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Tonga travel guide - Travel S helper


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Tonga, formally known as the Kingdom of Tonga, is a Polynesian sovereign state and archipelago consisting of 169 islands, 36 of which are inhabited. The entire surface area is about 750 square kilometers (290 square miles) spread across 700,000 square kilometers (270,000 square miles) of the southern Pacific Ocean. It has a population of 103,000 people, 70% of whom live on the main island of Tongatapu.

Tonga spans about 800 kilometers (500 miles) in a north-south direction. It is bounded to the northwest by Fiji and Wallis and Futuna (France), to the northeast by Samoa, to the east by Niue, to the southwest by Kermadec (part of New Zealand), and to the west by New Caledonia (France) and Vanuatu.

Because of the warm welcome given to Captain James Cook on his first visit in 1773, Tonga became known as the Friendly Islands in the West. He came during the inasi festival, an annual gift of the First Fruits to the Tui Tonga (the islands’ supreme leader), and was therefore invited to the celebrations. According to author William Mariner, the chiefs intended to assassinate Cook at the meeting but couldn’t come up with a plot.

Tonga was a British protected state from 1900 to 1970, with the United Kingdom handling its foreign affairs under a Treaty of Friendship. The nation has never ceded its sovereignty to a foreign power. Tonga made a significant step toward becoming a constitutional monarchy rather than a traditional absolute monarchy in 2010, when legislative changes set the stage for the first partly representative elections.

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Tonga - Info Card




Paʻanga (TOP)

Time zone



748 km2 (289 sq mi)

Calling code


Official language


Tonga | Introduction

Geography Of Tonga

Tonga is an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, immediately south of Samoa and about two-thirds of the way between Hawaii and New Zealand. Its 169 islands, 36 of which are inhabited, are grouped into three major groupings – Vava’u, Ha’apai, and Tongatapu – and stretch for 800 kilometers (500 miles) north to south.

Tongatapu, the biggest island and home to the capital city of Nukualofa, is 257 square kilometers in size (99 sq mi). The Tongan islands are divided into two kinds geologically: those with a limestone foundation created by uplifted coral formations, and those with a limestone atop a volcanic substrate.

Climate In Tonga

The climate is tropical, with a distinct warm season (December–April), when temperatures exceed 32 °C (89.6 °F), and a colder season (May–November), when temperatures seldom exceed 27 °C (80.6 °F). As one travels from Tongatapu in the south to the more northerly islands closer to the Equator, the temperature rises from 23 to 27 °C (73.4 to 80.6 °F) and the yearly rainfall rises from 1,700 to 2,970 millimetres (66.9 to 116.9 inches). The wettest month on average is March, with 263 mm of rain (10.4 in). The average daily humidity is 80%.

The tropical cyclone season presently spans from 1 November to 30 April, but tropical cyclones may develop and impact Tonga at any time.

Demographics Of Tonga

Tongatapu, the largest island, is home to more than 70% of the country’s 101,991 residents. Despite the fact that a growing number of Tongans have migrated to Nukualofa, the nation’s sole urban and commercial center, where European and indigenous cultural and lifestyle patterns have merged, village life and family connections remain important across the country. Despite emigration, Tonga’s population increased from about 32,000 in the 1930s to over 90,000 by 1976.

Ethnic groups

Tongans, who are Polynesian by ancestry with a Melanesian admixture, account for more than 98 percent of the population, according to the official site. The remainder are European (the majority being British), mixed European, and other Pacific Islanders, with 1.5 percent being mixed Tongans. In 2001, there were about 3,000 to 4,000 Chinese in Tonga, accounting for 3 to 4% of the Tongan population. The Nukualofa riots in 2006 mostly targeted Chinese-owned companies, resulting in the departure of several hundred Chinese, leaving just around 300.


