Fiji, an archipelago in the South Pacific, is known for its turquoise waters, white sand beaches, scuba diving and smiling faces. We always dreamed of visiting this tropical paradise. Ready to escape the New Zealand winter, we set out for five weeks to soak in some sun. Fiji has two main islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, with hundreds of smaller islands in between. Whether you are looking for private white sand beaches, waterfalls, or late-night parties, Fiji will surely answer the call.
Visa Entry to Fiji
No visa is required for foreign nationals from these countries. Visas are valid for four months. All other foreign nationals are required to apply for a visa prior to travel.
Language in Fiji
Fijian is the national language. However, English is taught in schools from a young age and is wildly spoken. Some important Fijian words:
Bula – hello
Vinaka – thank you
Andra Vinaka – good morning
Culture in Fiji
Fijians are very welcoming and always smiling. Social gatherings are a tradition which includes nightly kava drinking. Rugby is the national sport and one of the best, winning the Rio 2016 Olympic Gold Medal for men’s sevens. Food is an important part of Fijian culture. Don’t be afraid to take up an offer from a friendly local willing to share a home-cooked meal!
Best Time to Visit Fiji
The ideal time to visit is during the winter months, from June through August. Cyclone season is from February to April, so it is better to avoid Fiji during this time. However, scuba diving is best in the summer because of less wind and ocean current.
The national currency in Fiji is the Fijian Dollar. At the time of writing (June 2017), $1 FJD = $0.48 USD, and $1 FJD = €0.43. All prices in this article are in FJD unless stated otherwise.
Food in Fiji
The food in Fiji is delicious. Lovo is a traditional method of cooking food in an underground oven. Food is wrapped in palm leaves, topped with banana leaves and placed on hot stones. The food is then covered with blankets and sand, and cooked for several hours. Lovo normally consists of chicken, kasava, and palusami (taro leaf). It is prepared for important events and gatherings. Due to the abundance of ocean life, fish and octopus are a common staple in Fiji. Dishes are typically prepared with a coconut milk, either cooked (lolo) or raw (miti). Many resorts cater to tourists with non-Fijian plates such as burgers, fish and chips, curries, or pastas. In Viti Levu and Vanua Levu Indian and Chinese cuisines are available.
Backpacking in Fiji
Costs in Fiji have gone up over the past few years. While the country is “backpacker” friendly, the prices don’t always match up. Visiting the most popular places such as the Yasawas and Mamanucas are becoming expensive. Many hotels/backpackers on the islands require meal plans which can more than double the price of a dorm bed. It is possible to lower costs by staying in village homestays or camping. Other island groups are much less expensive. We stayed in Tavueni for a fraction of the cost. Land transportation is cheap, however, boat ferries to the Yasawas can get very expensive. We moved slowly, camped and didn’t do many excursions or diving. We spent $66 USD per day for two people. While travel is much cheaper in Asia, Fiji still is a great place for backpacking, especially in Taveuni or island hopping the Yasawa Islands.
Typical Costs in Fiji
Takeaway food $5 – $8
750ml beer $5 – $6 at a supermarket, $10 at backpackers
750ml bottle wine $15+
300ml rum $35 (buy liquor at Duty-free or before coming to Fiji!)
750ml rum $85
Breakfast $6 – $10
Fish and chips $10 – $15
Dinner $15 – $20
Transportation in Fiji
Viti Levu has reliable and inexpensive buses. Local buses run every 10 to 15 minutes. Sunbeam and Pacific are express buses between Nadi and Suva and leave often. Inter-island flights (or seaplane) is available, but expensive. Boat transportation is the best way between islands, but can still get expensive, especially in the Yasawas. Most people we met doing the island hopping with the Yasawa Flyer wished they just stayed at one or two resorts (recommendations below). Instead of getting a bula package, we recommend picking one resort and purchase return tickets with the Tavewa Seabus. Here are some transportation costs as of June 2017.
