Keep Safe While Driving in Tonga
Road tripping around Tongatapu or Vava’u (the only islands in Tonga where you can hire a car) 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 easy-going country to drive in. You just need to keep in mind a few things, which we go through in these safety tips for driving in Tonga.
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! For more road rules and driving tips, see Is it Easy to Drive in Tonga?
2. Watch Out for Animals on the Road
When driving in 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 head, so you want to reduce those odds!
4. Stick to the Speed Limit
The speed limits are very conservative in Tonga, typically being around 50km/h (30mph) in villages and 70km/h (45mph) outside of urban areas. Speed limits are typically signposted in regular intervals along the roadsides in Tonga, 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 more 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 in 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 onto the next car rental company – we list a few in The 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 allowing 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 also will not cover you if you’re in an accident when not wearing a seatbelt.
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.