The Pacific island nation of Tonga can be a fascinating place to travel. It generally enjoys a relatively low crime rate and practices strict Christian beliefs. With those things taken into account, travelers should be vigilant on certain fronts to protect themselves from being victimized in any way and offending the very religious locals.
Petty crime and theft occur in Tonga, so practice the standard precautions of securing valuables and not flashing desirable items around. The Australian Government reports that home invasions and property theft have increased since the Global Financial Crisis as well. Violent robberies have also occurred. Use caution when walking around at night, travel in groups and avoid desolate areas and suspicious people. While a rare occurrence, sexual assaults involving travelers have happened in areas like public beaches. A popular travel site reports that drunk Tongan men may get a little fresh with women, so female travelers should especially make sure they go out with a group. Women should also avoid secluded beaches.
Travellers will probably have more to get used to in terms of local customs than criminal behavior on the island. Because of its religious society, most people in Tonga are very, very conservative. Some more extreme Christian groups exist including Mormon, Seventh-day Adventists and Assemblies of God. While the Tongans can be friendly, they are more reserved than inhabitants of other Pacific Island nations, reports Lonely Planet. You should take care to engage locals politely and try your best not to offend.
One of the first ways you can make sure not to rub any Tongan citizens the wrong way is by dressing in the right manner. You should almost dress as you would in a heavily Muslim country, wearing modest clothing that covers the shoulders and knees and not showing off cleavage. Wearing all black means you are in mourning and it is considered disrespectful by the Tongans to wear this color if you are not grieving. Dress in a conservative bathing suit if swimming on public beaches and never go topless. You can wear whatever you wish if staying in a resort. Men also should not take their shirts off unless they are at a resort.
Many travelers have learned to their dismay that Tonga's strict Sabbath observance means many business are closed on Sundays. Sunday prayers are practiced by the majority of the island's inhabitants and this observance extends to restaurants, cafes and pubs in addition to sporting events and leisure activities like snorkeling. Even exercising is considered illegal on Sunday, unless you are, once again, staying on a resort. Also illegal is homosexual behavior, including any simple displays of affection between those of the same sex.
Unsurprisingly, drugs are very illegal in Tonga, and any import or export can get you up to 30 years -- yes, you read that number right -- in prison or a hard labor camp and/or a several hundred thousand dollar fine. Those who grow or sell drugs can face similar penalties. Know that at least these laws don't apply to the local drink Kava, which is said to have a narcotic effect.
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