Tonga Safety Tips: Is it Safe to Travel to Tonga?©
Tonga Safety Tips: Is it Safe to Travel to Tonga?

Tonga Safety Tips: Is it Safe to Travel to Tonga?


The Complete Guide to Health and Safety in Tonga

With minimal crime, no fatal diseases, no crocodiles and little else to be concerned about, Tonga is a relatively safe country to visit. However, as a tropical country with mosquitos, environmental risks and not the best drinking water, you’ll want to take a few simple precautions when travelling in Tonga. We’ll go through all of the main health and safety issues in Tonga in this guide to how to keep safe in Tonga.

10 Health Tips for Tonga

Before we go into our in-depth health and safety tips for Tonga, here are a few quick tips to keep in mind while travelling:

  1. If you are feeling ill, be proactive and see a doctor in Tonga. They are more likely to know the local illnesses than your doctor back home
  2. Go heavy on sun protection
  3. Be serious about avoiding mosquito bites
  4. Make sure your travel vaccinations are up-to-date. See a doctor 4-6 weeks before travel at the latest
  5. Know what water is safe to drink
  6. Focus on hand hygiene when staying in villages and local guesthouses
  7. Pack a first aid kit specifically for Tonga
  8. If you get cut, act quickly to clean the wound, disinfect and place an adequate band-aid
  9. If you have pre-existing conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, see your doctor a few weeks before your trip and ask them to make a note of your medication and condition
  10. Know the emergency number in Tonga: 911.

Now, let’s get onto our health and safety advice for Tonga.

Tonga Safety Tips: Is it Safe to Travel to Tonga?©

Health Tips for Tonga

Tonga presents a few environmental hazards but very few diseases. Like travelling anywhere in the world, it’s a good idea to have your vaccinations up-to-date and to prepare a first aid kit for injuries or minor health issues that might occur. See our advice in What Medication to Pack in Your First Aid Kit for Tonga and Do You Need Vaccines to Travel to Tonga?

Medical Issues That Can Occur in Tonga

The most common medical issues that can occur in Tonga include sunburn, heatstroke, mosquito bites and coral cuts. These are very easy to keep in check with simple precautions. Other medical issues may occur when it comes to drinking water and food, which we cover in our “Food and Water Hygiene” section.

Heat Stroke

Overexposure to the sun and high humidity can lead to heatstroke. Symptoms include exhaustion, confusion, headache and vomiting. To avoid, wear high-factor sunscreen, reapply every three hours or straight after swimming, and drink plenty of water. If symptoms occur, move out of the sun immediately and try to cool the victim down by wrapping a wet towel around them. See a doctor as soon as possible. For more sun protection tips, check out The Best Sunscreens for Tonga + Sun Protection Tips.

Mosquito Bites

Mosquitos can leave a nasty itchy bite. The main reason to avoid mosquito bites as much as possible is to avoid diseases like dengue fever and chikungunya, which have the occasional outbreak in Tonga. Check out 10 Ways to Avoid Mosquito Bites in Tonga for ways to avoid bites.


Ciguatera is fish poisoning caused by eating reef fish that have eaten particular types of toxic algae. Symptoms occur within 24 hours of eating contaminated reef fish and include vomiting, diarrhoea and numbness in the fingers. The best way to prevent it is to avoid eating reef fish altogether; eating deep-sea fish, like tuna, wahoo and mahimahi, is fine.

Coral Cuts

Cuts from live coral can leave prolonged infections, so if you are injured by live coral, get out of the water immediately and cleanse the wound. Take out all of the bits of coral, apply antiseptic cream, and cover with a dressing. You should have all this stuff in your Tonga First Aid Kit!

Diving Decompression

Scuba diving is extremely popular in Tonga, but neglecting the strict depth and timing precautions of scuba diving can result in decompression sickness, otherwise known as “the bends”. Note that there are no decompression chambers in Tonga.

