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The French Polynesian islands are divided into five groups, and there are 118 islands and atolls. Of these, only 67 are inhabited. Tahiti is the most populous island.
Tahiti is the main island and economic, political and cultural center of the French Polynesian islands. Other well-known islands include Moorea, Bora Bora, Raiatea and Rangiroa.
These islands are deservedly the destination of choice for many honeymooning couples and anyone looking for a relaxing vacation. So, if you enjoy tropical weather, diverse marine life, and a relaxed Polynesian atmosphere with a touch of French flair, a trip to French Polynesia could be the island escape you're looking for.
But, before you buy a plane ticket, what could possibly go wrong here? Not much, is the short answer, but here's everything else you need to know to stay safe in Tahiti.
Violent crime directed to tourists is just about unheard of, even petty crime in Tahiti is minimal.
But that doesn't mean you should tempt fate by leaving an expensive camera in full view on the beach, or the passenger seat of your rental car. Always, no matter where you are, take care of your valuables.
There are no serious scams across French Polynesia. Some would argue that's because the place is so expensive, so there's no need to overcharge tourists.
If you are a perpetrator of crime instead of a victim, be aware that French Polynesia is essentially a province of France, and French law applies. This includes the principle of "garde a vue". If detained by police you do not have the right to immediate access to a lawyer, and police can hold you to ‘assist with enquiries' for up to three days.
Hygiene and sanitation standards are good in the resort areas of French Polynesia, they may be less so in traditional areas and on the more remote islands. So the vast majority of visitors shouldn't be concerned about water-borne disease and parasites.
However, Dengue Fever is sometimes a problem, like elsewhere in tropical destinations. There's no vaccination, so do your best to avoid mosquito bite – wear long loose-fitting clothing, cover exposed skin in insect repellent day and night, make sure your room is mosquito-proof otherwise sleep under a mosquito net.
Tip out any stagnant water you see sitting around your accommodation.
If you do get sick or have an accident, the hospital on Tahiti is of a moderate standard – about the same as a medium-sized provincial town, but care is very expensive.
You may also experience long delays in receiving medical attention if you are on one of the outer islands.
Medical evacuation from those islands to Papeete (in Tahiti) is expensive – US $10,000 or more. Get travel insurance and read the policy carefully to make sure needs are covered.
If you require complex treatment you'll need to be evacuated to a nearby nation with the proper facilities. Small problem – you're in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, nearby is a really long, and expensive trip.
Scuba diving is a popular activity all over French Polynesia, but there's only one decompression chamber, in Papeete. If you're on an outer island, it's going to be a while before help arrives – or you can be transferred to Tahiti, and it's expensive.
Tap water in Papeete (Tahiti's capital) is safe to drink, as well as resorts in Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora. Always check with hotel staff before you do so, just in case there is water contamination from flooding or cyclones. Avoid buying stacks of water bottles on your trip by instead boiling water (if the tap water is unsafe to drink) or bringing water purification tablets.
Pack sandals or a pair of sandshoes for walking on coral so you don't cut your feet, and look out for poisonous stonefish. Coral poisoning can be very serious, so if you do get caught up on coral while diving or snorkeling, seek medical attention as soon as you can.
Cyclone season in French Polynesia runs from November to April. However, tropical storms and cyclones may occur at other times of the year due to the tropical location. Stay up to date with weather alerts, and here are our top tips on safety during wild weather.
Located on the southwestern coast of the island of Tahiti, Teahupo'o is one of the most renowned wave breaks in the world. The surf break often reaches up to 9ft (3m), and sometimes as high as 22ft (7m). If you aren't an experienced surfer, don't even try this wave break. Stick to somewhere with waves that are suited to your skill level, or ask the locals for their top surf spots.
Encounters with sharks in the lagoon will be most likely when scuba diving or snorkeling but don't panic, even the sharks here are pretty laid back and are unlikely to be aggressive. Same for the stingrays. However, moray eels hide deep in the corals, and they do bite and can cause serious injury.
If you're a typical resort dweller, you'll find everything you need at the resort, but if you step outside the confines of the resort to see the real Tahiti, the developed islands now have modern buses for transport, sadly replacing Le Truck, which was basically a truck with wooden bench seats.
Taxis are available, but expensive.
You can hire a car, 4WD, scooter or bicycle. Your driver's license from home is all you need. But if you decide to try your hand at a motorcycle or scooter, make sure you have the proper license. Being on holiday doesn't magically give you the right (or ability) to ride on two wheels. Driving unlicensed may cause problems if you have to make a travel insurance claim for injury.
Before you buy a travel insurance policy, check your government travel warnings and health advice – there may be no travel insurance cover for locations with a government travel ban or health advice against travel.
You can buy at home or while traveling, and claim online from anywhere in the world. With 150+ adventure activities covered and 24/7 emergency assistance.