How to Save Money in Vava’u
After paying for a whale swimming experience, perhaps a scuba diving trip or a fishing charter, you’re going to want to save money on the rest of your holiday in Vava’u… Luckily, there are ways to cut the costs when visiting the islands through your choices of accommodation, transport, payment method, food and more. We’ll share our best money-saving tips with you in this list of tips for visiting Vava’u on a budget!
For more advice, check out The Guide to Vava’u on a Budget.
1. Take the Ferry to Vava’u
Most travellers arrive in Tonga through Tongatapu, which is about a one-hour flight from Vava’u. While flights are pretty costly, taking the ferries between Tongatapu and Vava’u will save you more than half on a plane ticket! Note, however, that it’s a whopping 16 to 23-hour journey to travel between Tongatapu and Vava’u via ferry. Learn more about taking the ferry to Vava’u in the 9 Ways to Get to Vava’u (& Around Vava’u).
2. Stay in One of the Budget Accommodations
Vava’u is not just an island group of resorts, hotels and villas. Budget travellers and backpackers will find a wide range of affordable accommodation in the form of guesthouses and even some budget resorts. Typically cheap accommodation in Vava’u has shared backpacker rooms, private single/double/twin rooms with shared bathrooms and private ensuite rooms. Check out some of our top recommendations in the 10 Best Budget Accommodation in Vava’u.
3. Compare Accommodation Inclusions
When comparing places to stay and their prices, it’s worth noting down what accommodations actually include. There’s no point in paying the cheapest rate for a room if there isn’t anything to do or any useful facilities. Beachfront accommodations will often include free use of kayaks, for example, while some guest houses in Neiafu offer free breakfast, airport transfers and WiFi.
4. Spend Some Time Doing the Free and Cheap Activities
At first glance, Vava’u seems to be full of expensive experiences between whale swimming and scuba diving. However, there’s so much to do around the islands that will either be very cheap or won’t cost you a dime! Walk up Mt Talau, visit the Neiafu Market, get some beach time in, do a tour of the ‘Ene’io Botanical Garden, visit the Vava’u Pearl Centre and the list goes on! Check out the 10 Free & Cheap Things To Do in Vava’u for a complete list of recommendations.
5. Travel in the Low Season
Vava’u is a very seasonal destination where the islands are buzzing with activity in the whale season (July to October) but feel dead for the rest of the year. That’s not to say that there isn’t anything else to do in Vava’u in the low season – just take a look at the 10 Must-Dos in Vava’u for inspiration! The benefits of the low season include reduced accommodation prices, low-season activity deals and the occasional cheaper flight. It’s best to contact operators directly for their low season rates.
6. Make Your Own Meals
You’ll be surprised how many accommodations have self-catering facilities in Vava’u. Even some of the budget resorts have kitchens for guests to make their own meals! With meals in restaurants ranging from TOP$12-$28 for lunch and TOP$18-$50 for dinner, making your own meals using your accommodation’s kitchen facilities is a sure-fire way to save money on food! Check out some of the accommodations with self-catering facilities in the 10 Best Accommodation in Vava’u for Foodies.
7. Buy Produce from the Market
Speaking of self-catering, the best place to buy fruit and vegetables is at the Neiafu Market. Expect to pay around TOP$4 for a pile of fruit/vegetables and around TOP$5 for a bunch of bananas – some of the stall owners might try to charge more if you look like a tourist so just walk to another stall if the price is much higher. Although fruit and vegetables are available to buy in some of the supermarkets, they are usually bought from the Neiafu Market and sold for a higher price. There are quite a few supermarkets in town, so be sure to compare a few.
8. Pay with Cash
There are two reasons why it’s better to pay with cash in Vava’u. First, many accommodations and activities only accept cash. Second, you’ll avoid the fees and unfavourable exchange rates of paying with an overseas credit or debit card! Learn more about which payment method to use in Tonga here.
9. Travel in Groups of Four or Eight
“Four” and “eight” are the magic numbers in Vava’u. Not only are there many private accommodations and villas across Vava’u 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 means you’ll be paying the cheapest possible rate per person.
10. Do Island Tours Instead of Hiring a Car
Vava’u is home to many amazing beaches, landmarks, lookouts and activities that can be explored by car. While taxis and car hire are available as a way to get to these attractions, an island land tour is usually a more cost-effective alternative. Not only will you get insights from a local guide, but you won’t have to deal with the stress of finding attractions and inevitably realising they are down dodgy dirt roads your rental car couldn’t handle anyway. Most land tours are under TOP$100 and usually last a few hours with lunch/refreshments included. Compare tours in The Best Guided Tours of Vava’u.