The Concept of Time in Tonga
No doubt you have heard of “Island Time” and that’s a concept of time that the nation of Tonga likes to follow too. Some travellers even coin the phrase “Tonga Time” to show how laidback things are in this island nation. But does Tonga really have a problem of keeping on time? We’ll dive a little deeper into the concept of time in Tonga.
For related information, take a look at The Guide to the Tongan Culture.
The Definition of Tonga Time
1. The notion that things will get done eventually without the stress of time. Instead, time is well spent enriching the soul and cleansing the spirit.
“What time is the ferry today?” “Tonga time.”
2. The time zone in Tonga, referring to Tonga Time with the abbreviation “TOT”, UTC+13. Find out more in What is the Tonga Time Zone?
How Will Tonga Time Affect Your Trip?
Many of us from the Western World can get caught up in schedules, itineraries and plans. However, when you’re in Tonga, you can relax a little about the time. Everyone else is.
So how will Tonga Time or “Island Time” affect your visit to Tonga? Here are a few ways that come to mind.
Well, local buses in Tongatapu don’t even have schedules. You sort of have to figure it out yourself, knowing that buses operate between 8am and 5pm, Monday to Friday and finish earlier on a Saturday. When taking the bus, you have to wing it, asking the driver for an approximate return time when you get on the bus. Find out more about taking the bus in How to Travel Around Tonga By Bus.
The ferry schedules in Tonga are the most bizarre thing tourists find visiting Tonga. Despite the fact there is a schedule, these are more like super rough guidelines! All you can predict about the ferries is that they come and go on the day stated, so it’s best to leave your whole day free for ferry travel. You can check ferry schedules at the ferry terminals, as well as Visitor Information Centres, then keep up-to-date by calling the ferry operators and even stalking them on Facebook. Get more tips for taking the ferry in The Guide to Travelling in Tonga by Ferry.
Tours Don’t Follow Set Itineraries
Tours are often about going with the flow and adapting to conditions mother nature has given you. This is especially true for boat tours, whale swimming tours and even some scuba diving tours. It’s best to have no expectations of the tours you’re going on in Tonga and just enjoy the surprise. That being said, tours usually start at the time they are meant to.
The Time it Takes to Do Things
Soon after arriving in Tonga, you’ll see how the pace of life here is instantly slower. It also means that people tend to do things at a relaxed pace, from the supermarket check-out lady slowly writing down the items you have purchased for their inventory to the speed limit on the roads, which by the way, is 50km/h in towns and up to 70km/h.
How to Embrace Island Time in Tonga
You can either take island time in one of two ways:
- Annoyed that things aren’t happening fast enough or running on time
- Relaxed because, after all, you’re on holiday
We know which we would rather feel. We recommend visitors just go with the flow and set the right expectations. Just check times, turn up when you’re expected to and have a book handy in case you have to wait.
While you might not want to live your whole life in island time, enjoy it while it lasts. You never know, you might even find yourself missing Tonga Time when you’re back at home.