The state’s official religion is the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga. It is the world’s only state church of the Methodist Protestant tradition, but barely one-third of the island’s population attends. The Free Wesleyan Faith was founded as the official religion of Tonga in 1928 by Queen Salote Tupou III, who was a member of the church. The Free Wesleyan Church’s head pastor represents the people of Tonga and the Church during the coronation of a King or Queen of Tonga, when he anoints and crowns the Monarch. In 1928, the Church of Tonga seceded from the Free Wesleyan Church in protest to the formation of the Free Wesleyan Church as a state religion.

Everyday life is strongly affected by Polynesian customs, particularly the Christian religion; for example, on Sunday, all business and entertainment activities stop from the start of the day at midnight until the conclusion of the day at midnight. The Sabbath is declared holy by the constitution for all time. As of 2006, little more than a third of Tongans identified as Methodist, with Catholic and Mormon numbers accounting for the remaining third. The Free Church of Tonga has a small number of adherents, as does the Seventh-day Adventist Church of Tonga. According to the most recent government census, 90 percent of the population is connected with a Christian church or sect, with the four main church affiliations in the kingdom being as follows:

  • Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga (36,592 or 36%)
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) (18,554 or 18%)
  • Roman Catholics (15,441 or 15%)
  • Free Church of Tonga (11,863 or 12%)

Internet & Communications in Tonga

Tonga’s telecommunications are handled by two companies: Digicel Tonga and Tonga Communications Corporation. The latter operates a GSM network at 900 MHz.

WiFi hotspots are the most common way for individuals in Tonga to access to the Internet, and you can anticipate poor connection speeds, usage limitations, and expensive costs. It’s hardly unexpected given the country’s position in the midst of the Pacific Ocean.

Tonga Post is in charge of both international and domestic mail in the country.

Economy Of Tonga

Tonga’s economy is distinguished by a sizable non-monetary sector and a significant reliance on remittances from the country’s half-expat population (chiefly in Australia, New Zealand and the United States). The royal family and the nobility control and dominate the economy’s monetary sector, especially telecommunications and satellite services. In 2008, Forbes magazine ranked Tonga as the world’s sixth most corrupt nation.

In the March 2011 Euromoney Country Risk rankings, Tonga was rated as the 165th safest investment location in the world.

Handicrafts and a few other small-scale businesses make up the manufacturing sector, which contributes just around 3% of GDP. Commercial business operations are likewise unobtrusive, and are controlled to a great degree by the same big trade corporations present across the South Pacific. The Bank of Tonga, the country’s first commercial trade bank, established in September 1974.

Tonga’s development goals include a rising private sector, increased agricultural production, revitalization of the squash and vanilla bean industries, tourist development, and improved communications and transportation. Significant progress has been achieved, but there is still more work to be done. In response to the influx of assistance funds and remittances from Tongans living overseas, a modest but expanding building industry is emerging. In acknowledgment of such an important contribution, the current administration has established a new department inside the Prime Minister’s Office solely dedicated to meeting the needs of Tongans residing overseas. In addition, the Tongan Parliament changed citizenship rules in 2007 to enable Tongans to have dual citizenship.

The tourist sector is still in its infancy; nevertheless, the government recognizes that tourism can play a significant role in economic growth, and efforts are being made to expand this source of income. Cruise ships often call at Vavau, which is known for its whale viewing, game fishing, surfing, and beaches, and is quickly becoming a significant participant in the South Pacific tourist industry.

Philatelists from around the globe collect Tonga’s postal stamps, which offer colorful and sometimes unique patterns (such as heart-shaped and banana-shaped stamps).

The nation became eligible to join the World Trade Organization in 2005. Tonga became a full member of the WTO on July 27, 2007, after a voluntary delay.

The Tonga Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI), founded in 1996, works to represent the interests of its members, private-sector companies, and to promote economic development in the Kingdom.

