How to Save Money in Ha’apai
Ha’apai is an amazing backpacking destination. Vast stretches of white sand and glistening waters begging for snorkelling sessions, a relaxed pace of life, and friendly locals offering ultra-affordable guest houses and beach fales (huts), Ha’apai provides a tranquil retreat from the world even if you’re on a budget. Travellers can come to the islands and be extra frugal with an array of cheap accommodation, self-catering options, free and cheap activities and more. Learn how to stretch your Pa’anga further with this list of tips for visiting Ha’apai on a budget.
And for more advice, see The Guide to Ha’apai on a Budget.
1. Take the Ferry to Get to Ha’apai
Such remote islands do require a little time and effort to get to. Although flights are available to Ha’apai, they are far more expensive than taking the ferry. Ha’apai is on the ferry route between Tongatapu and Vava’u, which runs every weekday. The ferry journey is a long one, usually taking 8 to 12 hours, but it’s a real experience! What’s more, ferries will only cost you around TOP$80 from Tongatapu and TOP$65 from Vava’u. Learn more about the transport in Ha’apai here.
2. Consider All of the Resorts’ Inclusions
With Ha’apai being so remote and with little infrastructure, you are going to rely a lot on your resort or guesthouse. There’s only one real restaurant on the islands, located in Pangai, while limited groceries can also be picked up in Pangai. With that in mind, resorts and guest houses provide not just a bed for the night, but a whole experience. Keep this in mind when comparing prices of resorts and guest houses, as some accommodations include airport/wharf transfers, some meals and activities/equipment hire. All in all, choosing the cheapest accommodation option might not be the best option if you are left with nothing to do. Compare all of the resorts in Ha’apai here.
3. Travel in the Off-Season
The peak season in Ha’apai is during the whale season, typically July to October. Resorts on the island are often fully booked during this time and at their highest rates. Outside of the season, however, the islands of Ha’apai are incredibly quiet. Some resorts will offer off-season multi-day deals to entice travellers, such as “stay four nights and get the fifth free”. On top of that, international flights to Tonga are usually discounted in the off-season. Learn more about the seasons in Tonga here.
4. Make the Most of the Free and Cheap Activities
Ha’apai isn’t just the home of pricey whale swimming tours and scuba diving excursions. There’s a wealth of amazing activities to do here that are either free or very cheap. Many resorts, even the budget ones, will have complimentary snorkel gear and kayak hire. On top of that, cultural experiences with the locals are often very affordable, such as crafting lessons. Or how about hiring a bike and check out all of the amazing beaches around Lifuka and Foa Islands? Get more inspiration in the 10 Free & Cheap Things To Do in Ha’apai.
5. Consider Self-Catering
If you’re staying in or close to the town of Pangai, the main town of Lifuka, then you have the opportunity to self-cater to save more money on food! While many of the guesthouses offer to make meals for guests, those who are extra frugal can really save heaps by making their own meals. Food can be purchased from the small and limited convenience stores (fale koloa) in Pangai, as well as at the Pangai Market, and the Matuku-ae-tau Bakery. Note that some guesthouses have a fee for using the kitchen, which in that case, makes more sense to purchase meals in the case that you have to pay more than TOP$10 to use a kitchen.
6. Stay in Budget Accommodation
Speaking of accommodation, there are some excellent accommodations in Ha’apai that are incredibly cheap! Guesthouses, in particular, offer ultra-affordable rooms at a fraction of the price of most of the resorts. Alternatively, you can still get that resort-like experience by staying in one of the budget beach fales on offer around the islands. Check out your options in the 7 Best Budget Accommodation in Ha’apai.
7. Have Cash Available
We would usually recommend paying with cash wherever possible to avoid bank fees and unfavourable exchange rates. However, on Ha’apai, the main reason to pay with cash is that almost nowhere accepts credit or debit cards! There is a bank in Pangai, which is open Monday to Friday and can do foreign currency exchanges and cash advances on Visa and MasterCard. However, there is no ATM anywhere in Ha’apai. It’s best to bring what cash you need with you.
More Tips for Visiting Ha’apai on a Budget
That’s it for our tips for visiting Ha’apai on a budget. Get more budgeting advice from The Travel Guide to Tonga on a Budget and Tonga Travel Budget: How Much Does a Trip to Tonga Cost?