How to Commute in Tonga
Although Tonga is made up of 169 islands, only a handful of islands have public transport and car rentals to make “commuting” in Tonga a thing. Travellers will find bus and taxi transport on Tongatapu and Vava’u, while transport on other islands will largely rely on your accommodation provider that will offer transport to get you to the resort/guest house. Check out the guide to commuting in Tonga to learn more about public transport.
Tips for Commuting in Tonga
- The only semi-reliable bus service in Tonga is in Tongatapu
- Pay for bus fares with cash – small notes and coins
- You may need a Visitor’s Driving Licence to legally drive in Tonga as a visitor
- Taxis can be identified by the “T” at the beginning of their number plate
- Taxis have meters in Tongatapu and usually have set prices in Vava’u
- Day bicycle hire is available in Tongatapu, Vava’u, Ha’apai and ‘Eua.
- Day horse hire is available in ‘Eua (yes, really).
Buses in Tonga
Tonga’s two most developed islands, Tongatapu and Vava’u, are the only islands with a bus service. These are just about the only “commuting” forms of transport in Tonga other than having your own car.
The bus network on Tongatapu keeps Nuku’alofa and the islands’ villages well connected. Buses operate Monday-Saturday, 7am-5pm (finishing earlier on a Saturday). Bus stations can be easily found by Vuna Wharf in Nuku’alofa while standing at bus stop signposts and/or hailing down the bus from the roadsides are other ways of catching the bus.
Vava’u also has a bus network, which operates primarily as a school bus service, picking up the public along the way. These buses a less reliable as a transport method.
Bus fares are approximately TOP$0.70-$3, depending on how far you’re going and your age.
Taxis in Tonga
Taxis in Tonga work the same as they do elsewhere in the world, offering a door-to-door service. On Vava’u, taxis also offer tours around the island. Taxis are only available in Tongatapu, Vava’u and occasionally on Lifuka and Foa islands in Ha’apai.
Taxis in Tonga have a number plate with the letter “T” at the front of the registration, as well as most having a “Taxi” sign on the roof of the vehicle. Taxis don’t operate on Sundays (but guest houses might know some secret Sunday taxi operators, which are usually just family members to pay to give you a lift…).
Taxis in Tongatapu
Taxis meet incoming flights at Fua’amotu Airport at both terminals. General fares between Nuku’alofa and the airport are around TOP$30-$5, while taxis between the domestic and international terminal cost around TOP$5.
For taking a taxi within the city of Nuku’alofa, trips typically cost TOP$5-$8.
For travelling longer distances on Tongatapu or between the airport and elsewhere on the island, there is a minimum fare of TOP$3 for the first kilometre and around TOP$1.50 for every kilometre after that.
Taxis in Vava’u
Taxis meet incoming flights at Lupepauʻu Airport, as well as park up along Kovana Road in Neiafu, transporting passengers around Neiafu, Vava’u Island and its causeway-connected islands.
Taxis usually have set prices to go between destinations, where most rates are recommended by the Labour and Commerce Department. For instance, a reasonable fare between the airport and Neiafu is TOP$25 and around town is TOP$5-$10.
Island land tours are more variable and can start from TOP$25 costing an hourly rate which is usually around TOP$100 an hour.
Taxis in Ha’apai
Taxi services are variable on Lifuka Island of Ha’apai, with one or two taxi operators coming and going on the scene all of the time. Taxis like “Tom’s Taxi” and “Becky and Longo” offer taxi services, but up-to-date taxi information should be checked with the Ha’apai Visitor Centre or the Mariner’s Cafe in Pangai.
Learn more about taxis in Tonga in the Guide to Taxis in Tonga.
Driving in Tonga
Finally, travelling by car is another way to commute in Tonga. For visitors, renting a car is a good option to allow freedom to go where you want on Tonga’s most developed islands, Tongatapu and Vava’u. You may need a Visitor’s Driving Licence to legally drive in Tonga.
For more tips on renting a car in Tonga, head to our Car Rental category.
Driving Tips for Tonga
The roads in Tonga are a mix of main roads that are sealed and generally in good condition (not pothole-ridden like you’ll find in many other South Pacific countries) and dirt roads. While hiring a 2WD is Ok for getting around Tongatapu, we recommend hiring a 4WD or at least a vehicle with high clearance for visiting some of the lookouts and beaches around Vava’u.
Tourist attractions are well signposted in Tonga with brown road signs. Main roads have names, but there are many roads without names making direction-giving a little trickier in Tonga. It’s best to travel with a map or load a map on your phone.
The speed limits in Tonga are around 70km/h outside of urban areas and usually around 40km/h in villages and towns. Hazards to be aware of on the roads include chickens, dogs, pigs and people.
Cycling in Tonga
Bicycles are a way of travelling short distances in Tonga, or long distances depending on how fit you are. Consider cycling to explore islands like Lifuka and Foa Island (Ha’apai) or exploring the immediate area of where you hire the bike from (usually a resort or in a town like Nuku’alofa or Neiafu).
Bike hire can either be free at some resorts or TOP$15-$30 a day. E-bikes in Nuku’alofa are approximately TOP$50 a day.
Learn more in Can You Bike Around Tonga?