20 Ways to Save Money in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com
20 Ways to Save Money in Tonga

20 Ways to Save Money in Tonga

© TongaPocketGuide.com

How to Save Money on Your Trip to Tonga

Home to royalty, a scattering of idyllic islands, turquoise waters and some of the top whale-swimming, scuba diving and game fishing experiences in the South Pacific, Tonga might seem like a destination that only the rich and famous can afford. But look a little closer and you’ll see that Tonga is a humble country with an array of budget accommodations, affordable transport and more. That combined with our money-saving tips below, makes it easy to save money when travelling in Tonga.

Before we jump into how to save money in Tonga, be sure to bookmark Tonga Travel Budget: How Much Does a Trip to Tonga Cost? for even more budgeting advice.

1. Pay with Cash

You always need cash available in Tonga. There are many cafes, guesthouses, convenience stores, activity providers and more that only accept. While there are around 700 outlets that accept debit or credit cards, note that this usually comes with unfavourable exchange fees from your bank plus a 4-5% surcharge from the outlet. As we said, it’s best to have cash available. Read more on the subject in What is The Best Way to Pay in Tonga?

10 Ways to Save Money When Travelling in Tonga(c) tongapocketguide.com

2. Withdraw Lots of Money at Once to Save on Fees

With the above point in mind, you probably don’t want to carry all of the cash you’re going to need during your stay in Tonga for obvious security reasons. We recommend withdrawing Tongan Pa’anga from an ATM where possible – usually only at Fua’amotu Airport, Nuku’alofa, Pangai (Ha’apai) and Neiafu. However, every time you withdraw cash from an ATM, you’ll face foreign exchange fees and ATM withdrawal fees of around TOP$8-$15. Save money by only withdrawing money just one or two times during your trip, getting enough cash to sustain yourself for a few days. Learn more about ATMs in Can You Use Your Credit or Debit Card in Tonga?

10 Ways to Save Money When Travelling in Tonga(c) tongapocketguide.com

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 The Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Tonga to see where you can stock up on groceries, as well as get an idea of 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!

20 Ways to Save Money in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

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 guesthouses available in the 20 Best Guesthouses in Tonga.

20 Ways to Save Money in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

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 like Ha’amonga ‘a Maui, climb Mt Talau in Vava’u, cycle across Lifuka Island in Ha’apai, hike in majestic ‘Eua National Park and the list goes on! We have no lack of ideas, just check out our 20 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Tonga for more.

20 Ways to Save Money in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

6. Use WiFi or a Local SIM; Not Roaming

While a trip to Tonga is more about connecting with nature and the local culture rather than your relatives back home, if you absolutely need to stay connected to the online world during your trip to Tonga then don’t use roaming. You will always find cheaper ways to connect to the internet by using a local SIM card or, if you’re lucky, finding free WiFi. Get advice on both in The Best SIM Cards in Tonga for Travellers and How to Get Internet in Tonga.

10 Ways to Save Money When Travelling in Tonga(c) tongapocketguide.com

7. Travel in the Low Season

Everyone wants to travel to Tonga during the whale season, which runs from July to October each year. However, Tonga has so much more to offer than whale swimming. Certain resorts and activity operators entice travellers in the low season with “low season rates” and “pay five and stay for seven” deals, and even the local airline is in on the action offering the occasionally super saver fare! There are many more benefits to travelling during the low season, which we list in the 10 Reasons to Travel in the Low Season in Tonga.

20 Ways to Save Money in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

8. Book Accommodation Early in the High Season

If you are keen on swimming with whales and want to travel in the high season, then make sure you book your desired accommodation early. Chances are you have picked a certain accommodation because it has a good price and looks amazing! However, almost all accommodations in Tonga have very limited rooms and availability, with resorts often having two to seven fales (bungalows) at the most! Guesthouses are also boutique, where you’ll rarely see a guesthouse with more than 15 rooms. Start browsing Where to Stay in Tonga: The Best Accommodations and book early!

20 Ways to Save Money in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

9. Compare Your Airport Transfer Options

Admittedly, there isn’t a huge choice when it comes to airport transfers. Most of the time, you either have a taxi or a transfer organised through your chosen accommodation. However, one isn’t always cheaper than the other, so it’s best to compare depending on which island you are on. We’ve made it easy for you with our guide to The Cheapest Airport Transfers in Tonga.

10 Ways to Save Money When Travelling in Tonga(c) tongapocketguide.com

10. 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!

10 Ways to Save Money When Travelling in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

11. 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 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.

20 Ways to Save Money in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

12. Know Your Transport Options

Have a nosy at our Tonga Transport Guide: 15 Ways to Get Around Tonga 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 interisland ferries. Consider all of your transport options to get the best price!

20 Ways to Save Money in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

13. Buy Produce from the Market

Back to a spot of self-catering, the best place to buy fruit and vegetables in Tonga is at the local markets and roadside fruit stalls. Take a look at The Cost of Food in Tonga to see how much to expect to pay for fruit and vegetables – 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 supermarkets, they are usually imported from New Zealand and therefore sold for a higher price than local produce.

20 Ways to Save Money in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

14. Compare Your Options for Whale Swimming/Watching

Whale watching/swimming is an activity available between July and October. While there are many operators for whale swimming/watching, some have vastly different prices and inclusions. Some operators have limited snorkelling gear available, asking guests to bring their own, while some spend more time on the water than others. For instance, whale tours in Vava’u tend to be much higher than in Ha’apai. Compare your options in Where to Swim with Whales in Tonga: The Best Islands and the 10 Best Whale Swim Tours in Tonga.

20 Ways to Save Money in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

15. Exchange Currency at Tonga’s Banks

Better exchange rates, therefore cheaper currency conversions to Tongan Pa’anga, can usually be found in Tonga compared to overseas. This is often due to overseas currency exchange bureaus and banks having to buy in Tongan Pa’anga themselves before selling it to customers. Where is the best place to exchange currency in Tonga? Tonga’s banks like BSP tend to have better exchange rates for swapping foreign currency for Tongan Pa’anga compared to currency exchange bureaus like No 1 Currency which also charge high commission fees on top of the exchange rate.

For more on currency exchange, take a look at our tips in The Best Place to Exchange Currency in Tonga.

20 Ways to Save Money in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

16. Refill Your Water Purification Bottle

Whatever you do, don’t waste money (and kill the environment) by buying bottles of water throughout your trip. If you know you’re staying at a resort with filtered drinking water, have a few reusable water bottles to refill at the resort before you head out. Alternatively, we highly recommend using a water purification bottle, such as Lifestraw, which removes 99.999999% of bacteria and 99.999% of parasites from water. That way, you can refill the bottle from any tap water you come across. We’ve used ours right across the South Pacific with no issues!

For more tips on having access to water, check out Is the Water Safe to Drink in Tonga?

20 Ways to Save Money in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

17. Pack Right!

Making sure you’ve packed everything that you’ll need for your entire time in Tonga is also a good idea if you want to save money. Imported goods are likely more expensive in Tonga than they are at home, such as sunscreen, insect repellent or even your usual snacks or food staples that you can’t live without. What’s more, items like “reef-safe sunscreen” are rarely available in Tonga, so you’ll certainly want to bring enough to last your entire trip – unless you want to: 1) get burnt and 2) kill the coral you’re snorkelling with.

Make sure you don’t miss a thing by checking out What to Pack for Tonga: A Full Tonga Packing List.

20 Ways to Save Money in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

18. 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 accommodations and activities in groups of four or eight usually means you’ll be paying the cheapest possible rate per person.

20 Ways to Save Money in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

19. Predeparture Tip: Compare Flights and Airport Parking

Before we conclude this list of money-saving tips, we can’t forget to mention how you can save money on your trip to Tonga by saving on your flight to Tonga! There are multiple airlines and routes for getting to the islands, so be sure to compare all of your options following the advice in How to Book a Cheap Flight to Tonga.

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