Tonga Driving Guide
Tonga is a unique beautiful country. Explore all of it by driving when you get your International Driving Permit
Tonga was first known as the Friendly Islands. Officially its name is Tongan Fakatu'i' o Tonga or Kingdom of Tonga. It is a Polynesian country nestled in the southwestern part of the Pacific Ocean. It is an archipelago with more than 170 islands divided into three main island groups. In the south, there is Tongatapu. In the center, it is Ha'apai, while in the north, there is Vava'u. You can explore its pristine beaches, majestic coral atolls, mesmerizing rainforests, and other more.
Tonga is home to many welcoming locals, national parks, authentic villages, and rich marine biodiversity. If you are lucky enough, you can even have the chance to swim up close with humpback whales. Tonga has a 105,695 population, where 98% of which are of Polynesian ancestry. The country's official language is English and Tongan. Tongan is an Austronesian language that has a similarity to Samoan and Hawaiian.
How Can This Guide Help You?
Even if there are friendly locals in the country you will visit, if you don't have an inkling about the country, it can cause you trouble and embarrassment. This guide will give you the things that will help you get by when you are in Tonga. The guide includes the things you can do in Tonga and destinations in the state. This guide will help you know the driving rules and etiquette and helpful car rental tips for driving in Tonga.
Tonga is a Polynesian kingdom, and its capital is Nuku'alofa. Even if it consists of more than 170 islands, only 36 of them are inhabited. Besides that, more than 70% of the county's county's whole population resides on the main island of Tongatapu. The Tongan culture is best known for its friendly hospitality and rich ancestral inheritance in their dance, music, art, and food. Tonga is one of the promising places to go if you're looking for an authentic island getaway.
Tonga is set in the South Pacific Ocean, bordering 2000 kilometers northeast of Auckland, Samoa on the south, New Zealand and Brisbane, Australia in the east, and Fiji on the southeast. Besides its three main island groups, which are Tongatapu, Ha'apai, and Vava'u, there are isolated islands where some people reside. These are Niuafo'ou, Niuatoputapu, and Tafahi in the far north, and in the far south, there is 'Ata.
There are two parallel chains of undersea volcanic mountains in Tonga. In the western chain, the islands are high because they are all raised by repeated volcanic activity. The eastern chain is low islands, and coral rocks and limestone reefs surround them. These coral reefs are protective barriers that prevent the islands from shrinking and disappearing.
Tongan and English are declared the official languages of Tonga. However, most locals use the Tongan language. It is an Austronesian language similar to Niuean, Wallisian, Samoan, and Hawaiian languages. Their vowels are pronounced in the Latin fashion, but the consonants are pronounced in English. If you are a tourist, you don't have to worry about learning Tongan because many locals are also used to speaking English.
The nation has a cumulative land area of 748 sq. km, which is compared to four times the size of Washington, D.C but smaller than one-third of Luxembourg. Its coastline is 419 kilometers. Tongatapu Island is the largest and most densely populated island in the country. You can find the highest point in the country on Kao. Its location is in the Ha'apai group, and it has a 1033 meters elevation.
The Polynesians settled in the islands of Tonga around 500 B.C. The Dutch explorers had sighted the islands in the early 17th century. However, it is only in 1777 when Captain Cook, who is on his third voyage in the islands, named the now Ha'apai group, The Friendly Islands. This is because of the hospitality of the natives in welcoming him. The first royalty in Tonga is King George I, the Christian name of the ruler, Taufa'ahau.
With the rise of the monarchy, the king also freed the commoners from forced labor. Tonga has a rich history, and it is one of the few countries that have successfully resisted Europeans' colonization. The Kingdom of Tonga takes pride in its sovereignty because it did not yield to any foreign power. It is the only country in the South Pacific that is considered a Kingdom. Moreover, in 2010, they decided to become a fully functioning constitutional monarchy.
Tonga is an independent nation under the parliamentary and constitutional monarchy. In the early 20th century, they entered a partnership with Britain. They signed the Treaty of Friendship that states that Tonga will become a British protectorate and retain its sovereignty. The commander of the state is the king, while the prime minister runs the government. The Kingdom of Tonga has a unicameral parliamentary system that has a single legislative chamber.
Before, Tonga's legislature was composed of nobles. It was only in the 2010 elections when the public elected the majority of the members. It is their first parliamentary election. The mode of governance in the islands is centralized because the central government mostly does the administrative functions in Tongatapu. However, in local units, several villages are governed by elected district officials.
Smaller countries perform lower in the tourism industry compared to others. However, Tonga has beaten the odds. In 2018, the country recorded 54,000 tourists and ranked 89th in absolute terms globally and 3rd in the Polynesian countries. The country also generated $48.10 million in the tourism sector alone. This amount is 20% of all international tourism receipts in Polynesia and comprises 9.4% of the gross domestic product of Tonga.
