Advice for Booking Tours in Tonga (& Getting the Best Deals)
Balancing the holiday budget is always a tricky business, especially as there are quite a few different options for booking tours. But with Tonga having quite a small tourism industry compared to other destinations you might have been to, first, you need to know how to book tours in Tonga (because, no, not many Tonga tour companies have a website) and second, you need to know what are the best booking methods for you. You’ll be able to work both of these out by checking the pro and con list of each Tonga tour booking method below! Plus, scroll to the end for more tips on how to get the best deals on tours in Tonga.
5 Tips for Booking Tours in Tonga
Before we get into the details of how to book tours and experiences in Tonga, here are just a few quick tips if you’re in a hurry:
- You’re more likely to get a better deal by booking through travel agents and accommodations based in Tonga, rather than from overseas
- Booking through a travel agent or your accommodation is the least stressful way to organise your trip – by far!
- Can’t find WiFi for searching for tours online? Check out Where to Get WiFi in Tonga
- Remember that many tour companies and activities in Tonga do not have a website, so search for phone numbers and Facebook Pages to book directly
- See a cheaper price elsewhere? Contact tour companies directly and they will almost always match it!
See How to Get the Best Deals on Tours in Tonga for more tips like these.
Booking Tours with Online Travel Agents
If you’re reading this article on this delightful website, then chances are you are pretty comfortable with the online world and might even favour using online booking platforms, also known as online travel agents or “OTAs”. OTAs are websites used to compare and book tours, activities, flights and accommodations. However, as you’re about to find out throughout this article, Tonga is still catching up with the online world, meaning that many activity operators simply aren’t on online booking platforms.
Nevertheless, you can find a few sightseeing tours and the odd snorkelling and whale swimming experience on Viator.
The Pros of Booking Tours with Online Travel Agents
- They are at your fingertips! As long as you are connected to the internet, you’ll find booking with an online booking website convenient
- It’s often easier to compare activities and prices, by listing everything together and offering the ability to filter to your specific needs
- Many of the booking websites are worldwide, so you can use the same website to book your next trip and the next…
- Booking websites often have more relaxed cancellation policies, where activity and tour providers must offer a full refund or all cancellations up to 24 hours before in order to be listed on the website. For you, this gives you more flexibility
- The reviews section of booking websites means that you get a more trustworthy representation of what the activity is like, compared to the positive reviews that activity providers will post on their own websites.
The Cons of Booking Tours with Online Travel Agents
- Many OTAs charge extra fees for booking with them
- Tour operators use these booking websites to fill up spaces on less popular tours, so you might only be able to book tours for the unpopular times of day, for instance
- Some booking websites can be misleading saying there are only “two spaces left on this tour”. What that really means is that there are only two spaces left to book through that specific website
- Most online booking websites are based overseas, which can have a negative economic impact on local businesses
- Relying on booking websites while in Tonga might be a little costly when using roaming data. If you use your data on your phone a lot while in Tonga, consider getting a local SIM card.
Booking Tours Directly with the Tour Company
Booking tours directly through your chosen tour company is often the best way to get the best price, making it an encouraging method of booking when possible. However, with many Tongan tour companies not having websites or being hard to find, there are some challenges when it comes to booking direct in Tonga.
If you struggle to find a website of your chosen tour company, the only way you can book directly with them is likely over the phone, through a travel agent or their Facebook Page.
The Pros of Booking Tours Directly
- All the money you are paying for the tour goes directly to the company
- It’s possible to get the cheapest deals by booking direct. By cutting out the middleman of travel agents, no commission needs to be paid therefore they don’t need to raise their prices to make a profit
- If you find a cheaper deal elsewhere, the tour company will almost always match it or offer you a cheaper price
- Booking direct makes you a more independent traveller, which means you’re more likely to stick to your budget than to be tempted by add-ons that travel agents might offer.
The Cons of Booking Tours Directly
- It can be more time-consuming and stressful to book everything directly yourself. It’s up to you to do the price comparisons, contact the companies, and make sure everything is booked on the right date at the right time…
- In many cases, tour companies have strict cancellation policies where you probably will not get a full refund if you have to cancel the trip.
Booking Tours Through Your Accommodation
Many accommodations in Tonga can organise and book tours for you. In fact, many accommodations offer a few in-house experiences. Your accommodation can be an easy way to book tours in Tonga as long as you don’t mind living more spontaneously.
The Pros of Booking Tours Through an Accommodation
- It’s super convenient, as you only need to head to your accommodation’s reception to book a tour
- Let the accommodation staff make the phone calls so you don’t have to pay the high phone network roaming charges
- They will only offer you the activities that are easy to do from or near the accommodation, making for a smooth experience. For activities that are a bit further away, they will usually book transport or advise you on how to get there.
The Cons of Booking Tours Through an Accommodation
- You will almost always be offered the activity at full price, not leaving much room to get a good deal
- Booking tours through your accommodation is typically something you do once you’re staying at the accommodation, which can be a pain for those who like to plan ahead
- Some accommodations will only offer you the activities that they have a vested interest in, whether it be an activity that they offer, because they make a commission, or it’s because it’s their friend that operates the tour.
