Travel to Tonga: What You Need to Know
What you need to know about travelling in Tonga is that it’s probably going to be one of the most surprising destinations – although, we are about to spoil the surprise by sharing this article with you. The cultural is authentic and unique, the wildlife encounters are incredible, and there’s so much to see and do that you’ll want to come back for more. This small scattering of 170 islands in the South Pacific is a true hidden gem and one you’ll be glad to discover. Start planning your trip with this list of travel tips for Tonga.
1. The Best Time to Visit is When it’s the Best Time for You
There’s never really a bad time to visit Tonga. There are things to do all year round and the tropical climate always means that it’s hot hot hot! But depending on what activities you want to do and your ideal weather scenario, there might be a better season for you to visit. Tonga has two distinct seasons, a dry season which is drier and cooler, and a wet season which is hotter and more humid. Plus, activities like whale swimming can only be done between June and October, for instance. Check out The Best Time to Visit Tonga for more details.
2. You Probably Won’t Need a Visa
For citizens of around 70 different countries, you just need to arrive in Tonga with a valid passport. Visitor Visas are granted for one month from the date of arrival. Citizens not from visa-exempt countries will need to organise an Entry Permit. Find out more in Do You Need a Visa to Visit Tonga?
3. Credit Cards Won’t Get You Far
The currency in Tonga is the Tongan Pa’anga, which you will need to have in cash to pay for most services, shops, activities and even accommodation. Only around 200 businesses in the entire country accept credit card. However, should you want to withdraw cash, there are ATMs in the four main towns of Tonga. Find out more in What is the Currency in Tonga?
4. Three Days to Two Weeks is a Good Amount of Time to Spend in Tonga
The amount of time we have to spend at a destination is not typically our choice, but Tonga can provide an ideal getaway from as little as three days to two weeks (or more)! In three days, you can explore many different sights across Tongatapu, while two weeks gives you enough time to explore four major island groups should you be an active traveller. Check out our Tonga itineraries to plan your trip!
5. Choose From a Variety of Ways to Get Around
Transport is all part of the experience of Tonga, where getting between islands can be a scenic and comforable experience on a domestic flight. Alternatively, enjoy a local and cultural experience by taking one of the ferries between the islands. Even on land, there are several amazing ways to get around, from your own personal road trip by hiring a car to, our favourite, hiring a horse! Learn more about getting around in 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga.
6. Accommodation is the Real Deal
Tonga is not a destination of five-star resorts. Resorts are best described as “next-level glamping” where you’ll stay on the beachfront of stunning islands in a fale (beach hut). Alternatively, join the locals in one of the guest houses, which are utterly affordable and an experience in themselves. Private modern villas and apartments are also an option. Browse our Tonga Accommodation category to get an idea of the stays in Tonga.
7. You’ll Never be Stuck for Things to Do
What most people know about Tonga is that you can swim with whales, but there’s so much more to this island nation. How about snorkelling above vibrant corals, scuba diving in giant sea caves, sailing through a labyrinth of islands and inlets, learning how to make Tongan crafts, seeing ancient historical sites, watching incredible blowhole displays and exploring limestone caves? In fact, the offering of activities in Tonga is almost dizzying! Check out 10 Things to Do in Tonga for a place to start.
8. Choosing an Island Group is Tough
If you’re in Tonga on a limited time or don’t want to travel around too much, then you’re faced with a tough decision: which island group to visit? The five island groups or regions of Tonga each have their own unique charms and differences. Your experience on Tongatapu would be so much different to Vava’u, Ha’apai or ‘Eua. And nothing compares to a visit to the remote islands of The Niuas. Check out The Best Islands to Visit in Tonga to compare destinations.
9. Tongans Like to Feast
Food is kind of a big deal in Tonga, so don’t miss the opportunity to experience a feast. Cultural shows on Tongatapu come with grand Tongan buffets, while Sundays in Vava’u and ‘Eua usually mean there’s an umu (traditional underground oven) feast going on. In Ha’apai, visitor’s can visit remote island villages where you’ll be welcomed with a Tongan spread. Check out the types of foods you can be trying in Guide to Tonga Food.
10. Know the Local Customs
Speaking of culture, Tonga is a religious country which has a few customs you need to be aware of. First, be sure to wear respectful clothing when you’re outside of your resort. It is also illegal to go topless outside of your resort for both men and women. On Sundays, don’t expect much to happen, with tourist accommodation and tourists restaurants being some of the only businesses allowed to operate on a Sunday. Find out more about cultural protocol in Tonga Etiquette: Respecting the Local Customs.