The Complete Guide to Taking the Bus in Tonga
Travelling on a budget? Bus travel in Tonga might just be your new best friend, allowing you to get across islands for no more than TOP$3.50! Catching the bus in Tonga is not only a means for getting from A to B, but a cultural encounter to experience the islands like a local. Bus travel is a viable way of getting around Tonga’s main island, Tongatapu, although a bit of patience and a sense of adventure are needed. As for other methods of bus transport, you’ll also find guided mini-bus tours in Tonga, as well as airport shuttles. We’ll explain it all in this guide to how to travel around Tonga by bus!
5 Tips for Travelling Tonga by Bus
- Use it for the experience and the price; not for a timely and efficient transport service
- Learn to identify the buses for Tongatapu: “HAHAKE” is eastern, “HIHIFO” is western and “VAIOLA” is around Nuku’alofa
- Buses don’t have a schedule – ask the driver when the bus will return from the destination you’re heading to
- Know where you want to stop? Shout “Tu’u atu heno!” which means “Stop there!”
- Pay the driver when you get off the bus, not when you get on.
See the full list elaborating on each tip in the 10 Tips for Taking the Bus in Tonga.
Tongatapu Bus Routes: Where to Catch the Bus on Tongatapu
Travelling by bus is available on only one of the 169 islands of Tonga; Tongatapu. Buses in Tongatapu make a cheap, cultural and viable way of getting around the island, as well as around the capital, Nuku’alofa.
How and Where to Catch the Bus on Tongatapu
There are two bus stations on the waterfront of Nuku’alofa near Vuna Wharf, well-signposted to indicate which bus station has buses going where. For instance, there are signs for the “Bus Station Central” and “Bus Station East West”. Bus stops in urban areas are indicated by a “Pasi” or a “Bus Stop” sign. In other villages, you’ll need to hail the bus from the side of the road.
Bus Routes on Tongatapu
Buses travel to both the eastern and western districts of Tongatapu, taking approximately one hour to get to the furthest point of the east/west side from Nuku’alofa. Eastern buses are marked with “HAHAKE” or “LAPAHA” on the front, western buses say “HIHIFO” or “HOUMA ” on the front, and buses travelling around Nuku’alofa say “VAIOLA” on the front.
See the “Bus Fares on Tongatapu” section below to see which specific villages are on the bus route.
Note that there are no buses to Fua’amotu Airport.
Buses in Vava’u
Note that public buses no longer operate in Vava’u.
Bus Fares on Tongatapu
How much does it cost to travel Tonga by bus? The short answer is “not much”! Buses provide the cheapest transport for getting around Tongatapu, where fares will only ever cost you around a couple of Pa’anga per trip.
Bus fares in Tongatapu are determined by the distance travelled, while a discount is given to students. In short, bus fares are as follows:
Around Nuku’alofa (VAIOLA): Approximately TOP$1
To the eastern side (HAHAKE): Approximately TOP$1-$3.50
To the western side (HIHIFO): Approximately TOP$1-$2.50
More specifically, the prices between Nuku’alofa Vuna Wharf Bus Stations and all of the villages around Tongatapu are as follows:
- Mataika, Pili, Ngele’ia, Fasi, Pahu, Fanga, Tufuenga, Longolongo, Hala’ovave, Kolomotu’a – TOP¢80
- Haveluloto, Tofoa, Falemahaki, Spou, Houmakelikao, Hofoa, Halaleva, Ma’ufanga, Patangata, Popua – TOP$1
- Pea, Ha’ateiho, Veitongo, Tokomololo, Mataliku, Sia’atoutai, Puke – TOP$1.20
- Nualei, Lakepa, Matafonua, Fatai, Lomaiviti, Hauloto, Liahona, Kahoua – TOP$1.50
- Vaini, Piula, Hu’atolitoli, ‘Utulau, Ha’akame, Ha’alalo, Nukunuku, Te’ekiu, Masilamea – TOP$1.70
- Malapo, Holonga, ‘Alakifonua, Vaotu’u, Houma, Matahau, Fo’ui, Ha’avakatolo, Kolovai, Folaha, Longoteme, Nukuhetulu – TOP$2
- Tatakamotonga, Lapaha, Pelehake, Ha’utu, Kala’au, Mata’e Vakapuna, Fahefa, ‘Ahau, Kanokopulu – TOP$2.30
- Talasiu, Hoi, Fua’amotu, Ha’atafu – TOP$2.50
- Talafo’ou, Makaunga, Nukuleka, Nakolo – TOP$2.80
- Navutoka, Manuka, Hamula, Ha’asini – TOP$3.10
- Lavengatonga, Fatumu, Haveluliku, Kolonga – TOP$3.30
- Afa, Niutoua – TOP$3.50.