The development of the tourism industry in Tonga is one of the priorities of their government. Due to the risks of climate change and threats to sustainability in the country, they continue to improve adaptation strategies, including educating people about climate change, market diversification and strengthening institutional capacities. The government aims to have sustainable development.
Driving in Tonga can be stress-free even if you are a tourist for as long as you have all the requirements that they impose. When you are in Tonga, it is advised to get an international driving permit here at our website because locals use Tongan as their common language. The language boundary can be a bit of a problem when the police ask for identification. Here are some significant things you need to remember when driving around Tonga.
Is a Local Driver's License Valid in Tonga?
Tourists with a valid local driver's license and an international driving permit can drive in Tonga for three months. Foreigners need to get a Tongan driver's license issued by the Tongan Principal Licensing Authority or Land Transport Division. They may also ask the applicant to take and pass a driving test along with the prescribed fee. Always bring your valid driver's license when driving around Tonga because your IDP is not a valid replacement for it.
Do I Need an IDP in Cities and Districts of Tonga?
Tourists must purchase a local driver's license from the nearest police station, Tongan Principal Licensing Authority, or Land Transport Division upon arrival. It will be valid for three months. However, for you to have it, you need to take and pass a driving test. Unexpected situations may arise when you are driving in Tonga's city. Having an IDP can be your valid proof of identification when local authorities ask for it at checkpoints.
Locals use Tongan as their standard mode of communication, so the language barrier can be a bit of a hassle when driving in Tonga's islands. Even if driving in Tonga's districts is less strict than the national roads, it is still advised to always have your IDP with you. Having an IDP from the International Driver's Association may come in handy for you when driving in Tonga's districts.
Does an IDP Replace Your Native Driver's License?
Note that your international driving permit is not a valid replacement for your native driver's license. It is only a translation of your driving information to several languages. When you are driving in Tonga's islands, you can't use it alone. You have to always bring your valid driver's license with you not to be charged with unlicensed driving.
Renting a Car in Tonga
Driving in any of Tonga's roads can be worthwhile if you have a car rental with you. If it is your first time wandering to a foreign country, renting a car may be challenging for you. There are many things that you have to consider when renting a vehicle. You have to plan in line with your budget and the possible road conditions in the country. In Tonga, many rental companies are available and willing to help every tourist's driving experience convenient and stress-free.
Car Rental Companies
Driving in any of Tonga's regions is the best way to explore its natural and historical beauty. You will have the time to cherish everything at your own pace. Before driving on Tonga's roads, you have to make sure that you have a reliable car rental with you.
There are several international car rental companies in the country, such as Europcar and Avis. It is more convenient to book your car rental online to have it ready upon your arrival in the country. There are many local rental companies in Tongatapu and Vava'u, which also allow walk-in bookings. You can also avail of additional costs for add-ons such as airport drop-off, security deposits, and insurance.
Renting a car in Tonga is a straightforward process if you have a valid driving license with you. The car rental companies may also ask for your passport or other proof of identity. When your driver's license is not written in English, you must present an international driving permit. Here on our website, you can easily click on the application form, fill it out and get your IDP processed within 20 minutes. Your credit card will also be needed for the payment.
A wide array of vehicles awaits you in the rental companies in Tongatapu and Vava'u. Note that most of the local rental companies offer second-hand Japanese imports. You can choose from different small cars to large four heels. Toyota is a famous car brand in local car rental companies. Most rented vehicles are the following:
- Toyota Yaris
- Toyota Corolla
- Toyota RAV4
- Toyota Alphard
- Toyota Hiace
- Toyota Hilux.
Car Rental Cost
A rental car in Tonga can be more affordable in other Polynesian countries because it cost around $50 a day. You can choose based on your budget, car type, and car size. Booking online is more practical to avail yourself of discounts and search for your ideal car rental. Besides the rental fee, you can also opt to avail of different products with it. Additional products may include fuel, airport or accommodation drop-off, and insurance.
Another thing you have to remember about car rental companies in Tonga is that most of them do not offer insurance. You will be fully accountable for any destruction caused to the car during the period you are renting it. Always bring cash with you because some car rental companies do not accept credit or debit cards. You can check the company's website before the pick-up just to be sure. Here are the estimated rental prices for each type of vehicle rental in Tonga.
- Small car: $50/ day
- Medium car: $100/ day
- Premium car: $150/ day
- Minivan: $160/ day
People availing of a vehicle rental in Tonga must be at least 21 years old and possess a valid driving license for a year. You also have to get a temporary local driver's license before a car rental company allows you to drive the car. Most car rental companies give a daily surcharge to young drivers because of the several complaints and accidents they are involved in.
