Hitchhiking in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com
Hitchhiking in Tonga

A Travellers’ Guide to Hitchhiking in Tonga

© TongaPocketGuide.com

Is it Safe to Hitchhike in Tonga?

Hitchhiking or “suto”, as it’s known in Tongan, is a tempting prospect. Getting around somewhere for free and meeting interesting locals? Why not?! Well, like anywhere in the world, hitchhiking has a small but potentially serious risk. Locals in Tonga will tell you that hitchhiking is perfectly safe. However, while nothing serious has happened in Tonga (that we know of), there have been a few unpleasant experiences that are readily available to read online. In fact, they probably cropped up in Google when you found this article. So while hitchhiking can be a fun way to meet locals and save a bit of pa’anga, it’s always best to approach hitchhiking with caution. We’ll go through some advice in this guide to hitchhiking in Tonga.

Before we jump into this guide to hitchhiking in Tonga, be sure to bookmark our Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga for even more transport tips.

Do People Hitchhike in Tonga?

Yes, hitchhiking happens everywhere in Tonga but it’s more common and accepted on islands with no public transport, like Ha’apai and ‘Eua. Around Nuku’alofa is where travellers have had the most “dodgy” experiences, so we generally recommend catching a taxi or bus in Nuku’alofa.

Hitchhiking in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

Good Practice for Hitchhiking in Tonga

So how does hitchhiking or “suto” work in Tonga? Well, someone walking on the side of the road out of town will often find that it just works for them; Tongans will often stop to ask if you want a lift. Otherwise, the universal symbol for hitchhiking, sticking your thumb out on the side of the road, works too.

While it’s always implied that hitchhiking is offered out of the goodness of the driver’s heart, hitchhikers can offer money toward fuel costs. This is often appreciated (even if the driver is too polite to accept) when fuel costs can be expensive on these remote islands. Around TOP$5-$10 is an acceptable amount. Some drivers will decline, but you can use your judgment to accept the free ride or leave some pa’anga on the seat when you leave.

Know that Tongans have a habit of driving around for a bit before dropping you off at the agreed destination. They’ll sometimes stop to talk to people, go run a few errands, pick other people up and drop them off before they get around to dropping you off. So don’t expect to get anywhere in a rush.

Hitchhiking in Tonga(c) tongapocketguide.com

The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking in Tonga

Like all ways of getting around, there are pros and cons of hitchhiking in Tonga.

The Pros of Hitchhiking

  • It’s free (or you can offer to contribute a small amount for gas)
  • You will likely meet some interesting people
  • It’s more eco-friendly than using a vehicle all to yourself
  • It could be your only option if you’re on an island with no public transport
  • It’s an adventure!

The Cons of Hitchhiking

  • It can be time-consuming trying to get a lift
  • There is an element of risk
  • Someone else is in charge – so you can’t spontaneously stop for photos, for example
  • You have far less flexibility than having your own rental car
  • Tongans don’t always go straight to the destination, often stopping to do other things along the way, so you can’t be in a rush.
Hitchhiking in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

Hitchhiking Safety in Tonga

There’s no sugar-coating it: when you’re hitchhiking anywhere in the world, you’re taking a risk as you don’t know who you could end up in a vehicle with. Most people hitchhike in Tonga and have a wonderful time, while a small percentage of people have had uncomfortable experiences. If you are going to do hitchhiking, be sure to be savvy about it by following the following tips…

8 Safety Tips for Hitchhiking in Tonga

  1. Never hitchhike alone
  2. Don’t hitchhike at night
  3. Wear modest clothing as per Tongan custom – you don’t want to attract the wrong crowd (see our Tongan Etiquette Guide for more info)
  4. Engage in conversation before getting in the car, allowing time for your instinct to determine whether you should wait for the next car or not
  5. Don’t accept a lift if you get bad vibes from the driver
  6. If you start to feel uncomfortable, come up with an excuse to be dropped off immediately. Saying that you’re going to be sick is a good one – no one wants you to be sick in their car
  7. Take a picture of the vehicle registration before you get in (ask first and only get in if they accept) and message it to a trusted contact. Even if you have no network to send the picture, it’s more to show the driver how cautious you’re being
  8. Have a “Plan B” – if you are unsuccessful at hitchhiking, have an accommodation option or alternative transport. See the 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga for ideas.

Alternatives to Hitchhiking in Tonga

That’s it for our guide to hitchhiking in Tonga. For more about getting around, take a look at more of our insightful articles:

Finally, compare all of your travel options with the Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga and learn more about keeping safe with our Tonga Safety Tips.


Laura (Lola) S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of Tonga Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in the South Pacific over 10 years ago with nothing but a backpack and a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to explore a paradise such as Tonga. She knows the islands inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience Tonga’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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