 1200 euros round trip against 2000 with Air Tahiti Nui off season … The choice is quickly made as far as I am concerned. The extra two hours of flights and comfort are not worth the price difference. Namely that this company also serves Reunion and the prices are also very interesting. Namely that for most airlines you will have a real meal between France and the United States, but between the United States and Tahiti in general there is only one simple snack. It is therefore best to eat at the airport.
Be careful when you arrive at the airport and have food on you, you will first have to go through plant health customs.
All arrivals are made at Fa'a'a'o International Airport, and the bulk of the trips between the islands are by boat or plane.
Between Bora Bora, Tahaa, Raiatea: Maupiti Express 2 The rotations between Tahiti and Bora Bora take place only on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the way, Wednesdays and Fridays for the return trip.
With Air Tahiti, the local airline, which offers a regular service covering all the archipelagos.
For an idea of the scale of French Polynesia:
- Tahiti – Moorea: 15 km only time and reservation possible on the Application Terevau Apple and Android
- Tahiti – Bora Bora: 270 km
- Tahiti – Rangiroa: 300 km
- Tahiti – Nuku Hiva (Marquises): 1500 km!
Inter-island pass also allows you to travel to Polynesia. In general I do not necessarily recommend this type of Pass but those there are really very advantageous. These Pass work like tours, departures and arrivals are made in Tahiti, you can only go once on the islands of the pass, and you can not return to Tahiti between each island. The discovery pass that allows you to go to Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea is 308 euros per adult in low season.
As you will have understood, in general, moving will cost you rather expensive. To give you an idea:
- A day's rental car: in Tahiti 35 and in the islands, count rather 40/50.
- A day's scooter rental: 25
- One day's bike rental: 8
- A bus ticket in Tahiti: from 1.5 to 5 euros depending on the distance you make but the schedules and stops are quite irregular.
I advise against taking a taxi as the shopping is extremely expensive. Your feet and the stop will probably be your best allies to discover Polynesia!
If you're lucky and have friends on site, you probably won't have to pay for accommodation, which will save you a lot of money. If you don't have one, here are the solutions you have:
- Staying with friends, acquaintances, family
- Camping: There are many islands where camping is possible, sometimes in guesthouses, sometimes on campgrounds. Prices vary between 2000 to 3000 en the location for the tent and 2 people.
- Airbnb: it's a possibility that works very well in Polynesia and especially much cheaper than pensions on the islands. Get $35 on your first booking with this sponsorship code right HERE
- family pensions: these are usually small structures. This is the solution that many choose, but it is still more expensive than the previous ones. Count on average 10,000 and 12000 en (80/100) the room on half-board. You can find a little cheaper in the distant islands.
- Hotels: There are rather affordable hotels on average 20000/25000 en room. The famous bungalow on stilts are extremely expensive, at least 400 euros per night.
You have mangoes, fresh fish, coconut… But if you don't want to blow up your food budget forget the cheese, yoghurt, wine… In short, everything that comes from importation. Eat Local! You may not have the opportunity to eat fruit of this quality for a long time. You will discover on site a true culture of generous cuisine. The most economical is to cook either or take food in trailers and trays in store. Coconut bread, raw fish, firi-firi, chao men, ma'a tinito, uru... I know you're salivating in advance!
Phone and internet in Polynesia
Friends addicted to social networks, here's a good opportunity to wean yourself! No operator covers Polynesia and unless you have lived there for more than six months you will not be able to subscribe to a telephone subscription. Either you will withdraw your SIM card and you are praying to find free wifi regularly, or you buy a prepaid card for about 40 euros for the 4GB of internet with Vodafone. But don't use your plan, at 90 cents per minute of call – 30 cents of connection, it figures very quickly.
On Tahiti, Moorea and Bora-Bora it is relatively easy to find free wifi in cafes, hotels and restaurants. On the rest of the islands it gets a little complicated.
The minimum to carry in your luggage?