Car Insurance Cost
Most of the time, car rentals in Tonga do not come with insurance, so it is best to purchase one to avoid being charged with repair costs and other damages. If it is your first time traveling in a foreign country, it is strongly advised to get insurance coverage for your car rental and yourself. This is a precautionary step to prevent any financial risks. Note that you are in a foreign country, and unfortunate instances may arise. The best thing to do is to be proactive.
Car Insurance Policy
There are several insurances offered in Tonga which will be helpful to you. The Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) can cover damage costs in full with a high excess payable for damages up to $7500. The Super Collision Damage Waiver (SCDW) can be purchased per day for $20 to $30. For roadside assistance insurance, it can cover the costs for towing, fuel, and key lockout. To be sure, people also opt to avail full protection insurance that is more affordable and convenient.
The Road Rules in Tonga
For your security and the well-being of the surrounding people, it is best to be receptive to the foreign country's driving rules and regulations you will visit. If you have an ample understanding of the road rules when driving in Tonga, it will help prevent accidents and conflicts with the local authorities. Most of the road rules in Tonga are the same as in other countries, but some may be unfamiliar to you, so it is best to understand them fully.
Driving in any of Tonga's regions is ideally safer than in other busy countries. However, it is still paramount to know and follow the road regulations enforced in the country. If you neglect the rules and regulations, it can result in severe punishments or consequences. It will not just ruin your vacation but will also cause you fines, penalties, injuries, and even death. Listed below are the vital road rules that you should know and follow
Tonga is strict in imposing a 0.08% blood alcohol limit on both local and tourist drivers. Do not drink and drive because if you are under the influence of alcohol, you are settling your life in danger along with the other people on the road with you. When driving in Tonga's city, it is best to avoid alcohol and not risk it because drunk-driving only brings trouble.
Based on the Head of Road Safety report in Nuku'alofa, most of the road accidents in 2020 were caused by drunk-driving. Even if there is a decline in the number of road accidents recorded, they are still upholding zero tolerance and strong enforcement of the law to people not following the road rules because there is an increase in the number of road fatalities that year
Turning Signal at an Intersection
Most of the roads in Tonga are well-maintained and sealed. However, it has no traffic light on its roads, so make sure to give signals when approaching junctions. Outside the main cities, there are also few less desirable roads with gravel roads with potholes or sometimes straight-up dirt roads. Note that in Tonga, it is illegal to make a turn when you are at an intersection with any speed exceeding 15 mph.
There are several rules about parking in Tonga. Note that you are not permitted to park any vehicle within 10 meters of an intersection or footpath. You can't park within 6 meters of either side of a pedestrian crossing, in front of any access road or a bus stop. However, you can station your vehicle on the side of the road nearest to the left side, except when it is a one-way road.
Ensure that when you park, you do not obstruct the flow of traffic. Also, tourists are often victims of dented roofs or cracked windscreens caused by parking under a coconut tree. Avoid parking under the shades of a coconut tree to avoid damages to your car rental. You can easily find private parking in hotels. If you want to be certain, you can check with your accommodation in Tonga before your arrival.
See to it that you and your auto are in the best condition before driving.
Since most of the vehicles offered by the local car rental companies in Tonga are old models, it is advised to thoroughly check the vehicle before driving in Tonga's valleys. It is also better to check if the car rental has a valid Warrant of Fitness displayed on its windscreen and its registration is up-to-date before you avail of it. Ensure that you have your local driver's license, passport, insurance documents, and IDP with you to avoid any conflict with the local authorities.
General Standards of Driving
As a traveler, it is crucial to know the country's general driving standards to get used to what the locals do when driving. Learning the commonly used driving standards in Tonga will familiarize you with the country's norms and rules. They say that driving in Tonga's valleys is easy because of the good road network in Tongatapu and Vava'u. Nevertheless, if you follow these standards, then you will have no problem driving in Tonga.
Tonga has a very conservative speed limit compared to urban states. The speed limit on pedestrian areas and roads around schools is 30 Kph. On main roads, the speed limit is 50 Kph, while in rural areas, it is 70 Kph. If you abide by these speed limits, you will not face any problems with the local authorities, and you will avoid getting to any unfortunate road accidents.
You can observe speed limits signposted in regular intervals along the country's roadsides, so you will have no excuse not to follow them. Some local drivers are also observed to drive very slowly, so you have to be patient and only overtake safely.
We all know how paramount wearing seatbelts are wherever you are driving in the world. It lessens the risk of fatal injury because it is designed to spread the crash forces across your body's different parts. It will prevent you from being ejected from the vehicle in case of road accidents. Wearing it will also save you from colliding with the vehicle's interior in case of a violent crash.
Unlike other countries, it is only in 2020 when the Tonga Police Traffic Unit has begun enforcing the mandatory wearing of seatbelts in the whole country. Under the new Traffic Act 2020, it is a legal requirement for drivers and front-seat passengers to wear seatbelts while driving. Even when the local drivers are still given time to adapt to the new rules, the local authorities strongly advise abiding by the laws for everyone's safety on the road.
