5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going To Fiji

Travelers have been visiting the tiny archipelago of Fiji for decades now, to kick back oceanside and enjoy the clear waters and friendly locals.

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While there's been some political unrest in recent years, it's done little to deter travelers who are keen to soak up the island lifestyle, and maybe sip a little kava while they're at it.

Here are a five things to know to make your Fijian adventure unforgetable.

1. Drinking Kava in Fiji

"Kava (also known as yaqona, or grog) is a non-alcoholic, non-narcotic beverage made from the ground root of the pepper plant.

Far from being spicy, the drink actually numbs the lips and tongue slightly for a few moments. Not to worry though – this effect is short-lived and subtle.

It takes a lot to have any effect on the average person, but after several cups, you may begin to feel slightly more relaxed than you were (if that's possible in a tropical paradise like Fiji).

Kava contains massive amounts of vitamin B, a natural muscle relaxant and anti-depressant. Drink enough, and you'll start to feel aggressions and tensions melt away (again, assuming you had any to start with). Too much, and you'll find yourself too, well, groggy to do much of anything. If this happens, relax (you won't have a choice). It won't last long."

Nicole Clausing, Travelocity.com

2. A Must See Flower Collection in Fiji

"If you‘re a flower lover, then a tour of the Garden of the Sleeping Giants is a must. Located in the Gorgeous Sabeto Valley, the Garden of the Sleeping Giants is where you‘ll find the largest collection of orchids in all of Fiji."

Canuck Abroad

3. Supporting the Locals in Fiji

"Many of the shops in Nadi are run by villagers from the mountains who will invite you in for kava. We had a welcome ceremony especially for us and spent an hour joking and drinking kava on a mat in a Nadi store.

But of course, after much hospitality, you SHOULD buy something from the store to help support the village. Just realize that some of the prices and items are much more expensive than the souvenirs you can get at "Jack's" down the street."

- Pporto, Virtual Tourist

4. Airport Agent Alert in Fiji

"The agents can be of a great help, but take everything they say with a pinch of salt!

Our agent Fili promised us that our room at Mereani's shared a bathroom with only one other room, and that the rate was 60 Fiji dollars for the two of us. What we paid was 70 plus tax, and we shared two showers and two toilets with 20 other people...

Make sure to have all agreements written down and signed, with all prices including taxes. But be prepared for surprises anyway!"

Rusket, Virtual Tourist

5. Catching a Taxi in Fiji

"If you're getting a taxi, be prepared to heckle everyone walking past to get in the taxi too... because no one is setting off until it‘s full."

i-to-i

Have you been to Fiji? What do you wish you had known before you went?

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31 Comments

  • matt said

    this article is fucking shit. a complete waste of time.. dude have you ever even been to Fiji? I suspecting not.

  • PhilSylvester said

    Thanks for the feedback Matt. Which parts in particular are "fucking shit"? Any constructive criticism would be greatly appreciated and we can improve the piece.
    Whether or not I have been to Fiji is irrelevant for this article because it quotes others who do regularly as part of their business, so your "I suspecting" am not right.

  • Anonuser said

    I really do think it is a little naive for someone to write an article on Fiji considering they have never been there.

    I've never heckled cabs for a lift and never had a problem if I did get in one.

    By saying the village shops are more expensive you are being a complete fucking tight arse. Considering the hospitality of the fijian people and what they offer to you, as a vistor to their land, the least you can do is purchase some souvenirs to take home and give as gifts - the same way you are gifted on almost daily by the beautiful fijians. It's the Bula spirit.

    Everything else is spot on though, Kava is awesome don't be afraid of it.

    My final tip would be, Don't be that one fucking loser who demands the world. You are holidaying in a developing country have a bit of respect and if you have a problem bring it up politely and I can promise you it will be solved - all in time - fiji time.

  • PhilSylvester said

    Anonuser
    all the people quoted in the article have been to Fiji.... the quotes are about their experiences. It takes all sorts, eh?
    Personally my only experience of cabs there are from airport to accom' (or marina) so I haven't experienced the same as i-to-i, perhaps it happens in Suva or Nadi central areas. But I did have a driver try to charge me extra for the "guided tour" he gave (announcing landmarks as we drove!) Nice try.

