A Guide to Passing Through Immigration, Customs and Quarantine in Tonga
Your final hurdle to an adventure in the islands of Tonga is getting through Passport Control, Customs and Quarantine (Biosecurity) when you arrive in Tonga. With fabulous archipelago landscapes, clear waters and a fragile ecosystem, Tonga takes strict precautions when it comes to quarantine and biosecurity. Travellers will also need to make sure they have passports up-to-date and double-check whether they need a visa to enter Tonga. Then, the whales, the cultural experiences and the tropical islands are on your horizon!
Make the airport process as smooth as possible for yourself by following this guide to Tonga airport customs, biosecurity and arrivals process.
Passport, Visas and Outbound Travel Confirmation for Tonga
The first thing you will need to organise for your travels to Tonga is your passport and visa. Your passport needs to be valid for at least six months after your intended departure date from Tonga – make sure your passport is up to date!
As well as a valid passport, visitors are also required to have:
- A confirmed onward travel ticket
- Sufficient funds to support oneself while in Tonga
- An Entry Permit if your passport is not from a visa-exempt country – see the list in our Visa Guide.
As long as you meet the above entry requirements, you will be granted a Visitor Visa on arrival. Check out Tonga Tourist Visa: Do You Need a Visa to Visit Tonga? to learn more about the entry requirements.
Do You Need a Vaccine to Visit Tonga?
There are no current vaccination mandates to enter Tonga. We list all the recommended and/or mandatory vaccines for a visit to Tonga in Do You Need Vaccines to Travel to Tonga?
Packing for Tonga
Before you depart for Tonga, it’s a good idea to check what items are restricted or prohibited in Tonga so that you don’t risk the item being confiscated at Quarantine on arrival. On top of that, you will need to check that any outdoor gear or sports equipment that you pack is clean.
What You Can’t Bring into Tonga
- Certain foods, such as meat, vegetables, fruit, honey, seeds, nuts, herbs and more
- Some animal products, such as feathers, fish/seafood products and more
- Certain plant products, such as flowers, bark, bamboo and more
- Dirty camping and sports equipment
- Certain biological items, such as culture, animal medicines, soil and water
- Illicit drugs
- Weapons and firearms
- Alcohol and tobacco over the Tonga duty-free allowance
- Other dutiable goods over the Tonga duty-free allowance.
If you do want to bring some of these items, then make sure you declare them. More on that in the “Passing Through Customs and Quarantine (Biosecurity)” section below.
Cleaning Your Gear for Arrival in Tonga
While you are allowed to bring sports, farming and camping gear into Tonga, they must be free from dirt and soil to pass through Quarantine. Otherwise, you may either be requested to clean them at the airport or have the item sent for treatment at your expense. So be sure to clean equipment, such as:
- Used footwear
- Camping equipment
- Golf clubs
- Snorkelling gear
- Scuba diving gear
- Kitesurf equipment
- Hunting gear
- Fishing equipment.
More Packing Advice for Tonga
For more tips on what to pack for Tonga, check out The Complete Packing List for Tonga.
The Tonga Passenger Arrival Card
Skip to your final direct flight to Tonga and it will involve the first part of the Tonga Customs and Quarantine process: completing the Tonga Passenger Arrival Card. The narrow double-sided card with a form to complete asks for your personal details, as well as your flight and passport number, so make sure you have all this information readily available.
On the back of the Passenger Arrival Card is a series of Yes/No questions concerning Customs, Health and Quarantine. Answer these questions honestly. If you are unsure of the answer, just tick “Yes” and you’ll be able to explain yourself to a Customs or Quarantine Officer once you arrive in Tonga. There are sometimes Health questions to answer too, which change depending on the current public health issues.
Speaking of which, keep ahold of your Passenger Arrival Card until you are asked for it after landing in Tonga and going through the Customs/Biosecurity process.
For more information on the Arrival Card and how to complete it, see The Passenger Arrival Card for Tonga: What You Need to Know.
Once you’ve landed in Tonga, you won’t be swimming with whales just yet. First up, you’ll need to pass through Passport Control.
Declaring Items on the Passenger Arrival Card
At the Passport Control Desk, an officer will ask to see your passport, Passenger Arrival Card and visa – only the latter if applicable. The officer may ask you questions regarding the answers you have given on the Passenger Arrival Card, especially if you have answered “Yes” to any of the Customs, Health and Quarantine questions. The officer will then tell you if any action is required. Otherwise, your passport and Passenger Arrival Card will be returned to you and you will move to the Baggage Claim area.
For extra documents to have prepared for this step of the arrivals process, such as vaccination certificates (if applicable) and flight booking confirmations, check out What Documents Do I Need to Travel to Tonga?
Passing Through Customs and Quarantine (Biosecurity)
Once you have picked up your bags from Baggage Claim, you will finally go through the Customs and Quarantine process.
Declaring Risk Goods
This is your last chance to declare a “risk good” that you might have in your possession or packed in your baggage. Signs are displayed at the airport as a reminder of what items to declare, while Quarantine Amnesty Bins are available to dispose of prohibited items, such as food. Declarable items include:
- 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 a 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 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.
Note that not all “declarable items” are prohibited, but you still need to declare them so that a Quarantine Officer can check the item. For a complete list of declarable items, see What to Declare When Arriving in Tonga.
The final stage of Quarantine is passing all your baggage, including handbags, camera bags, laptop bags, etc. through an X-ray. This is the final check for Quarantine 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 Quarantine Officers simply asking questions rather than X-raying bags. You should be prepared for either process.
What Happens if Risk Goods are Found in Your Baggage
When completing your Passenger Arrival Card and you realise you packed something in your bag that won’t go through Quarantine, 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 from being imported into 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 or 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. To pay the duty, you will be required to complete Customs forms and pay the asked fee. For items that are considered a risk by Quarantine, 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.
After Customs and Quarantine
The final part of the Tonga airport arrivals process is leaving the arrivals hall to an outside area where you’ll find a Tourist Information Centre, stores for the local phone networks, and an ATM and foreign exchange. Information on all of these facilities and services can be found in our guide, Tonga Arrival Airports: Which Airport to Fly into Tonga?
The next step is getting to your desired destination in the islands, whether it’s on Tongatapu or catching a ferry/flight to one of the other stunning island groups. Check out airport transfer options in How to Get an Airport Transfer in Tonga, as well as how to get between island groups in our Tonga Transport Guide: 15 Ways to Get Around Tonga.
More About Tonga Airport Customs, Biosecurity and the Arrival Process
That’s it for our complete guide to the Tonga airport arrival process along the what you need to do to pass through customs and biosecurity. For more on the subject, check out our other arrivals guides:
- Arrival at Nuku’alofa Airport, Tonga: A Step-by-Step Guide
- Taking Food to Tonga: What You Need to Know
- How Much Does a Tonga Airport Taxi Cost?