7-Day Budget and Backpacking Itinerary for Tonga
If you only have one week to explore The Kingdom of Tonga, then you have plenty of time to comfortably see two of the five island groups. For those on a budget and on limited time, the best and cheapest islands to experience include Tongatapu and ‘Eua. Both of these islands are brimming with fun free and cheap activities, are scattered with affordable accommodations, and offer all of the must-do activities that most backpackers come to Tonga for. Check out our sample Tonga budget and backpacking itinerary for seven days!
While you’re here, don’t forget to open The Backpacking & Budget Travel Guide to Tonga; your bible to planning a trip to Tonga on the cheap!
Overview: Tonga Budget and Backpacking One-Week (7-Day) Itinerary
- Day 1 – Arrival in Tonga
- Day 2 – Explore Tongatapu
- Day 3 – Tongatapu to ‘Eua
- Days 4 & 5 – Explore ‘Eua
- Day 6 – ‘Eua to Nuku’alofa
- Day 7 – Departure Day.
How to Get Around Tonga in One Week
The beauty of the South Pacific islands is that getting around often means also using the water as a highway! While we go over some transport tips in the itinerary below, here’s a quick overview of how to get around using this 7-day budget itinerary for Tonga.
Road Transport in Tonga
Upon arrival to Tongatapu and ‘Eua, accommodations typically offer airport transfers or car rental companies can deliver vehicles to the airport. Tongatapu also has taxis, which can work out to be the cheapest option for multiple travellers. Check out The Cheapest Airport Transfers in Tonga for more on the subject.
For travelling on each of the islands, car hire offers the most flexibility and convenience yet is reasonably priced in Tonga. Get advice on car hire from What You Need to Hire a Car in Tonga. Alternatively, this itinerary is doable on Tongatapu with some taxis in the mix (see The Complete Guide to Taxis in Tonga), while taking guided tours such as the 10 Best Sightseeing Tours in Tonga are available on both Tongatapu and ‘Eua.
Overwater Transport in Tonga
In this itinerary, we recommend the ferry for crossing between Tongatapu and ‘Eua which is much cheaper than taking a flight – see Tonga Ferry Guide: How to Use Ferries for Interisland Travel. Note, however, that no ferries operate on a Sunday and are prone to cancellations due to bad weather; that’s why this itinerary allows for extra days at each destination, as well as leaves a day between domestic and international flights.
For all of your transport options across the islands, check out our Tonga Transport Guide: 15 Best Ways to Get Around Tonga.
Day 1 – Arrival in Tonga
Travel time: 30 mins airport transfer.
Mālō e leilei and welcome to Tonga! After going through the arrivals procedures at Fua’amotu International Airport, get an airport transfer to your first destination on this budget itinerary; Nuku’alofa!
You might have time to do a bit of city exploration on the first day, seeing the Royal Palace and browsing the Talamahu Market. Otherwise, scout out The Cheap Eats in Nuku’alofa for some real Tongan cuisine!
Budget Accommodation in Nuku’alofa
- The Village Backpackers
- NOA Guesthouse
- ‘Utu’one Bed & Breakfast
- Winnie’s B&B
- Backpackers Townhouse (Kapeta Backpackers)
Check out our top recommendations in the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Nuku’alofa.
Pick up some fresh local ingredients from the Talamahu Market and spruce up something at your self-catering accommodation. Otherwise, try authentic Tongan cuisine like lu and ‘ota ika at Mum’s Cafe (Cnr Fatafehi and Laifone Road). If you’re not feeling quite that adventurous, Three Men’s Fastfood (Taufau’ahau Village) have affordable burgers/paninis, and pizzas at their Vuna Road Bus Station branch.
Day 2 – Explore Tongatapu
Travel time: 1-3 hours drive for sightseeing (see The Driving Times & Distances in Tonga).
You only need a day to explore the sights of Tongatapu! Luckily, most of them are free to visit and only a small selection have a small fee. You could hire a car to see the sights following A Self-Guided Day Trip of Tongatapu or you may find it’s less hassle to jump on an island tour for a few more pa’anga (it’s usually cheaper if you can get a group of you together, though). Check out island tours in The 5 Best Guided Tours of Tongatapu.
Free/Cheap Things to Do on Tongatapu
- Check out the Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon
- Explore and swim in ‘Anahulu Cave
- Get awesome views from the Hufangalpue Landbridge and Lookout
- Watch the Flying Foxes in Kolovai
- Go beach-hopping around Tongatapu
- Watch the Fishing Pigs in Navutoka
- Take a look at the Three-Headed Coconut Tree
- See the amazing displays of the Mapu ‘a Vaea Blowholes
- See the unbelievable Tsunami Rock…
… And there’s a lot more where that came from! For more details on each activity, see the 20 Free & Cheap Things To Do on Tongatapu.
While out sightseeing, stop by Ofeina Restaurant (Veitongo) which serves up Tongan dishes like lu sipi, sipi soya, naketi moa, kelevi ika and more for an ultra-cheap price! If you want to “treat yourself”, Garden Cafe (Vaini) is also highly recommended.
Back in Nuku’alofa, dine on delicious curry and dahl at Chand’s Curry House (Taufa’ahau Road) or get your Mexican fix from Inglewood LA Snacks (Wellington Road). See The Top Cheap Eats in Tonga to see more options.