  • Vikki green said

    I'm going back to fiji for the seventh time in august .. leaving behind all the complexities of a developed culture and landing in a place where life unfolds in its own time .. surrounded by flowers , bare feet .. and warmth.. Paradise. So the plumbing ain't modern, and there's bugs and lizards in the room.. So what! Just be sure to leave all your expectations behind and soak in the beauty...

  • Laxton Smith said

    I'm 76 have been to Fiji 45 times sinçe 1962 I have never been ripped off or mugged Stay at budget hotels Start at Cathay Lautoka work my way around Island by Taxi bargin for fares .
    Stay at Townhouse apartments Suva Crows nest on coral coast end up at Nadi Bay Resort in Nadi. I usually stay about 30 days Buy your beer at a supermarket Its a wonderful holiday Laxton Smith NZ 2015

  • Brian said

    My wife and I are at Fiji now. Yes we are saying inupmarked accommodation on Denarue. Yesterday caught the yellow bus into Nadi, as soon as we got off they were on to us. A Fiji man doing small talk and asking about us then magically another islander was there and the first one disappeared, guess it was the change over of areas for unaware tourists. We said all we wanted wascommunity. fresh fruit and vegetables, he said he would show us the best place. He took us to a souvenir shop instead, had to Kava ceremony and then were given gifts. Told to look around but then pressured into taking items handed to us. As
    We went to pay charged us a lotmorehad to argue the cost. Then "accidentally" gave us $50 less change while another person tried to distract us. Sorted that out then they demanded $50 gift to them for the Kava and ne necklace they supposedly " gave us" wife felt uneasy so paid and we left. Dont get caught out by these rip off artists pretending to be working for the poor fiji commu

  • Amanda said

    This is pretty spot on. I've been here for about 3 months and will stay 4 more. Cabbies rip me off constantly, and I do get harassed a lot for money by souvenir shops. In Nadi it's worse than in other places. I've been to about 3 villages, and 3 different islands. My rule is to double everything in regards to price, double everything in regards to time, and don't have high expectations of your accommodations if you're not staying in a resort. Follow these rules and you won't get stressed out. Coming from a different part of the world, the "Fiji Time" can be frustrating, especially when you have limited time to do things. Other than that it's cool. Kava is nice, but too much gives you scaly skin, which requires kani lotion ;)

  • hannah said

    we have been planning to go to fiji since i was 7 and i'm 13 now!We are going to Fiji,but i don't know how much were going to spend that is what I'm worried about.Because there are 4 people going and I'm trying to do all of the math and it is just too hard.Please help me out!thanks!!!

  • Kevin watson said

    Just read all the comments,
    We are also here in Denarau as I write this and were also accosted by one islander asking too many questions and being too familiar then pop another turns up and as you say they have like a very strange semi civil turf war over the steering of the money for lack of a better wording .

    We too were also steered to the local upstairs village souvenir shop and rewarded with a cava drink all nicely scrunched up by one of the islanders own not so sterile hands, I thought what the hell is in that drink? they were welcoming me with and glared at the wife and said YOU are not drinking that I don't know what's in it and I to felt a little uneasy about this new forced situation we had unwittingly found ourselves in, trying not to offend I begrudgingly drank the WELCOME TO FIJI cava? And then we were told the children made the gifts blah blah.

    Not liking to be hearded anywhere the wife and I pointedly said. See you jokers later and bought nothing from these con artists.

    There is simply only one local town market and a shopping centre across the road from it so that's what you do simply go to those two after you've looked around ON YOUR OWN at all the same Chinese and Indian shops .

    If anyone tries to escort you anywhere tell them you are NOT interest thanks mate 😎

    Hope this helps. Oh the Fiji gold beer is not gold like we know in Aus it's actually full strength and you should grap a couple of cartons from the supermarket one today and one a few days time.

  • Someone who loves Fiji said

    I haven't been yet, but am going next year to stay in the villages.

