Budget Tips for Tonga
Tonga is one of the few countries in the South Pacific that isn’t too tough on the travel budget. Except for scuba diving, fishing charters and swimming with whales, the experiences, transport, accommodation and food are pretty affordable for the backpacker or budget traveller. But being the savvy travellers that we are at TongaPocketGuide.com, we have a few pointers when it comes to travelling Tonga on a budget. Check out our tips below!
1. Travel in the Low Season
Outside of the whale season (June-October), Tonga feels almost completely free of tourists. However, there are amazing things to do here all year round – just see the 10 Must-Dos in Tonga. While admittedly, some resorts and activities close for the low season, many are still open enticing travellers with low season rates and deals you can’t refuse.
2. Know Your Transport Options
Have a nosy at our How to Get Around Tonga guide to see that there are more ways to experience Tonga than taking flights and hiring a car. There are some extremely affordable transport methods, between the local buses to the inter-island ferries. What’s more, it’s often the same price to book onto a sightseeing day tour than hiring a car and getting a Visitor’s Driving Licence for the day. Consider all of your transport options to get the best price. [Update: Not all visitors have to buy the Visitor’s Driving Licence to drive in Tonga anymore. Find out more in our article, Can You Drive in Tonga with an Overseas Licence?]
3. Make Your Own Meals
With main meals typically costing TOP$20-$40 each and produce in Tonga being so affordable, it’s a no-brainer that making your own meals will save you a ton of money on food. Just follow our guide Food Shopping in Tonga to see where you can stock up on groceries, as well as get an idea for the typical grocery prices in Tonga. Apartments with self-catering facilities can be found in most touristy areas of Tonga, while communal kitchens are a feature of most guesthouses – more on that below!
4. Stay in Guesthouses
Become part of the family and save money on accommodation by staying in one of Tonga’s guesthouses. Run by locals, guesthouses are like a bed & breakfast where there are usually several guest rooms in a large home. There are often shared bathroom facilities and ensuite rooms available, as well as a communal kitchen and/or the owner may offer Tongan-style meals. Browse some of the guest houses available in our Bed & Breakfasts Category.
5. Do Free Activities and Sightseeing
Tonga is full of free activities and amazing sights. Break up your holiday of pricey whale swims and scuba diving with some of the free activities around. Visit some of Tongatapu’s historical sites, climb Mt Talau in Vava’u, cycle across Lifuka Island in Ha’apai, hike in majestic forests in ‘Eua and the list goes on! We have no lack of ideas, just check out our “Free & Cheap Things to Do” articles for more.
6. Pay with Cash
Tonga is a country where cash is king. Many accommodations, cafes, activity providers and convenience stores only accept cash, so it’s always best to have some cash available. However, for the around 200 outlets across Tonga that do accept credit card, consider that credit cards incur fees from both your own bank and local businesses. Not to mention, ATM withdrawal fees in Tonga are around TOP$8-$12 each time! Get more cash vs. credit card advice in What is The Best Way to Pay in Tonga?
7. Keep in Mind “Tongan Portions”
Back to food, if you’re heading out for a meal, there’s a way to save money. Tonga’s restaurants serve huge main meal portions that we like to call “Tongan portions”. You can still have an enjoyable but slightly more affordable meal by sharing a main and an entree, for instance. Otherwise, do what the Tongans do and take a doggy bag for lunch tomorrow!
8. Organise an Airport Transfer with Your Accommodation
When it comes to getting from the airport to your chosen accommodation, taking a taxi might seem like the obvious go-to. However, many accommodations, especially in Nuku’alofa, offer cheaper rates than a taxi. It’s always worth enquiring about! Sometimes, your accommodation provides the only way to get there, especially in ‘Eua and Ha’apai where taxis aren’t available. Check out the Cheapest Airport Transfer Options in Tonga for more advice.
9. Consider All Accommodation Inclusions
Much of the accommodation in Tonga doesn’t just offer a bed for the night. There are often inclusions, such as breakfast, airport transfers, free bike hire, etc. to complete your stay. Resorts will even offer further inclusions from the free use of kayaks to the snorkelling gear. The value of a resort/accommodation can’t always be determined by the price alone. Be sure to compare inclusions and facilities to make sure you’re getting real value for money.
10. Travel in Groups of Four or Eight
“Four” and “eight” are the magic numbers in Tonga. Not only are there many private accommodations and villas across Tonga sleeping four to eight people, but four is a good number for fishing while eight is a good number for whale swimming. Booking accommodation and activities in groups of four or eight usually mean you’ll be paying the cheapest possible rate per person.