6 Safety Tips for the Solomon Islands You Must Know

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Find out about tropical cyclones, earthquakes, crime in Honiara, safety tips for local transport and local etiquette and customs tips to know before you go.

A tropical beach in the Solomon Islands Photo © Getty Images/grace conlan

The Solomon Islands are made up of six major islands and more than 900 smaller islands, which are spread out to the east of Papua New Guinea and north of Australia. Travelers come here for the relaxing beach resorts, but most are drawn by the coral atolls, mountain peaks and crystal clear water with unbelievably good scuba diving and snorkeling.

The main island is Guadalcanal, the scene of fierce fighting in WWII, and where the capital city of Honiara is found. Honiara isn't the safest place to be, so skip the capital for one of the outlying islands for a trouble free trip.

Crime in Honiara

The Solomons is a melting pot of various ethnicities, and not all of these cultural groups get along. When one cultural group is unhappy, they like to show their frustrations via protests, which often turn into riots, which then sparks looting and general lawlessness.

Avoid all protests and public gatherings. 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 jewelry 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 1930s, 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 crime in Honiara

These are the most common areas that experience crime in the capital: 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 Honiar, 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 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 time 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.

Wildlife 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.


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. Another 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.

In 2013 a 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck the islands at a depth of 24km, which is considered very shallow. The resulting tsunami killed nine people.

Find out what to do if there's a tsunami and how to stay safe during an earthquake.


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 safely

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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  • 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.

  • Jade Dsa said

    It's all about Caution when one travels. This was an enlightening read. I rarely ever research on customs before travelling

  • Justin said

    I lived in the Solomon islands as a 10 year old kid with my mother and stepfather, we where there for 3 months and I went back by myself when I was 11 and was there for 6 weeks we stayed on a tiny coral atol village that where ex head hunters we swam in croc and shark waters and had people who had never seen a white blond boy like me before.. They are the most happy, beautiful, a amazing, sharing, caring amazing peoples I have ever met in my 48 years.. Some of the comments here are so much BS and obviously come from city tourists that woud be scared even staying where I grew up in the mountains behind Byron bay ...go.. You will never regret it and as long as you follow Kustoms and don't break Taboo you will be treated with the utmost respect, be safer then in any western city and be taken in as one of there own.

  • Elle said

    I lived in the Solomon Islands about 20 years ago, doing volunteer work. It's glorious and I've been thinking about those times often. I get a sense that the islands are stuck in time. We (a group of Australians and Canadians) lived in a village where we did malaria prevention education and we built a kindergarten. We swam almost daily after work in a lagoon where a saltwater croc had taken residence. It was huge. In hindsight that was dumb. lol (Did I mention I'm Canadian.) But we were careful. Seeing that animal in nature like that was a once in a life experience. Every night the Chief of our village tried to shoot it but I don't think they had any luck. One day it was just gone.

    We were warned about sharks - saw a few. Had chance to go snorkeling once while there - it was my first time and I have never seen any waters as beautiful as those again. We went at a shipwreck and there was so much life and so colourful.

    The Solomon Islanders are a truly beautiful, generous and kind people. It feels like there is an innocence about them but it's also not a Western culture so it's just different. They didn't even use money where we stayed. They share everything. It is a developing nation so expect to rough it. It was quite religious and you need to respect the customs. Women had to cover up. I swam with a sarong on.lol

    Honiara is the main 'city' and you need to be aware like in any other city. The humidity will knock you out until you get accustomed to it. There is some island superstitions there. My main tip would be to learn as much as you can about the culture and try not to offend. Also, bring a mosquito net. <3

  • Eric Ryan said

    I was going to visit the Solomon Islands but Not now

  • Sonya L. said

    @ Jason C, I happened to fall into this site just browsing online. I read the posts. I'd like to apologize on behalf of "in my opinion", lots of people, especially Shannon K. whom you berated for her opinions, feelings, experiences. You must be a very small angry, sad person to get THAT upset about a post on a small website about the Solomon Islands.

    If what I read about the islanders and in reading the posts here, they are described as "wonderful" and "beautiful" people. Do you think they would want someone in their country slamming someone else like that over a point of view? 😵 Going off like that was so petty I feel sorry for you. Sorry.

    It's my opinion. Freedom to express them. You don't have to like it, but you can't say I'm wrong. That's what opinions are. Not facts, not right or wrong. "I like apples" is an opinion. Can't tell me I'm wrong! 🤷‍♀️

  • Kaniko said

    I have lived there for 7 years and most of this is absolutely ridiculous haha obviously someone who was only there for a very short time. I encourage anyone who’s thinking to go to definitely do it. The people are the most beautiful generous welcoming you could imagine and the scenery is out of this world. You will leave with an aching to go back and a sadness that most people have never experienced an island so great

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