Roundabouts are common when driving in Tonga, especially in Nuku'alofa and Tongatapu, so you should learn the rules to follow when entering the roundabout. However, all drivers are required to stop and give way to vehicles approaching on their right-hand side. Note that when you are entering a roundabout, you must drive at a low speed to be safe and so that you will have enough time to react and avoid a collision.
Aside from roundabouts, it is also vital to know if overtaking is allowed in Tonga. Local drivers maintain a slow speed when driving. However, if you want to overtake, be sure that the cars in your front and back are aware that it is safe. You must have full visibility of what's ahead of your vehicle. It is not permitted to overtake a car that has stopped or slowed down to give right of way. Also, it is illegal to overtake within 10 meters of an intersection.
Traffic Road Signs
Most road signs in Tonga will be familiar to you since it is similar to other countries. The road signs in Tonga are categorized into four groups: warning signs, regulatory signs, information signs, and guidance signs. Being familiar with these road signs and following them at all times will ensure everyone's safety. On the other hand, if you neglect to follow or disregard them, you may face serious consequences. Make sure to follow these road signs when driving in Tonga.
Road users use warning signs in Tonga for unexpected hazards or road conditions ahead. You can quickly notice them because they have red borders or sometimes yellow backgrounds with black symbols or letters written on rectangular signs. Several warning signs in Tonga are animal-related road signs because it is an island with vast forests. Other warning signs in Tonga may include:
- No texting while driving sign
- Winding road sign
- Construction ahead sign
- Railroad crossing sign
- Rough crossing sign
- Falling rocks sign
Regulatory signs are a range of signs that indicate traffic laws and regulation which can be observed on streets, highways or public places. Regulatory signs in Tonga may include:
- Stop sign
- Yield sign
- Give ways sign
- No entry sign
- Roundabout sign
- Speed limit sign
- Parking sign
Information signs are typically rectangular and give drivers information about the road they are in and the road ahead. Information signs in Tonga may include:
- Parking permitted sign
- Tourist information point sign
- One-way traffic sign
- End of motorway sign
- Priority over oncoming vehicles sign
Guidance signs indicate mileage and directional information to drivers in specific destinations. Usually, they are in green, but few ones come in different colors. Guidance signs in Tonga may include:
- Destination sign
- Destination with distance sign
- Milepost digit sign
- Carpool information
- Freeway entrance sign
Right of Way
The right of way varies depending on the state you are in. Knowing the give way rules in Tonga will help you prevent conflicts with other drivers. In Tonga, you have to give the right of way to vehicles turning right. If there is a vehicle on the opposite road waiting, turning, or crossing your side of the road, you have to give way to them. Moreover, you also have to give way to cars turning right at intersections.
Legal Driving Age
Just like many countries in the world, the legal driving age in Tonga is 18 years old. However, the car rental companies in the country only allow 21 years old and above and a possessor of a valid driving license for a year. Most car rental companies give a daily surcharge to young drivers because of the several complaints and accidents they are involved in.
You may think that local authorities are too strict about their rules, but these restrictions prevent young drivers from adding up to the country's road accident reports. Even if driving in any of Tonga's roads is safe, they don't have streetlights, so at night can be dangerous. Be a responsible driver and abide by Tonga's road rules for everyone's safety on the road.
Laws on Overtaking
Due to its good road network and small population, driving in Tonga can be very convenient. Nevertheless, it is still vital to know the laws on overtaking in the country. Many local drivers prefer to drive slowly, which can be convenient if you also want to take your time to enjoy the island's views while on a road trip. However, if you need to overtake, make sure that it is completely safe to do so.
Before you overtake, be sure that the car behind and in front of you is aware that you will overtake by giving them signals. You must have full visibility of what's ahead of your car. Note that it is not permitted to overtake a car that has stopped or slowed down to give other cars the right of way. Also, it is illegal to overtake within 10 meters of an intersection.
When you drive in Tonga, you should know that the traffic moves on the road's left side. If you are used to maneuvering on the right side, this can be a little unfamiliar at first. After some time and preparation, you will get the hang of it, and you can also ask for some assistance if you are not yet comfortable driving on the left side. Note that you should always be on the left side, especially if you are pulling out of an intersection.
Driving Etiquette in Tonga
As a visitor, you should know how to get to famous destinations and the countries' essential driving etiquettes. Understanding these driving etiquette will save you from future conflicts with local authorities and a form of respect for all the locals. If you ever find yourself held in an unexpected dilemma, knowing how to respond appropriately greatly helps.
As much as you want to avoid car breakdowns on a foreign road, it can happen when you least expect it. The best thing to do is to be proactive. Since most of the vehicles offered by the local car rental companies in Tonga are old models, it is advised to check the vehicle before driving anywhere. It is also better to check if the car rental has a valid Warrant of Fitness displayed on its windscreen and its registration is up-to-date before you avail of it.