Day 3 – Nuku’alofa to ‘Eua
Travel time: 5 mins wharf transfer + 2 hrs ferry + 5-10 mins wharf transfer (see Tonga Travel Times & Distances).
You’ll have the stomach of a sailor once you take the ferry to the backpacker’s island paradise of ‘Eua! The crossing is the shortest and the cheapest in Tonga. You’ll arrive at Nafanua Wharf where it’s best to have arranged for your accommodation to pick you up as there is no public transport on the island. Otherwise, rental vehicles can be delivered to the wharf. Luckily, all of the accommodation on ‘Eua is budget accommodation!
Budget Accommodation in ‘Eua
- ‘Alakoka Tahi Moana Guest House
- Highlight Guesthouse
- Falakiko Guesthouse
- Talei’s Guesthouse
- Seta’s Guesthouse
Learn more about the budget stays in the 5 Best Budget Accommodations in ‘Eua.
With very few options for eating out on ‘Eua, your best bet is to self-cater. Alternatively, ‘Alakoka Tahi Moana Guesthouse (Angaha) even serves meals to non-guests as long as you put in your order early (usually before 1 pm). For more ideas, head to The Complete Travel Guide to ‘Eua which lists restaurants.
Days 4 & 5 – Explore ‘Eua
Travel time: 30-40 mins while sightseeing (see The Driving Times & Distances in Tonga).
The island of ‘Eua is somewhere to embrace nature. Hiking, cycling, bird watching, watching whales from shore, trying a Tongan “umu” feast and looking out for wild horses are all inexpensive ways to enjoy this island. Even the 4WD land tours are good value per person should you not feel like walking to the natural land bridges, rock gardens, giant banyan trees, impressive sinkholes and more.
Otherwise, ‘Eua is your final chance to do some whale swimming if it’s the season or you might want to do some fishing with the locals. See some more “treat yourself” experiences in the 50 Best Things to Do on ‘Eua.
Free/Cheap Things to Do in ‘Eua
- Go on a self-guided hike through the ‘Eua National Park or Lakufa’anga Rock Gardens
- Cool off at Hafu Pool and check out Big ‘Ovava Tree #1
- Marvel at the Lianga Huo ‘a Maui Landbridge
- Check out the Big ‘Ovava Tree #2
- See all the natural attractions in a 4WD land tour
- Look out for the red shining parrot
- Spot whales from the shore
- Go to a Sunday church service
- Experience a faikava; drinking kava with the locals
Find out more about each activity in the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in & Eua.
For when you can’t be bothered to cook, Talei’s Restaurant (Angaha) serves all your comfort classics, from ika kelevi (fish in sauce) to fish/sausage/chicken and chips/manioke, and all for a very very affordable price.
Day 6 – ‘Eua to Nuku’alofa
Travel time: 5-10 mins wharf transfer + 2 hrs ferry + 5 mins wharf transfer.
Get your accommodation provider to drop you off at the wharf where it’s time to head back to Nuku’alofa for the last time. You will likely have time to do one or two of the below experiences in Nuku’alofa if you haven’t done so already:
Free/Cheap Things to Do in Nuku’alofa
- Snap a pic of the Royal Palace
- Check out the Royal Tombs
- See amazing arts and crafts at the Talamahu Market
- Discover ancient history at the Tonga National Museum
- Browse the Langafonua Handicrafts Centre
- Learn about the Tongan culture at Ancient Tonga or Tina’s Workshop
- See the sights by bike
- Have a picnic at Popua Park.
Learn more about each activity in the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Nuku’alofa.
Dining (& Drinking) Recommendations
You can spend your final evening toasting to an amazing week spent in Tonga at Nauti Ruby’s (Vuna Road), Rehab (Taufa’ahau Road) or one of the other 5 Best Bars in Nuku’alofa. You might even be able to catch a cultural show and Tongan buffet at one of Tongatapu’s resorts. Or simply hang out with your fellow travellers at the backpackers or guesthouse.
Day 7 – Departure Day
Travel time: 30 mins airport transfer.
Taxis and accommodation transfers are available to transport you from Nuku’alofa to Fua’amotu International Airport.
Have a bite to eat in the city before making your way to the airport, using the recommendations in our 20 Best Restaurants in Nuku’alofa. Trust us, it will be better than eating at the airport cafe.
Remember to arrive at the airport a couple of hours before your scheduled departure so that you have enough time to check in, go through security and browse the small selection of retail offerings. For anything else you need to know about leaving Tonga, it’s all listed in our guide, Leaving Tonga: Departure Tips & Checklist.
And it’s “Nofo ā” (goodbye) to Tonga!
Alternative Tonga One-Week Itineraries
Is this seven-day budget and backpacking itinerary for Tonga not quite speaking to you? How about checking out our alternative itineraries for seven days/one week:
- Tonga Food Itinerary: 7 Days
- Tonga Adults-Only Itinerary: 7 Days / 1 Week
- Tonga Honeymoon & Romance Itinerary: 7 Days
- Tonga Family Itinerary: 7 Days
- Tonga Luxury Itinerary: 7 Days
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed from this Tonga budget and backpacking itinerary, you’re likely to find it in The Backpacking & Budget Travel Guide to Tonga.