Travel Advice: Car Rentals in Tonga
Renting a car is an amazing way to explore the islands of Tongatapu and Vava’u in Tonga! See the natural and historical sights at your own pace, stay out of town at an idyllic resort, get off the beaten track, and enjoy the many more reasons to hire a car in Tonga. So you know what to expect in terms of the vehicles available, the car rental companies, the costs and more, prepare yourself with this complete guide to renting a car in Tonga.
The Visitor’s Driving Licence
First things first, before you hit the road in Tonga, you’re going to need a Visitor’s Driving Licence. This allows travellers with overseas licences to drive in the country legally.
Visitor’s Driving Licences are available to purchase from the Ministry of Infrastructure building in Nuku’alofa or the Police Station in Neiafu. Alternatively, some car rental companies in Tongatapu have a licence to obtain a driving licence for you for an extra fee.
In order to get a Visitor’s Driving Licence, you need to be 18 years old or over and present your full overseas driving licence. If it is not written in English, you may need an IDP. The standard cost for a Visitor’s Driving Licence is around TOP$40.
Find out more about the Visitor’s Licence in How to Get a Tonga Visitor’s Driving Licence.
Where to Hire a Car in Tonga
Car hire in Tonga is only available in Tongatapu and Vava’u. These are the two largest islands in Tonga with the vastest road networks.
Car Hire in Tongatapu
There are around 10 car hire companies in Tongatapu, most of which are based in Nuku’alofa. However, airport drop-off is available, while some car hire companies also offer drop-offs to anywhere on the island.
Roads on Tongatapu are mostly sealed and well-maintained with a few short dirt and gravel roads.
Car Hire in Vava’u
There are less than five car hire companies in Vava’u. Car hire companies are based around Neiafu and Toula Village but offer drop-offs at the airport and at main locations where tourists stay around ‘Utu Vava’u and its surrounding islands.
The main roads of Vava’u are sealed but have a larger network of gravel and dirt roads where a 4WD is necessary.
The Vehicles You Can Hire in Tonga
A wide range of vehicle types is available to hire in Tonga, more so in Tongatapu than Vava’u. Almost all rental cars are secondhand Japanese imports, usually of the brand Toyota. While some rental cars are relatively recent at around eight years old, many cars are up to 20-25 years old.
Vehicles available to hire in Tonga include:
- Small cars, such as a Toyota Yaris or something similar
- Medium cars, such as a Toyota Corolla or something similar
- SUVs, such as a Toyota Rav4 or something similar
- 4WDs, such as a Toyota Hilux or something similar
- Scooters, see The Guide to Renting a Scooter in Tonga for more information
Tongatapu has a few additional vehicles available to hire, including:
- People-movers, such as a Toyota Alphard
- Minivans, such as a Toyota Hiace
The Car Rental Companies in Tonga
Tonga has around 15 car rental companies, most of which are based in Tongatapu. Most companies are local, while international brands like Avis are also present.
Car Rental Companies in Tongatapu
Most car rental companies are based in Nuku’alofa, the nation’s capital. The car rental companies in Tongatapu include:
- Star Rental Car
- Sunshine Rentals
- Me Rental
- FAB Rentals
- New Millennium Motors
- Jetsave Rentals
- Little Italy Rentals
- Me Rentals
- NOA Guesthouse
- Dayspring Lodge
Compare car rental companies in The Best Car Rentals in Tongatapu.
Car Rental Companies in Vava’u
Car rentals can also be found in Vava’u, mostly based around Neiafu and offering drop-offs to accommodation and the airport. The car rental companies in Vava’u include:
- Coconut Car Rentals
- Tropo Rentals (Tropicana Rentals)
- Ellena’s Car Rental
- Luke’s Car Rental
Compare car rental companies in The Best Car Rentals in Vava’u.
The Cost of Car Rentals in Tonga
Car rentals can be pretty affordable in Tonga. Each rental vehicle in Tonga has a day rate, as well as other associated costs. Additional costs include fuel, airport or accommodation drop-off and/or an insurance add-on if available.
An Important Note About Insurance
With the exception of two companies, insurance is not offered for car rentals in Tonga. This means that you are fully liable for any damage caused to the car during your rental period.
Day Rates for Car Rentals in Tonga
- Small car/day – TOP$50-$70
- Medium car/day – TOP$100-$140
- Premium car/day – TOP$150-$250
- Minivan/day – TOP$160-$250
Additional Costs for Renting a Car in Tonga
- Fuel/litre – TOP$2.60-$2.80
- Airport drop-off – TOP$25-$35
- Security deposit – TOP$300-$600
- Insurance/day – Around TOP$15
Learn more about the typical price of car rentals in How Much Does it Cost to Rent a Car in Tonga?
Other Things to Know About Car Rental in Tonga
There are a few more things you need to know about car rental in Tonga before you pick up the keys. As mentioned, some of the cars available to rent in Tonga are very old, so it’s best to check the vehicle thoroughly before agreeing to hire. Nevertheless, old dodgy cars are an exception to the rule, where most vehicles are well-maintained by car rental companies.
Another thing to note is that some car rental companies in Tonga only accept cash as payment. Many businesses in Tonga don’t accept credit or debit card, including some car rental companies. Always be sure to check with the company whether they accept card before pick-up.
Car rental offices are typically open from 8.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday, closing around 1.30pm on a Saturday and no offices open on a Sunday.
Official car rental companies will go through a rental agreement and car inspection with you. However, there have been some reports, especially in Vava’u, that some companies or locals that offer car rentals don’t go through this process.
And finally, although the legal driving age in Tonga is 18 years old, almost all car rental companies in Tonga require drivers to 21 years and over.
Check out more car rental advice in 10 Tips for Hiring a Car in Tonga.
Hitting the Road
Your car rental only really gets started when you put your keys in the ignition and hit the road! However, Tonga’s roads might have different rules than what you are used to. Certain rules, like driving on the left side of the road and giving way to vehicles turning right might throw you off, so make sure you’re aware of the traffic laws.
Some important road rules to remember include:
- Drive on the left side of the road
- The speed limit in urban areas/villages is 50km/h
- The speed limit outside of urban areas is 70km/h
- At roundabouts, give way to vehicles approaching from the left
- Give way to vehicles turning right
- You can park on the side of the road only on the leftmost side
- You can’t park on footpaths, bus stops, in front of an access road, within 6m/20ft of a pedestrian crossing, or within 30ft of an intersection
- You can’t overtake within 10m/30ft of an intersection
- You can’t overtake if a vehicle has stopped/slowed down to give way
- Observe road signage