The roads in Tonga are well-maintained, but they have no street lights, so if your car breaks down, be sure to put on a reflective warning triangle and hazard lights to notify the other drivers on the road. Do this precautionary measure even in the daytime to ensure that you will get the people's attention on the road. You can also ask for the local authorities' assistance to move your car away from the traffic.
Another important thing you have to remember in car rental companies in Tonga is that most of them do not offer insurance. You will be fully accountable for any damage caused to the car during the period you are renting it. It would be best to avail of insurance for your car rental because it can cover the expenses of towing your car in case of a breakdown.
When you drive in Tonga and a uniformed police officer requests or signals you to stop, you must do so. They may ask you for your name, address, valid driver's license, and other proof of identities such as passport and IDP. Checkpoints are observed in Tonga because of the common violation of unlicensed driving. Make sure to always bring these important documents with you to avoid fines and punishments.
Note that you must immediately stop or report it to the nearest police station if you are involved in road accidents. The police will ask for your name, address, and address of the car owner, along with the registration plates and license. If a police officer implores you to stop because of a violation, you can ask what offense you may have committed before paying the fine. Talk to them politely and respond to their questions calmly to avoid further conflicts.
If you are driving in Tonga on a schedule, and you need to ask for directions, the locals will warmly help you. The Kingdom of Tonga is first named The Friendly Islands because of the hospitality of its people, and up to now, it is still the truth. The locals commonly use Tongan as their language, but most of them can also understand English, so you can pull over and ask them politely for driving directions. When driving in Tonga, a map can greatly help.
Tongan is a language that is similar to other Polynesian languages as Hawaiian, Samoan, and Niuean. As a tourist, you don't even need to learn the whole language, but a few phrases may come in handy. You should approach the locals politely and even get on their good side when asking for help by greeting them “malo'etau lava” (hello) or by saying “malo 'aupito” (thank you very much) after they help you.
In every country you visit, you have to be ready in case of random checkpoints. A police officer may suddenly ask you to pull over and check your identification and valid driver's license. If you violated road rules, the local authorities might also ask you to stop. When you see a checkpoint in Tonga, you must only stop when you see that a uniformed police officer is the one guarding it. If not, you can ask to see their badge just to be sure.
When you find yourself at a checkpoint, you can roll down your car's window just enough to have clear communication with the local authority. Make sure to answer them honestly and politely. Follow the procedure but ensure that you only show your passport, driver's license, and other important documents to a uniformed police officer. You have to be vigilant and careful at all times because you are in a foreign country, and you are not fully sure of what conflicts you may face.
Besides the vital driving situations in Tonga mentioned above, it is also helpful to know the tipping etiquette in Tonga. It is best to know if it is appreciated or frowned upon by the locals. As a tourist, you don't want to get on their bad side even if you are there for a short visit. Read on to know more about the tipping etiquette in Tonga.
What is the tipping etiquette for Tonga?
Tipping is a custom that tourists do to show they appreciate your service or help. However, in Tonga, tipping is not part of their culture. You can notice that staff of hotels, restaurants, spas, and other workers do not receive tips from local travelers. The staff in Tonga will not be upset if you do not give them tips and you just say your sincere thanks. Nevertheless, most of them are not highly paid so if you give them a tip they will surely appreciate it. Generally, workers in Tonga do not expect a tip from anyone, but it is a nice gesture to show how grateful you are for their great service.
Driving Conditions in Tonga
Besides the road rules and driving etiquette observed in the country, you also have to be knowledgeable of Tonga's driving situations and conditions. This will equip you with helpful information that you can use when you face possible problems and situations when driving anywhere in the country. For as long as you have an understanding of these driving conditions, you can enjoy a hassle-free road trip in Tonga.
Even if you are driving in Tonga on a schedule, it is safer here. According to the 2018 Road Traffic Accident Deaths data of Tonga published by the World Health Organization, the country recorded six deaths. Road traffic casualties are the 22nd leading cause of death in Tonga, with a 1.02% death rate. The country ranks 146th globally with the highest death rate of road accidents because it only generated an age-adjusted death rate of 6.44% per 100,000.
Based on the Head of Road Safety report in Nuku'alofa, most of the road accidents in 2020 were caused by drunk-driving. The local authorities are still upholding zero tolerance on enforcing the law because there is an upswing in the number of road fatalities that year. As a tourist, you must abide by the rules and regulations because failing to do so can result in serious punishments or consequences.
Toyota is the leading brand that dominates the country's car market with a 90% market share. Locals are seen to have a preference for these cars in particular: Toyota Hiace, Toyota Noa, Nissan Murano, Toyota Dyna, Nissan X-Trail, Honda CR-V, Mazda MPV, Toyota RAV$, and Toyota Voxy. These cars can conveniently handle daily commutes or long trips to tourist destinations in Tonga.
