How to Drive in Tonga(c)
How to Drive in Tonga

How to Drive in Tonga + 10 Road Rules to Know


The Complete Guide to Driving in Tonga

With many landscapes to admire, historical sites to discover, and amazing natural attractions, a road trip in Tonga has so much to offer! But like anywhere in the world, you can’t expect to come to Tonga, hire a car and be on your way. There are road rules that you need to make yourself familiar with and even the logistics of hiring a car in Tonga may seem unusual to you. We’ll go through all of those details and more in this guide to how to drive in Tonga.

How Long Does it Take to Drive Around Tonga?

  • Tongatapu – 110 km / 67 mi – 3 hours
  • ‘Eua (ex. 4WD roads) – 45 km / 48 mi – 1 hr 15 mins
  • Lifuka and Foa (Ha’apai) – 35 km / 22 mi – 35 mins
  • Vava’u – 70 km / 109 mi – 2 hours

Go in-depth on the driving times around the islands in Tonga Travel Times & Distances: How Long Does it Take to Travel Around Tonga?

How to Drive in Tonga(c)

What License Do You Need to Drive in Tonga?

To legally drive in Tonga, you need to either have a full valid driving license from a visitor visa-exempt country or a Visitor’s Driving License. The latter can be purchased from the Ministry of Infrastructure in Nuku’alofa (Tongatapu) or from the Police Station in Neiafu (Vava’u).

Valid Overseas Driving Licenses in Tonga

Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Canada, China (mainland), Cook Islands, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Estonia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kiribati, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Malaysia, Malta, Marshall Island, Monaco, Nauru, Netherlands, New Caledonia (French Passports), New Zealand, Niue (New Zealand Passports), Norway, Palau, Papua New Guinea, People’s Republic of China, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Samoa, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Island, South Korea (Republic of Korea), Spain, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent & The Grenadines, Sweden, Switzerland, Tahiti (French Passports), Tokelau (New Zealand Passports), Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom – Great Britain & Northern Ireland, United States of America, Vanuatu and Wallis & Futuna (French Passports).

Learn more about the licenses needed in Can You Drive in Tonga With an Overseas License?

Tonga Visitor’s Driving License

If your driving license is not from one of the above countries, then you need to get a Tonga Visitor’s Driving License. To get a Visitor’s Driving License, you need to be over 18 years old and present your full valid driving license. You will also need to present an International Driving Permit along with your driving license if your license is not written in English. You will also need to pay around TOP$40. Follow the complete process of getting your Visitor’s Driving License in Tonga in How to Get a Tonga Visitor’s Driving License.

How to Drive in Tonga©

Renting a Vehicle in Tonga

Car rental is available on the islands of Tongatapu, Lifuka (Ha’apai), ‘Eua and Vava’u. Although the driving age in Tonga is 18 years old, most car rental companies require drivers to be at least 21 years old.

Car Hire Companies in Tonga

Compare vehicle rental companies in the following:

Scooter Hire Companies

And compare the limited scooter hire in the following:

There is a mixed range of car rental experiences in Tonga. Some car rental companies are very professional, with all the usual car rental paperwork you’re used to, while others are sometimes just a “dude with a car”. Insurance and additions like baby seats are rarely an option. A security deposit, usually around TOP$200, is required to hire a vehicle. Some companies only accept cash. Get the full cost breakdown in The Cost of Renting a Car in Tonga: Full Cost Breakdown.

The Condition of Vehicles in Tonga

A safety concern for driving in Tonga is the state of the rental vehicles. While many car rental companies only rent out vehicles that have a current Warrant of Fitness and valid registration and regularly inspect their vehicles, other rental companies do not put the same care into their cars.

When renting a car in Tonga, it’s always a good idea to inspect the car yourself. Ask if it has a Warrant of Fitness, it should be displayed on the windscreen. Check to see if the car has adequate tyre tread depth and that there are no nasty dents. If the car looks old, ask if you can give it a test drive. If you find any problems when renting the vehicle, be sure to return it, ask for a replacement or try somewhere else. It’s not worth risking your life in a dodgy vehicle.

