How to Save Money on Tongatapu
Budget travellers won’t find many challenges when it comes to saving money on Tongatapu. Tonga’s main island is one of the cheapest places to stay across the 169 islands of Tonga thanks to its array of budget accommodation and free sights. For those in the know, saving money on food and transport is also doable. Check out this list of tips for visiting Tongatapu on a budget to learn how to be more frugal while exploring the island!
While you’re here, you might also be interested in The Guide to Tongatapu on a Budget.
1. Take the Bus!
Join the locals and take the bus around Tongatapu! Buses in Tonga are incredibly cheap, costing around TOP$1 to get around the city of Nuku’alofa and usually up to TOP$3 to go between destinations for the rest of Tongatapu. Nuku’alofa has two main bus stations that are easy to find on the waterfront. Otherwise, you’ll have to ask your accommodation or the locals about bus stops in the villages. See How to Travel Around Tonga By Bus for more information.
2. See the Free (or Cheap) Attractions
Tongatapu is an island full of free sights! Between the Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon, the Hufangalupe Landbridge, Mapu’a ‘ Vaea Blowholes and even the Fishing Pigs and the Three-Headed Coconut Tree, there is a wealth of free things to see all around the island of Tongatapu. Even paid attractions, such as ‘Anahulu Cave is affordable enough at around TOP$15. Check out our recommended sights in the 10 Free & Cheap Things To Do on Tongatapu.
3. Consider Self-Catering
Any savvy traveller knows that the best way to save a significant amount of money is to cook for yourself. This is still true for staying on Tongatapu, especially if you staying outside of Nuku’alofa where your main dining option will be at the resorts. Consider staying in self-catering accommodation, which we list in the 10 Best Accommodation in Tongatapu for Foodies, where there will be kitchen facilities to make your own meals. Groceries can be purchased from produce stalls, fale koloa (convenience stores), which are available in almost all villages across the island, and supermarkets in Nuku’alofa.
4. Keep in Mind “Tongan” Portions
If you prefer to eat out rather than self-cater, then remember that restaurants in Tonga serve, what we like to call, “Tongan portions”. In other words, the portions for main meals are pretty huge, so if you’re travelling with a mate or a partner, sharing a main and one side/entree is usually enough to make you feel satisfied. Plus, mixing up your order like this will certainly reduce your bill!
5. Do a Full-Day Tour Instead of a Half-Day
The largest expense for seeing Tongatapu’s amazing attractions is simply getting between them. While taking the bus, hiring a budget car (remember to get your Visitor’s Permit – approx TOP$40) or hiring a bike are good options, it’s definitely worth considering a full-day guided tour. Priced at around TOP$100 or under, full-day guided tours are sure to get you to all of the Tongatapu attractions on your bucket list. Plus, considering the commentary you gain from your knowledgeable guide, the transport and not having to figure out directions for yourself, guided tours provide good value. We recommend booking a full-day rather than a half-day for a better price on an hourly basis. See The Best Guided Tours of Tongatapu for recommendations.
6. Pay With Cash
Paying by debit or credit card overseas can incur hefty fees. Not only are you likely to receive a fee from your bank for the currency exchange to then get an unfavourable exchange rate, but many local businesses have their own surcharges on credit cards. Pay with cash to avoid unnecessary fees. See What is The Best Payment Method in Tonga? for more tips.
7. Stay in Budget Accommodation
Yes, Tongatapu isn’t just full of resorts and hotels! There’s a wealth of guest houses, lodges and backpacker accommodation with excellent options for budget travellers. Check out the 10 Best Budget Accommodation in Tongatapu, as well as the 10 Best Budget Accommodation in Nuku’alofa.
8. Check Out Your Accommodation’s Inclusions
When comparing accommodations, it’s a good idea to compare the inclusions. Especially at resorts and beachfront accommodation, inclusions could be free breakfast, free snorkelling gear hire, free kayak hire, free paddleboard hire, free bicycle hire and more. If you’re staying at an accommodation with plenty to do for free, then that decreases the likelihood of you feeling compelled to pay for more activities during your stay.
9. Organise an Airport Transfer
Many of the accommodations across Tongatapu have their own airport transfer service. In Nuku’alofa, it usually costs TOP$15-$30, while it might go up to TOP$50 elsewhere on the island. However, this is usually cheaper than what taxis are charging, so it often pays to inquire about airport transfer with your accommodation provider. Learn more about transport on Tongatapu in the 10 Ways to Get to Tongatapu (& Around Tongatapu).
10. Stay in Nuku’alofa
For convenience and cost, it’s often better for budget travellers to stay in the city of Nuku’alofa. Not only is transport in Nuku’alofa more competitive for cheaper prices, but there is a wider range of budget accommodation to choose from. Most of the island’s water activities depart from Nuku’alofa, such as whale swimming, snorkelling tours, fishing, scuba diving and more. What’s more, there’s a good choice of affordable restaurants, as well as convenient options for getting produce for self-catering. Hey, it might not be everyone’s first choice for a holiday getaway, but Nuku’alofa is more of a savvy choice thanks to its practicalities. Check out our The Guide to Nuku’alofa on a Budget for more advice.