Solomon Islands Crime, Customs → Safety in a nutshell

The Solomon Islands (over 900 of them) is a gem in the heart of Melanesia: still a little off the beaten path, not so touristy, but warm all year (always around 27 degrees Celsius) with breathtakingly beautiful beaches, mountain peaks and picture perfect coral atolls.

Increasingly people come here for the relaxing beach resorts, but most are drawn by the crystal clear water and unbelievably good scuba diving and snorkeling.

The one drawback – the capital Honiara is the pits! Give it a miss and head to the outlying islands for a trouble-free trip.

Honiara Crime

Without getting into too much detail, just know The Solomons is a melting pot of various ethnicities, and they don't always get along. One group or another is always unhappy, and they don't mind expressing it with a protest, which often turns into a riot, which sparks looting and general lawlessness.

It's been a lot better recently, but best to avoid all protests and public gatherings anyway. Keep an eye on local media reports (or ask hotel staff) about potential conflict. Trouble brews quickly here.

Honiara is also the crime capital of The Solomons, and wealthy-looking visitors are often a target. Leave the expensive watches and expensive jewellery at home.

Don't walk around the streets alone at night (best to go with a group or a guide), and give the early morning jog a miss.

If you do go out to a bar at night, be aware there'll always be a few locals who like to fight – there were active headhunters on these islands until the 1930's, so they probably know how to handle themselves.

During the day pick pocketing, bag snatching, mobile phone theft and general harassment is common.

Hot spots for these crimes are:

the Central Market; Point Cruz; the area surrounding old Mataniko bridge in Central Honiara (Chinatown); the Kukum area; Burns Creek/Lungga River in east Honiara; White River in west Honiara, Borderline and Kombito Market in the south-east of Honiara; and squatter settlement areas in and around Honiara.

Plus the Japanese War Memorial at Mt Austin where criminal gangs will operate in broad daylight!

(The main island is Guadalcanal, the scene of fierce fighting in WWII)

The incidence of crime typically increases during the Christmas period, in the lead-up to major holidays and following periods of political instability.

If you are planning to travel outside Honiara to rural Guadalcanal, Malaita and other provinces, you should contact the High Commission for an update on the security situation prior to travel.

Yachties Beware

Foreign governments also warn their yacht-based citizens to take care in Honiara harbour where there have been reports of criminals boarding yachts at night and stealing valuables. They are usually armed and are not deterred if confronted. It's best to let them take what they want and live to tell the tale.

Local Etiquette

Unnecessary friction is easily avoided if visitors take the trouble to acquaint themselves with local etiquette:

Land ownership in the Solomons is a sensitive issue. Trekking through seeming wilderness or using beaches close to Honiara may require payment of a ‘kastom' fee to local landowners.

Dress codes are modest and all tourists, especially women, are advised to avoid offence by respecting local custom.

Certain taboo sites may only be visited by men.

Swearing is a crime. It can lead to compensation claims or jail, or both.

Homosexual acts (by either sex) are illegal and penalties include jail sentences.

Wild Life and Natural Disasters

Bull, Hammerhead and Tiger sharks are present throughout Solomon Islands coastal waters. The timid Reef Shark is harmless, but, unless you know the difference, be wary of all sharks.

About 50 people are killed every year by saltwater crocodiles. These are locals, well-acquainted with the ever-present danger. Unsuspecting tourists are well advised to seek advice before entering unfamiliar waters and to be wary in any case.

In and around Honiara, uncontrolled dogs roam freely, often in packs. Tourists are advised to be cautious.

Earthquakes

Solomon Islands is part of the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire', an area of volcanic activity over 40,000 kilometres long where 90% of the world's earthquakes occur. Four active volcanoes are listed. In April 2007, a magnitude 8.0 earthquake and tsunami struck the Solomon Islands killing at least 20 people and destroying villages. The most recent earthquake occurred in the Western Province on 4 January 2010. The resultant tsunami caused significant structural damage on the islands of Tetepare and Rendova. No lives were lost.

Cyclones

The tropical cyclone season runs from November to May. Cyclones bring heavy rain and cause local flooding. Roads are damaged nd bridges often washed away. Travellers are advised to check local weather forecasts before traveling in unfamiliar areas.

Getting Around

You should consider taking precautions when travelling by sea, such as providing your own life-jackets, as safety regulations are not always strictly applied.

Overcrowding of passenger ferries is common and can increase the safety risk.

There are few roads in the Solomon Islands, 90% of these are on Guadalcanal and Malaita. Many are very heavily potholed and in some areas bridges have collapsed.

Standards of driving and vehicle maintenance are poor. Be especially careful when overtaking any vehicle.

Many Solomon Islanders chew betel nut and frequently open vehicle doors, including on the driver's side, when travelling at speed, in order to spit onto the road.

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8 Comments

  • Andy Crowley Sr said

    Are their any foods that are dangerous to eat? Is the water safe to drink? Going in November to Kia village to help build a library. Any advice on what to not eat or drink?