Since Tonga is an archipelago, it is mostly serviced by interisland ferries. Ferries are a more affordable means of transportation. You can easily wave down bus services in the cities that operate between 8 am to 5 pm. In Tongatapu, you can also find many taxis. Note that taxis in Tonga are not metered, and you have to talk to the driver and agree on the fare. Typically, the taxi fare ranges from $5 to $30, depending on the distance of the trip.
Many of the roads in the cities of Tonga are well-maintained and sealed. However, it has no traffic light on its roads, so make sure to give signals when approaching junctions. Outside the main cities, there are also few less desirable roads with gravel roads with potholes or sometimes straight-up dirt roads. Due to this, the country is still aiming to develop its roads in rural areas and other road networks. They have no toll roads, but maybe in the next few years, they will also work on it.
If you are from the United States of America, you will have to endure two flights to get to Tonga. First is a 10 hour Air Pacific flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Nadi, Fiji. From Fiji, you will have to ride a one-hour flight to Nuku'alofa, Tonga. You can also travel from Auckland to Tonga with Air New Zealand and Polynesian Blue if you want. Besides that, there are also inter-island flights between Nadi and Vava'u through Airlines Tonga.
Generally, Tonga is one of the safest countries to drive in, even if you are a tourist. The roads and road networks in the country are well-maintained. Tonga has low-speed limits, limited traffic in rural areas, and most of the urban areas are not congested, so technically, it is a convenient country to drive in. Since Tonga is a tropical island, tourists are often victims of dented roofs or cracked wind screens caused by parking under a coconut tree.
The roads in Tonga are well-maintained, but they have no streetlights, so you have to take extra caution if you are driving at night. Also, if your car breaks down, you must put on a reflective warning triangle and hazard lights to notify the other drivers on the road. Do this precautionary measure even in the daytime to ensure that you will get the people's attention on the road. You can also ask for the local authorities' assistance to move your car away from the traffic.
Locals are very friendly and will even drive slower than the speed limits, so they are considered safe drivers. Also, there are not so many cars in the country, even in urban cities. Some locals in rural areas do not own any vehicle. They are approachable, and you can easily ask them for directions. If you are still having trouble when driving in Tonga, use a map.
Note that, since local drivers maintain a low speed when driving, you must only overtake when it is safe to do so. You have to give the right of way to vehicles turning right. If there is a vehicle on the opposite road that is waiting, turning, or crossing your side of the road, you have to give way to them. Moreover, you also have to give way to cars turning right at intersections. Even if it is relatively safe to drive in Tonga, you must abide by the road laws and restrictions to ensure your safety and the people on the road with you.
Besides learning some of the most important information about Tonga's driving conditions, tourists must also know how safe and how expensive it is to visit the country. Read on below to get some tips on how you can safely spend your vacation in Tonga.
Is Tonga safe for tourists?
If it is your first time touring to Tonga, then you may want to know how safe it is for foreign travelers. Visiting the country will be a breeze because it has a considerably low crime rate, and locals are conservative and have strong religious beliefs. However, sometimes theft and petty crimes occur in the country. Ensure that you secure all your valuables and you avoid showing them around in public. When you are away, always keep your room's doors and windows locked.
You can also learn the crucial social etiquette cues to avoid offending anyone. You must always wear modest clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. It is also considered disrespectful to wear all black when you are not mourning. Men and women are not allowed to go topless when in public places or beaches. Remember to stay vigilant at all times so you can steer away from possible troubles.
Is Tonga expensive to visit?
It is best to estimate your expenses and know your budget when visiting a foreign country. Having a fixed allowance will keep you on track of what you spend on your trip, so you will not run short in money for unexpected emergencies. Note that these are only estimations of expenses, and they may still change depending on different instances. The official currency in Tonga is Pa'anga (T$). T$1 is equivalent to $0.43.
Tourists can find an affordable way to enjoy Tonga. Here is the estimated cost for expenses in Tonga:
- Accommodation - $11 (T$ 25) per night.
- Cost of fare: Tongatapu to 'Eau - $11(T$ 25)
'Eua to Ha'apai - $35 (T$ 80)
Ha'apai to Vava'u - $31(T$ 71)
Vava'u to Tongatapu - $44 (T$ 99)
- Meal - $15 (T$ 35) to $25 (T$ 58) per meal
Things to Do in Tonga
There are countless places to visit in Tonga, but you should know that there are also many opportunities for tourists in the country. For as long as you have the legal requirements, you can even land a job and have long-term employment in Tonga. Knowing the requirements for employment and residence in Tonga will help you stay longer in the country. Check out the things you can do in Tonga below.