Infectious Diseases

Outbreaks of diseases can occur in Tonga. Traveller’s diarrhoea is the most common disease for visitors, while dengue fever, chikungunya, typhoid and meningitis have a lower risk of outbreaks.

Dengue Fever

Dengue fever is a mosquito-transmitted disease that has had a few outbreaks in Tonga in recent years. It is only the day-biting mosquitos (black and white striped) that cause the infection, but it’s good practice to try and avoid mosquito bites at all times – see our recommended 10 Best Insect Repellents for Tonga. Self-treatment includes paracetamol (not aspirin), lots of fluids and rest.


Similar to dengue fever, chikungunya is another mosquito-transmitted disease also spread by day-biting mosquitos. There is no vaccination or specific treatment for the disease, so, again, sensible mosquito avoidance is recommended.

E.coli (Traveller’s Diarrhoea)

E.coli is a virus resulting from food and water that is contaminated with faecal matter, for instance. Precautions to take include boiling water for at least 10 minutes if the water is not from a safe source and washing hands regularly. See Is the Water Safe to Drink in Tonga? for more tips. Symptoms include fever, drowsiness and diarrhoea. If symptoms occur, hydrate by taking small sips of fluids continuously, alternating between electrolytes and water. If you don’t have an electrolyte solution, drink Coca-Cola or salty broth. In most cases, you will need to wait out the symptoms, as antibiotics rarely treat E-coli effectively.


The COVID-19 virus has been present in Tonga. Symptoms are flu-like including fever, cough, tiredness and loss of taste or smell. It is recommended that you are fully vaccinated before travelling to Tonga. See Do You Need Vaccines to Travel to Tonga? for more details.

Typhoid Fever, Meningitis, Measles and Hepatitis A

While rare, typhoid fever, meningitis, measles and hepatitis A outbreaks have occurred in the past 15-20 years. It is recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to be up-to-date with routine vaccinations and to get travel vaccinations, such as diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and polio, regardless of where you are travelling to. Find out more in Do You Need Vaccines to Travel to Tonga?

How to Keep Safe in Tonga(c)

Natural Disasters in Tonga

Although Tonga is usually blessed with buckets of sunshine, its location in the South Pacific means that it is at risk of extreme weather events and natural disasters.


Cyclones can happen in Tonga, with increased risk in the South Pacific cyclone season between November and April. During severe cyclones, flying debris, flooding and power cuts can be an issue. Follow our advice in How to Prepare for a Cyclone in Tonga for safety precautions.

Earthquakes and Tsunamis

Tonga sits in an active earthquake zone, which sometimes triggers tsunamis. Tonga has had rare but serious incidents of being impacted by tsunamis. Anyone visiting Tonga should know how to identify the signs of a tsunami and know what to do in the case of one before visiting; The Guide to Earthquakes, Tsunamis & Volcanic Eruptions in Tonga will give you some pointers.

Volcanic Eruptions

Tonga is prone to volcanic eruptions, whose biggest danger is tsunamis caused by large volumes of displaced water during eruptions. Again, see The Guide to Earthquakes, Tsunamis & Volcanic Eruptions in Tonga for pointers.

Tonga Safety Tips: Is it Safe to Travel to Tonga?©

Dangerous Animals in Tonga

Tonga doesn’t have any poisonous spiders or poisonous land snakes (one of the 20 Fun Facts About Tonga) but there are venomous fish, as well as other animals that you’re best to avoid. These include:

  • Aedes aegypti – The day-biting mosquito that can transmit dengue fever
  • Centipede (molokai) – Will leave a painful bite if provoked
  • Dogs – More of a problem for their bark than their bite
  • Crown-of-thorns starfish – Has venomous spikes
  • Stonefish – Rare but camouflaged fish that have venomous spines
  • Fire coral – Has bright yellow branches and leaves a nasty sting or rash
  • Lionfish – Fish that leaves a painful sting
  • Man o war jellyfish – Rarely seen but they can get carried over reefs after storms
  • Cone shells (conus capitaneus) – Venomous sea snails that are capable of stinging humans
  • Sharks – The main danger of swimming with whales, which we explain in Is it Safe to Swim with Whales in Tonga?

