Tuvalu Driving Guide
Tuvalu is a unique beautiful country. Explore all of it by driving when you get your International Driving Permit
If you are looking for a remote, pristine, tropical place to spend your vacation in, you might want to try and explore this Polynesian country. Tuvalu is not a developed country, unlike its neighboring Oceania nations. The beauty about this, though, is that you get nature at its best. Plus, if you love the sea and all of its creatures, you won’t have to spend a lot because it’s just going to be a few steps away from wherever you are in the country.
Road trips are also the best in the country because you can go to every corner without worrying about traffic, road obstructions, motor accidents, and the like. If it isn’t popular yet worldwide, driving in Tuvalu will arguably become one once the country becomes more accessible.
How Can This Guide Help You?
If you’re interested in visiting Tuvalu, this guide will give you the basic information that you need to know in order to have a safe and smooth travel experience. This guide will take you through the frequently asked questions about driving in Tuvalu, including having an International Driving Permit in the country, the most important road rules, driving culture, road conditions, top tourist destinations, and directions on how to reach the different destinations.
As of this writing, Fiji Airways is the only airline that operates in Tuvalu. If you come from outside Oceania, you’ll have to book a connecting flight to reach the country. But before traveling to Tuvalu, here are some fast facts about its history and culture.
Originally called the Ellice Islands, Tuvalu is located within the western region of the South Pacific Ocean. Specifically, its island capital is located 8o31’13.84” South and 179o11’56.50” East. It is surrounded by other Polynesia countries including Nauru, Vanuatu. Fiji, Tonga, and Marshall Islands. It is about 520 nautical miles south of the Equator, which gives it its tropical climate — hot, humid, and rainy.
Tuvalu practices two(2) official languages: English and Tuvaluan. Both languages are used in official documents. Because Tuvalu was once a British Protectorate, British English was also inculcated into its culture. English is taught in school and is often used at official functions. However, English is rarely used domestically. When you meet the locals, you’ll hear people speak more Tuvaluan for their day-to-day engagements.
Tuvaluan language takes its roots from other Polynesian languages — mostly Samoan. With this, some locals can speak Samoan, Gilbertese, and Kiribati.
Tuvalu is comprised of nine major (9) islands, with a total land area of 26km2. However, taking into account the islets, the total number of land masses within the country is 124 islands. The island capital is Funafuti and it is where the majority of the population resides. When you go driving in Tuvalu, valley-slope roads (uphill/downhill) will not worry you because all of the islands have a flat terrain (with the highest elevation at only 4.6 meters).
The majority of the islands are atolls. An atoll is a ring-shaped coral reef that creates a shallow lagoon in the middle. This means that inhabited islands and their islets are actually elevated areas of a coral reef. So when you visit Tuvalu, you can expect that you’ll be able to see vibrant corals already just a few meters offshore. If you also want to visit other islands, you’ll have to ride at least an overnight boat.
The earliest inhabitants of Tuvalu were mostly from other Polynesian islands like Tonga and Samoa. Tuvalu got its name from the phrase “eight standing together” because, during that time, only eight (8) out of the nine (9) atolls were inhabited.
The first European accounts of Tuvalu dated as far back as the 16th century. However, it was only during the early 19th century that the country was seen as economically significant. Like most small nations, the trading of people was also practiced in the country. Most of the locals were sent to neighboring countries like Australia. This sparked concern within the London Missionary Society. By the start of the 20th century, Protestant Christianity was introduced.
The islands also served as a Naval Base for the United States Army during World War II. It wasn’t only until 1976 that Tuvalu was granted independence from being a British protectorate.
The country continues to be a Member of the Commonwealth. This means that the system of government is both a Constitutional Monarchy and a Parliamentary Democracy. The British Monarch is the Head of State, while the Prime Minister is the Head of Government. All the current legislative agendas in the country are guided by the 1978 Constitution, and they are proposed by a unicameral parliament with members that are elected by the public.
Because of its remote geographic location, Tuvalu is among the least visited countries in the world. The increase in tourist arrivals, however, is something promising. Between 1995-2017, the numbers had gone from 900 to 2,500 tourist arrivals. That’s more than double the original count!
Tourists are granted a 30-day visa upon arrival and they don’t have to pay for any departure tax. Unlike most countries where tourists are treated to a special envoy of tourism infrastructures, upscale hotels, entertainment areas, tour guides, and organized tours, Tuvalu is different. Tuvalu does not have any of those. When you visit the country, yes, locals will be able to assist you; however, you will mostly be staying at homestays and guesthouses.
Tuvalu is basically for the laidback guest. If you are one of those who appreciate nature at its best, without so much modern infrastructure like wifi, nightlife bars, state-of-the-art museums, and adventure zones, Tuvalu is a very nice place to be.
IDP FAQs in Tuvalu
An International Driver’s Permit is a valid translation of your native driving license. An IDP allows you to drive in foreign countries, and as such, you’ll have to bring it with you every time you drive. Apart from driving, the IDP is often a requirement to rent a car. Most car rental companies will not allow you to rent without an IDP, especially when your native driving license is not printed in English or the Roman Alphabet.
