Tahiti - French Polynesia
Tahiti - French Polynesia
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Tahiti - Tips, Visa and other requirements
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Tahiti

Entry Requirements
All passengers entering French Polynesia must be in possession of a valid passport and outbound ticket. (passport must be good for 6 months past return date). Note: US "Green Card" is not a travel document. 

Citizens of the following countries can stay 3 months without a visa:
All countries of the European Union.
As well as citizens of the following other countries: Andorra, Cyprus, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland and the Vatican.

Citizens of the following countries can stay 1 month without a visa:
Argentina, Australia, Bermuda, Brunei, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, the United States of America and Uruguay.

Visitors from other nations from South America, Africa and Asia need to apply for their visa before entering French Polynesia. Visas for France are not valid.

Since entry formalities may change at any moment, it is strongly recommended that you check with the nearest French Consulate or Embassy. Visas are actually issued in Tahiti and may take up to 3 weeks to be returned back to the French Consulate.

There is NO WORK visa and NO resident visa available. There is no work either...

You do not need to get ANY Immunization shots prior to going to French Polynesia.

Money and Exchange:
The local currency is the Central Pacific Franc or CFP (See the ACTUAL Exchange Rate in Tahiti  - under "Achat", "BB"). 
No matter where you come from, it is best to change your currency into CFP when you get to Tahiti. Money can be exchanged at the airport ATM upon arrival, even in the middle of the night, or later at a bank in any island. Hotels and some businesses will change your currency, but not at the bank rate.

Notes come in CFP denominations of 500, 1000, 5000 and 10,000, and coins in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100.

The average value of the CFP in relation to the US$ is about 85 CFP for 1 US$ (Jan 2007)
You don't need to bring more than US$1000 in cash as credit cards are widely accepted and banks will give you a cash advance (however, your credit card issuer may charge a 3% exchange fee on all foreign purchases. Inquire). 
Traveler's checks ($US or Euros) are easily cashed (you will have to show your passport).

Safety is not an issue, and carrying cash around is not a problem. Just don't be careless, and lock your valuables in the hotel safety box (most of them have one in the room).

There are a few ATM machines in all the islands as well.

Luggage Weight Allowance:
On the inter-island flights (Air Tahiti) the weight limit is 20 Kg (42Lbs) per person - no matter how many bags - but not including hand luggage (limit is 5 kg pp, must be a small bag). They will enforce this limit!.  Divers get another 5kg allowance on presentation of their C Card.
Hand luggage has to be small to fit in overhead bins on the local flights (not thicker than 10"), otherwise Air Tahiti will not let you take it onboard and will check it with regular luggage. 

Tahiti

Each person can "officially" bring 1 liter of wine or spirit into French Polynesia. But, tourists are very seldom asked or searched...

Inter Island Transport and Airport Transfers:
If you book a vacation or honeymoon package, your inter-island air, meet-and-greet and airport/hotel transfers will be included.

If you book hotels individually, you will need to buy your inter island air directly with Air Tahiti (reservation office is in Tahiti only - They are not the same company as the international carrier Air Tahiti Nui).
Your also need to arrange your airport transfers ahead as hotel do not provide this service (particularly in Moorea).  Taxi are available, but expensive and not always present at the airports.  There is no other practical public transport available for arriving/departing passengers.

The onlyl way to travel between islands is via Air Tahiti.  Except for Moorea, there is no frequent or reliable passenger boat service.

Electricity/Voltage:
The standard current is 220 volts AC with round European-style plugs. But all the hotels have a US 110 v. shaver socket in the bathroom that will recharge camcorders and cameras (no adapter needed), however you'll need to bring a plug adapter if you want to use a room socket other than the shaver socket. 
Most hotels have hair dryers in the bathrooms, but if you want to use your own hair dryer/curling iron you'll need a voltage converter that can handle the wattage of your appliance.
In any case, to recharge your camcorder/camera in 220v sockets, you only need the Euro plug adapter (not the volltage converter), as all chargers are multivoltage.

What to Bring:
As far as clothing is concerned, casual is the style, and because of the warm climate clothing should be light, even in the evenings which remain pleasantly mild.
Shorts and Tshirts for men in the day, and cotton slacks with cotton shirts (no jacket ever) if you go to a nice restaurants in the evening. Shorts, light blouses and sun dresses for women are ideal. A local "Pareo" ( sarong) is a perfect and easy daytime wrap that will always look pretty - made all the better if you add a flower in your hair.  You will need a light plastic raincoat or a windbreaker for the odd tropical downpour, a hat to shield you from the intense sun, lots of sunscreen, some insect repellent, reef or water shoes, a supply of film or tapes, aspirin, Band-Aids etc.. A mask and snorkel if you intend to do a lot of snorkeling (hotels have them, but usually in bad shape). You can bring some package snacks, and even a bottle (per person) of your favorite liquor. You do not need to bring a hair dryer as most hotels provide one.  You can bring some CD's or DVD's as many hotels have players in the room. But, whatever you do, don't overpack. You'll need a lot less stuff that you think you do,  and total weight limit is 40 lb per person on the local flights. 