Booking Tours Through Visitor Information Centres
The Tonga Tourism Authority has visitor information centres in the main towns of each major island group: Nuku’alofa o Tongatapu, Neiafu in Vava’u, ‘Ohonua on ‘Eua, and Pangai in Ha’apai. They provide information on all tours that are registered in the tourism industry of Tonga, where staff at the information centre can provide information and book tours for you.
The Pros of Booking Tours Through the Visitor Information Centres
- They can make bookings for almost all tour operators in the area
- They likely have information on activity providers that are not advertised elsewhere
- In theory, they should provide a fair representation of all possible tours available and are not supposed to only advertise companies that they have a vested interest in, being a government organisation…
The Cons of Booking Tours Through the Visitor Information Centres
- They are only available in very few areas of Tonga
- They are closed on Sundays.
Booking Tours Through Travel Agencies
Travel agencies are companies that specialise in planning and booking travel itineraries. There are travel agents overseas who organise travel to Tonga, while there are also some travel agents based in Tonga, such as Ancient Tonga, Hibisus Tours, Monarch Travel Services, Jetsave Taufonua Travel, Jones Travel & Tours, Kingdom Travel Centre, Cafe Tropicana, Tonga Travel Troupe and more.
For advice for planning your trip to Tonga with an overseas travel agent, see the 10 Questions to Ask Your Travel Agent When Booking Your Holiday in Tonga.
The Pros of Booking Tours Through a Travel Agent
- They do the whole planning and booking for you
- Travel agents have often experienced the tours and activities themselves so can advise from personal experience. Note, however, that they will have done free trips, which is often slightly different from the paying customer experience
- You only have to deal with one person, so if there are any changes or cancellations the travel agent can do it for you
- Travel agents may be able to offer you good package deals
- They can help you with some of the logistics of organising your trips, such as visas, transport and other things you might not have thought about.
The Cons of Booking Tours Through a Travel Agent
- Booking through a travel agent may work out more expensive than other methods of booking tours, as tour prices may be pricier considering extra commission is given to the travel agent. There also may be a service fee for planning your trip
- Using travel agents outside of Tonga means that money is going out of the Tonga economy
- Travel agents can only offer you the select tours that they sell
- They often cannot price-match on cheap tour deals
- Overseas travel agents are known for charging high prices on tours to customers who don’t know any better until they arrive in Tonga, by which time it’s too late!
How to Get the Best Deals on Tours in Tonga
Anywhere we can save money on travel is a good thing, so when it comes to tours, how can we get a good deal? Well, with tours like whale swimming or fishing charters they’re expensive no matter what, but for some of the other experiences, like cultural shows, sightseeing tours and island day trips, we see different prices across different platforms, whether it’s an online booking website, a travel agent or directly with the tour operator. Here are a few simple ways to get the best deals on tours in Tonga.
Buy Tours in Tonga; Not from Overseas
While it makes sense to book things like accommodation from overseas, offering peace of mind that you have somewhere to stay once you arrive, the same cannot be said for booking tours. Overseas travel agencies and cruise liners are notorious for selling tours at a premium price to travellers who, well, don’t know any better until they arrive in Tonga by which time, it’s probably too late…
Travel agencies and cruises are in the business of making big commissions from travel products such as tours, which means that prices are often priced much higher in order for the seller to make a significant commission. If you absolutely have to book a tour before you arrive in Tonga, try to book the tour directly with the tour operator to ensure you’re at least getting retail price.
Weigh Up the Benefits of Using Tour Booking Websites
Admittedly, many Tonga tour companies are only just starting to list themselves on tour booking websites, such as Viator. Not only is the choice of tours for Tonga on these websites limited, but prices tend to be marginally more expensive than if you were to book directly with the tour company – typically to make up for the fees tour companies have to pay for selling their tours online.
On the flip side, while it is more expensive to book tours this way, being booked on a tour before you arrive in Tonga often gives you peace of mind that the tour will go ahead. Otherwise, trips often get cancelled if tours don’t meet the minimum requirement of passengers.
See What Tours are Included in Your Accommodation
If staying in a more remote area of Tonga, i.e. anywhere outside of Tongatapu or Neiafu, then much of the time, the experiences on offer at your chosen accommodation are just about the only tours you’ll be able to choose from. For this reason, it’s a good idea to compare the price of tours offered by accommodations; not just the rooms.
Some accommodations, particularly resorts in Tonga, often have some complimentary activities, such as kayak hire, snorkel hire, cultural activities and more. Be sure to compare these too when looking for good-value activities in Tonga.
Start comparing the accommodations in Tonga in our guide, Where to Stay in Tonga: The Best Accommodations.
More on How to Book Tours in Tonga
That’s it for our guide on the best ways to book tours in Tonga. Now discover the types of tours you can book in Tonga in the following guides:
- 10 Best Sightseeing Tours in Tonga
- 10 Best Boat Tours & Day Cruises in Tonga
- 10 Best Culture Tours & Experiences in Tonga