6 June 2014

Fiji - The post I wish I read before I went

Once you get to Fiji it's likely you want to get going as soon as possible. I wanted to do the same, but I wish I knew a bit more before I jumped in.


Booking Fiji

Prices vary according to how you book and who you book with...

- Hostelworld/Hostelbookers will save you money and can halve the price of a hostel compared to walk ins. Great example of this is Smugglers Cove where the markup is astronomical.

- Inhouse travel agents at the hostels are well versed and convinient but can cost you more and may talk only of the main touristy options. Ask them about other areas - Bamboo Beach Hostel was helpful at giving alternative options to the Yasawas.

- Phoning or emailing resorts directly can save you money as they get all the money rather than paying agents etc.

- Resort websites may offer deals. For example when I looked Beachcomber offered 4 nights at a discounted price plus free transfers from the mainland.

You will be given handwritten confirmation only, so keep on to that paper and only surrender it on the last journey or when you reach the island. Keep it in your sight and make sure all details are on there.

Sometimes you can change your mind. For example my boat from Mana to Beachcomber could be changed so I could go from Mana straight to the mainland. My deposit from one resort was transferred to another. My specified boat journeys were changed to fit my new plans - the only money I lost was $10 as the new itinerary was this much cheaper. Some places will charge a percentage or the full amount (Beachcomber) but if you speak with them nicely you may not have to pay.

Preparations for the Islands

To Buy...

Water, as it will be expensive. You shouldn't have a problem taking a six-pack on the boat, but try keep the bottles in a sturdy bag or something similar for easy transfer.

Consider buying a snorkel as it will save you anything from 5 dollars per pop to 20 dollars on some excursions. It will also be in better condition.

Buy snacks and alcohol as these things add up - on the islands you frequently pay double for alcohol

Put all valuable and essential items in a dry bag and keep it with you. The little boats transferring you from the main Yaswas Flyer, can be overloaded and therefore a watertight bag for the essentials will help. It will also help if it is raining!! I've heard on occasion a MacBook get ruined from the rain just on the transfer across and some people lost their whole backpack when a transfer boat capsized.

Island Life

- I have experienced good phone connection across Fiji, including the islands... In fact my signal was BETTER at Mana and Wayalailai than in Nadi.

- Wifi is available for purchase and expect to pay at least $8 for an hour. Friends who bought wifi in Mana said they got wifi for longer than they bargained for, so you may get lucky.

- Electricity is not available 24 hours a day. Most islands only have it on for the night, the evening or as little as 4 hours a day, so check when to charge your iPod.

- Showers will be cold water.

- Free daily activities may will be included, like weaving, language classes, island walks, volleyball or jewellery making. They may charge a small fee for some on some islands.

- The islands have resort shops selling beverages, souvenirs, snacks, sun tan cream and basic toiletries. These are expensive so make a trip to the supermarket on the mainland (see above).

- Utilise safes in reception to protect your valuables. Opportunistic theft isn't unheard of, so be careful.

- Most islands are quoted including a food package, as normally this is compulsory or else you get bed and breakfast and then pay for meals in the resort restaurant. Meals are at specific times, so you can meet people and because they don't have the ability to keep meals warm. Seafood meals, requested meals and food outside of meal times may be available for a charge.

- Most resorts will allow you to start a tab and settle upon check out with cash or card (for 3% charge). NOT ALL islands have a card machine, (and none an ATM) so take out cash on the mainland.

Low Down on the Islands

Yasawas Islands

- These are served only by the Yasawa Flyer (apart from private transfers and flights, but they're expensive!)

- You must have accommodation booked before you leave the boat - no walk-ins but see above.

- Individual journeys can be booked, but they're not advertised on Awesome Adventures. The hostel travel rep will have these prices and booking each journey can work our cheaper than a Bula Pass.

- Bula passes allow unlimited travel between a FEW of the Manacunas and all the Yasawas, but only one journey back to mainland.

- On the Awesome Adventures website they state that you must stay a minimum of 2 nights. This isn't true as I booked single nights. Get the island to phone ahead and book the next island for a night or book directly on resorts websites.

- The boat leaves from Port Deneau but when you book you should be able to get a free transfer from your accommodation, assuming you're staying in Nadi, but I'd imagine you'd get free transfers from the surrounding area. Check when you book.

Manacuna Islands

- These Islands are served by South Sea Cruises, which are included in the Bula Pass.

- There are small boat transfers from the area by Smugglers Cover/Aquarius on the Beach/ Bamboo Beach.

- Individual resorts may also offer their own transfers, so check their website.

- At time of print Beachcomber was offering free transfers for a 4 night stay. Other resorts offer a free night when staying 3 etc. so it worth checking directly with the resort's website for deals.

- There is the option of day trips from the island given they can be reached easily within an hour.

Vita Levu

- There are local buses running all round the island. According to Lonely Planet to travel the whole perimeter costs just under $40 - an absolute bargain compared to the islands.

- Suva and parts of the mainland are said to be less safe. Exercise normal precautions and ask around for recommendations of where to stay.

- Consider Feejee Experience who travel a circuit of the mainland. Packages start from 4 days upwards. They also offer just transport around the island but see above. I heard nothing but good things about it and if I had my time again would do it 100%.

Other Options

- If you have time look at going to the northern islands or other island groups. They may only have boats once a week or overnight ferries where you sleep on the floor, but they offer 'real Fiji' which arguably the Manacas and the Yasawas can't.

- Pacific Air/Fiji Airways offer flights to other islands and although they can be expensive they can allow you to tap in to lesser known areas. You may prefer to stick on one big island than island hop?

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