For more information about the sort of animals you’ll see in Tonga, check out Wildlife in Tonga: Animals in Tonga & Where to See Them.

Tonga Safety Tips: Is it Safe to Travel to Tonga?©

Food and Water Hygiene

Food and water in Tonga are generally safe and readily available, but you shouldn’t drink from any old tap. Basic travel-health rules are worth keeping in mind. We go over a few food and water hygiene tips for Tonga here.

Know What Water is Safe to Drink

Tap water is generally not safe to drink, even if locals are drinking it. Resorts normally let guests know where to get safe drinking water at their facility. Many have their own filtration system installed but always be sure to ask where to get safe drinking water (as it’s not always from your bathroom’s tap). Otherwise, bottled water is readily available to buy in villages and towns in Tonga.

To avoid water-borne diseases, such as traveller’s diarrhoea, and reduce the negative impact bottled water has on the environment, take precautions like boiling water for about 10 minutes before drinking it. Water purifying tablets and Lifestraw bottles are also effective, but boiling water is the safest option.

See Is the Water Safe to Drink in Tonga? for much more of a deep dive into the subject.

Focus on Hygiene Especially When Staying with Locals

Staying at a guesthouse or with a local family can be an enriching cultural experience, but you will need to accept a small portion of risk with conditions being different from home. First, focus on hygiene by washing your hands regularly or using a hand sanitiser, especially before eating food. In the unlikely case that you do start feeling ill, act quickly by seeking medical attention. If you let the situation worsen, it may be very strenuous to wait to see a doctor.

Be Aware of Food Safety

Eating in restaurants or at tourist accommodations is usually very safe in Tonga. But if you’re eating street food, like from roadside barbecues or stalls, then there are a few things to be aware of. For instance, if you’re in an area that may have unsafe water, avoid eating salads or uncooked food (like ota ika) that might have been washed with contaminated water. Preferably, eat food that has been cooked in front of you. Vegetarian food is usually the safest option.

To avoid gastro bugs, use hand disinfectant and only eat cooked food. If you get diarrhoea, drink water regularly and alternate between electrolytes and water. If other symptoms occur, see a doctor.

Finally, avoid salmonella by not eating runny eggs or undercooked meat. If you have blood in your stool, see a doctor immediately.

Travellers with gluten intolerance can get advice from The Gluten-Free Guide to Tonga.

Tonga Safety Tips: Is it Safe to Travel to Tonga?©

Hospitals, Medical Centres and Pharmacies in Tonga

If you have health issues or serious injuries while in Tonga, then there are hospitals (some of which also act as medical centres/GPs), as well as private medical centres and pharmacies. Basic over-the-counter medical supplies can be bought at supermarkets.

Tonga Emergency Phone Numbers

General Emergency Services: 911
Tonga Police: 922
Fire brigade: 999
Medical assistance (ambulance): 933.

Pharmacies in Tonga

  • Neeru’s Pharmacy, Wellington Road, Nuku’alofa
  • Seini’s Pharmacy & Clinic, Longoteme Road, Nuku’alofa
  • Village Mission Pharmacy, Unga Road, Nuku’alofa
  • Fasi Pharmacy, Salote Road, Fasi, Nuku’alofa
  • Universal Pharmacy & Clinic, Taufa’ahau Road, Fanga ‘ Pilolevu, Nuku’alofa
  • Tukia’s Pharmacy, Sipu Road, Kolomotu’a, Nuku’alofa.