Another great thing about having an IDP is that you can use it in multiple countries. You don’t have to apply for one every time you travel to another country, as long as your IDP hasn’t expired yet. You can purchase an IDP that is valid for one (1) or three (3) years. It is recommended that you purchase an IDP way before your native driving license expires to get the maximum value of it. This is because, once your native driving license expires, so does your IDP (even if its original expiry date is still months away).
Is An International Driver’s License (IDL) Required in Tuvalu?
An International Driver’s Permit is not legally required for you to go driving in Tuvalu. However, securing one is highly recommended. As mentioned, if your native driving license is not printed in English, Tuvaluan, or in the Roman Alphabet in general, local authorities may have a difficult time interpreting it. In addition, if you don’t have an IDP, you’d need to explain your native driving license to them yourself.
An IDP can also serve as a valid identification document. So if additional documents will be requested of you, such as by the Immigration Office, you’ll be able to use your IDP. If you haven’t decided on securing an IDP before your trip, you can always do so once you arrive. If you apply for an IDP with us, you can opt to have a digital copy only, and you’ll receive it within two (2) hours or less! Do note that internet and communication signals are sparse in the country, so we really recommend that you obtain one before your trip.
Is My Driving License Valid in Tuvalu?
According to Tuvaluan law, tourists like you are allowed to drive in the country using only your native driving license. You can use it for the first two(2) of your stay. If you intend to stay and drive in Tuvalu for more than 14 days, you’d have to apply for a local, Tuvalu driving permit.
The requirements to apply for a Tuvalu driving permit only include your native driving license and an IDP. The IDP will help authorities understand your native driving license. Some travelers from the U.K. noted that they weren’t required an IDP though. Perhaps this was because the authorities understood the English language.
Once you’ve prepared your requirements, you’ll need to go to the police station where you’ll apply. Here is the process:
- Submit your requirements to the police station.
- Take the Tuvalu driving test.
- Once passed, the police will give you a signed note.
- Take the signed note to the government cashier’s office and pay the processing fee.
- Go back to the police station and have the document signed.
- Then back again to the government cashier’s office for the final signature.
- The cashier will give you a receipt which you’ll need to take to the town hall.
- The town hall is where you’ll claim your valid Tuvaluan license.
What Are The Requirements To Get an International Driver’s Permit?
If you have reached the age of 18 and have a full driving license from your country of residence, then you can apply for an International Driver’s Permit. If you apply for your IDP with us, you just need to prepare your native driving license, two (2) passport-size photos, a credit card, or a PayPal account for the payment.
Once your requirements are ready, you can navigate back to our homepage and click on the shopping cart button or the “Start My Application” button. You’ll be directed to the application page, wherein you’ll need to undergo six (6) simple steps:
- Choose your IDP Plan.
- Enter your personal information (including the vehicle class you are allowed to drive).
- Fill up your delivery details (you can have it shipped to your destination country).
- Pay the processing fee.
- Verify your identity (upload scanned copies of your native driving license and passport-size photos).
- Wait for confirmation.
Processing times may depend on the agency you applied at. For us, the standard shipping time is two (2) hours for the digital IDP and 7 to 30 days for the physical IDP. You can also go for the express shipping option with a minimal fee. You’ll be able to receive your digital IDP within 20 minutes. Moreover, if you lose your IDP, you can have it replaced for free. All you need to do is pay for the shipping costs if you opted to get the physical IDP.
Renting a Car in Tuvalu
There’s nothing like the sweet Pacific breeze going through your hair as you go driving in Tuvalu. Renting a vehicle is highly recommended if you travel to a new country because you explore the country on your own terms. How much more in a country where traffic is literally non-existent!
Car Rental Companies
Unlike other bigger countries, vehicle rental companies in Tuvalu don’t have an online presence. Even when you arrive in the country and search for “rentals for driving in Tuvalu near me”, you won’t really get anything useful. This means that you cannot book in advance online, not unless you have someone to do it for you on the island. When you arrive in the country, you’ll have to ask the locals where you can rent a vehicle, and they will gladly point you to different recommended shops.
In addition, although Tuvaluans are among the most hospitable people in the world, don’t expect to see first-class rental shops. Most likely, you’ll find yourself renting a private vehicle from a household or from a car repair shop. Do not also expect that before you go driving in Tuvalu, quotes for rental packages will be handed to you. Again, renting a vehicle in Tuvalu doesn’t involve so much paperwork.
To rent a vehicle in Tuvalu, all you need is your native driving license and your IDP. You may also have to leave a valid I.D. to your vehicle rental shop to ensure that you’ll return the vehicle. You don’t need to enroll and pass a Tuvalu driving school to rent a car. Likewise, you won’t need to sign or present a lot of paperwork, perhaps because Tuvalu is really just a small community.
