Arrival Advice: Biosecurity and Customs in Tonga(c)
Arrival Advice: Biosecurity and Customs in Tonga

Arrival Advice: Biosecurity and Customs in Tonga


What to Do When Passing Through Biosecurity in Tonga

Tonga is a nation that takes its land and culture seriously. For this reason, there is a strict Customs and Biosecurity process to go through when you arrive in Tonga from overseas. From your flight over to the islands to landing at an international airport like Fua’amotu Airport, you’ll go through procedures to tell the officers at Customs and Biosecurity what potential risk items you may have packed. There are quite a few items, some of which are extremely common, that you’ll need to declare. We’ll do through the Customs and Biosecurity process, as well as what to declare in this arrival advice for Biosecurity and Customs in Tonga.

For more arrival advice, see Everything You Need to Know About Arriving in Tonga and Do You Need a Visa to Visit Tonga?

What to Expect When Arriving in Tonga

The arrivals procedure in Tonga may be a little different than what you’re used to. There’s nothing to worry about, as long as you answer questions honestly on your Arrival Card as well as from Customs and Quarantine Officers. The step-by-step process of arriving at a Tonga airport from overseas is:

  • Complete the Passenger Arrival Card given to you during your flight
  • Land in Tonga and pass through Passport Control, allowing them to view your passport and Passenger Arrival Card
  • Collect your baggage from Baggage Claim
  • See Biosecurity/Quarantine Officers, handing over your Passenger Arrival Card and declaring potential risk items
  • Put your baggage through Biosecurity x-rays, if instructed
  • Enjoy your holiday in Tonga!

Learn more about this process in Airport Arrival in Nuku’alofa Tonga.

Arrival Advice: Biosecurity and Customs in Tonga(c)

Tonga Passenger Arrival Card

During your flight or cruise to Tonga, you will be given a Kingdom of Tonga Passenger Arrival Card to complete. The form is displayed on a narrow double-sided card and must be completed for each individual passenger including children. Passenger Arrival Cards must also be completed in English.

The Tonga Passenger Arrival Card asks for your personal details, such as your name, address, passport number, occupation, flight number/name of the ship, etc. You must also tick from a multiple-selection question, what is your main reason for visiting Tonga (holiday, business, etc.). The back of the Tonga Arrival Card then asks “yes” or “no” questions about items that you have on your possession or in any of your baggage concerning Customs, Health and Quarantine. We’ll go into more detail about the “Quarantine” portion of the process in the section below.

See the guide to The Passenger Arrival Card for Tonga to see what the Arrival Card looks like, as well as tips on how to complete it.

Arrival Advice: Biosecurity and Customs in Tonga(c)

Passing Through Biosecurity (Quarantine) in Tonga

Once you have landed at a Tonga international airport, such as Fua’amotu International Airport, get your Passenger Arrival Card and passport ready for inspection at the Passport Control arrivals desk, otherwise known as Customs. Here, a Customs Officer is likely to ask you questions in relation to the answers you have stated or ticked on the Passenger Arrival Card.

If you have ticked “yes” to any of the Health and Quarantine questions on the back of the Arrival Card, it’s likely that you’ll be asked to explain what items you are referring to or for more details about it. After this quick process, you will go through to the Baggage Claim area.

What to Declare

After collecting your luggage from the Baggage Claim area, you will need to take your luggage to a Biosecurity Officer, also known as a Quarantine Officer. Again, you may be asked if you have anything to declare, such as the items you refer to when you ticked “yes” on the back of the Passenger Arrival Card. As a reminder, those items refer to:

  • Goods that may be prohibited, such as drugs, weapons or obscene articles or printed matter
  • Cigarettes or alcohol above the duty-free allowance for Tonga
  • Goods for commercial purposes
  • Personal goods which exceed TOP$500 (excluding personal items that would be reasonably expected in luggage)
  • Currency with the combined value of TOP$10,000 or more
  • Food of any kind
  • Animals or any kind of animal products
  • Plants or any kind of plant products
  • Biological specimens
  • Equipment used with animals, water or plants
  • Equipment used outdoors equipment like camping gear, hiking shoes, hunting equipment, golfing equipment, etc.
  • Any items used in a farm, forest or a place with farm animals, abattoirs or packing premises

If you are unsure whether to declare an item or not, declare it anyway! The more honest you are through the Biosecurity process, the quicker and easier it will be. For a complete list of declarable items, see What to Declare When Arriving in Tonga.

The final stage of Biosecurity/Quarantine is passing all your baggage, including handbags, camera bag, laptop bags, etc. through an x-ray. This is the final check for Biosecurity Officers to make sure you are not bringing any restricted or prohibited goods into the country. After that, you may be asked some further questions then you will be good to go! Note that this final stage of the process isn’t always completed to its fullest in Tonga, with some Biosecurity Officers simply asking questions rather than x-raying bags. You should be prepared for either process.

Arrival Advice: Biosecurity and Customs in Tonga(c)

What Happens if Risk Goods are Found in Your Baggage

When completing your Passenger Arrival Card and you realise your packed something in your bag that won’t go through Biosecurity, like fresh food, for instance, don’t worry. You have the opportunity to dispose of potential risk items in Quarantine Amnesty Bins in the arrivals area of the airport, before passing through Passport Control and Biosecurity.

If you declare an item and the item is not restricted or prohibited to be imported in Tonga, you will be allowed to pass through Customs and Quarantine without further action.

What Happens to Undeclared Risk Items?

If a risk item is found in your possession or while passing through the biosecurity x-rays, and you did not declare the item, the Tongan Government warns: “A false declaration to customs may result in you facing severe penalties or even being prosecuted!”

What if You Declare an Item and it is Prohibited/Restricted?

If you have declared an item that is deemed unsafe to enter the country or you have to pay duty tax on the item, then another procedure will take place depending on what the item is. For paying the duty, you will be required to complete Customs forms and pay the asked fee. For items that are considered a risk by Biosecurity, you may have the option of the item being destroyed immediately or re-exported to the country of origin under Quarantine supervision at your expense. Treatment of the item may also be an option, where quarantine fees will apply.

More Arrival Advice About Biosecurity and Customs in Tonga

That’s it for the guide to biosecurity and customs in Tonga. Now head over to Everything You Need to Know About Arriving in Tonga or get even more advice in our 31 Tips for Travelling in Tonga.


Robin C.

This article was reviewed and published by Robin, the co-founder of Tonga Pocket Guide. He has lived, worked and travelled across 16 different countries before settling in the South Pacific, so he knows a thing or two about planning the perfect trip in this corner of the world. Robin works and consults regularly with the Ministry of Tourism of Tonga. Robin is also the co-founder of several other South Pacific travel guides and is a regular host of webinars with the South Pacific Tourism Organisation.

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