Drive as a Tourist
Driving in Tonga is a straightforward process if you have a valid driving license and you are within the legal driving age. Tourist drivers must purchase a local driver's license from the nearest police station, Tongan Principal Licensing Authority, or Land Transport Division upon arrival. Remember that the vehicle category of the temporary driver's license in Tonga that will be issued to you is the same as your domestic driver's license. It will be valid for three months. However, for you to have it, you need to take and pass a driving test.
Car rental companies will ask for your valid driver's license, passport, or other proof of identity. When your driver's license is not written in English, you will be required to present an international driving permit. Having an international driving permit can be your valid proof of identification when local authorities ask for it at checkpoints. Here on our website, you can easily click on the application form, fill it out and get your IDP processed within 20 minutes. We will also need your credit card for the payment.
Work as a Driver
You can try finding work as a driver in Tonga even if you are a tourist. However, you should know that the unemployment rate in the country is high. Due to that, the government is protecting its labor market and does not allow non-citizens to search for employment in Tonga. Nevertheless, if you have the skills that no local can provide, the company or business may bring you to the country and apply for an employment visa one month before you arrive. If you are eager to find a job in Tonga, you can check out www.tongaembassycn.gov.to.
There are several job vacancies for bus drivers in Tonga. The lowest monthly salary of a bus driver is $139 (T$ 320). The average monthly salary is about $261 (T$600), while the highest is $395 (T$ 910). If you have an experience level between two to five years, your salary may increase to more than 23%. Moreover, if you have an experience level between five to 10 years, it may increase to more than 42%.
Work as a Travel Guide
The young generations of Tonga that have just finished school are struggling to find employment. Unfortunately, they prioritize hiring locals as a travel guide. There are several job vacancies that you can try out in the country. Again, you have to get a working permit and employment visa to apply for a job in Tonga.
Job vacancies in Tonga include Senior Underwriting Consultant, Insurance Underwriter, Junior Trader, Geography Teacher, English Teacher, and others.
Apply For Residency
The Immigration Division, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, handles the application for the residency of foreigners. If you enjoyed your stay in Tonga and decided to relocate, you will need to apply for a Residency Visa. You can also apply for dual citizenship in the country. If you have proof of Tongan ancestry, you will immediately be granted residency.
The first step in getting it is finding the embassy or consulate that services your country. Check out the official list of required documents at www.tonganconsul.com/visa.html. After you have completed the documents, go to the Consulate General of Tonga to pay for the visa fee. The visa fee ranges from $54.50 (T$) to $115 (T$). Once it is processed and verified, you can get your Tongan visa and stay in the country for a longer time.
Other Things to Do
You can try out many things in Tonga if you plan to stay for a longer time. It may not be as distinguished as other urban countries, but if you are looking for a place where you can have a simple and authentic island life, Tonga is one of the best choices. Listed below are the best time to visit the country and the things they are known for.
When is the nicest time to visit Tonga?
Most tourists look for a place where they can spend a tropical island life. If you want to experience pleasant weather during your stay in Tonga, visit between May and October. It is the best time for sightseeing, beach hopping, and outdoor activities because of the dry season. However, if you want to snorkel and dive into its clear blue waters, the best time to visit is from June to October because it is the time when you can mingle and witness the Southern Humpback Whales.
For those on a rigid budget, you can visit Tonga during its low season. It is between November and March. However, it is usually the start of the wet season. You can also visit from April to May when the weather is still agreeable.
What is Tonga famous for?
Tonga is known for its friendly people, rich culture, and beautiful beaches. Besides that, you can also savor many local Tongan cuisines. They offer great meals that are harvested, cooked, and enjoyed fresh. With the rich natural resources around the country, their main staples are pork, chicken, beef, and fish. You can find what will suit your taste buds and budget with the wide array of traditional Tongan cuisines
The Top Destinations in Tonga
If you are searching for an undeveloped and unspoiled paradise in the southern Pacific, Tonga might be the one you are looking for. The Kingdom of Tonga is significantly less populated than their neighboring countries. It is also a shack to some of the kindest people you will meet. The country offers a broad span of destinations. From pristine beaches, wildlife encounters, historical sites, and many more, you will not run dry with adventure.
Mapu'a 'A Vaea Blowholes
Stretching across the southern coast of Tongatapu are the famous Mapu'a' A Vaea Blowholes. Close to the village of Houma, you can find hundreds of blowholes. It is one of the most distinguished tourist attractions in Tonga. Besides that, you can have the whole place to yourself without paying anything. Even if you are a tourist, you can easily find this destination using a basic map. It would be best to visit from June to October.
- From Tonga Airports Limited, head southeast toward Taufa'ahau Rd
- Turn right onto Taufa'ahau Rd.
- Take a right turn after 1.5 kilometers.
- Turn right onto Loto Rd.
- Take a left turn after 3.3 kilometers.
- Turn left after 220 meters.
- Swerve to the right after 140 meters.
- Turn left after 140 meters, and you can reach Mapu'a' A Blowholes within 18 minutes.