Vehicles that foreigners can rent in Tuvalu only include motorbikes. The reason behind this is not really serious, except that there are no cars on the islands at all. Okay, there are, but you can just count them with your fingers. Furthermore, the roads in Tuvalu are very narrow. Sections of the main highway on the capital island are so narrow that two-three people can already fully block the road.
So yes, only motorbikes can fit in. But don’t worry! You can find different types of motorbikes in the country from mopeds, to standards, to dirt bikes. If it was your first time driving a motorbike, we recommend going for the mopeds first as they are easier to handle.
If you rent a vehicle in the country, make sure also that the unit is duly licensed and fit for use on public roads. Since renting a vehicle in Tuvalu is mostly informal (no papers, insurance, etc.), it may be easy for some owners to rent out unlicensed motorcycles.
However, if you get caught driving an unlicensed vehicle, you can be fined for driving an unlicensed vehicle, and the car owner as well will be fined for allowing the motorbike on public roads without a license. Likewise, if you are caught driving an unfit vehicle, you, the owner, or the repairman will be liable to a fine of $100 or risk imprisonment for six (6) months.
Car Rental Cost
Renting a motorbike in Tuvalu is very cheap. If you book with a tour agency, you might find motorbikes that cost around $10/day. However, if you skip agencies and just ask the locals around, you might score an even cheaper rental. The important thing is that the vehicle is in excellent condition, and you should clarify this with your car rental.
Since the majority of vehicle rentals are motorcycles, the minimum age to rent one is not that high. Locals and foreigners as young as 18 years old can already rent a motorbike as long as they have a valid driver’s license. Some countries may have different age requirements considering the cubic capacity of the motorcycle. However, Tuvalu does not have stringent laws about this. Besides, most of the units in the country are mopeds, scooters, and standards that have relatively low cubic capacity.
Car Insurance Cost
You won’t have to worry about budgeting for car insurance costs because you won’t have to buy car insurance to rent a motorbike for driving in Tuvalu. Quotes for insurance policies will not take any of your time because you’ll only mostly be dealing with private individuals who are open to renting their own bikes out randomly. Some locals, however, may require a security deposit, and you’ll have to pay for it in cash.
The currency used in Tuvalu is the Australian Dollar. No ATMs exist in the country, so you have to exchange your money to Australian Dollars before riding your plane to Tuvalu. Likewise, the country doesn’t accept bank cards, so everything is paid in cash, including your accommodations, food, boat rentals, and of course, motorbike rentals.
Apart from the fact that flights in Tuvalu only occur a few times a week, you should plan your itinerary to the slightest detail because the country doesn’t cater to cashless transactions should you run out of cash.
Car Insurance Policy
Tuvalu is yet to develop its car insurance policies, including the ones for rental vehicles. Perhaps, because there is no “big time” car rental company in Tuvalu, and road accidents are less likely to happen in the country, motorcycle insurance isn’t highly necessary. However, all travelers are encouraged to secure travel and medical insurance.
Travel and medical insurance isn’t mandatory as well, but it is highly encouraged because the country only has basic medical facilities and services. Tuvalu only has one hospital and two(2) health clinics on the capital island, as well as eight (8) health centers covering the eight (8) other islands.
These health care facilities are only mostly manned by nurses and locals health workers. In case you need immediate assistance requiring more advanced medical tools, your travel and medical insurance will cover your transportation from Tuvalu to the next nearest country.
Driving in a foreign country can be scary, especially when it’s your first time to visit the country. However, with the warm hospitality of Tuvaluans and their natural sense of responsibility and care, you wouldn’t really be frightened about being a newcomer driving in Tuvaluan roads.
Is Self-Driving Necessary in Tuvalu?
Motorcycles have become part of the Tuvaluan culture. It is the primary mode of transportation, be it for private use, commercial, or public transit. Locals who do not own a motorcycle either hitch a ride from passing vehicles, charter a motorcycle, or hail one and pay on a per-way basis. Self-driving isn’t necessary in Tuvalu, but it is highly encouraged because of the incomparable convenience that it will give you.
In addition, if you want to explore the island at night, there will be lesser motorcycles to hitch a ride with.
What Are the Disadvantages or Risks of Renting a Motorbike in Tuvalu?
There is greatly no disadvantage of renting a motorbike in Tuvalu, not unless you drive aggressively. Some sections of the paved main highway have speed bumps that will send you flying if you exercise careless motorcycle driving in Tuvalu. Valley terrains are also not a problem because the country is flat, but unpaved streets may have occasional potholes that you’ll need to watch out for.
If ever your motorcycle breaks down, you don’t have to worry about finding help because Tuvaluans have become great motorcycle mechanics over the years. If your car breaks down away from the built-up area though, you’ll have to wait and hitch a ride, or walk to the center to find a mechanic.
How Much Is The Cost Of Gas in Tuvalu?
Contrary to being a remote area, there is no scarcity as to the automotive diesel fuel and unleaded gasoline stocks in Tuvalu. Gas and oil are imported and commercial dealers deliver these sources of energy to the country via Funafuti.