    I think it's important to know that the Fiji that everyone sees as tourists isn't the real Fiji. It's surprising how many people go but don't realise that Fiji is actually a really poor country.

    The reason that they may say the price is less than it actually is (taxis, souvenir prices), or that certain things are in certain conditions when they are clearly not (referring to the condition of your room) is that in their culture, saying no is very rude and so to them it is better to say yes to you even if it isn't true, than to say no and be very rude. So that is just part of their culture.

    Most of the resorts aren't even owned by the Fijians, so hardly any of that profit goes to them.

    Also, when Fijians say they will be somewhere around a certain time, note that they don't necessarily go off clocks there, especially in the villages. So the times are going to be very vague and flexible.

  • Glynis said

    We went a few years back. The most memorable moment was the trip to a village school on a Sunday. All the school children came in and sang for us. It was lovely. Never ripped off.

  • Joe said

    Went to Fiji last October with 4 buddies, great time. We did something new everyday (expect to spend at least $100 per day if you plan on constantly doing activities). One day we took a kayak river tour to the inner city. Amazing experience. They do however put some pressure for you to buy things, but as you should. Support the people of the country your visiting. Can't comment on the Taxi thing since we were a full car anyway. But you can negotiate. VISIT MANA ISLAND!!!!! And Stay at Pearl Resort on Coral Coast if you're a group of guys. Most other resorts are kind of "honey-moony".

  • John said

    Good comments except for the foul mouth uneducated morons.

  • jones said

    As a country, with regard to living and working in Fiji, it's absolute dog shit with practically no law and order to have any faith in. people behave like animals and sometimes you feel they literally are from a jungle and coming to terms with the reality of existence.

    as far as holidays are concerned, since you are on holiday, you don't have to worry about other aspects beyond a good accommodation and enjoying your time. Any place that is not that dangerous is good for holiday. Fiji is a cheap holiday destination with decent food and not many places to go to. But you can try decent Indian food and there are some nice cinemas and hotels are just about okay (if it's a top one). If you are familiar with Fiji, holiday here will be fine. But it is NO PARADISE. You'd be the greatest idiot to think this shithole called Fiji is paradise.

  • jasman said

    its fake i go to Fiji every year in the summer holidays my whole family lives there its f***ing fake oh and fiji is more than just coconuts,fancy hotels and all the fake stuff you wrote about its all FAKE!!!

  • Al said

    Guys just chill. Why all the hate and name calling. Take a breath. We each have our own opinions and have every right to speak our mind. Unless you all went on holiday together the chances are you had different experiences and met different people. Calm guys... I'm in Namuka Bay right now and I have to say it's not want I expected but I'm loving the experience. Who cares if u get ripped off or not. You're on holiday, your own happiness is the most important. Money can be make back later. Thanks for everyone's comments, and tips. Thanks Phil to share your light for writing this article. I really took a lot in from u guys so thanks for making my trip even more enjoyable:)

  • ABCD said

    Thanks, found this article useful, going to fiji in a couple months, any more tips or follow articles are appreciated. BTW, I like tropical fruits like Mango's I hear they are seasonal, June? I'm going in September where I hear theyre not going to be available, bummer

  • susan said

    My partner and I going Sept 11 - 24. We don't go to resorts, prefer to wander around using local buses. Will we find accommodation? We haven't booked anything ahead except first night in Nadi. Worried now that everything will be booked out in the towns such as Levuka, maybe Savusavu etc. What do you think?

