Driving in Tonga: Safety Tips
Generally, Tonga is a safe country to drive in. The speed limits are low in comparison to other countries and the main roads are typically well-maintained. You will, however, encounter a few hazards that you might not be used to, from the odd obscure road rule to all kinds of animals on the road. You’ll also want to pay special attention to the vehicle you are renting. So is it safe to drive in Tonga? Find out more in this guide.
Note that there are only two islands you can rent a car on: Tongatapu and Vava’u, so most tips only refer to driving on these islands. For more driving tips, see How to Drive in Tonga. Plus, see How to Get a Tonga Visitor’s Driving Licence.
Safety Tips for Driving in Tonga
- Drive on the left side of the road
- Watch out for animals on the roads
- Don’t park under a coconut tree
- Stick to the speed limit – no more than 70km/h outside of urban areas
- Take extra care on gravel or dirt roads
- Inspect rental vehicles before agreeing to hire
- Be aware of giving way to vehicles turning right
- Don’t drink and drive
- Wear your seatbelt
- Lock your car and hide your valuables
For more details on each safety tip, see 10 Safety Tips for Driving in Tonga.
What is the State of the Roads in Tonga?
The main roads in Tonga are generally very good. Main roads are sealed with limited potholes (unlike many of its South Pacific neighbours). There are, however, side roads that are either unmaintained sealed roads with potholes, gravel roads or dirt roads. These require you to drive with extra care.
You’ll find that some attractions that you might want to get to in Tongatapu are down dirt roads. The good thing is that most of these dirt roads only start to deteriorate to a state where a car might get stuck/damaged toward the end of the road, so it’s best to judge how far your car will go before you need to park up. Then, you can often just walk the short distance for the rest of the way.
In Vava’u, some attractions are down long dirt roads which should only be attempted in 4WD vehicles with high clearance. If you’re just sticking to the main roads of Vava’u, you should be fine with a standard car.
The Condition of Vehicles
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, that there are no nasty dents, and 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.
Check out more tips for hiring a car in Things to Know About Car Rental in Tonga.
Road Hazards in Tonga
There are a few road hazards in Tonga that you might not be used to. It’s a good idea to be aware of them, so you’re not taken by surprise while behind the wheel.
Animals on the Road
In Tongatapu, it’s dogs crossing the roads and the odd chicken clucking about. In Neiafu, look out for dogs, chickens and pigs, pigs and more pigs! If you see animals on the side of the road, slow down so you are able to respond safely. Most of the time, animals will just move out of the way.
The street lighting in some areas of Tonga can be poor, while power cuts can also occur. For these reasons, you should be extra cautious while driving at night.
Parking in Tonga
If you’re parking on the side of the road in Tonga, you need to make sure you park on the side of the road nearest to the lefthand side. You are not permitted to park within 10m/30ft of an intersection, on a footpath, within 20ft of a pedestrian crossing, in front of any access road, or on a bus stop. Finally, avoid parking under coconut trees.
Road Signs in Tonga
The road signage in Tonga is extensive and kept relatively up-to-date so you can be aware of upcoming hazards, from speed bumps to sharp turns. You should also drive no more than the speed limit signs show, commonly 50km/h in villages and 70km/h elsewhere.
Don’t Drink and Drive
Driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs in Tonga is strictly prohibited. The blood alcohol limit for driving in Tonga is 0.015%.
There are no traffic lights in Tonga, so be careful when approaching intersections.
More About Whether it is Safe to Drive in Tonga
- Is it Easy to Drive in Tonga?
- The Driving Times in Tonga You Need to Know
- Can You Drive in Tonga With an Overseas Licence?
That’s it for our guide on whether it is safe to drive in Tonga. Be sure to bookmark our Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga for even more transport tips.