In some years, the cost per liter of unleaded motor gasoline in Tuvalu exceeded the average unleaded motor gasoline price in the entire Pacific islands. It doesn’t have the most expensive fuel prices in the region, but it is among the more expensive. In 2014, for example, it ranked 9th as the most expensive — more or less comparable to first-world countries like Singapore and New Zealand.
During that time, the price of unleaded gasoline was over USD1.75/liter in Tuvalu. Fuel prices fluctuate regularly, so it would be best to allocate an extra budget for this.
The Road Rules in Tuvalu
Road rules restrain untoward life-threatening situations. Even when you are in your home country, road rules are surely in place as part of the peace and order and safety measures of the country. Tuvalu isn’t any different. Despite being a small country, there are still rules that you need to follow no matter how loose or tight the implementation is. Do note, however, that rules governing driving in Tuvalu, by worldwide standards, are still quite undeveloped.
Tuvalu has one police detention center. If you are caught neglecting the road regulations, you’ll be sure to find yourself in this center or find yourself paying a corresponding fine. Apart from risking your safety, you wouldn’t really want to have surprise expenses because again, Tuvalu has no ATMs.
Drinking and driving is not tolerated in Tuvalu and the maximum blood alcohol concentration is only 0.08%. If you are caught attempting to drive or are caught driving any vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you will be liable to a fine of $200 and imprisonment for one (1) year.
According to Tuvalu’s traffic act, imprisonment is not an “or”; rather it is an additional penalty on top of the fine. Lastly, if you are caught violating this rule, your license can be confiscated.
There are no seatbelt laws in the country. Perhaps because the majority of the vehicle are motorcycles. Nonetheless, it wouldn’t really cost anything if you observe the seatbelt laws from your country of residence.
If you’ll be able to rent a motor vehicle in Tuvalu, make sure to wear your seatbelt at all times, and If you have passengers, let them wear their seatbelts as well. Once you are traveling with a child, do not allow them to sit in the front passenger seat.
On the other hand, if you are renting a motorcycle, make sure to wear a helmet at all times (including your passenger). It would also be better if you don’t wear loose clothing when driving a motorcycle.
Parking areas in Tuvalu are mostly inside the premises of commercial centers, government buildings, as well as hotels. However, compared to other more developed countries, there are no road markings that delineate parking spots. You’ll just have to park consciously of other vehicles or ask for someone to guide you where you can park.
Likewise, when you’re going in and out of your parking spot, make sure to maneuver carefully. Tuvaluan has specific penalties for careless driving (yes, careless driving in general). The law states that any individual who is driving a vehicle without due care and attention or without legitimate regard to other vehicles will be liable to a fine of $100 and imprisonment for six(6) months.
Most vehicles in Tuvalu are second-hand Japanese vehicles that are not air-conditioned. Mobile air-conditioning is generally impractical because of the corrosive environment. Considering that the island is dominated by salty sea breezes, the rates of metal corrosion is high. This may also be another reason why smaller vehicles like motorcycles are preferred because they are easier to maintain.
There are only primary and secondary roads in Tuvalu. When it comes to the speed limit, the national government requires all vehicles to maintain a maximum speed limit of 60 km/hour. If you really look at it, driving in Tuvalu at this speed is only technically possible on the main highway because of its length. For secondary roads, you wouldn’t really get to drive up to the maximum because the length of the roads is relatively short.
Nevertheless, even when you don’t see other vehicles or road users around, you should drive below the maximum speed limit, like 30-40 km/hour. If you accidentally hit another road user, you will be liable. According to the law, a motor vehicle driver who causes the death of another while driving will be liable to imprisonment for five(5) years.
The majority of roads are found on the capital island of Funafuti. If you go driving in Tuvalu, maps aren’t that necessary. Even in the capital, it would be impossible to get lost driving because the area is very small. The roads also are few, so there aren’t a lot of corners to turn to.
There are only two(2) roads that run parallel to Funafuti’s main highway, and these don’t run the full extent of the highway. Each of these parallel roads are connected to the main highway by a single block, which means that when you come from one parallel road, the next corner is already the main highway.
Traffic Road Signs
Traffic road signs in Tuvalu are only very few, and most of them are found in the central business area. You’ll occasionally see yield signs along road corners, but that’s mostly it. The country doesn’t even have the street names posted on a sign. So when you drive through the country, make sure to remember landmarks. Bringing a road map along would also help you navigate.
Right of Way
As mentioned, you may find a few yield signs on the road. When you see this sign, it means that you need to reduce your speed and allow oncoming vehicles to pass first before you proceed. Yield signs aren’t the only laws that represent the right of way. Some vehicles generally have the right of way at any given time. This means that if you see these types of vehicles, you should allow them to pass first. These vehicles include:
- Emergency response vehicles
- Larger vehicles
- Vehicles that are already turning the junction
Legal Driving Age
The minimum driving ages in Tuvalu depend on the vehicle type. Individuals who are at least 16 years old can obtain a license for a motorcycle. Individuals who are at least 17 years old can secure a license for a private motor vehicle. Lastly, individuals who are at least 21 years old can obtain a license for a commercial or public service motor vehicle.
