The Public Transport Network in Tonga
Tonga is a destination of discovery, where some of the best adventures can be had by taking public transport. “Public transport” in Tonga is all privately run but serves the public in the forms of bus travel, taxis, ferry travel and domestic flights. If you want to explore the islands and get further around Tonga, no doubt that you will find yourself using at least one of these transport options. So see what you’re getting yourself into in this guide to public transportation in Tonga!
5 Tips for Using Public Transportation in Tonga
Before we get into our public transportation guide to Tonga, here are a few quick tips from the travel team at Tonga Pocket Guide.
- Check and double-check the ferry schedule – If they want to leave early, they’ll leave early. If they want to leave a few hours late, they’ll do just that. If they are cancelled due to bad weather, well thank god.
- When you get on a bus, ask the driver for the approximate time for the return bus as buses don’t run on any particular schedule
- Have a contingency plan for cancelled flights – Domestic flights in Tonga are notorious for being cancelled mainly due to bad weather.
- Ask the going rate before accepting taxi rides; as taxis in Tonga rarely run on meters
- Prepare yourself for a lengthy journey when taking the ferry.
To see all of your options for travelling across Tonga, be sure to check out the Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga.
Buses in Tonga
Tongatapu is relatively well-connected with a local bus network, with buses servicing the west side of the island, the east side and around Nuku’alofa. Buses operate between 7 am and 5 pm Monday to Friday and finish earlier on Saturday, with approximately three buses running each route. However, note that you should return from your destination outside of Nuku’alofa by 3 pm if you want to make it back into town.
Bus travel in Tonga is the cheapest form of public transportation, where fares are between TOP$0.80-$3.50 per person. Buses are old vehicles exported from China and provide a real slice of life in Tonga.
Taxis in Tonga
Taxis provide another way of getting around Tongatapu and Vava’u. Taxis in Tonga can be identified by the “T” at the front of the registration plate, as well as by most having a “taxi” sign on the roof of the vehicle.
Most taxis don’t run on meters, usually having set fares for certain routes. Ask the going rate before accepting a ride. A-to-B trips are relatively affordable, but full-day sightseeing can be pricey unless you can get a group together to split the cost. You can check out typical taxi fares in Taxi Prices in Tonga: The Costs You Need to Know.
Taxis can be found at the airport terminals on Tongatapu, as well as at taxi stands in the town centres of Nuku’alofa and Neiafu. The best way to book a taxi, however, is to call a taxi company.
Ferries in Tonga
With 169 islands and five different island groups, much transport in Tonga involves travelling over water. One of the public transport options for overwater travel is the ferry service.
Ferries travel to every island group in Tonga. With island groups being scattered quite far apart from each other, ferry journeys are a multi-hour process. The shortest trip is between Tongatapu and ‘Eua at around two hours, while one of the longest trips is some 16+ hours between Tongatapu and Vava’u.
For overwater travel, the ferries are the cheapest transport method. There are passenger fares for the ferries, as well as cabins on some vessels. Although you can take vehicles onto ferries, car rental companies in Tonga will generally not allow you to take vehicles between islands.
Learn more about what the different types of ferries are, where they go and how much they cost in The Guide to Interisland Ferry Travel in Tonga.
Flights in Tonga
Your alternative overwater transport option is flying between island groups. Flights in Tonga operate daily, except for Sundays. There is one domestic carrier available.
Flights are a quicker and more comfortable way to get between islands, taking approximately one hour to fly between Tongatapu and Vava’u, for instance. However, this does come at a more significant price compared to taking the ferry.
Flights are frequent between Tongatapu, Ha’apai, ‘Eua and Vava’u. Flights to The Niuas, however, are less frequent and require bookings months in advance. It’s also important to note that flights are often delayed or cancelled in Tonga, so you should avoid connecting a domestic flight with an international flight departing Tonga.
For more information about domestic flights and Tonga’s only airline, check out The Guide to Domestic Flights in Tonga.
More About Public Transportation in Tonga
That’s it for our guide to public transportation in Tonga. For more about transport, head to the following articles:
- The Guide to Cycling in Tonga
- How to Get an Airport Transfer in Tonga
- A Travellers’ Guide to Hitchhiking in Tonga
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.