For more car rental advice, head to our full guide, What You Need to Hire a Car in Tonga.

How to Drive in Tonga©

What are the Roads Like in Tonga?

The main roads in Tonga are generally very good, sealed with limited potholes (which is more than can be said for some of its South Pacific neighbours). There are, however, side roads that are either unmaintained sealed roads with potholes, gravel roads or dirt roads.

You’ll find that some attractions that you might want to get to on ‘Eua, and in limited circumstances on Tongatapu, are down dirt roads. On Tongatapu, most of these dirt roads only start to deteriorate toward the end of the road, so sometimes it’s best to park up before the road gets too bad and walk the rest of the way. On ‘Eua, either hire a 4WD (and know how to drive one) or join a guided 4WD tour to see some of the sights in the ‘Eua National Park.

Is it Easy to Drive in Tonga?

With a relatively good road network across Tongatapu, Vava’u, Lifuka and Foa Islands (Ha’apai), and around the central villages of ‘Eua, combined with a small population of people using the roads, driving in Tonga is far from a stressful experience. The most traffic you’ll experience is around Nuku’alofa, especially on a Saturday, but even that is more the experience of small-town driving than city chaos.

Tonga is not a country to speed around. Speed limits are low and there are many hazards on the roads; mostly children and animals. Roads are not well-lit at night, so also be sure to slow down more after dark.

For more details on each safety tip, see 10 Safety Tips for Driving in Tonga. Plus, check out Is it Safe to Drive in Tonga?

How to Drive in Tonga(c)

Gas Stations in Tonga

When you’re hiring a vehicle, you’re going to need to know where to fuel up.

Tonga’s gas stations are located in the country’s largest towns, like Nuku’alofa (Tongatapu), Neiafu (Vava’u), Pangai (Ha’apai) and Pangai (‘Eua). With the islands being so small, you’re hardly too far away from one of these gas stations. Regardless, we provide more details on where to find gas stations in the following articles:

Almost all gas stations in Tonga are full-service gas stations, i.e. a gas station attendant fills up your vehicle with fuel for you. Tell the attendant how much money you would like to fuel up, then pay inside at the counter. Only one gas station that we know of is self-serviced.

For the most recent fuel prices, check out The Cost of Renting a Car in Tonga: Full Car Rental Cost Breakdown.

How to Drive in Tonga(c)

10 Road Rules in Tonga You Need to Know

While most road rules in Tonga are similar to other countries, there are a few differences in road rules that many visitors are surprised by or find different from home. We’ll go through some of the most important road rules for visitors here:

  1. Drive on the left side of the road
  2. The speed limit in urban areas/villages is 50 kph
  3. The speed limit outside of urban areas is 70 kph
  4. At roundabouts, give way to vehicles approaching from the right
  5. Give way to vehicles turning right
  6. You can park on the side of the road only on the leftmost side
  7. You can’t park on footpaths, bus stops, in front of an access road, within 6 m (20 ft) of a pedestrian crossing, or within 10 m (30 ft) of an intersection
  8. You can’t overtake within 10 m (30 ft) of an intersection
  9. You can’t overtake if a vehicle has stopped/slowed down to give way
  10. Observe road signage.

What Side of the Road Do They Drive in Tonga?

In Tonga, they drive on the left side of the road.

Are There Traffic Lights in Tonga?

No, there are no traffic lights in Tonga. There are, however, roundabouts in Nuku’alofa.

What is the Speed Limit in Tonga?

The speed limit in urban areas/villages is 50 kph. The speed limit outside of urban areas is 70 kph. Speed limits are frequently signposted alongside Tonga’s roads.

As there are also quite a few road hazards that are essential to be aware of, make sure to also check out the 10 Safety Tips for Driving in Tonga.

More on How to Drive in Tonga

That’s it for our guide on how to drive in Tonga. For more on the subject, take a look at more of our insightful guides:

Finally, be sure to bookmark our Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga for even more transport 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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