However, supposing you are 16, and you have a full driver’s license, but it is not printed in English. You won’t be able to get an IDP because the minimum age to get an IDP is 18. So technically, you’re non-English driving license will not be recognized in Tuvalu. Hence, you’ll not be allowed to drive.
Laws on Overtaking
People rarely need to overtake in Tuvalu because traffic built-up is minimal or it doesn’t exist at all even in Funafuti. But in cases when you really need to overtake, you have to do it vigilantly. This means that should be no other road users on the road, not even pedestrians or animals. Likewise, you should signal to the vehicle in front of you by using your car horn. If the vehicle hears your car horn, the driver will have to reduce his/her speed to allow you to pass.
If you think it’s too risky to overtake, do not proceed with it. If your overtaking maneuver results in an accident, you can be charged with reckless driving. In Tuvaluan laws, individuals who drive vehicles recklessly will be liable to a fine of $200 and imprisonment for one (1) year.
Driving in Tuvalu is done on the left side of the road. Observing the correct driving side is very, very important because the roads in the country are very narrow. If an oncoming vehicle suddenly pops out of nowhere, an accident will be most likely, so stay left at all times. If you are not used to driving on the left side of the road, turns can be challenging. As such, when you approach a junction, make sure to reduce your speed as much as you can and look out for any oncoming vehicle.
If you haven’t driven a motorcycle yet and want to learn, you can ask the locals to teach you. There are no big-time Tuvalu driving schools in the country, and locals just mostly learned on their own. If you find a local who is willing to teach you, you can just discuss payment terms between the two of you. Likewise, expect that driving lessons will take place on the main highway because there isn’t any private Tuvalu driving range for you to practice at.
The Driving Etiquette in Tuvalu
Tuvalu has yet to formulate and implement more efficient road traffic policies. With the existing rules, the only secret to not violate any of them is to maintain proper road etiquette. Road etiquette is basically your manners whenever you’re driving. If you just remember to behave on the road, you’ll definitely be kept away from any untoward disaster.
The probability of your motorcycle breaking down can be less. However, most breakdowns occur due to machine failure and flat tires. If your rental vehicle ever breaks down within the center or main community area, you won’t have any problem about getting some help because there are plenty of repair shops in the country, especially in Funafuti.
However, if your vehicle stops working within a more remote area of the country, you’ll have to call for assistance via a communication device or leave your vehicle in a safe place, walk, and look for assistance.
If you have your homestay’s number, you can call them for assistance. If you need immediate medical assistance because you met an accident, contact the police emergency hotline (911) right away or dial +688 2076. Since mobile signal is sparse in the country, locals mostly use radios, especially in other islands. When you visit the country and plan to really go around, it would be best if you secure a radio from your hotel or your homestay before going out.
According to Tuvalu’s Police Ordinance, Tuvaluan police have the duty to regulate and control traffic as well as divert traffic in the interest of public safety. The police also are responsible for keeping order on public roads and other public areas. As such, do not be surprised if a police officer will call you over. In a lot of cases, the police do random checks to see how the drivers are; and this may include breathalyzer tests.
In the event that you get caught violating any of the road rules, you will have to abide by the officer’s instructions. Exercise respect and remain calm when dealing with authorities because anyone who disobeys or opposes any lawful order given by the police will be liable to a fine of $40 or imprisonment for three (3) months. If you think the police officer is mistaken, discuss it with him calmly.
Driving in Tuvalu is easy. There is only one main highway, and the rest are small, secondary roads. However, if you need to locate an area right away and traffic signs are very few, you can ask the locals for directions. Locals are very welcoming despite not having so many foreign visitors around. In addition, since everyone knows how to speak English, you shouldn’t have a hard time conversing with them. Some may even guide you (drive their vehicle) to the spot that you are looking for!
The police force can also set up checkpoints for random breath testing. This is part of the enforcement of the laws on drinking and driving. If you look at it, the penalties for violation of road rules in Tuvalu are quite high. This can be another reason why locals remain vigilant and careful; and why Tuvalu remains to be one of the safest countries to travel to in the world.
If you encounter a checkpoint, don’t wait for the police to wave you over before you reduce your speed. Apart from submitting you to a breathalyzer test, they would probably request your driving and/or travel documents as part of the protocol. With this, make sure that you don’t forget your native driving license and your IDP before going out on the road.
Driving Conditions in Tuvalu
Tuvalu is one of the safest countries in the world. So safe that, in fact, there have only been two accounts of murder since 1978. That’s within more than four (4) decades. Most safety concerns are a result of petty crimes, and these even occur rarely.
In terms of road accidents, Tuvalu has an average of one (1) traffic fatality per year. Apart from the fact that Tuvalu only has less than 12,000 people (total of all islands) as of March 2021, people are really responsible and careful on the road. Even pedestrians are mindful when they are walking on the road (since there are no pedestrian zones).
Despite the increase of tourist arrivals over the years, the minimal number of road traffic accidents remains low. When driving in Tuvalu, city-like road accidents that are often gruesome are basically impossible.
