What are the Public Transport Options 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 are all privately run but serve the public in the forms of bus travel, taxis, ferry travel and domestic flights. If you want to explore the islands and get further in 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 transport in Tonga!
Before we jump into our guide to public transport in Tonga, be sure to bookmark our Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga for even more transport tips.
Ways to Get Around Tonga
While this guide outlines some of the public transport available in Tonga, here’s a quick list of all of the types of transport in the Kingdom.
- Local buses
- Car rental
- Domestic flights
- Guided tours
- Accommodation transfers
- Airport transfers
- Sailing charters
- Bicycle rental
Learn more about all of these transport methods in 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga.
Buses in Tonga
Tongatapu is well-connected with a local bus network, with buses servicing the west side of the island, the east side and around Nuku’alofa. Vava’u also has a bus service taking people around the main island and its causeway-connected islands. This bus service, however, is less frequent and often return from its destination straight away not making the option suitable for day trips.
Bus travel in Tonga is the cheapest form of public transport, where fares are between TOP$0.70-$3 per person. Buses are old vehicles exported from China, where the experience often involves booming music and a real slice of life in Tonga.
Find out more about taking the bus with our complete guide to How to Travel Around Tonga By Bus.
Taxis in Tonga
Taxis provide another way of getting around Tongatapu, Vava’u and marginally on Lifuka Island of Ha’apai. 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. You can check out typical taxi fares in Taxi Prices in Tonga: The Costs You Need to Know.
Taxis can be found at the airports in Tongatapu and Vava’u, as well as in the main towns of the islands, Nuku’alofa and Neiafu. Accommodations can book taxis for you, but know that sometimes they might book an “unofficial” taxi, which is typically a family member with a car.
Find out more about taxi transport in The Guide to Taxis in Tonga.
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, where ferry companies have a mismatch of boats, from fast catamarans to cargo ferries to barge ferries. 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 one hour on the fast catamaran boat, 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, with fares being less than TOP$100 to get to the Vava’u islands and only up to TOP$30 to get to ‘Eua, for instance. Fares are more expensive for the fast catamarans than they are for the slower cargo/barge ferries.
Learn more about what the different types of ferries are, where they go and how much they cost in The Guide to Travelling in Tonga by Ferry.
Flights in Tonga
Your alternative overwater transport option is flying between island groups. Flights in Tonga operate daily, except for Sundays, where there is only one domestic carrier available.
Flights are a quicker and more comfortable way to get between islands, taking one hour to fly between Tongatapu and Vava’u, for instance. However, this does come at a price with the said journey costing around TOP$340 one-way.
Flights are frequent between Tongatapu, Ha’apai, ‘Eua and Vava’u, however, flights to The Niuas are less frequent. It’s also important to note that flights are delayed or cancelled often 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 Flights in Tonga.