Explore Tonga by Bus
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! 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 definitely a viable way of getting around Tonga’s main island, Tongatapu, although a little bit of patience and a sense of adventure is needed. This mantra is needed to its fullest extent on the other Tonga island that has bus transport, Vava’u. 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!
Tips for Travelling Tonga by Bus
- Use the buses in Tongatapu to travel, rely less on the buses in Vava’u
- Learn to identify the buses for Tongatapu: “HAHAKE” is eastern, “HIHIFO” is western and “VAIOLA” is around Nuku’alofa
- A sign with “Pasi” is a bus stop
- Hail down the bus by waving at the driver
- Know that the last buses to get back into town from around Tongatapu usually leave around 3pm
- 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
For more tips, see the 10 Tips for Taking the Bus in Tonga.
Local Buses in Tonga
Travelling by bus is available on only two of the 169 islands of Tonga, Tongatapu and Vava’u. The local buses are a cheap way to get around where fares cost around TOP$0.70-$3 per person per journey. Find out more about the cost of taking the bus in Tonga here.
Buses are old vehicles exported from China. Journeys often include loud music blasting and often a few quirks like faulty doors. The busiest time to take the bus is around the beginning and the end of the school day.
Buses in Tongatapu
Buses in Tongatapu make a cheap, cultural and viable way of getting around the island, as well as around the capital, Nuku’alofa. 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 down the bus from the side of the road.
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” on the front, western buses say “HIHIFO” on the front, and buses travelling around Nuku’alofa say “VAIOLA” on the front.
Buses in Tongatapu operate between 7am and 5pm, Monday-Friday and finish a little earlier on a Saturday. Buses do not operate on a Sunday. If out of town taking a bus back into town, take the bus no later than 3pm 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.
Buses in Vava’u
The buses on Vava’u are a little less reliable than the buses on Tongatapu as a transport method for getting around if you’re a tourist. Buses tend to operate in conjunction with the school run, changing if school finishes early, for instance. There is no schedule, but buses tend to run Monday to Friday. There are no buses on a weekend.
Buses operate on the main island of Vava’u and to villages on its causeway-connected islands. There is a main bus stop in Neiafu on the corner of Tu’i Road and Fatafehi Road where buses will wait to be full (or near enough) to depart. Ask the driver when the bus returns from the destination where you are going (it’s usually soon after arriving, making it an unsuitable option for day trips).
Bus stops in the villages around Vava’u sometimes have bus shelters. Otherwise, you’ll need to hail down the bus from the side of the road.
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
The cost of airport shuttles is different for different locations. Typically, it’s around TOP$15-$30 between Fua’amotu Airport and Nuku’alofa. Follow the “Shuttle” signs from the arrival area at Fua’amotu Airport. To get elsewhere on Tongatapu, it will be approximately TOP$30-$60. Expect shuttle prices to be similar on the other island groups or TOP$60-$110 per person if the transfer also involves a boat transfer.
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.
Bus Tours in Tonga
Escorted tours are available on the islands of Tongatapu, Vava’u and in a more limited capacity on ‘Eua and Ha’apai. Tours on Tongatapu and Vava’u are usually in mini-buses, mini-vans or cars, while tours on ‘Eua are in 4WD trucks and tours in Ha’apai are in cars or 4WD trucks. Most tours are half-day or full-day tours, while there is also a very limited number of multi-day tours which involve islands tours, overwater travel, some activities and meals. Guided tours provide a convenient and informative way to see the sights of Tonga with like-minded travellers and a local guide.
Guided Tour Operators in Tongatapu
- Teta Tours & Travel (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Tonga Travel Troupe (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Jones Travel (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Encounters Travel
- Tonga Holiday Villa (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Toni’s Guesthouse
- House of Tonga
Find out more in The Best Guided Tours of Tongatapu.
Guided Tour Operators in Vava’u
- Moana Island Tours
- Explore Vava’u
- Port of Refuge Villas
- About Vava’u
Find out more in the 5 Best Guided Tours of Vava’u.
Guided Tour Operators in ‘Eua
- The Hideaway
- Taina’s Place
- Blue Water Retreat
- Ovava Tree Lodge
- Seta Homestay
Find out more in the 10 Must-Dos in ‘Eua.