Although the motorcycle is the prevailing form of transportation in the country, there are also a few other types of vehicles like compact sedans, bicycles, buses, trucks, taxis, and vans. Larger vehicles are mostly owned by hotels or homestays and are used to transport large groups of tourists. Buses are also used as a public transportation service, but you need to wave them down because there aren’t any bus stops.
Lastly, do not expect that public transportation is adequate in the country. As mentioned in the earlier parts of this article, you can mostly count the number of larger vehicles by your fingers. Did you know that Tuvalu only had its first motor car in 1982? And it didn’t really increase rapidly after that because at that time, and the years after, the demand for road transport wasn’t really that high.
There are no toll roads in Tuvalu because the roads are very small. Even the main highway on the capital island is only 10 km long, and it is already the longest Tuvaluan driving range. The main highway has only one(1) carriageway, with two (2) lanes for each direction. Paved roads also rarely need repair perhaps because the number and type of vehicles that ply the roads aren’t yet in levels that could gravely affect its condition.
However, back in the early 2000s, about 284 vehicles were recorded during the peak traffic hour, including bicycles. With the increasing local population and developing economic situation in Tuvalu, you can indirectly deduce that the number of vehicles has gone up since then. Perhaps the government will consider targeted road tolls in the future.
The main highway on the capital island of Funafuti is the only completely paved road in Tuvalu. In other areas, roads are mostly unpaved. Unpaved roads can be a problem, especially during typhoon season, because the ground either becomes soft or potholes disappear from sight due to water. As such, be careful when driving through these areas.
In addition, there are no road markings on paved Tuvaluan roads. As mentioned, speed-bumps exist, but they are not properly marked. With this, no matter how tempting the highway is for some speed driving, stick the driving within the speed limit. Lastly, most secondary roads are unlit. So when driving at night, exercise more caution because people and animals just walk along the middle of the road.
Since life in Tuvalu is pretty laid back, and everyone almost knows everyone, drivers are very friendly and respectful as well. People mostly drive out for work, to buy necessities, and go to community gatherings. The peak hour traffic occurs during weekdays, particularly between 7:30 – 8:30 am when people make their way to work, and on the weekends, people drive out to church, join celebrations, and just spend the day out to play.
Nobody would despise driving in Tuvalu. If you don’t know how to drive a motorcycle, this would be a great place to practice because of the open roads. Plus, considering the breezy weather and the peaceful ambiance, especially in areas after the business centers, you’d always love to go out, drive, and explore.
When Is the Best Time to Visit and Drive in Tuvalu?
Due to its geographic location, Tuvalu regularly experiences cyclones, typhoons, and low-magnitude earthquakes. Typhoons are the major threat because it is the most frequent compared to other environmental hazards. Typhoons can be very strong, resulting in authorities evacuating other smaller islands.
Typhoon season in Tuvalu occurs between November to April, so when you visit the country, it would be best to travel there between May to October. Flights are still available during typhoon season though. If you need to travel within these months, just make sure to stay safe and drive safely.
Things To Do in Tuvalu
It’s not that easy to reach Tuvalu because you’ll need to fly first to Fiji, then take another flight to Tuvalu. In addition, flights between Fiji and Tuvalu only occur three (3) times a week so it’s not very frequent as compared to other countries where international flights are 24/7. With this, if you’re planning on traveling to Tuvalu, you should plan your itinerary well. The good news is that, when you decide to go driving in Tuvalu, maps aren’t really necessary! Here are some recommended activities to do in the country:
Drive As A Tourist
Tuvalu has a number of tour operators that serve tourists around the different islands. If you wish to visit other islands apart from the capital island of Funafuti, it is recommended that you get in touch with a tour operator. Getting to the other islands will require you to ride an overnight ferry boat if you wish to take public transit. If you hire a tour operator, they may have a private boat that could take you to the other islands during the day or at your own schedule. The costs of a private boat can be higher, though.
On the other hand, if you’ll be touring each of the islands by land, it is recommended that you go self-driving on a motorcycle instead of hiring a tour operator. Driving around is already an experience in itself with the stunning views of the ocean on both sides. Tourists who have gone driving in Tuvalu have reviewed the experience positively. Plus, you get to go wherever you want to go and explore whenever you want. Basically, if you go self-driving as a tourist, you’ll not be limited to only a few spots and experiences.
Work As A Driver
Tour operators in Tuvalu also involve foreign nationals. If you’re open to working in Tuvalu as a driver, you can get in touch with some of these tour operators and ask how you can officially work with them in Tuvalu. Considering that public transportation and delivery services are limited in the country, it might be difficult to find work in these subsectors. But of course, you are welcome to try and ask immigration how you can get a job as a driver.
If you are eligible to work as a driver in Tuvalu, you’ll need to get a Tuvaluan driving license. Not just a Tuvaluan driving license, but a Tuvaluan driving license that permits you to drive service vehicles. You can secure this by taking a Tuvalu driving test at the police office and pay a corresponding legal fee.