  • Shaun said

    Will they be hosting any Giant sightings in the inner Islands.... and will we be able to explore any cave systems there, I heard if you get at least 15 men, 3 will make it out unscathed.

    Unfortunately thats a 20% survival rate assuming you go in.

  • Lucvas Kawage said

    need to establish a contact with a local Honia3ra based Freelance Tour Guide to assist with organising a tour in Honiara with me. Can contact me +675 71817175, Lucas from Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

  • Deborah key said

    I,d like to read some of the paper from Solomon because it's different from America.

  • Shannon Kozak said

    Interesting article but a bit misleading. The author states there are "often" riots which spark looting and general lawlessness. Of course, this has happened in the history of Honiara ... but "often" implies a frequency that is not accurate.

    The author also states that visitors are "often" targets of crime - again, implying a level of frequency that is not true.

    He states that general harassment is "common" - that has not been my experience. And that criminal "gangs" operate in broad daylight - again, not my experience.

    In terms of wildlife - I dive regularly here and have never seen a bull or tiger shark. We occasionally see hammerheads (when we are super lucky) but there has never been a recorded attack. There are crocodile deaths in the villages every year but not in the numbers the author has stated.

    Overall - all of the concerns he has listed are true, but wildly overstated. In fact - I would be as concerned about each of these issues in my hometown of Vancouver (except it would be bears instead of croc's!)


  • Mark Lockyer said

    I have lived here for 6 weeks in Honiara and I'm here for 12 months as a volunteer. I concur with what Shannon Kozak said. Remember the Solomons is a developing country so take that into account. Perception is reality and 2 people in the same place at the same time may well see things around them very differently. A lot of people travel in a cultural bubble. I've seen cruise ships in Honiara that dock for 12 hours and tourists would have some sort of experience of Honiara but I don't think you could say that they have been to Honiara per se, they passed through more like it.

    So in my experience the people are friendly, Honiara is a busy city. The roads do have lots of potholes but the Japanese Govt through their International Aid program is kindly doing something about it with major upgrades currently occurring (December 2017) which have been ongoing and will be for some time. If you can travel out to the provinces then please do so. The Western Province is particularly beautiful with many, almost deserted islands. I'm going for Christmas to the Western Province and I'm really looking forward to it because the area is so undeveloped without all the luxury, expensive resorts so many other parts of the world have. You can fly from Honiara to Munda in the Western Province for about $220US and it takes about an hour. It's a days trip by ferry and I've heard it is quite cramped and quite an experience by ferry so if I'm brave I might do that trip on the way back! It's about $40US by ferry. Hope that helps!

  • marco giovanardi said

    How can I find free lance guide to go around the islands?

  • Jason C. said

    Shannon Kozak = CANADIAN ... who posted her argument against the article author above.

    Canada's own Federal Government recently stated that Canadians have a poor track record for safety while engaging in international travel. lol. i.e. they take unnecessary and foolish risks.

    Most recently, two Canadian tourists (young male & girlfriend) decided that they feared nothing and headed straight into the African CONGO... one of the most murderous places on earth right now. AND, its also the flash point for the largest Ebola epidemic which is still growing. Those two went missing and have NOT been found. They are dead. That was about 6 months ago and its currently June 2019.

    As for her post above, note that she didn't say how long she had been in the Soloman's. Time is key. If she was there for a short period, then she had less of a chance to encounter crime, sharks, crocs.

    She rejected the author by stating that: "visitors are "often" targets of crime - again, implying a level of frequency that is not true. visitors are "often" targets of crime - again, implying a level of frequency that is not true." HOW DOES SHE DECIDE THAT?? BY STATISTICS? OR BY HER MERE LUCK OF AVOIDING CRIME?

    She stated that, criminal "gangs" operate in broad daylight - again, not my experience."
    NOTE that she admitted "not in HER experience." But the authors opinion is as valid as her own. She just dismisses his observations and claims her own as the better truth. lol.

    Similarly, she based her following two statements on HER experience which is no more valid than the authors observations but she is naive enough to think HER experience carries more weight in truth.
    1) general harassment is "common" - that has not been MY experience.
    2) And that criminal "gangs" operate in broad daylight - again, not MY experience.

    She states broadly, again, " In terms of wildlife - I dive regularly here and have never seen a bull or tiger shark." NOTE SHE has never seen a bull or tiger shark. So she wants YOU to risk your safety because SHE never saw a shark. How stupid to suggest her meager experience is the safety margin you need in avoiding shark attacks. She didn't even identify what type of diving she did. SCUBA or free style snorkel? Yes, that makes a difference in what you see.

    She concludes: "Overall - all of the concerns he has listed are true, but wildly overstated." Says she.

    There you have it. Everyone on planet earth knows that caution is the name of the game. Except that Canadian and other Canadians like her who get themselves into trouble by the thousands every year according to HER OWN GOVERNMENT. Don't buy into her lame attack on the author. Be cautious.

    All you have to do is to google crime in the Solomans to view many warnings on safety. I'm not sure why she even attempted to post what she did. It was silly.





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