Tonga has a population of 106,000 people, although more than twice that amount lives abroad, mostly in the United States, New Zealand, and Australia. Since the start of the 2008 global economic crisis, remittances from the abroad population have been decreasing. The tourism sector is growing, although it is still small, with less than 90,000 visitors each year.

Entry Requirements For Tonga

Visa & Passport for Tonga

Citizens of any Schengen nation (including the Faroe Islands and Greenland) are free from visa requirements for stays of 90 days or less during a 180-day period.

Citizens of the following countries are eligible for a free one-month visitor’s visa if they can show they have a return ticket to depart Tonga at the conclusion of their stay and sufficient money to support their stay: Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, the Cook Islands, Dominica, Fiji, Ireland, Japan, Kiribati, South Korea, Malaysia, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Monaco, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Samoa, Seychelles, Singapore, the Solomon Islands, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenad

Visitor visas may be renewed at the capital’s immigration department.

How To Travel To Tonga

Get In - By plane

Fua’amotu Airport (TBU) is located on Tongatapu, about 30 minutes from Nuku’alofa.

  • Air New Zealand operates flights from Auckland five or six times each week, except Sundays.
  • Virgin Australia operates twice-weekly flights between Sydney and Auckland.
  • You may also fly into Fiji (Nadi and Suva) with Fiji Airways, which has flights from the United States, Hong Kong, Australia, and Samoa.

Each arriving aircraft is met by a swarm of local taxi drivers, who typically charge 50 pa’anga to Nuku’alofa. The Teta Tours mini-bus will also meet your aircraft and transport you to your hotel or guest home for a fee of ten pa’anga.

If you arrive on Saturday, be aware that there will be no stores open on Sunday, with the exception of one or two bakeries, and that your hotel may not serve meals until the evening (although some do offer a packed breakfast on Saturday evening!). So, if you don’t make meal arrangements with your accommodation for Sunday, you may go hungry!

Get In - By private boat

Because Tonga, especially Vava’u, is a popular stop on the around-the-world circuit, many visitors come by private boat.

How To Travel Around Tonga

To get across island groupings, you must essentially fly (or sail).

Renting motorcycles, scooters, and bicycles is possible on Tongatapu, Vava’u, and Ha’apai. You may rent a vehicle on Tongatapu. Taxis are also available. Tongatapu, Teta Excursions, and Toni’s Guest House provide day tours of all the major tourist attractions on the main island. The speed limit is typically 40km/h, which is strictly enforced by local drivers. Before you drive, you must purchase a local Tongan driving license in addition to your current license (25 pa’anga).

The roads in and around Nuku’alofa are excellent, although they degrade as you drive farther out from the town and south. Most vehicles in Tonga are in poor condition, having been maintained on a shoestring budget and kept together by a mixture of ‘Western Union’ stickers and prayer. The low speed limit contributes to fewer accidents. There are buses from Nuku’alofa to different locations on Tongatapu, however there are no schedules.

Destinations in Tonga

Regions in Tonga

The nation is split into four regions or island groupings.

  • Tongatapu
    home of the capital, Nuku’alofa.
  • ‘Eua
    a pristine island southeast of Tongatapu
  • Vava’u
    a well-known yachting location
  • Ha’apai
    the most sparsely populated group
  • Niuas
    The “Niuas” are three isolated islands to the north of Tonga: Niuafo’ou, Niuatoputapu, and Tafahi.

