Welcome to the tropical paradise of French Polynesia, a wonderland of aqua blue lagoons, lush green rain forests and majestic mountains rising out of the Pacific Ocean. French Polynesia is a French overseas territory, comprised of a total of 118 islands, stretching over 2 000 km and divided into 5 groups of islands known as “archipelagos”:
- The Society Islands
- The Tuamotus Islands
- The Marquesas Islands
- The Austral Islands
- The Gambier Islands
Blessed with a tropical marine climate with lots of sun all year round, French Polynesia’s unique mix of French and Polynesian cultures makes for a truly exceptional and unforgettable experience, each island offering something for everyone. Discover the authentic Polynesia, spend time in the turquoise water, take the time to explore one island after the other, immersing yourself in the Tahitian culture: you can be sure to take home memories to last a lifetime.
Best time to go: There are two main seasons in French Polynesia:
- November to April marks the wet season with January being traditionally the wettest month.
- May to October is the dry season, with August being the driest month. This is also the busiest time of the year in terms of tourist arrival.
Temperatures range between 24°C (75°F) to 30°C (86°F) and water temperatures between 23°C (73°F) and 26°C (79°F).
Food: Tahitian cuisine is one the healthiest cuisines on earth, based on fresh local seafood, tropical fruits, and locally grown vegetables. Seafood is available daily, caught from the lagoon and the nearby waters of the South Pacific. Most restaurants also serve international cuisine.
Currency: The French Pacific Franc (XPF) is the local currency used all over French Polynesia.
Language: The official language is French, although the unofficial language, Tahitian, is widely spoken. English is spoken by some native islanders and by most staff in hotels and resorts.
Cost of Living in Tahiti: The following table presents the approximate prices of some basic grocery items. These prices are valid in Papeete and may vary:
(Above rates are provided for information purposes and may be subject to change without notice).
Shopping: Shops are generally open from 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., except on Saturdays when many close at noon; only hotel shops are open on Sunday. Long lunch breaks are common in The Islands of Tahiti. Duty-free shopping is mainly available on Tahiti. Tahitian cultured pearls, mother-of-pearl shell carvings, coconut and Tiare soaps, monoï oil, vanilla beans, shell leis, wood carvings, colorful pareus, and woven hats and baskets are among the most popular items.
Entertainment: Music and dancing tell the story of the Tahitian people. Beautifully costumed dancers demonstrate beauty, strength and grace in traditional dances, which have been passed down from generation to generation.
Postal and Telecommunication Services: Papeete’s Central Post Office, located near the Papeete Marina and Bougainville Park, is open weekdays from 07:00 am to 06:00 pm and on Saturdays from 08:00 am to 11:00 am. There is a philatelic center at the Post Office for stamps if required. There are many international card-operated phone booths throughout most of the islands. Cellular phone roaming is available for many global telecommunications companies, however it is suggested you check with your provider before you leave as to whether their services are available on roaming in The Islands of Tahiti.
Water: Tap water in Papeete and Bora Bora is safe to drink; inquire locally on the other islands. If in doubt, use mineral water in sealed bottles.
No vaccines are required except for passengers from high-risk countries. On The Islands of Tahiti, sanitary facilities and health services are available. The cities of Papeete, Taravao (peninsula of Tahiti) and Uturoa (Raiatea) have fully equipped hospitals. Other tourist islands have, at the minimum, a hospital or a clinic.
Size: The Islands of Tahiti extend over such a large area that it took explorers several years to discover and chart all 118 islands and atolls. The total area covers more than 1.5 million square miles, or for comparison, approximately the same area size as Western Europe. The total land area of the 118 islands and atolls covers only 1,544 sq. mi, roughly the same size as the state of Rhode Island.
Overview of Islands: The most frequently visited islands are Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, Taha’a, and Rangiroa. More and more travelers are discovering the destination’s incredible and distinctive beauty that is found throughout the archipelagos.
Topography: The country’s varied landscape ranges from just above sea level coral atolls to volcanic mountain peaks. The Islands of Tahiti are renowned for warm waters, white-sand beaches, stunning turquoise lagoons, lush green hills and abundant flowering plants.
Capital of French Polynesia: Papeete is the capital city located on the northwest side of Tahiti.
Population: The number of people living in The Islands of Tahiti is more than 245,000. About 75% are Polynesian; 15% European and about 10% Chinese.
Entry Requirements: A passport valid for six months after the return date and a round-trip ticket for entry is all that is required for short stays under 90 days for Australian visitors. Visas are not required for short stays. For visitors wishing to stay longer than 90 days, a long stay visa is required. Citizens of other countries should consult the French Consulate.
Economy: The Islands of Tahiti’s economy relies heavily on tourism, Tahitian cultured pearls, agriculture, and ocean resources.
Tipping: Tipping is not customary or expected in Tahitian culture. However, tipping is always welcomed for exemplary service.
Accommodations: The Islands of Tahiti, catering to a wide range of budgets and personal preferences, offers a diverse array of options from hotels, resorts to hospitable family guesthouses and private homes.
Popular Activities: Some of the world’s best snorkeling, scuba diving and surfing are found in The Islands of Tahiti. Also popular are outrigger canoeing, bicycle and horseback riding, four-wheel jeep safaris, spear and deep-sea fishing, swimming, sailing, jet skiing, windsurfing, tennis, island tours, swimming with sharks and rays, helicopter rides, visiting museums, ancient maraes (temples), and other cultural experiences. Sunset watching, beach strolling, relaxing in the sand, enjoying exquisite Tahitian cuisine, walking through beautiful fragrant gardens, and simply getting to know hospitable Tahitian people are memorable highlights of any visit to The Islands of Tahiti.
Getting Around: Taxis and buses are popular forms of transportation on the main island of Tahiti. On the outer islands, car and scooter rentals are available. Boats are often the mode of transportation on many of the islands including Bora Bora.
Cruise Ship/Sailing: The Islands of Tahiti offer a wide range of cruising options operating year- round, including the Aranui, Haumana Cruises, Paul Gauguin Cruises and Windstar Cruises. Other cruises offer cruise rotations within The Islands of Tahiti with various itineraries focused on the South Pacific. Numerous private yacht charters are also available. Contact our friendly Tahiti Specialists and they will be happy to assist.
Tips for Travelers: The electric current in most hotels is 110 or 220 volts, depending upon the specific location. Visitors should bring adapters, sunscreen, sunglasses, insect repellent and a hat for shade. Loose fitting cotton washables are recommended for comfort, and old sneakers or rubber aqua socks are suggested for walking in shallow water. Our Tahiti Travel Specialists are an excellent source of information, you will find knowledgeable staff who are eager to assist and help tailor itineraries or provide recommendations for your trip to French Polynesia.
For Expert Friendly Advice Call 1300 526 868 or email us and you will be contacted by a Tahiti Specialist.