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A paradise region of France at the end of the world, French Polynesia is a dream come true. Its incredible nature, its welcoming inhabitants, its lagoons and dream beaches, its traditions, its cuisine… everything is there to make a unique stay. If you have planned a first short stay or a 21 days tour around French Polynesia, I give you some advices to make it a success.
1. Choose the right season
Even if the place can be explored all year round because of the mild climate, there are certain periods when it is better to be elsewhere. The archipelago is, indeed, regularly confronted with tropical storms which take place between November and April. These storms can turn into cyclones. This can be very dangerous.
To avoid these problems, it is recommended to leave during the dry season which takes place from mid-April to October. You will be able to bask in the sunshine and enjoy the 27° Celsius (on average) without having to regularly check the forecast. This is obviously the most expensive season for travelers, but the tranquility is well worth it!
2. Fill your suitcases well
As we have just noted, the local weather is pleasant. So there is no need to pack heavy sweaters. A small light sweater is more than enough to go out in the evening between June and August. It will complement your collection of t-shirts, shorts and Bermuda shorts. Don’t forget your sunscreen (the sun is strong on this side of the Pacific!) and your sunglasses.
For your feet, don’t complicate your life. Go for flip-flops. It’s perfect and it will make your life easier since you’ll be taking your shoes off every time you have to go back to someone’s house! If you’re planning on doing some hiking on site, though, I’d recommend a good pair of sneakers.
Do you do water sports or dive among the corals? You can then adopt special shoes to walk in the water. Even the most beautiful beach can sometimes hide a nasty, sharp shell!
3. A controlled weight
Still concerning your suitcase, it is also important to pay attention to what you put in it, because since recently the weight of the luggage is particularly supervised when entering the territory.
Many visitors who set foot for the first time in French Polynesia had the bad surprise to have to pay very high taxes for one kilo too many! Your suitcase must not exceed 50 pounds, and your carry-on luggage must respect the rules of the airline you have chosen. If you don’t, your baggage will be returned to the hold.
A little advice: weigh your suitcase before you get to the airport, so you won’t have any unpleasant surprises.
This is also the case for domestic flights where your baggage cannot exceed 44 pounds. Nevertheless, the conditions are a little more flexible and you can negotiate a suitcase that is a little too heavy (stay reasonable!). Divers can benefit from an additional 5 kg allowance to reach their favorite spot.
4. Simple formalities
If you go through a travel agency, you will not have to ask yourself this question, they will tell you what you need to bring to enter the Polynesian territory. Otherwise, here is what you need. You must have a passport that is still valid 6 months after your return. Please note that if you are transiting through the United States and you are not an US citizen, you will need a biometric passport and an ESTA authorization to transit through the US. US Citizens don’t need a visa to enter the Polynesian territory.
Concerning vaccines, you should not forget Hepatitis A, and if you stay for a long time, Hepatitis B and typhoid.
5. Beware of mosquitoes!
However, this charming paradise setting is home to a little devil: the mosquito. These insects are indeed very present, even if no vaccine against malaria is required. You can find Aedes aegypti and Aedes polynesiensis which can transmit dengue fever and lymphatic filariasis.
Therefore, plan to protect yourself as much as possible and invest in quality repellents to avoid being bothered by these particularly unpleasant flying neighbors.
6. Want to bring back souvenirs?
It can also be very helpful to know what is allowed through customs. There is no need to spend money on a cute little live animal, an antique or plants. Your medication must correspond to a prescription (you will be asked for it).
Small carved tiki, pareo, monoi, vanilla or pearl can leave the territory without any problem.
7. To pay on the spot, it is not the Euro!
To buy souvenirs, you will also need to bring money. Even if French Polynesia is French (!), you will have to think about leaving your euros to adopt the Pacific franc (CFP or XPF). The euro can be used in Polynesia if you pay a commission, and only in the major tourist centers.
US$1 equals to 116 CFP
If I can give you a little advice concerning currency exchange, don’t waste time trying to do it before your departure from France. Only the Banque de France has CFP. In addition, it will take some time before the change (which must be ordered) arrives. So don’t bother and do the exchange once you arrive. This is the easiest solution and you won’t lose money since the rate is fixed.
It is therefore important to plan your expenses well in order not to be disappointed. To plan 5000 euros for about 3 weeks on the spot is not ridiculous (transportation included).
8. Is it difficult to move from island to island?
An archipelago is composed of several islands, that’s a fact. And if you want to discover these little corners of paradise, you will also have to plan for travel. Here, you should know that taking the plane is equivalent to taking the bus here. You will be able to fly from Tahiti to Moorea in about ten minutes (or less).
To save money, plan to buy a multi-island pass that allows you to organize your discovery in the best way possible. This is an excellent advice since by taking this pass, you can book your flight to the island of your choice and thus not be confronted with the disappointment when you are told that the flight is full.
It will take about 4 days per island to see everything.
To get around on these islands, a car is not necessary, as the territory to be covered is small. You can walk or rent a bike, a quad or a scooter (my choice).
9. Communication on the spot
Of course, you will want to tell your friends and family about your vacation. There are so many wonders to share! To phone, you will have a limited choice, since there is only one operator in the archipelago (VINI). Again, calls are expensive. A package of 20 SMS and 27 minutes of calls will cost you about 10 euros to call Polynesian numbers. To contact the mainland, you will have to break your piggy bank. It will cost you no less than 100 euros for a 25 minute conversation! So remember to deactivate roaming to avoid unpleasant surprises when you return.
It may be useful to turn to the Internet. You will have to contact Tahiti Wifi and will be able to get 10 Gb for a period of 3 weeks for the modest sum of 167 euros. It is nevertheless more interesting than going through a French operator which will charge more than 1000 euros! An excellent advice.
10. How long to stay?
You are almost ready to leave for the end of the world. There is still one thing to consider: the perfect length of your stay. We generally advise three weeks on the spot, the time to make a big tour and discover the maximum of things. It is indeed the perfect duration for a first trip. It allows you to recover from the jet lag and the almost 15 hours of travel depend from where in the US you take off If you travel in Coach Class, take some accessories to make your travel better. It is also ideal to explore several islands while taking your time.
If you have less time, you can choose a cruise that will allow you to explore 4 islands in 15 days for example.
You should know that once you are there, everything will seem to run in slow motion, especially if you come from a big French city! Here, the watchword is to take your time. So don’t resist and take your time. It’s vacation after all! And with my advice, you will definitely make it!
Finally, think about subscribing to a travel insurance because even if it is a French territory, the costs of repatriation for example are not necessarily covered by the social security.