Work As A Travel Guide
Being a travel guide is one of the most exciting jobs in the world. You not only get to go to different places, but you’ll also get to meet new people. Moreover, Since Tuvalu has plenty of islands and islets, it will just be like having your own personal vacation, but with a couple of friends around. If you love being around people and telling stories, working as a travel guide in Tuvalu might be the perfect opportunity for you.
To work as a travel guide, of course, you’ll need to secure the necessary legal permits. In addition, you may have to work for other side-jobs because salaries in general are a bit low in the country. But since today’s technology has opened an opportunity for remote work, you can literally get an online job and perform your duties from Tuvalu!
Apply for Residency
Tuvalu is a nice place to live in. Life is simple, and it’s away from the complex city life. Second, when you go driving in Tuvalu, city traffic will be erased from your vocabulary. Third, all the necessities are provided by nature, and Tuvaluans are generally happy people. Lastly, if you want to create a family in the future and migrate to Tuvalu, education is free for children between six (6) to thirteen (13).
Foreigners can apply for citizenship by naturalization at the Tuvalu Immigration Office. Do note, however, that you’ll need to renounce your original citizenship or nationality to be granted Tuvaluan citizenship. The qualifications to apply for citizenship are:
- Seven (7) years of residence in Tuvalu
- Serious intent of making Tuvalu a home
- Proof of financial capacity
- Familiarity with the laws and customs of Tuvalu
- Should be of good character
- Should have no permanent communicable disease
- Other special requirements of the Citizenship Committee
Other Things To Do
If you are working under towering palm trees in a country with no traffic, no intense rush hours, and an opportunity to have an effortless healthy lifestyle, wouldn’t that be a dream? If you want to spend more time in Tuvalu, but don’t want to pursue residency, there are always other opportunities to venture into, like working for a cause or helping the communities out.
Where Can I Volunteer in Tuvalu?
There are plenty of volunteer opportunities in Tuvalu. These encompass a variety of development priorities, including health, child care, governance, youth development, women’s rights, education, economic growth, as well as, environmental protection and conservation. You can check out the following organizations and reach out to them for more information on how to become a volunteer:
- Australian Volunteers (through Australian Aid)
- United Nations Volunteers
- Tuvalu Association of Non-Governmental Organizations
To be a volunteer, you should try your best to learn the local language. It is not mandatory because people can communicate in English. However, learning the local language would give a sense of warmth to the people you are helping. Likewise, be prepared with the expenses. Although some organizations provide their volunteers with food and accommodations, it might just be seasonal or of course, depending on their budget.
Top Destinations in Tuvalu
Now that you have a picture of what it’s like visiting and living in Tuvalu, it’s time to delve into the exciting part — the awesome tourist destinations that you definitely don’t want to miss! You have the option to search for “spots to go driving in Tuvalu near me”, or just explore the place randomly. For us, these are the most recommended areas to visit:
Funafuti Conservation Area
The Funafuti Conservation Area is located in the western region of the Funafuti atoll (capital island). It covers an area of 33km2 encompassing different islets, a coral reef, and the lagoon. The area was declared a conservation area in 1999 to protect its biodiversity. About 20% of the entire reef area of Funafuti Lagoon is within the boundaries of the conservation area.
To get to the Funafuti Conservation Area, you’ll have to charter a small boat. Since there are no resorts in the country, you can simply ask any of the locals in Funafuti where you can charter a boat. You’d mostly have a higher chance of finding a boat when you ask locals living along the beach. They will also instruct you where your jump-off point is (most likely where their boats are parked).
Things To Do
A trip to the Funafuti Conservation Area can take an entire day. This is because there are basically a lot of things to do in the area. In addition, when you’re on the beach, whoever wants to be rushed, right?
1. Have a Picnic On One of the “Motus”
The conservation area has a few uninhabited motus (islets) where visitors can have a picnic at. There are no tables or huts since permanent developments are not allowed in a conservation area. Hence, you’ll need to bring mats, beach towels, and the like. Don’t worry, the islets have sandy-rocky shores, comfortable enough to lounge in. Bring lots of water also because some of these islets only either have shrubs or a dozen trees that don’t provide much shade.
2. Go Birdwatching
The reason why the conservation area isn’t just focused on the coral reef is because plenty of shorebirds take refuge on the islets. Birds are one of the best environmental indicators because they are very sensitive to changes in the habitat. When you see plenty of birds in an area, you’ll know that the environment is still very pristine.
Moreover, what makes them ecologically important is that they help disperse the seeds of plants that they eat from, thereby contributing to the natural vegetation of other islands and islets in the country.
3. See the Green Sea Turtles and Manta Rays
Some islets are nesting grounds for the green sea turtle. Green sea turtles have been recognized as threatened and endangered because of habitat loss. The Funafuti Conservation Area ensures the protection of the nesting grounds, allowing for the continued survival of the Green Sea Turtle population. When you snorkel, you may be able to find the sea turtles that have grown already.