Medical Centres and Hospitals in Tonga

  • Vaiola Hospital, Taufa’ahau Road, Tofoa, Nuku’alofa
  • Niu’eiki Hospital, Main Road, Angaha, ‘Eua
  • Niu’ui Hospital, Fau Road, Pangai, Lifuka, Ha’apai
  • Prince Wellington Ngu Hospital, Mateialona Road, Neiafu, Vava’u
  • Dr. Ana Akauola’s Clinic, Siu’ilikutapu, Longolongo, Nuku’alofa
  • Friendly Islands Dental Clinic, Salote Road, Nuku’alofa
  • Universal Pharmacy & Clinic, Taufa’ahau Road, Fanga ‘ Pilolevu, Nuku’alofa
  • Seini’s Pharmacy & Clinic, Longoteme Road, Nuku’alofa
  • Chen’s Clinic, Taufa’ahau Road (near Cafe Escape), Nuku’alofa
  • Vaiola Hospital, Taufa’ahau Road, Tofoa, Nuku’alofa
  • Mu’a Health Centre, Taufa’ahau Road, Mu’a, Tongatapu
  • Universal Clinic & Pharmacy, Fatafehi Road, Neiafu, Vava’u
  • Seini’s Pharmacy & Clinic, Pahu, Kolofoou and ‘Utulangivaka, Vava’u.

For more essential services around the islands, take a look at the Information, Shops & Services in Tongatapu, ‘Eua, Ha’apai and Vava’u.

Tonga Safety Tips: Is it Safe to Travel to Tonga?©

Crimes Against Tourists in Tonga

Crime levels in Tonga are low. But like most societies, crime does occur so it pays to use commonsense precautions when it comes to safety. The main types of safety issues in Tonga are as follows…

Theft in Tonga

Property theft does occur in Tonga, including house invasions and bag snatching. However, the latter is more of a risk if walking alone at night, so try to avoid this by walking in groups, avoiding dodgy areas and suspicious people. Don’t leave valuable items on display. In short, theft is not something to be too worried about in Tonga, but a bit of commonsense precaution is always advised.

Sexual Harassment

While rare, sexual harassment has occurred to travellers in Tonga. Women should avoid walking around alone late at night. As per Tongan custom, it’s a good idea to wear modest clothing out in public areas, which may also help to avoid unwanted attention.

Violence in Tonga

Tonga is certainly not a violent country. However, the usual precautions like avoiding walking through poorly lit streets, hitchhiking alone or heading out to nightclubs alone should be taken.

Tonga Police

Emergency Services: 911
Tonga Police: 922

There are police stations in the following locations:

  • Nuku’alofa Police Station, Cnr of Salote and Lelue Roads, Nuku’alofa
  • Vaini Police Station, Taufa’ahau Road, Vaini, Tongatapu
  • Nukunuku Police Station, Hihifo Road, Nukunuku, Tongatapu
  • Mu’a Police Station, Taufa’ahau Road, Mu’a, Tongatapu
  • Angaha Police Station, Angaha, ‘Eua
  • Pangai Police Station, Corner of Hala Holopeka Road and Palace Road, Pangai, Lifuka, Ha’apai
  • Neiafu Police Station, Tu’i Road, Neiafu, Vava’u.
Tonga Safety Tips: Is it Safe to Travel to Tonga?©

Water Safety in Tonga

Being an island nation, a lot of activity revolves around the water in Tonga. Sharp coral reefs, volcanic rock, rips and strong currents are all hazards in Tonga so even strong swimmers should take precautions. Seek out local advice on where it’s safe to swim. Make sure that the boats you are going on have lifejackets or pack your own.


Even the strongest of swimmers can get caught out in strong rips and currents in Tonga. It’s best to seek out local advice if you are unsure where is safe to swim. Some beaches in Tonga, especially in front of resorts, have signs indicating where is safe to swim from beaches.

Many of the beaches in Tonga lead into sheltered lagoons inside protective reefs that offer safe swimming and snorkelling. However, currents can be strong around passages that drain lagoons, especially at falling tide so be aware.

Don’t swim alone. Keep an eye on kids.