  • Lomalagi said

    I've lived here for twenty years, and suspect many of the negative remarks are from travellers with unrealistic expectations or little experience of travel in developing countries. We welcome everyone who wants to find out more about us, especially if they are open to sharing new experiences. We're not poor, although after Cyclone Winston we are challenged and trust me, we do have law and order. Nadi is unrepresentative of Fiji, as is Denarau...you need to get away from those places to get a true sense of Fiji although some of the islands off the west coast aren't bad if you're seeking a packaged Fiji experience. There will always be those with their hands out, and many of Nadi's mainly Indian shopkeepers tend to watch and pounce. They're not the villagers from the highlands, so don't be fooled. If you want hotels/resorts try the Coral Coast as far as Pacific Harbour - there's heaps to do, and you'll get a better sense of the true friendliness of the Fijian people. Resorts are often on leased land owned by a local clan (mataqali) and many members of the clan work at these resorts, so you can often arrange a village visit through them or through the tour desks who usually work with local villagers to the mutual benefit of all. If you do visit a village, please expect to buy something, because this is one way for the village to generate income. You will be made welcome and will probably be offered kava to drink. These days it's rare for women to be excluded - and in the tourist context unheard of. You should take off your sunnies and hat, wrap yourselves in sulus (sarongs), and be polite. Traditionally Fiji, like all South Pacific islands, is fairly formal, and to experience traditional ceremonies is to glimpse a little of this. Villages away from the tourist routes are far more traditional, and have strict village rules that apply to iTaukei (Fijians) who choose to live there - usually where they were born and brought up. Religions are important here too...Christianity was introduced in the mid-nineteenth century, and with the Indian girmitya came Hindu and Islamic customs and beliefs. We celebrate the important events in the calendars of all these religions. The law is, constitutionally, not linked to any religion, and everyone is free to practice whatever belief they have so long as they don't break the law. One thing you should experience is the joyfulness of Fijians singing at a meke...that's when you'll see the island people at their best.

  • Sweet16 said

    We are going to Fiji for the first time with 2-teenagers. We are very confused about where to stay. We don't want to spend all 5 days on one island. Not sure how easy it is to go from one island to next. Can we stay in one of the resorts and just explore different islands daily? I cannot find any posts on this. Ideally we would like to stay in one resort and move around between the islands if it is easy. If not we can stay 2-days in one resort on the western side and 3-days on the eastern side.
    Shall we skip Nadi, Denarau and Suva? I have not heard anything good about these places?

    Any help is appreciated as we will be there during Christmas.

  • Ram said

    People this days are so angry please calm down and slow down.

  • talei said

    these comments are really sad to read. talking smack about an entire country, our culture, n our people calling them animals. if you don't like the feel of being treated fake don't come to fiji, we r well known for our hospitality n if it's too fake for you go back to sydney. if you r complaining about the prices don't go into the city, you can't expect to be cheap when you're staying in Denarau. and have respect whoever felt the need to say all those negative things your just a bloody swine

  • mike said

    article teaches you shit about fiji

  • Luna said

    There's good and bad in every country, where ever you go ...

  • LaDonna said

    We went to Fiji for the first time last December and absolutely loved it!! The people were wonderful, the resort (Nanuku) was amazing! We went to Denarue to take a boat to a private island for the day and it was very crowded. The resort hooked us up with a guide to take us in to Suva to the museum for the day and I never felt unsafe. We are going back in December and would love to retire there someday.

  • Moremomey said

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  • Verlene said

    I am here im Fiji right now,yes a developing country with some beauty. People are nice .

    Nadi is a pretty quaint town, but yes there are constantly people trying to bring you up to places ,offerong stuff,just beware. Don't reveal too much about yourself,esp when you landed,your status,your plans before you get lead to somewhere. I was warned by one of a very nice lady tellimg me that there are alot of these con artist around.

    Friendly is one thing. There is also one saying i always trust: people with good intentiom do not come to you,those who gave ill intention will always appriach you.

    Other than that pretty nice place just don't expect too much. Afterall it is fiji time. Stay safwe and don't wander at night.

    Concerning the village visit,i am quite scared after seeing the comments. It is kinda being forced,i will definitely help but not in a extorted manner.

  • node said

    I think it is ok to say what you think about Fiji - good and bad, this helps people make up their own mind. I have been once and stayed over a month, a few years ago.

    In general, I think Fiji offers a moderately affordable tourist experience. Fijians themselves are pleasant and friendly. The exceptions are parts of Nadi and Suva, where money talks and sheep will be shorn. Lautoka is also quite risky. It is possible to be mugged by the roadside if you are planning on hitching.