Things To See in Tonga

  • Tongatapu. Tongatapu is Tonga’s biggest island, home to more than two-thirds of the country’s population. It is bordered by coral reefs and is a coral island. Despite the difficulties of a few years ago, the capital, Nuku’alofa, on the north coast, has a calm vibe. There are several fascinating sites to explore, such as old tombs and coastal blowholes, as well as some beautiful beaches with excellent snorkeling. Tongatapu is also a wonderful place to see a distinct culture. To the north of Tongatapu, many tiny islands have been converted into resorts. Nuku’alofa offers high quality lodging as well as backpacker-friendly guest homes.
  • Eua. ‘Eua Island is just 17.5 kilometers east of Tongatapu. It is Tonga’s tallest island and, being considerably older, is not geologically linked to the other islands. It has beaches on the west coast but spectacular cliffs on the east coast, as well as Tonga’s biggest tropical rain forest, which is a wonderful location to go hiking. There are a few modest guest houses in the area.
  • Vava’u. Vava’u is a collection of more than 50 islands located about 150 miles north of Tongatapu. They are either coral atolls or elevated coral limestone. The picturesque port opposite Neiafu’s main town is a popular stop for yachties sailing the South Pacific, drawing about 500 boats each season. The islands’ seas are well-known for their purity. Between June and November, the region draws a large number of humpback whales, and there are organized excursions to view them. Other activities include diving, boat rental, kayaking, game fishing, and kite surfing. On the main island, there are several nice hikes. There are many locations to stay in both the capital, Neiafu, and on the surrounding islands.
  • Ha’apai. The Ha’apai group of islands is located south of the Vava’u group and north of Tongatapu. Only around 20 islands are continuously populated. The Mutiny on the Bounty took place here in 1789. The entire population is about 5,500 people. There are several sandy beaches, as well as excellent diving and snorkeling and the chance to view whales. Ha’apai has a wide variety of accommodations, from cheap to upscale resort.
  • The Niuas. The Niuas may be reached by weekly flights from Vava’u. Niuatoputapu is located 240 kilometers north of Vava’u and has a population of about 1400 people. It boasts lovely white beaches, especially on the island’s northwestern coast. Tonga’s northernmost island is Niuafo’ou. Tin Can Island got its name from the fact that mail was formerly carried and picked up by strong swimmers who would recover parcels packed in a biscuit tin and tossed overboard from passing ships. Niuafo’ou is the tip of a submerged volcano. The most recent eruption occurred in 1946, following which the whole island was evacuated for 10 years. On both islands, there is a scarcity of lodging.

Things To Do in Tonga

Apart from a few historical monuments in Tongatapu, the majority of Tonga’s activities reflect the island’s environment. Divers, snorkelers, anglers, boat excursions, kayakers, and kite surfers may all be found. If you simply want to relax, there are several beautiful beaches nearby. Tonga has several excellent restaurants, and this is the place to go if you like lobster.

Take the time to learn about Tonga’s feudal society and its numerous customs. Attend church. Even if you are not religious, you may find the singing to be extremely touching. Watch tapa fabric being woven from mulberry bark and sample kava, the traditional mild narcotic drink.

Rugby Football is popular in Tonga, as it is in other Pacific island countries.

Food & Drinks in Tonga

Tongan feasts are an absolute necessity. On Tongatapu and Vava’u, tour firms and hotels arrange feasts with traditional dance on many nights of the week.

Tonga is active late into the evening, turning abruptly quite quiet about 11 p.m. Expect to see folks out and about until late at night. Beer and liquor are widely accessible, with Fijian, Australian, and New Zealand imports available to supplement the local brewers. If you want to sample a native drink, try Kava (similar to liquid novacaine) at least once.

Ikale, the native beer, is available in 330 ml bottles in most restaurants and pubs (4.50-5 pa’anga). Alternatively, you may get the identical bottles for 2 pa’anga or less at one of the numerous ‘Chinese’ roadside stores or a supermarket. Imported beers are mostly from Australia, although some are from Europe as well. The majority are available in 330 mL cans or bottles.

Money & Shopping in Tonga

The Tongan dollar, or pa’anga, is the national currency. Denominations include 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 seniti coins, as well as 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 pa’anga banknotes. Despite its status as a developing nation, Tonga’s costs are similar to or somewhat higher than those of New Zealand or Australia. Apart from fish, lobsters, roots and tubers, fruits and vegetables, the majority of what you consume will have been imported. A nice dinner out will cost between 30 and 50 pa’anga, a drink in a restaurant or bar will cost between 5 and 6 pa’anga, renting a vehicle will cost between 50 and 60 pa’anga per day, and cigarettes will cost between 7-8 pa’anga for a pack of 25.

