How to Save Money in Nuku’alofa
Cities might not be renowned for their ability to save you money, but Tonga’s capital is a little bit different. Nuku’alofa is one of the most budget-friendly cities in the South Pacific, offering a wealth of ways to help travellers save money on travel expenses. From the budget accommodation available to the free and cheap activities, there are many ways to make your “pa’anga” go a little further in Nuku’alofa. Find out more in our list of tips for visiting Nuku’alofa on a budget!
While you’re here, you might also be interested in The Guide to Nuku’alofa on a Budget.
1. Do Full-Day Tours Instead of Short Tours
For full-day experiences from Nuku’alofa, you’ll get more bang for your buck than just doing a tour that’s a couple of hours or half a day. There are some great-value tours taking travellers around the island of Tongatapu to see an array of sights combined with informative commentary from a local guide. Alternatively, some of the island day trips available, such as the Day Trip to The Royal Sunset Island Resort (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) and the Day Trip to the Pangaimotu Island Resort (on Viator and Tripadvisor) provide excellent value for a six-hour experience. See the 7 Best Island Day Trips from Nuku’alofa for more ideas.
2. Pick Up Food From Produce Stalls and Markets
Nuku’alofa has a good range of self-catering accommodation – see our 10 Best Accommodation in Nuku’alofa for Foodies. With that, travellers can save a whole lot of money by making their own meals instead of eating out all of the time. When food shopping, be sure to check out the fresh produce available at roadside stalls and Talamahu Market. They often sell very good value fruit and vegetables that provide a real taste of Tonga. Be sure to check out the Cost of Food in Tonga, so you know how much is reasonable to pay, as some stallholders will try over-charging people who look like tourists.
3. Explore Nuku’alofa on Foot
Nuku’alofa’s city centre and waterfront attractions are extremely compact, so for most travellers, there’s no reason to take a taxi. Getting around on foot to explore the markets, royal sights and city centre restaurants are easy enough to enjoy on foot.
4. … Or Use Local Buses
However, if you need to get to some of the outer suburbs of Nuku’alofa or even if you want to travel around Tongatapu, the most affordable way to do so is via the local buses. Travelling within the city costs a mere TOP$1 while travelling to the east or west districts of Tongatapu will cost no more than TOP$3. Learn more about taking the bus in Tonga here.
5. Pay With Cash
Any savvy traveller knows that paying by debit or credit card overseas can incur hefty fees. Not only from your own bank, that is likely to have an unfavourable exchange rate, plus charge you for the currency exchange service, but from local businesses implementing a surcharge on credit cards. To avoid unnecessary fees, which can add up quickly, try to use cash as often as possible. See What is The Best Payment Method in Tonga? for more tips.
6. Stay in Guesthouses and Lodges
Nuku’alofa is a city with no shortage of budget accommodations. Backpacker hostels, guest houses and budget lodges are available throughout the city, often providing a cultural experience, as well as something affordable. Swap pricey hotels for Nuku’alofa’s budget accommodations, so you can save you money for more important things like whale swimming, snorkelling tours and taking a trip to ‘Eua! Get recommendations from our 10 Best Budget Accommodation in Nuku’alofa.
7. Scout Out the Cheap Eats
Although we recommend making some of your own meals to save money, it’s definitely worth treating yourself to some Tongan cuisine at least once in Nuku’alofa! The city is brimming with affordable restaurants and cafes, where some of the best-value food can be found at Tonga-cuisine restaurants. Check out Mama’s Cafe and Talahiva Restaurant – both serving mains for TOP$5-$10. Tongan seafood dishes at 12 Seafoods Restaurant are also pretty affordable with prices starting from TOP$6! Check out our Cheap Eats in Nuku’alofa for more recommendations.
8. Make the Most of the Free Sights
At least half a day can be spent in Nuku’alofa seeing the free sights. See symbols of the South Pacific’s only monarchy at the Royal Palace and the Royal Tombs. Wander around the amazing Tongan crafts at Talamahu Market and the Langafonua Handicrafts Centre. Or if you really feel like stretching your legs, you could even walk all the way to Popua Park (45 minutes one way from the city centre). See our 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Nuku’alofa for more information on each sight.
9. Use Your Accommodation’s Airport Shuttle
Tonga’s main international airport, Fua’amotu Airport, is approximately 30 minutes drive from Nuku’alofa. Often the cheapest way to get between the city and the airport is by using your accommodation’s airport shuttle service. Typically, accommodations charge TOP$15-$30 for the door-to-door service, which is a cheaper option than taking a taxi.
10. Consider a Homestay
Finally, another way to save money on accommodation is by doing a homestay. Nuku’alofa is home to almost all of the homestays available on Tongatapu, where locals open up their spare bedrooms to travellers, often charging less than even guesthouses! However, you often get what you pay for in terms of the standard of the accommodation, but many choose homestays more for more of the social and cultural experience. See the 5 Best Homestays in Nuku’alofa for recommendations.