Sea Life Hazards

One of the most common injuries that swimmers and snorkellers confront is coral cuts. Live coral stuck in a wound can cause prolonged infection, so it’s important to remove live coral from cuts as soon as possible. See the “Health Tips for Tonga” section above for advice on how to treat coral cuts.

There are no real dangers when it comes to sea life in Tonga. Venomous sea snakes are unlikely to attack and, even if they did, their teeth cannot puncture human skin or wetsuits. The man ‘o war jellyfish can be found in Tonga on occasion which can cause a painful sting but are not deadly. Sharks are present in Tonga’s waters but are highly unlikely to attack unless provoked or are hunting whale calves, which is one of the associated risks of swimming with whales. Avoid touching sea urchins, stonefish, cone shells and lionfish. Wear reef shoes.

Scuba Diving Safety

While safety is taken very seriously among scuba diving operators in Tonga, extra care and responsibility need to be taken by the divers themselves as there is no decompression chamber available in Tonga. Do not neglect the strict depth and timing precautions of scuba diving, which if not done correctly can result in decompression sickness, otherwise known as “the bends”.

Tonga Safety Tips: Is it Safe to Travel to Tonga?©

Safety on Boats

Tonga has a lower standard of safety when it comes to boat transport than what is experienced in more developed countries. While most tour operators have all the expected safety equipment: lifejackets, first aid box, flares, radio, etc. some tours and locals with personal boats might not take the same precautions. If in doubt, ask what safety gear is on board before deciding to hop in.

Tonga has a history of using old and unsafe vessels, resulting in the sinking of the passenger ferry, Princess Ashika, in 2009 which took 70 lives. However, since then, there have been vast improvements to the standards of ferries that run between Tongatapu and Vava’u. Take lifejackets for kids, especially as child-size lifejackets are a little harder to come by.

Tonga Safety Tips: Is it Safe to Travel to Tonga?©

Road Safety in Tonga

The final danger or potential hazard in Tonga is the roads. Although speed limits are low and there are efficient road rules in place, the roads can be congested in Nuku’alofa, and accidents on the road do happen. Some safety tips for driving on the roads in Tonga include:

  • Take it easy and stick to the speed limit
  • Watch out for children and animals on the road
  • Inspect rental cars before agreeing to hire
  • Wear a helmet when riding a scooter or bicycle
  • Take extra care when driving on unsealed roads
  • Don’t park under coconut trees
  • Wear your seatbelt (even if the locals don’t).

We have elaboration on these safety tips in the 10 Safety Tips for Driving in Tonga, as well as road rules to follow in How to Drive in Tonga + 10 Road Rules You Need to Know.

How to Keep Safe in Tonga(c)

Medical and Travel Insurance for Tonga

Hospitals are available on the main islands of Tongatapu, ‘Eua, Ha’apai and Vava’u. The more remote you go in Tonga, the more basic the health services are. If you have health insurance that does not cover you abroad, consider purchasing some travel insurance. Good travel insurance for Tonga should include cover for theft, illness and injury as a standard. It’s also worth adding on policies for evacuation and “dangerous sports” for travel insurance for Tonga, which usually includes snorkelling, scuba diving and surfing.

More on How to Keep Safe in Tonga

That’s it for our complete guide to health and safety in Tonga. For more Tonga safety tips, check out the following guides:

Finally, head over to The Complete Travel Guide to Tonga or get even more advice in our 30 Tips for Travelling in Tonga.


Robin (Lopini) C.

This article was reviewed and published by Robin, the co-founder of Tonga Pocket Guide. He has lived, worked and travelled across 16 different countries before settling in the South Pacific, so he knows a thing or two about planning the perfect trip in this corner of the world. Robin works and consults regularly with the Ministry of Tourism of Tonga. Robin is also the co-founder of several other South Pacific travel guides and is a regular host of webinars with the South Pacific Tourism Organisation.

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