The majority of the paper mulberry tree is used to make tapa fabric. Tapa is prevalent across Polynesia, but Tonga is the only nation where it is still used on a regular basis. The bark is peeled off the tree trunk, and the outer bark is scraped off and thrown from the inner bark. Before being soaked, the inner bark is sun-dried. It is then pounded into 25cm strips using wooden mallets. The tapa mallet’s constant strokes are still a prevalent sound in Tongan communities. The thin strips are then hammered together to form a larger sheet, which is subsequently ornamented.

Festivals & Holidays in Tonga

Public Holidays

Some Tongan holidays are Christian-based, such as Easter with its previous Friday and following Monday, and both Christmas days (but not Pentecost, Ascuncion, etc.). Tonga also observes New Year’s Day (January 1) and Anzac Day (April 25). Emancipation day on June 4, Crownprince’s birthday on July 12, the King’s official birth- and coronation day on August (which is celebrated with the consumption of African cuisine), National Tonga day on November 4 (formerly known as Constitution day), and King George Tupou I’s installation as Tui Kanokupolu on December 4 (often misnamed as his birthday). May 4 and July 4 are no longer public holidays after the adoption of new holidays on December 6, 2006.


  • Heilala Festival Week (around 8 July)
  • Vavaʻu Festival Week (around 8 May)
  • Haʻapai Tourism Festival (around 8 June)
  • Royal Agricultural and Industrial Show (triennial, August – September)
  • ʻEua Tourism Festival (around 8 May)

Traditions & Customs in Tonga

Keep your knees covered for maximum respect (both men and women). Keep your shirt on everywhere except the beach. Topless guys from cruise ships have been caught and detained until the ship has departed! This is a highly religiously strict Christian nation. Remember that Sunday is highly respected; the overwhelming majority of the people will attend religious services, there will be very few businesses open, and there will be very little to do. Hotels, as well as certain restaurants and beach resorts, will be open, mostly to service expats and visitors. Small businesses, including a famous bakery in Nuku’alofa, may open later on Sunday afternoon.

On Sundays, television stations either shut or broadcast Christian programming. On Sundays, radio stations will also broadcast religious programming. To make up for it, the Nuku’alofa theater typically holds a showing just after midnight on Monday morning.

Tonga has a diverse range of Christian faiths, with the Methodist church in particular having a strong influence. Many of the services are a lot of fun. Make friends with some locals and, despite the absence of commercial activity, you will have no trouble finding a pleasant Sunday experience.

Culture Of Tonga

Tonga has been inhabited by humans for over 3,000 years, dating back to late Lapita periods. Tongans had regular communication with their closest maritime neighbors, Fiji and Niue, prior to the advent of European explorers in the late 17th and early 18th century. With the advent of Western merchants and missionaries in the nineteenth century, Tongan culture transformed, particularly in religion. In 2013, almost 98 percent of people identified as Christian. People abandoned some old ideas and practices in favor of new ones.

Tongans nowadays often have significant connections to other countries. Many Tongans have moved to Australia, New Zealand, or the United States in search of work and a better way of life. In Australia, there are about 8,000 Tongans. The Tongan diaspora maintains strong connections with relatives back home, and remittances to family members (typically elderly) who choose to stay in Tonga provide for a substantial part of Tonga’s revenue.


