Car Rental Tips for Tonga
Hiring a car in Tonga provides the ultimate freedom to travel at your own pace. Car rentals are available on the islands of Tongatapu and ‘Utu Vava’u, where you can make use of the mostly well-maintained roads to get between the natural wonders and historic sites. But there are a few things that you might want to know about hiring a car in Tonga. We go through just those things in this list of car rental tips!
For a complete guide to car rental, see The Guide to Renting a Car in Tonga.
1. You Need to Be 21 Years and Over to Hire a Car in Tonga
Although the legal driving age in Tonga is 18 years old, almost all car rental companies in Tonga require drivers to be 21 years of age or older. You’ll also need to present an ID, such as a passport, your full driving licence, your Visitor’s Driving Licence (in some cases) and a security deposit which usually needs to be paid in cash.
2. Some Cars are Old… Very Old
Most of Tonga’s rental cars are secondhand Japanese imports, ranging from around eight years old to 25 years old! Budget cars at the cheapest prices will be the oldest cars, which should be fully inspected before agreeing to rent.
3. Insurance is Almost Never an Option
Car insurance is not really a thing in the Tonga car rental world. There are only two car rental companies that we know of who offer some form of insurance, usually for around TOP$15 a day. In most cases, renters are fully liable for any damage caused to the vehicle during the rental period.
4. Some Car Rental Companies Only Accept Cash
Tonga is a country where cash is king. Most businesses in Tonga only accept cash, which is also the case for some car rental companies. If you intend to pay with credit or debit card, be sure to ask whether this option exists first. Check out What is The Best Way to Pay in Tonga? for more money advice.
5. Be Aware of Car Rental Opening Hours
Car rental offices might not always be open when you need them, so be sure to be aware of the local opening hours. Typically, car rental depots are open between 8.30am and 4.30pm, Monday to Friday. On a Saturday, they are likely to close around 1.30pm. And no car rental businesses are open on a Sunday as per Tongan law.
6. You Need a Visitor’s Driving Licence
To legally drive in Tonga, you need a Visitor’s Driving Licence. This can be obtained from the Ministry of Infrastructure in Nuku’alofa, the Police Station in Neiafu or some car rental companies are licenced to do the process for you. Find out about getting a driving licence in How to Get a Tonga Visitor’s Driving Licence.
7. Some Car Rental Agreements Don’t Allow You on Certain Roads
Before you pay a premium to hire a 4WD vehicle, take note that some car rental companies won’t even allow you to use vehicles off the sealed roads of Tonga. For instance, there are car rental companies in Vava’u that forbid renters from driving to Katahi Beach. Some car rental companies in Tongatapu request that you stick to the main sealed and gravel roads of the island. Sure, there are some dirt roads you might want to go down to get to certain beaches and tourist attractions, so be sure to request a copy of the car rental agreement to see if you are able to do so before you agree to hire.
8. Some Car Rental Companies Might Not Have Paperwork
Ok, most car rental companies follow normal procedures of getting you to read and sign a car rental agreement, go through a car inspection, pay a security deposit and the rate of the rental, then you’re handed the keys. However, there have been reports of guest houses or less official car rental services where you simply pay the going rate and they hand you the keys. This is fine if you prefer this way of doing things, just now you won’t be too surprised if it happens.
9. Know the Tonga Road Rules
Considering you are liable for any damages, plus you want to keep yourself and everyone else around you safe, it’s a good idea to be aware of the road rules in Tonga. While there are some obvious road rules that you might not be used to, like driving on the left side of the road, there are some rules that take tourists by surprise, such as giving way to vehicles turning right. Get more advice on the subject in How to Drive in Tonga and 10 Safety Tips for Driving in Tonga.
10. Gas Stations are Fully Serviced
You’re going to need to fuel up at least once during your car rental in Tonga, as car rental agreements require you to return vehicles with the same fuel level as you received it. Gas stations are available in Nuku’alofa, Neiafu and some villages around Tongatapu. All but one gas station in Tonga is a full-service gas station, meaning that an attendant will fill your car for you. You just need to know by how much money you want to refuel or just say to fill to the top!