    There is "in your face" racism in Fiji between Indo-Fijians and I-Taukai. Personally, this is ok to me as a supporter of free speech. After all, the British did not honour their agreement by repatriating the indentured Indians. I can only suppose they thought it was better for the British Empire back in the day. As the Indians grew in number and took over the administration, working harder, it was only a matter of time before trouble brewed to the boiling point.

    Further, I think modern "racism" in the West is not really what it seems and is really a contrivance for political purposes, so I am actually a supporter of people being verbally open, as long as if you say something nasty, everyone else has the same right to say it back to you. Too much is hidden behind legal bullying now.

    Clearly, ethnic conflict was the centrepiece of the Fijian coup in the early 2000s, leading to the Indian intelligentsia fleeing (often to Australia) and then an economic downturn due to Australian sanctions. This really hurt Fiji. I think it was wrong.

    It is now ending, thanks to the Australian government changing course to support Fiji. The main reason for this is that China has targeted Fiji at a time Fiji was weak, due to the Australian sanctions. Australia can no longer afford to attack Fiji for "racism", because China will simply buy the place.

    This is the backdrop to a visit nowadays. Many Fijians are still very loyal Commonwealth citizens and this vibe was lovely - eg at First Landing/Vuda Marina (where Prince Charles once stayed and was serenaded by the same music you will hear there on the beach), or personally being thanked and your hands held in the street of Sigatoka (for nothing more than your ancestors), or even the clear evidence of affiliation between the old days of royalty of Fiji and that of England in the Suva Yacht Club. A friendly "Bula" was ubiquitous in the smaller villages, out of the way.

    Staying at Voli Voli, I really loved a trip out of Raki Raki town to a relatively remote village where there was no power and very limited modernity. Most houses were constructed with walls of thatched pandas. We were the special guests and the whole village gathered to sing us the "isa le" song of welcome in Fiji. Then we swam in a secluded rockpool with a waterfall under the canopy.

    The guide was very careful to ensure we did not offer money to people in the village. This was a powerful reminder about the corrupting nature of modern money. I like it as much as the next, btw. It is not often you get to see this sort of contrast though, a powerful reminder of where our civilisation has turned.

    Catching the bus was also a place to have a chat with the locals. The bus is extremely cheap and pretty old, but fun as a tourist.

    There are quite a lot of muslims. It was apparently about 7% of the population when I was there and Masjids seemed to be like mushrooms by the roadside. It seemed like more than 10%. Very visible.

    There is a lot of poverty. If this bothers you, then stay in Denarau, which offers the four and five star experience Westerners will be familiar with. It is quite an experience to sample the breadth of options available in Fiji. We stayed in Denarau, and everything in between, even went as guests to a house for lovo, in another village with virtually no power, out of town from Savu Savu.

    I like experiencing most things (other than heat at night) so we went all around the main island, Viti Levu and also Vanua Levu, but if I had the time again, it would be a short stay at Nadi (in a good hotel) and then Taveuni.

    Vanua Levu, at least in certain areas, offers really good snorkelling, better than some of the scuba. There are a few reefs outside of Savu Savu like this, which you can be dropped at, just offshore. Coral coast snorkel was generally lacklustre and painful (very sharp coral) though if you have not seen tropical fish before you will likely see this as good. Trust me, there is better. We were lucky enough to go to Namena on our second dive in Fiji (the first was going to be the cargo wreck dive off Voli Voli, which is good) but as it was our first, they could not allow us the descend, which meant a pretty crappy option offered instead.
    There is a shark dive down at the coral coast, quite near a hotel Australians haunt.

    Namena is just incredible, even in middle age when things aren't as amazing as they are when you are younger. But it was just scene after scene of David Attenborough. At one time a huge shoal of barracuda flew around us, another we swam through tunnels into a cave with light dappling through a hole above, the guide blowing "smoke rings" out of air on his back. We saw whales, skipjack tuna jumping like crazy in front of them, flying fish, huge prehistoric like slaters on the floor of the sea, as well as clown fish (ie nemo) which are actually quite prone to nip you and generally look annoyed.

