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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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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