The national sport is rugby union, and the national team (Ikale Tahi, or Sea Eagles) has done well on the world arena. Since 1987, Tonga has participated in six Rugby World Cups. Tonga’s most successful Rugby World Cups to date were in 2007 and 2011, when they won two out of four matches and were in contention for the quarterfinals. Tonga won their first two matches in the 2007 Rugby World Cup, 25–15 against the United States and 19–15 against Samoa. They came within a whisker of dethroning the eventual champions of the 2007 tournament, the South African Springboks, but were defeated 30–25. In their last group game, they were defeated 36–20 by England, thus ending their chances of progressing to the knockout rounds. Despite this, Tonga gained automatic qualifying for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand by finishing third in their group games behind South Africa and England. Tonga won Pool A of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, defeating Japan 31-18 and eventual finalist France 19-14 in the later rounds. However, a prior severe defeat to the All Blacks (41–10) and a subsequent close loss to Canada (25–20) meant that Tonga missed out to France (who also lost to NZ) for the quarter finals owing to 2 bonus points and a points difference of 46.

Tonga’s greatest results before to 2007 were in 1995, when they defeated Côte d’Ivoire 29–11, and 1999, when they defeated Italy 28–25 (however they lost severely to England, 101–10). Before every match, Tonga performs the Ikale Tahi war dance or Sipi Tau (a kind of Kailao). Tonga used to participate in the Pacific Tri-Nations against Samoa and Fiji, but that tournament has since been superseded by the IRB Pacific Nations Cup, which also includes Japan, Canada, and the United States. The Datec Cup Provincial Championship and the Pacific Rugby Cup are club championships. Tonga Rugby Football Union, which was a member of the Pacific Islands Rugby Alliance and contributed to the Pacific Islanders rugby union squad until being dissolved in 2009, governs rugby union.

Many Tongan-born players have represented the All Blacks or the Wallabies, including Jonah Lomu, Israel Folau, Viliami “William” Ofahengaue, Malakai Fekitoa, Ben Afeaki, Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Sekope Kepu, George Smith, Wycliff Palu, Sitaleki Timani, Salesi Ma’afu, Anthony and Saia Faingaa, Mark Gerrard, Taulupe “Toby” Faletau, the son of Tongan international Kuli Faletau, is a British and Irish Lion and Welsh international player. Billy and Mako Vunipola (also a British and Irish Lion) are Taulupe’s cousins and England international players. They are the sons of former Tonga rugby captain Fe’ao Vunipola. Rugby is prominent in the country’s schools, and students from Tonga College and Tupou College are often granted scholarships to study in New Zealand, Australia, and Japan.

Rugby league is gaining popularity. Tongarewa scored victories against Ireland and Scotland in the 2008 Rugby League World Cup. In addition to the national team’s achievements, several Tongan players achieve success in the Australian National Rugby League tournament. Willie Mason, Manu Vatuvei, Brent Kite, Willie Tonga, Anthony Tupou, Antonio Kaufusi, Israel Folau, Taniela Tuiaki, Michael Jennings, Tony Williams, Feleti Mateo, and Fetuli Talanoa are just a few examples. As a result, several Tongan Rugby League players, such as Antonio Kaufusi, have built successful careers in the British Super League.

Paea Wolfgram of Tonga won silver in the Super Heavyweight category (>91 kg) at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics.

Tongan swimmer Amini Fonua won back-to-back gold medals in the men’s 50 m breaststroke at the Oceania Championships and represented Tonga in the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Luger Bruno Banani was the first Tonga athlete to compete in the Winter Olympics. He came in 32nd place in the men’s luge competition in Sochi in 2014.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Tonga

When going for a swim, keep in mind that there are numerous sharp corals along the shore, particularly at Tongatapu and PangaiMotu. While in the water, it is a good idea to wear an inexpensive pair of sandals. There are jelly fish that sting! They are also difficult to see. It’s a good idea to have a bottle of vinegar in your luggage for treating stings.

An epidemic of chikungunya, a mosquito-borne illness, began in 2014, therefore avoid insect bites. In early 2015, an epidemic of Dengue fever was also detected. Tonga, on the other hand, is malaria-free.

When snorkeling, use normal care since the coral may be hazardous.



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