    Anyway, back on land, you can get a good feed in most places unless in am isolated tourist trap. Beer is about the same price in Australia, maybe a dollar cheaper, and comes in a stubby - Fiji gold or bitter, not unlike 4x gold and melbourne bitter. Wine is expensive, like Bali. The local sugar spirits are dirt cheap - there is a dark rum which is the main one available and it tastes amazing, eg with the local lime. There is another, less harsh one called Ratu, I think, which seems to be preferred by those that are there for a long time.

    As for things I wish I knew:

    Haha - I spent a lot of time researching this before I went.
    So, I will add my thoughts later.

    Basically - if you have not done any research, this is for you:

    1. If you are at all uncomfortable with the idea that you might die, don't go to Fiji. Old people that get sick are especially vulnerable - there are not many first world facilities - these are in Suva and this could be many hours from where you are, even longer if crisis strikes on one of the satellite islands.

    2. You must have medical insurance. If this is hard to grasp, then it seems you must learn the hard way.

    3. Driving - don't bother. It will be your fault if there is an accident, regardless, as you are the foreigner and can pay. There is no point anyway unless you are heading inland, which is rare for tourists, as drivers can be bought cheaply and there are minivans you can hail which courier people at a cheap fee along the outer road around the island. The bus is really cheap too. There are taxi drivers all over and you'll find it is quite cheap to just buy a driver for some activities.

    4. By the third day of your stay in Nadi, nobody will really bother you. But the first, everyone will try and get you to buy this and that or go into a shop. Ignore.

    5. Suva is generally regarded as a shithole. I stayed in a few places. One day it should probably return to its old glory, but as for now, not really. If you are in Fiji for a few weeks only and just want a tourist experience, avoid Suva.

    6. Weather can include floods and cyclones. The islands off Nadi are prone. This kinda sucks as some of the typical Western style small island postcard experiences are had there.

    7. BYO toilet paper if going into town (there may be none). Also, bring hand sanitiser, bugs travel on everything you touch, including money.

    8. Smokes are cheap, if that's your cup of tea.

    9. Kava is known as waka or yangona. As an intoxicant, it seemed pretty mild. I watched TV where the comperes had a big bowl of this stuff in front of them and proceeded to get messed up while chatting about current events. That is Fiji-style.

    10. Fiji-style! Standards are not Western. Things are maybe not on time. People can drive like maniacs. It can be pretty laid back as far as rules go. Although, outside of resorts and Nadi, I think it is maybe quite conservative and you would be expected to act and dress according to custom. I really liked the police outfits - very smart.

    11. I think Fijian food can be bland. I don't know if this is the British influence - ie just boil a buch of veggies and meat, but it sure looked like that. There are staples like dalo that Fijians eat breakfast lunch and tea. There is much that could be done with these starchy foods but usually it is just boiled. Kokonda was delicious. There are indo-fijian specific aspects to the curries on hand, but to the everyday person, these would be missed. I had some memorably good ones.

  • Ash said

    I do no agree to most of the comments
    I'm Australian bit have lived in Fiji for 2 yrs most of the statements about the taxi rides and tour people are all wrong.

    No one treats me local, even though I have the background , I been dodged.
    Well our $ dollar is pretty compatible with theirs , so of u pay $60 I get what u pay for .

    Just like people back pack here .
    If you experience anything miserable due to haggling than thats a different story,

    And by no means is jacks any cheaper!! The local stalls are and the stores are not own by villagers!
    They can't afford stores/ they can only afford stalls.
    All I can say it's heaven and do try a trip if I want to see a part of it

  • Auviafiji said

    What is important to note is that fiji is a developing country. Everything will not be in the same order as it would be in a developed country. Having said that the hotels/ motels in Aus/NZ and USA that we have been to were not any better. The most beautiful thing about Fiji is the "Fiji Time". You are on holiday, WHY the rush. When it comes to taxis, negotiate your price before you hop in. 40 years of going back and forth, I have always seen the same aggresive attitude of souvenir sellers. I just politely say "no thank you" and I move on. Dont expect everything to be as per your Utopia and you will find that life is indeed beautiful. And finally if your sixth sense says that something does not seem right then chances are that your sixth sense is correct, excuse yourselve and move on. I go to Fiji every year and I love it.

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