Telephone:
The telephone system in Tahiti is excellent.
There are public phones (multilingual) in all the islands and most of them are operated with phone cards (telecarte ) which can be readily purchased at the airport coffee shop, in some bars (bar- tabacs), at some magazine stands and of course at the Post Office.
These phone cards are priced according to time unites pre loaded in a microchip embedded in the card. The phone box debits the card and tells you how many units you have left as you are talking. There are cards priced at 1, 2 and 5 thousand Pacific Francs depending on the number of units.
You will find these public phones everywhere in French Polynesia, even in the most remote atolls.

From the US to Tahiti dial: 011 + 689 + phone number.
From Paradise to the world dial: 00 + country code + area code + number.

All the hotels have direct dial, but they may charge you up to $10 per minute to the USA.

Cell phone service:
Excellent cell phone service has been available in FP for many years in the main islands (Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Tahaa/Raitea, Huahine and Rangiroa).
It uses the GSM 900 system which is not compatible with most US cell phones. Some multiband unlocked phone may work if you buy the connection kit ($75) while in Tahiti.  You will also need to buy air time ($55 for 45 local call minutes). But ask to test a local SIM card in your phone at the shop prior to buying, as many GSM phones may not be compatible or may be locked by your provider.

Some US Cell providers offer cheap phone rental with expensive per minute charges of $3,00 + for incoming and outgoing calls, plus taxes and hidden charges. So, read the fine print and do the maths... 

The least expensive option is to  Rent a Tahiti Cell Phone before you go

Internet Access in French Polynesia:
Internet communication is via satellite relay to France, which is why it is slower and expensive.
Most resorts now have WI-FI or an Ethernet port in the room, or/and a "business center" with public internet access. A per minute charge may apply. 
You can also set up a per minute connection to the Internet from your laptop modem by using the room phone line. However, you will incur per minute charges from the IP (33 CFP/Minute) as well as from the hotel for a local call. Ask the hotel about this service/charges.
1/ Set up your modem to dial 368-888 (you may have to dial a 9 before this number for outside line)
2/ User ID is : ANONYMOUS
3/ Pswd is: ANONYMOUS
Voila! You're on the Net...

Tipping:
Tips are not part of the Tahitian culture and should not be given on a routine basis.
All the prices quoted on menus, hotels or shops are all inclusive and you need not add anything for service or tax.

Air Conditioning:
All resorts have A/C in their bungalows. If you stay in an overwater bungalow, you will most likely find the trade winds cool enough and more pleasant, and probably will not use the A/C while still sleeping with a light blanket.

Business Hours:
Offices and shops are usually open from 8 am to 12 noon and from 1.30 p.m. to 5 or 5.30 p.m. In the suburbs, smaller family corner stores may not close until 10 p.m. Shops close at 11 am on Saturdays.
Banking hours are 7:45 am to 3:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, and some banks (e.g. the Bank of Tahiti) are open on Saturday from 7:45 to 11:30 am.
Currency Exchange counters are available at Faaa International Airport and are open for all arriving flights, no matter the time.

Post Office:
The French Polynesian postal system is on par with any standards. The mail delivery is efficient, but count on one week to ten days for mail to and from the US (USPO can't figure-out where French Polynesia is..). The main Papeete post office is very modern and located on the waterfront boulevard. It offers all types of services including photocopying, fax and telegrams as well as and "poste restante" where you can have your mail delivered and waiting for you. They also sell sets of beautiful collectors stamps. Hours are 7:30 am to 5:00 p.m. on weekdays and 7:30 to 11:30 am on Saturdays.

Time:
French Polynesia is 10 hours behind GMT, two hours behind US Pacific Standard time (same time as Hawaii) and 21 hours behind Australian Eastern Standard time
Thus, when it is noon Sunday in Tahiti, it is 2pm Sunday in Los Angeles (+1 hour summer time) and 9 am Monday in Sydney.

Water:
The tap water is good tasting and safe to drink in hotels, restaurants etc. Bottled mineral water is readily available in food shops around the islands.

Health, Medical Care and Critters:
No need for any type of inoculation against exotic diseases when going to Tahiti.
French Polynesia enjoys a high standard of health, with excellent medical and dental services, pharmacies, private clinics and a large hospital in Tahiti.