Airport to town by bus $2
Airport to town by Taxi $8
Nadi buses within town $1
Nadi/Suva to Coral Coast $7.50
Between Nadi and Suva $15
Turtle Airways $380 pp one-way
Yasawa Flyer one way $168 – $192 pp (3-5) hours depending on which stop in Yasawas
Yasawa Flyer “Bula Pass” island hopping costs $443 for a 5-day pass, $562 for a 7-day pass, or $690 for a 10-day pass
Tavewa Seabus (managed by Coralview resort) cost $100 pp or $70 pp if staying at the resort
Private Water Taxi’s – Water taxis can be hired for $90-$100 pp, but they do not run every day
Fiji Airways flights are $250 pp return
Goundar Shipping boat transfers are $50 to Savusavu (14 hours) and $67 to Taveuni (18 hours)
Savusavu to Taveuni by bus and boat transfer is $15
Gondar Shipping: Suva To Taveuni
Departs on Fridays and Mondays
Reporting time is 4 pm for a 6 pm departure
Gondar Shipping: Taveuni to Suva
Departs on Sundays and Tuesdays
Sunday reporting time is 8 am for a 10 am departure and Tuesday is a 2 pm reporting time for a 4 pm departure
Accommodation in Fiji
The main island of Viti Levu has plenty of accommodation options including resorts, hostels, AirBnBs, and homestays. Dorm rooms in Nadi cost between $16-24. The best way to travel in Fiji is to explore the outer islands. Accommodation is different on each island with some remote islands consisting of only a single resort. Some islands have local villages and may offer homestays. In the Yasawas, prices for budget camping/dorms are $50 to $160 per person. Mid-range resorts start from $300. Many resorts require meal plans that cost an extra $70-$100 per day. Taveuni is considerably cheaper and offers self-catering. Check Agoda and Booking.com for the best rates, sometimes offering cheaper prices than booking direct.
Recommended Places to Stay in Fiji:
Nadi – Tropics of Capricorn ($24 AC dorm, no food)
Coral Coast – The Beachhouse (cost $48 dorm plus meal plan)
Yasawa’s (basic) – Coralview Resort ($58 dorm with breakfast incl or $164 bures, comes with 3 excursions, lunch/dinner is menu options for $10-$25 per meal)
Yasawa’s (splurge) – Octopus Resort ($45 dorm or $224 private bungalow plus $115 meal plan) or Manta Ray Resort ($45 dorm or $185 private bure plus $99 meal plan)
Taveuni – Bibi’s Hideaway ($35 tent camping or $130 private bures, with shared kitchen) or Tuvununu ($50 private room with shared kitchen)
Diving in Fiji
Because of the cost, we decided to not dive in Fiji. However, we heard incredible things about the diving. Diving with the sharks in Vitu Levu will set you back $500 USD for two dives. Diving in Tavueni will cost $340 USD for two dives.
While it is very safe in Fiji and serious crime rarely occurs, there are small risks of theft in cheaper accommodation. As with any country, it is good to always properly secure or lock away valuables and cash.
Best Places to Visit in Fiji
The main island of Fiji, Viti Levu, is home to 600,000 people. Most travelers will fly into Nadi, located on the west. Nadi itself doesn’t have much to offer, but is a great jump off point to the Yasawa and Mamanuca Islands. Suva, an industrial city and capital of Fiji, is located on the eastern shore of Viti Levu. A 3-hour bus ride from Nadi, Suva offers little for tourism. The Suva airport is the main airport for domestic flights and ferry to Taveuni leaves from the wharf there. Main attractions in Viti Levu are Natadola Beach, the Coral Coast, Cloud 9, and hiking in the Koroyanitu National Park. We really loved the Coral Coast!
It is possible to daytrip from Nadi or to stay for a few nights. The beaches are beautiful and several resorts are known for their beach parties each night. Check out the South Sea Island, Mana Island, and Beachcomber for overnight stays. Day trips are also available to Castaway Island, where the Tom Hanks movie Castaway was filmed.
Located three to five hours by boat are the Yasawa Islands. The Yasawas are known for their stunning beaches. For the best beaches in the Yasawas, check out the Blue Lagoon (Nanuyi Island), Blue Lagoon Resort, Coconut Beach (near Coconut Beach Resort and Coralview Resort), Octopus Beach Resort, and Botaira Beach Resort. Avoid White Sandy Beach Resort, a nightmare for many while on island hopping trips. While visiting the Yasawas, activities include cultural village trips, snorkeling, manta ray snorkeling, and of course…beach lounging.
Taveuni, the Garden Island, is the third largest island in Fiji. Home to beautiful waterfalls and world-class scuba diving. Taveuni has a much more laid-back vibe than the rest of Fiji. Getting here may be more difficult than other islands, but well worth the trip. Main attractions are scuba diving, snorkeling, hiking the Lavena coastal walk ($25), hiking to the three waterfalls in Bouma ($30), and the natural waterslide (free, near Somosomo). If planning to hike the coastal walk and see Bouma, it is best to stay the night at Lavena Lodge. Very basic rooms are $30 pp which also covers entry to the coastal walk. Lavena is accessible by bus ($5 from Matei) and only 10 minutes to Bouma. Buses only leave three times per day, and only once on Sundays.
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Check out our picture gallery of Fiji from the eyes of a 4K drone:
Visited in June and July of 2017.