Things to Do
This tourist destination is one of the things you should not miss when you visit Tonga. If you wish to explore more, here is the list of things you can enjoy in Mapu'a' A Blowholes.
- Witness water catapults
Once you reach the area, you will notice hundreds of blowholes stretch in several kilometers of the coast. You can hear its distinct whistling roar as it strikes upward. If you are fortunate, you can witness water catapulting 30 meters into the air. You can take pictures of it so that you will have evidence of how powerful the forces of the ocean are.
- Explore the coralline limestones
On a fine day, you can see many coralline limestones on the coast. These are all brought by the forces of nature, which makes it unique. You can sit on it as you wait for the surging waters shooting upwards from the blowholes.
- Watch the sunset and the birds
Since the area is not densely populated, even if you are visiting with other tourists, you can still have the solitude you are looking for. You can enjoy watching the spectacle of the sunset as you lounge on the vast beach. From time to time, you can also witness beautiful migratory birds flying in the blue sky.
Ha' Atafu Beach
Since Tonga is an archipelago, it is blessed with many wonderful beaches. One of the famous beaches in the country is Ha' Atafu Beach which is found in Tongatapu. If you have your car with you, going there will be easy. However, you can still travel using public transportation such as taxis coming from Nuku'alofa. If you want to experience calm waters and a temperate climate, visit between May and October.
- From Tonga Airports Limited, head southeast toward Taufa'ahau Rd
- Turn right onto Taufa'ahau Rd.
- Take a right turn after 1.5 kilometers.
- Swerve to the right onto Loto Rd.
- Turn right after 2.4 kilometers.
- Take a left turn onto Hihifo Rd.
- Turn left after 400 meters.
- Swerve to the left after 100 meters, and you can reach Ha'atafu Beach approximately after 33 minutes. v
Things to do
The unspoiled Ha'Atafu Beach is a paradise that every tourist in Tonga should visit. Besides swimming, there are other exciting things to try on the beach. Here is the list of recreations you can do when you visit Ha' Atafu Beach.
- Ride the surfing waves of Tonga
Ha'Atafu Beach is home to Tonga's best surfing location. The whole area features safe all-tides surfing, so you can enjoy it even if you are a beginner. Nonetheless, if you are an experienced surfer, you can also ride the waves in their best surf peels at high tide. This place is one of the few South Pacific countries where you can enjoy excellent surfing conditions all year round.
- Enjoy recreational swimming and snorkeling.
When you are in Ha'Atafu Beach, you will find a vast lagoon area where you can explore by swimming or snorkeling. This place boasts crisp blue waters and a wide variety of marine biodiversity. You can swim with different tropical fish and admire the colorful corals around you.
- Watch and swim with humpback whales.
Between July and October, you can spot mesmerizing and colossal humpback whales on the beach. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you should not miss when you visit Tonga. These gentle giants breed during these months, so you can interact with them with an experienced local guide's assistance.
- Savor traditional Tongan cuisine
There are several beachside accommodations and restaurants in the area that offer traditional Tongan cuisines. The beachfront has many hearty meals that you can only taste in the country. You can also bring your food and enjoy a peaceful picnic in Ha'Atafu Beach.
Locals and tourists love the most popular cave in Tonga, 'Anahulu Cave. You can explore and dive into its freshwater pool. It is advised that when you visit the place, you come with a local guide or join a scuba dive tour so that you can fully explore it.
- From Aeroport International Fua'amotu, head southeast
- Continue straight for 1 kilometer.
- Turn left after 1.9 kilometers.
- Take a right turn onto Tuku'Aho Rd.
- Turn a sharp left onto Liku Rd, and you can reach Anahulu Cave within 14 minutes.
Things to do
If you want to explore a dark world and slightly eerie place, you can visit 'Anahulu Cave. It is the most popular cave in the country, and you will know why. Listed below are the things you can do in 'Anahulu Cave
- Dive into the darkness
If you are afraid of the dark, think twice before entering 'Anahulu Cave. However, the fear of uncertainty will be changed to awe as you shine a light on the cave's mesmerizing natural limestones and stalactite caverns. Make sure to contact Teta Tours because they are the ones in charge of the site. They provide generators to avoid conquering the cave in total darkness.
- Enjoy underground swimming
The beautiful underground freshwater pool in the cave is what lures tourists to come back again to 'Anahulu Cave. It is truly a unique experience to dive deep into the inky void of the cave. Swim as much as you want because this cave might be developed to cater to larger groups of tourists in the next few years.
- Experience scuba diving snorkeling in 'Anahulu
If you are not satisfied with swimming into its calm waters, you can book or join a scuba diving team. You can explore 'Anahulu Cave more if you have the right gears and a professional scuba diving team. Venture to the deeper parts of the cave and discover what lies ahead of you. You can also bring your mask and flippers if you simply want to snorkel in the underground pool.
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