Apart from the sea turtles, you can also find manta rays. Manta rays are the largest species of flat diamond-shaped fishes that can grow to as big as nine (9) meters. They can live near the surface of the water and swim as deep as 120 meters. If you go snorkeling in the lagoon, you may be able to find some of these manta rays.
4. Go Scuba Diving
The Funafuti Lagoon is about 275km2 on the surface. It has an average depth of 36.5 meters, and it is teeming with marine wildlife. The lagoon is a heaven for SCUBA diving enthusiasts, especially around the conservation area. To SCUBA dive in the lagoon, you’ll have to get in touch with a dive operator on the island.
The Funafuti Atoll is where the capital of the country is located. It consists of several islands and islets, with Fongafale being the largest. Fongafale is also the central business district of the country and the location of the international airport.
The roads are basically located within the Fongafale island. With this, the best mode of transportation that you can use is the motorcycle. If you want to visit the other islets you can do so by boat or by foot. Yes, you read that right. During low tides, some islets on the Funafuti Atoll become accessible by foot. If you want to experience walking to the islets, you should consult with locals because they know best the timing and levels of the tide.
Things To Do
Since the Funafuti Atoll is the capital of Tuvalu, almost everything there is to do in the country is here. Moreover, Funafuti is more than just the stunning beaches. Here are other things you can do outside the water.
1. Play At the Airstrip
The Funafuti International Airport was originally a military airfield that was constructed by the U.S. Navy in 1942. It is specifically located on Fongafale Island, and the length of the runway covers both ends of the island. It was there that air-missions during World War II took off, and in 1943, the Japanese bombed the airfield. After World War II, the airfield was renovated to what is now the International Airport. The first commercial flight in and out of Tuvalu was welcomed in 1964.
At present, since flights only happen three times (3x) a week, the airstrip is utilized for various purposes on days when there are no flights. In the afternoon, you’ll find locals setting up nets on the runway to play volleyball or soccer; and children running around. When you don’t have anything to do in the afternoon, definitely see what’s brewing up on the airstrip.
2. Drive From Tip to Tip
The Funafuti Atoll has a long, narrow stretch of island. Part of which is Fongafale. From tip to tip, it measures about 9-10 km, and the main highway runs the entire length of the island. If you don’t know how to drive a motorcycle, Funafuti is a perfect place to practice! A motorcycle road trip from tip to tip is one of the best experiences because of the fresh air, peace, and scenery. People who have gone driving in Tuvalu reviewed as well that this is one of the best activities to do in the country.
3. Try the Palusami and Pulaka
The Palusami is a Tuvaluan breadfruit made with onion, lime juice, and coconut cream. The Pulaka, on the other hand, is a nutritious crop grown and eaten as one of the staples in Tuvalu. It is similar to Taro but with wider leaves and denser roots. You can buy these foods from the market or ask your homestay or hotel to cook them for you.
4. Visit the Funafuti Women’s Craft Center
Whilst fishing is more of a man’s work, women keep busy by making handicrafts, necklaces, clothes, and other adornments. Mind you, Tuvaluan women are very skilled at handicrafts. If you visit the center, you may even ask a local to stitch clothes for you as a special souvenir for your trip.
Nanumanga was first discovered by the western world following a French expedition in 1824. It only covers an area of 3km2, but it is of utmost cultural significance and environmental interest. The island is inhabited but only with a population of less than a thousand as of this writing. The greenery is also dense on the island, so you’ll get enough shade when you visit.
To get to Nanumanga, you’ll have to ride a boat from Funafuti. You wouldn’t typically see boat schedules online, so you’ll have to ask about it once you arrive in Tuvalu. There are no roads as well, considering the size of the island, so you’ll have to explore it on foot.
Things To Do
If you like extreme adventures, get yourself a SCUBA diving license and visit Nanumanga. You wouldn’t get to see a lot of underwater caves in the world that are easily accessible.
1. Go Cave Diving
Nanumanga is of particular scientific and cultural interest because of the submerged caves. The discovery of these underwater caves in 1986 led to the discovery of the remains of old settlements, like fire-producing tools. This allowed the understanding of how low sea levels were during ancient times. What was once cave dwellings have been submerged underwater.
Cave diving requires a special diving license. If you only have an open water diver’s license, you might not be permitted to visit the cave. If you wish to SCUBA dive in Nanumanga, make sure that you get in touch with a dive operator while you’re still in Fongafale because there are no dive operators in Nanumanga.
2. Walk Around the Entire Island
Have you tried going around an entire island? If you haven’t, definitely give this one a go at Nanumanga. You’ll only need to walk for less than 3 km, plus you’ll get to see what the island has inif you store. The scenery as well is less than breathtaking, you’ll not feel tired from walking at all. Before going, make sure to pack in those reef-safe sunblocks and lots of water!
3. Scuba Diving in Nanumanga
Dive to the ocean and see the beautiful coral reefs and various species of fishes swimming by. Scuba diving in the ocean welcomes you to a better experience among all the other activities. So, if you want to know more about traveling to the country, getting an International Driving Permit, and other basic things to remember when driving in Tuvalu, do not hesitate to get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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