Advice for Taking Transport in Tonga
Ferries, flights, taxis, buses, accommodation transfers… There a few ways to get around the islands of Tonga, to say the least. Travelling on and between the islands is often some of the most memorable parts of a trip to Tonga, with each transport method having its own quirks. We share some of our advice and things to know in the list of transport tips for Tonga!
Before we jump into our transport tips for Tonga, be sure to bookmark our Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga for even more tips.
1. Check and Double-Check the Ferry Schedule
The inter-island ferries have a schedule, but they are more like guidelines than an actual schedule… If ferries want to leave early, they’ll leave early. If they want to leave a few hours late, they’ll do just that. The best way to approach catching a ferry is to check the schedules at the ferry terminal or at the Visitor Information Centres once you’re in Tonga. Then on the day of departure, keep updated on departure time on the Friendly Island Shipping Company’s Facbook page and/or call ahead to see if when the ferry intends to depart. For more ferry tips, head to 10 Tips for Taking the Ferry in Tonga.
2. Local Buses Don’t Run on a Schedule
Speaking of schedules, at least the buses in Tonga don’t pretend to have them! However, when you get on a bus, ask the driver for the approximate time for the return bus so that you can at least have an idea. Buses can be found on the waterfront of Nuku’alofa travelling around the island of Tongatapu. There is also a limited bus service on Vava’u. Find out more in 10 Tips for Taking the Bus in Tonga.
3. Have a Contingency Plan for Cancelled Flights
Domestic flights in Tonga are notorious for being cancelled, whether it’s due to bad weather, the king taking your scheduled plane for a charter flight, or pigs digging holes in the runways… With this in mind, we recommend returning to Tongatapu, where the main international airport is, at least a day before your departure flight. See more plane-related advice in 10 Tips for Flying in Tonga.
4. Get a Temporary Driving License to Rent a Car
To legally drive in Tonga, visitors need to get a Temporary Driving License. This can be organised through some car rental companies, at the Ministry of Infrastructure building in Nuku’alofa or at the police station in Neiafu. The process is simple where you need to show your driving license (and your IDP if your license is not in English). The price is around TOP$40, but the car rental companies will charge a little more. Find out more in the Things to Know About Car Rental in Tonga.
5. Arrange Airport Transfers with Your Accommodation Before Arrival
Often one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get between the airport and your chosen resort/guest house is through airport transfers offered by your accommodation. It’s always worth asking if airport transfers are available through your accommodation, and if so, they need to be explicity arranged with your accommodation before arrival. Don’t expect them to just pick you up if you’ve only booked a place to stay. See Tonga Airports: Your Airport Transfer Options for more information.
6. Consider Guided Tours to See Attractions
For seeing historical sites, natural attractions, beaches and more, guided tours often present a better value option than renting a car, for example. This is especially the case in Tongatapu, where guided tours are typically around TOP$100 for a day of sightseeing. Compare this with the day rate of a car rental combined with the price of the Temporary Driving License and gas and you end up with very similar prices. Check out The Best Guided Tours of Tongatapu.
7. Horse Hire is a Thing on ‘Eua
Just like you can hire a bike, you can hire a horse in ‘Eua. Horses go for an hourly rate on the island of ‘Eua where you can use them to make your way around the island. Admittedly, you probably won’t get super far and you need to be competant on a horse for this option, but this fact was too fun not to share.
8. The Only Scheduled Boat Transport is on Tongatapu
Getting between islands within an island group mostly relys on accommodation providers and tour operators. You won’t find any “water taxis” in Tonga. However, the only scheduled boat trips that are open to the public are from Faua Wharf on Tongatapu to the various island resorts 30-minutes off shore. These boat trips even operate on a Sunday when the rest of the country closes down. Find out more about getting around by boat in How to Catch a Water Taxi in Tonga.
9. Be Careful of Pigs, Chicken and Dogs on the Roads
While all of the main sealed roads are in pretty good condition in Tonga, there are other hazards you need to be aware of when driving. Pigs, chickens and dogs roam freely on the roads, so keep an extra eye out! Additionally, don’t park your rental vehicle under a coconut tree. For more advice, see the 10 Safety Tips for Driving in Tonga.
10. Avoid Hitchhiking
Hitchhiking in Tonga, just like anywhere in the world, comes with risks. Try to avoid hitchhiking, but if you must try your chances, it’s best to do it as a group. See more hitchhiking advice in Hitchhiking in Tonga.