Essential Safety Tips You Need to Know When Driving in Tonga
Road-tripping around Tonga is an amazing way to see the country. However, driving in a new country is always a stressful thought. With low speed limits, limited urban areas, and limited traffic on the road outside of urban areas, Tonga is actually an easygoing country to drive in. You just need to keep in mind a few things and be aware of a few hazards, which we go through in these safety tips for driving in Tonga.
While you are here, be sure to also open How to Drive in Tonga + 10 Road Rules to Know so that you are also aware of Tonga’s important road rules.
1. Drive on the Left Side of the Road
Traffic moves on the left side of the road in Tonga. While it might seem like an obvious tip to drive on the left side of the road, it’s important to keep reminding yourself if you come from a country where you drive on the right. Remind yourself when pulling out of an intersection or when getting back in the car after having a break from driving. You’ll get used to it in no time!
Note that there can be a few road rules that take some getting used to when driving on the left side of the road, such as who gives way at roundabouts. We have more tips on these in How to Drive in Tonga + 10 Road Rules You Need to Know.
2. Watch Out for Animals on the Road
When driving on Tongatapu, you’ll likely see dogs and chickens on or around the roads. In Vava’u, it’s all of that plus pigs, pigs and more pigs! While animals will often move out of the road when cars approach, it’s best to slow down so you have time to respond safely.
3. Don’t Park Under a Coconut Tree
While the shade of a coconut tree can be a tempting place to park your car, it comes are the risk of a dented roof or cracked windscreen from falling coconuts. It’s more of a damage concern for your rental vehicle, rather than safety. However, it’s claimed that coconuts do take the lives of around 150 people each year by falling on their heads, so you want to reduce those odds!
4. Stick to the Speed Limit
The speed limits are very conservative in Tonga; typically around 50 kph (30 mph) in villages and 70 kph (45 mph) outside of urban areas. Speed limits are typically signposted at regular intervals along the roadsides, so be sure to observe them. You’ll also find that a lot of Tongans drive very slowly, so be patient and only overtake when it’s completely safe to do so. Otherwise, just enjoy island time.
5. Take Extra Care on Gravel or Dirt Roads
While the main roads in Tonga are generally well-maintained sealed roads, you will find a few less desirable side roads. These are typically gravel roads, unmaintained sealed roads with potholes or straight-up dirt roads. If you approach one of the rougher dirt roads in Tonga, be sure to judge whether your car can make the journey before attempting the drive. Sometimes, it’s just best to park up and walk the rest of the way, which you’ll especially find for some of the attractions on Tongatapu.
6. Inspect Rental Vehicles Before Agreeing to Hire
It’s often said that Tonga is where vehicles go to die. While many of the car rental vehicles do have semi-recent exports, others have very old vehicles. When hiring a car, make sure it has a valid Warrant of Fitness displayed on the windscreen and that the registration is up-to-date. Ask to do a test drive if you need to. If you have any doubts about the safety of the vehicle, move on to the next car rental company – we list a few in The 10 Best Car Rentals in Tonga.
7. Give Way to Vehicles Turning Right
One of the road rules that surprises many visitors is giving way to vehicles that are turning right. So if a vehicle is waiting to turn off, crossing your side of the road, you should slow down/stop to allow them to do so.
8. Don’t Drink and Drive
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is strictly prohibited in Tonga. The blood alcohol limit for driving in Tonga is 0.015%. If you’re found with alcohol on your breath, you might be taken for more testing. On a similar note, don’t drink kava and drive. While it’s still unclear where kava does affect driving capabilities, it’s best not to risk it.
9. Wear Your Seatbelt
It’s a no-brainer: no matter what country you’re driving in, you should always wear a seatbelt. Not only should you wear a seatbelt for your safety, but insurance companies will not cover you if you’re in an accident when not wearing a seatbelt – that’s assuming you have travel insurance because, as a side note, rarely any car rental companies offer rental car insurance. See What You Need to Hire a Car in Tonga to learn more on the subject.
10. Lock Your Car and Hide Your Valuables
Even in a friendly country like Tonga, there are petty thieves. Don’t attract theft of your rental car or your belongings by making sure to lock your door when leaving the vehicle unattended. Plus, hide any valuables or take them with you. See more safety tips in How to Keep Safe in Tonga.
More Safety Tips for Driving in Tonga
That’s it for our safety driving tips for Tonga. For more insightful articles, take a look at the following guides:
- Can You Drive in Tonga With an Overseas License?
- 10 Best Car Rentals in Tonga
- The Driving Times in Tonga You Need to Know
Finally, be sure to bookmark our Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga for even more transport tips.