Transport Around Tonga
You’ve figured out how to get to Tonga, now how are you going to get around? From boats to buses to flights, there are plenty of ways to get around the Kingdom’s 169 islands to suit a range of budgets and styles. We go over your transport options in this guide to how to get around Tonga.
Tonga Transport Tips
- Check and double-check the ferry schedules which change often
- Local buses don’t run on a schedule so ask the bus driver at what time the bus returns
- Flights are often cancelled in Tonga, so don’t plan for your domestic flight to connect with your departure flight
- You need a Visitor’s Driving License to rent a car and drive in Tonga
- Horse hire is a thing on ‘Eua
For more tips, check out the 10 Top Transport Tips for Tonga.
Getting Between Island Groups
Tonga is made up of five island groups: Tongatapu, ‘Eua, Ha’apai, Vava’u and The Niuas. Inter-island ferries and flights provide transport for getting between these island groups.
Ferries in Tonga
The inter-island ferries are the cheapest way to get between island groups. There are multiple types of ferries, fast catamarans which make the duration of travel shorter and ferry fares more expensive, and slow cargo ships or barge ferries for slower trips at cheaper fares. Most ferry journeys are long in Tonga, with the popular Tongatapu to Vava’u route taking 9-10 hours on the fast catamaran and around 16 hours on the slow cargo ferry. Learn about the ferry routes, durations, fares and more in The Guide to Travelling in Tonga by Ferry.
Flights in Tonga
Domestic flights are a faster and more comfortable way of getting between the island groups of Tonga. The one domestic carrier in Tonga, Real Tonga Airline, operates daily flights except for on Sundays. Flights are significantly more expensive than taking the ferry and have added costs such as excess baggage charges, cancellation fees, etc. Find out more about flying in Tonga in The Guide to Flights in Tonga.
Public Transport on Land
The islands of Tongatapu and Vava’u (and its causeway-connected islands) are well-connected with roads making local buses and taxi services possible. Ha’apai also has limited taxis available.
Local buses are by far the cheapest way to get around on land, with fares between TOP$0.70 and $3. The bus network is a fairly reliable way to getting around Tongatapu with frequent buses and a rather extensive route network on the east side of the island, the west side and around Nuku’alofa. Vava’u offers fewer bus services, where buses wait in Neiafu until full and often return from their destination immediately, making it unsuitable for a day trip. Find out more about buses in the How to Travel Around Tonga By Bus.
Taxis enthusiastically await flights at the airports in Tongatapu and Vava’u, as well as taxi ranks in the towns of Nuku’alofa and Neiafu. Taxis are identified by the “T” at the front of the vehicle’s number plate, while most will also have a “taxi” sign on top of the vehicle. Check out The Guide to Taxis in Tonga for more information on fares and how taxis work.
There are no real public transport options to take you between islands within an island group. For this, you will need to rely on accommodation boat transfers, as well as boat tours.
Accommodation Boat Transfers
There are many resorts in Tonga located on islands off the shores of the island groups’ mainlands. To get to these islands, resorts offer their own boat transfers, picking guests up from the nearest airport or ferry wharf when arranged.
Boat Tour Operators
Tour operators with a boat commonly offer island transfers. There is often no fixed rate for these services, so it’s a matter of asking what the tour operator can do for you! Check out a list of boat tour operators in the Best Boat Trips in Tonga.
Car rental is available in Tongatapu and Vava’u where the road networks are extensive enough to warrant such services. As well as Tongatapu and Vava’u, cycle hire is available on islands that are comfortable enough to cycle around, such as Lifuka and Foa islands in Ha’apai and the island of ‘Eua.
Car rental provides the ultimate freedom to explore Tongatapu and the main island of Vava’u at your own pace. Rental cars are a mixed bag when it comes to quality, where most of the time you can expect older cars with a relatively affordable rental rate. Visitors are required to purchase a Temporary Driver’s License to legally drive in Tonga, which you can read up about in Things to Know About Car Rental in Tonga.
Bicycle hire is often your best rental option for getting around smaller islands like Lifuka and Foa Islands in Ha’apai. They are also a good way to explore the immediate area of the resort or the town in Tongatapu, Vava’u and ‘Eua. Bike hire is typically TOP$15-$30 a day or free for guests at some resorts. Learn more in Where to Rent Bikes in Tonga.
Yes, on the islands of ‘Eua, you can hire a horse just like you would a bicycle. However, you need to be competent on a horse for this option.
Other Transport in Tonga
And for the other transport methods that don’t perfectly fit elsewhere, here are the other ways to get around Tonga…
Most accommodations in Tonga offer their own airport shuttle service, transporting guests between the nearest airport and their accommodation. This is often cheaper than getting a taxi. Accommodation shuttles can be arranged with your accommodation before arriving in Tonga. Learn more in Tonga Airports: Your Airport Transfer Options.
Often one of the easiest ways of getting between attractions is through guided tours. Relatively inexpensive compared to car rentals and taking a taxi from attraction to attraction, guided tours have the transport, driver and local knowledge sorted for you. Check out some of the tours available in the Guided Tours in Tonga.
Sailing charters are particularly popular in Vava’u, known as some of the best sailing grounds in the South Pacific. Skippered and bareboat sailing charters can be hired from one day to multiple days. Some sailing charters are also available between Tongatapu and Ha’apai during the whale season. See The Best Sailing Charters in Tonga for more information.