Depending on how you travel, you won't necessarily take the same thing as me. A backpacking enthusiast, however, I will make a deviation from my habits because I have things to bring back to friends on site and other things to bring back for other friends in the metropolis. So I leave with a 12kilos cabin bag and a 23kilos suitcase. These weights vary from company to company but are much the same. You can also add an extra piece of luggage for your return, count 70 euros.
To leave for a month, I prepare my things for ten days and I would wash my belongings on the spot. The idea is to minimize what you will need, especially since in Tahiti you can quite wear a simple pareo. Avoid "just in case" to leave with your entire pharmacy or multiply the pairs of shoes. If you plan to visit several islands, you will have to walk everything every time… And tell yourself that if you go all out, you won't be able to bring anything back!
As a backpack I have a McKinley 45L extremely convenient as it goes in carry-on luggage! It mainly serves me to load with me a toiletry kit, a spare outfit and my professional equipment: cameras, lenses, external battery, computer. Unfortunately I can't part with my computer for a whole month, work obliges! As these are fragile things I prefer to keep them with me. On the spot, it will serve as a hiking bag to move between the islands.
Added to this are two shorts, two swimsuits, four t-shirts and tank tops, sports leggings, three pairs of shoes (tong, light basketball, hiking), five t-shirts and tank tops, socks, sportswear to avoid friction, outfit a little "dressed" to go out because Tahitians pay close attention to them when they go out. You will see them regularly in traditional outfits and costumes during parties and celebrations. Don't forget to pay attention to your vocabulary, these are not "disguises" as we often hear ...
As I intend to go camping on the islands, I also carry a light tent, a light sleeping bag and a bottle.
What to do on site?
There are absolutely must-have things like attending a show of Ori Tahiti (Tahitian dance), but you can also do many things like take a dance class, a percussion or ukulele class. Local eating and cooking, hiking, whale watching, discovering the black sand beaches (be careful it is extremely hot when there is sun), snorkeling, discovering other islands, participating in the sleat, learning some words in Tahitian, go to the market of Papeete. More unusual, you can attend a mass because it has nothing to do with the masses we know in metropolis, between the very colorful outfits, flowers and songs, there is something to be disoriented!
As with any religious celebration, it is best to respect a few codes especially with regard to your outfits. It is inappropriate to go to Mass dressed as a tourist let alone with a short dress or neckline.
And why not get a tattoo? Be careful, however, not to get a tattoo at the beginning of your stay if not farewell the sea and the sun. Te Patutiki, the tattoo, is an ancestral art, each motif means something specific and tells a story, mostly yours or that of your family. So it takes time to draw, it's best to get in touch with your tattoo artist, whether by email, phone or appointment!
What about the return?
For what amounts can goods be brought back to Polynesia without being taxed?
At the airport, a traveller over the age of 15 can bring back 30,000 francs (250 euros) of goods without having to pay taxes. Per parcel, the sum is 20,000 francs (168 euros) but beware the shipping costs are relatively excessive.
Before checking in your luggage, take the precaution of notifying customs officers of the quantities of beads and/or necklaces of beads you are carrying. You are entitled to a maximum of 50 pearls per adult without being taxed. These must also be mounted. attention! The export of waste (beads with defects) is totally prohibited.
Anything that is vegetal is forbidden, unless you go through plant health customs, then you will have to arm yourself with patience! It is even better to make an appointment.
You also have the right to bring back vanilla. You should know that 99% of the vanilla used today is actually the artificial aroma of vanilla. Polynesia accounts for only 1% of the world's production, the best known is on the islands of Raiatea and Tahaa, also known as the Vanilla Island. There is really no maximum weight allowed for vanilla.
As for seashells, it is forbidden to move them under water and even more to collect them. If you really want to bring back shells, go buy them on the market instead. Shell, sand, coral, if you like Polynesia, just leave them where they are because to pick them up is to participate in the destruction of an entire ecosystem...
I hope this article will have given you all the information you need to best organize your trip! To organize your activities on site, you can also contact the tourist office, put a message on Facebook groups about Polynesia. And have a good trip!
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