Note About the Bus Fares
The prices stated above are for the adult fare only. There are no child fares, but discounted fares are given to students, i.e. those studying in primary, middle and high schools, form 7 and technical schools. All students must wear a uniform or present an ID to receive a discount. Note that discounts are only applied on school days.
How to Pay for Buses in Tonga
In Tonga, you pay the bus driver with cash when you get off the bus. Say where you got on the bus and the driver will tell you the fee.
You can only pay for bus fares with cash. Because bus fares are so low, it’s best to pay with coins and small notes. That way, the bus driver will likely have enough change to give you.
For more costs to expect in Tonga, take a look at our guide, Tonga Travel Budget: How Much Does a Trip to Tonga Cost?
Tongatapu Bus Schedule
Buses in Tongatapu operate between 7 am and 5 pm, Monday to Friday and finish a little earlier on a Saturday. Buses do not operate on a Sunday.
Buses only run their route approximately three times a day: one in the morning in time for the morning school run, one time mid-afternoon, and one time in the late afternoon in time for the after-school run.
If out of town taking a bus back into town, take the bus no later than 3 pm as a general rule.
Buses do not run on a set schedule, but you can ask the driver what time the bus returns from your destination to get a general idea of when to catch a return bus.
Other Bus Services in Tonga for Travellers
What are the other ways for visitors to take the bus in Tonga? There are airport transfers by bus and a limited selection of bus tours on the island.
Accommodation / Airport Shuttles in Tonga
While there are no official buses that travel to/from the airports in Tonga, there are airport shuttle services operated by various tour companies, as well as accommodation providers. They often provide a cheaper alternative to taking a taxi from the airport.
Airport Transfers in Tonga
Airport transfers can be arranged in advance with accommodation providers on all island groups or through tour companies like Teta Tours & Travel on Tongatapu. Alternatively, taxis wait at Fua’amotu International and Domestic Airport (Tongatapu) or can be booked in advance for airport transfers at Lupepauʻu International Airport (Vava’u). Learn more about taxi transfers in The Guide to Taxis in Tonga.
Airport shuttles are a door-to-door service, where drivers will wait for you at the airport and transport you to your accommodation and vice versa. Learn more about your airport transfer options in our guide, Tonga Airports: The Best Airport Transfers.
Bus Tours in Tonga
Escorted tours are available on the islands of Tongatapu, Vava’u and ‘Eua. Tours on Tongatapu are usually in mini-buses, mini-vans or cars, tours in Vava’u are with local taxis, while tours on ‘Eua are in 4WD trucks with accommodation providers. Tours are half-day or full-day tours and provide a convenient and informative way to see the sights of Tonga with like-minded travellers and a local guide.
Start exploring bus tours in Tonga in the 10 Best Sightseeing Tours in Tonga.
More on How to Travel Around Tonga by Bus
That’s it for our guide to taking the bus in Tonga. For more tips on Tonga transport, take a look at the following:
- 10 Tips for Taking the Bus in Tonga
- The Guide to Public Transport in Tonga
- 5 Best Guided Island Land Tours of Tongatapu
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in our Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga.