How to Save Money in Tonga
Home to royalty, a scattering of idyllic islands, turquoise waters and some of the top whale-swimming, suba 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.
1. Pay with Cash
You always need cash available in Tonga. There are many cafes, guest houses, convenience stores, activity providers and more that only accept. While there are around 200 outlets that accept debit or credit card, note that this usually comes with unfavourable exchange fees from your bank and a 4-5% surcharge from the outlet. As we said, it’s best to have cash available. Find out more in What is The Best Way to Pay in Tonga?
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, ‘Ohonua 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-$12. Save money by only withdrawing money just one or two times during your trip, getting enough money to sustain yourself for a few days. Learn more about ATMs in Can You Use Your Credit Card in Tonga?
3. Double-Check Your Baggage Weight
Flights to Tonga will give you a standard international baggage allowance of 23-40kg (50-88lbs) for your check-in baggage, while carry-on baggage allowance is typically 7kg (15lbs) with dimensions no more than 55cm x 40cm x 23cm (21″ x 15″ x 9″). These allowances are manageable, but it’s the domestic airline baggage allowance in Tonga that gets most travellers. Note that check-in baggage is reduced to 15kg (33lbs) for flights to Ha’apai and Vava’u and only 10kg (22lbs) for flights to ‘Eua and The Niuas! If you’re taking a flight in Tonga, plan for the domestic baggage allowances, otherwise, you’ll have an extra TOP$3-$10 per kilo/TOP$50-$150 per extra bag added to your travel budget. Check out more money-saving tips for flights in How Much Does it Cost to Fly in Tonga?
4. Book Domestic Flights Early
On the subject of domestic flights, be sure to book yours as early as possible to see the best prices. Like most airlines, the domestic airline in Tonga increases the prices closer to the departure date. You also need to be aware of frequently cancelled planes in Tonga, which may impact connections with international flights. Either get travel insurance or don’t book your domestic flight on the same day as your departure flight out of Tonga. Check out more Tips for Flying in Tonga.
5. Use WiFi or a Local SIM, Not Roaming
While a trip to Tonga is more about connecting with the nature and the local culture rather than to WiFi, 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 finding free WiFi or using a local SIM card. Get advice on both in The Best SIM Card in Tonga For Travellers and How to Get Internet in Tonga.
6. Take a Tour Rather Than Hire a Car
We all want to do a bit of sightseeing in Tonga, especially with its amazing natural coastal landscapes and historical sites. While hiring a car for the day might seem like the obvious way to explore Tonga, note that you will also need to purchase a Visitor’s Driving Licence. This combined with the daily rate of a rental car usually comes to the same price or even a little more than a full-day guided sightseeing tour with transport included. Check out more transport options in Tonga in How to Get Around Tonga.
7. Travel in the Low Season
Everyone wants to travel to Tonga during the whale season, which runs from June 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”, “pay five and stay for seven” deals, and even the local airline is in on the action offering the occasionally super saver fare!
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 10 fales (bungalows) at the most! Guest houses are also boutique, where you’ll rarely see a guest house with more than 15 rooms.
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 the Cheapest Airport Transfer Options in Tonga.
10. Be Prepared; Read Tonga Pocket Guide
Did you know there are some incredibly cheap and authentic places to eat in Nuku’alofa? Did you know that locals list their homes on Airbnb and Booking.com as accommodation for less than TOP$50 a night?! There are loads more ways to save money when travelling in Tonga that we share with you throughout our online travel guide to Tonga! Keep on browsing Tonga Pocket Guide for more tips that will save you money in Tonga!