There are NO snakes, poisonous spiders or any land critters that can hurt or sting you. There could be some mosquitoes and sand flies (called nono) depending where you are, but their bite is very mild and the itch doesn't last (rub lime ). It is a good idea, however to pack some bug repellent.

Sharks:
The lagoons of French Polynesia have a few species of sharks, mostly the harmless black tip shark which makes for wonderful entertainment during the Shark Feeding excursions (a must!). There has not been any shark attack in French Polynesia in recent memory.

The Sun:
One thing you must not forget is lots of sunscreen, as the sun is VERY strong and will burn you after only 1/2 hour of exposure. Wear a T-shirt and waterproof sunblock when snorkeling. Also a good idea: reef shoes if you are going wadding in the shallows or the reef. Beaches are all coral, with chunks which can be sharp.

Personal Safety, Terrorism:
Tahiti is very safe by any standard and the worst crime is usually domestic violence. Theft does happen occasionally, but you need not be concerned. Just don't be careless (all hotels have room safe).

As far as any potential terrorist threat is concerned:  this is probably one of the safest country in the world -- low population, zero immigration, strict border control (only 1 point of entry) and an overwhelming majority of Polynesian Christians make these islands a heaven of peace and safety. There is also a very pro-American sentiment at all levels of the population and American tourists are made to feel very welcome.

Bugs:
The only bugs you could encounter are mosquitoes or sand flies in the more remote beaches. It all depends where you are on any island, and it can vary within 50 feet. Most resorts treat their grounds and you may not come in contact with any insect. It really is not a problem that an occasional application of repellent would not take care of.

Tourism and Information Center in Tahiti: The main tourist office is in the center of Papeete., on the waterfront where the cruise ships dock. It is very easy to find across the street from the Vaima Shopping Center, in a large traditional Tahitian building. They have maps and info on most islands with accommodations and excursions. They are very helpful and speak excellent English.
The address of the Tahiti Tourist Office is Fare Manihini ( 689 / 42-96-26), Boulevard Pomare, BP 65, Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia.
For their US (LA) office, call : (310) 414 - 84 84.

Travel Insurance:
Travel insurance is always a good idea, if for no other reason than a plane delay and the loss of a few (expensive) nights of accommodation. Cost and coverage may vary depending on the cost of your trip.

Car rentals:
They are available everywhere...At the airports, the hotels, in the islands, etc..
However, they are usually small cars with stick shift and no A/C.  Scooter rental is not recommended due to road hazards and fast drivers.

Weddings:
Tahitian wedding ceremonies are spectacular and very romantic, but they are not legal unless you have been a resident of the particular island for 30 days prior. 

Books and Newspapers:
There are several good bookstores and magazine racks in Papeete. 
The largest store is upstairs in the Vaima shopping center where you will find an excellent selection of English titles as well as US magazines and newspapers (usually 1 or 2 days old). Other bookshops include Libraire Klima, Place Notre Dame, to the left of the cathedral where you will also find local nautical charts.

A handy travel guide to take along is David Stanley's Moon Handbooks: Tahiti (including the Cook Islands) published by Avalon Travel Publishing (not for sale in French Polynesia).

Work and Work Permits:
No, there are no jobs in Tahiti, and work permits are impossible to get, unless you have an employer who can be responsible for you, as well as having been granted a residency permit (also hard to get).

Tahiti Roads
For those who enjoy shopping, there is plenty to choose from around Tahiti! Shops are opened from Monday to Friday 7:30 am to 11:30 am and from 1:30 pm to 5 pm/6 pm. Most of them are opened on Saturday mornings are closed on Sunday. But in Papeete the market is open every day. The food market is located on the basement but in this 3-floor building, you can find all kind of souvenirs, local clothing, accessories and beauty products: pareos, hats, pearls, perfumes, soaps, creams and body oils, flavoured teas and coffees and all these local items are available at very competitive prices. Tahitian black pearls are world famous for their quality and what better place to buy them than in their place of origin.
Tahiti Markets
For lovers of fine food and romantic dining, Tahiti and Her Islands have a huge variety of restaurants to choose from, offering world class cuisine bringing together the influences of the South Pacific and France to create a uniquely Tahitian experience. What could be tastier than an eclectic meal, combining the delicious fresh produce of these lush islands, accompanied by delightful French wines to compliment the flavours, whilst, gazing across the lagoon to the silhouette of an island in the distance, as the sun drops to the horizon creating a spectacular light show to dine by. A romantic toast to a magical encounter
For travellers in search of exciting nightlife, Papeete is the place to be. The waterfront and surrounding streets boast an excellent collection of bars and nightclubs, frequented by the local population as well as visitors to the islands. With strong European influences, Tahiti's nightlife is an enjoyable contrast to the tranquillity of other islands.

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