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The only practical way to Fiji is by air. Even though Australians and New Zealanders can be in Fiji in a few hours, the distances for the rest of us run into the many thousands of miles. So be prepared to fly 11 hours or more from Los Angeles to Fiji, much longer from the U.K. and Europe.

Because populations are small in this part of the world, flights are not nearly as frequent to and among the islands as we Westerners are used to with destinations around home. The local airlines have relatively few planes, so mechanical problems as well as the weather can cause delays.

Most international flights arrive at Nadi International Airport (NAN), on the western side of Viti Levu about 11km (7 miles) north of Nadi Town. A few flights arrive from Samoa and Tonga at Nausori Airport (SUV), some 19km (12 miles) from Suva. Nadi and Nausori are the only lighted airstrips in the country, which means you don't fly domestically after dark. Many international flights arrive during the night, so a 1-night stay-over in Nadi may be necessary before you leave for another island.

The Airlines

Here in alphabetical order are the airlines with service to Fiji:

  • Air New Zealand (tel. 800/262-1234 or 310/615-1111; www.airnewzealand.com) flies between Auckland and Nadi. It serves many other New Zealand cities and several in Australia, so Kiwis and Aussies can reach the islands either nonstop or by changing planes in Auckland. It has service from Los Angeles to Fiji, although the planes are flown by Air Pacific , on a code-share basis. It links the U.K. and Europe to Los Angeles, where passengers connect to Fiji. It also flies from Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul, Taipei, and Beijing to Auckland, with connections from there to Fiji. It is a member of the Star Alliance (www.staralliance.com), which includes United Airlines, Air Canada, and several European and Asian carriers.

  • Air Pacific (tel. 800/227-4446; www.airpacific.com), Fiji's international airline, has extensive service to Nadi from Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne in Australia, and Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch in New Zealand. It flies its own planes 6 days a week between Nadi and Los Angeles, a service it code-shares with Air New Zealand and Qantas Airways , and once weekly between Vancouver, BC, and Nadi via Honolulu. One of its Nadi-Honolulu flights stops in Christmas Island in the central Pacific. It code-shares with American Airlines, which provides feeder service from many U.S. and Canadian cities to Los Angeles. Within the region, Air Pacific links Nadi to Samoa and Tonga, and it goes west to Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. It also provides nonstop service between Fiji and Japan.

  • Korean Air (tel. 800/438-5000; www.koreanair.com) has service between Seoul and Fiji. Although it's a longer distance, a connection through Seoul can be quicker from the U.K. and Europe than flying through Los Angeles.

  • Pacific Blue (tel. 13 16 45 in Australia; 0800 67 0000 in New Zealand; www.flypacificblue.com), the international subsidiary of the Australian cut-rate domestic airline Virgin Blue (itself an offshoot of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic), has low-fare service from Australia and New Zealand to Fiji.

  • Qantas Airways (tel. 800/227-4500; www.qantas.com), the Australian carrier, has flights from several Australian cities and Fiji, and between Los Angeles and Fiji, although its Los Angeles-Fiji passengers fly on Air Pacific planes.

Baggage Allowances -- How many bags you can carry on board and check (and how much they can weigh) varies somewhat by airline, so always check with your chosen carrier before packing.

Only one rule is set in stone: Passengers on flights to or from the continental United States may check two bags each weighing up to 30 kilograms (66 lb.), with total dimensions (height, width, and length) of both not exceeding 158 centimeters (62 in.). The allowance on flights to and from Hawaii and the South Pacific may be limited to 30 kilograms (66 lb.) per economy class passengers, 32 kilograms (70 lb.) for first and business class.

Although domestic U.S. allowances may be less, you can check this much baggage if you're connecting to an international flight. United Airlines, US Airways, and other U.S. carriers now charge extra for more than one checked bag, so make sure they know you're connecting to an international flight.

In general, first-class passengers on other international flights are entitled to 40 kilograms (88 lb.) of checked luggage, business-class passengers to 30 kilograms (66 lb.), and economy-class passengers to 20 kilograms (44 lb.). Some airlines, including Air New Zealand and Air Pacific, strictly enforce these limits and make you pay extra for each kilogram over the maximum. So does Air Tahiti on its flights between Papeete and the Cook Islands.

In addition to a small handbag or purse, most international passengers are permitted one carry-on bag with total measurements not exceeding 115 centimeters (45 in.). Carry-on hoarders can stuff all sorts of things into a laptop bag; as long as it has a laptop in it, it's still considered a personal item (remember, however, you must remove your laptop and pass it through security separately).

Note: The domestic air carriers in Fiji limit their baggage allowance to 10 kilograms (22 lb.). Check with the individual airlines to avoid showing up at the check-in counter with too much luggage. A baggage storage facility is available at Nadi airport, and most hotels have storage facilities where you can leave your extra bags during side trips.

Arriving and Departing Fiji

Arriving at Nadi -- Arriving passengers can purchase duty-free items at two shops in the baggage claim area before clearing Customs (they are in fierce competition, so it will pay to shop between them and ask for discounts). Imported liquor is expensive in Fiji, so if you drink, don't hesitate to buy two bottles here.

After Customs runs your bags through an X-ray machine, you emerge onto an air-conditioned concourse lined on both sides by airline offices, travel and tour companies, car-rental firms, and a 24-hour-a-day branch of the ANZ Bank.

The Left Luggage counter at the far end of the departures concourse provides baggage storage for about F$3 to F$6 (US$1.95-US$3.90/90p-#1.80) a day, depending on the size of the baggage. The counter is open 24 hours daily. The hotels all have baggage-storage rooms and will keep your extra stuff for free. The Left Luggage also has showers and rents towels.

A post office, in a separate building across the entry road from the main terminal, is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm.

Getting to Your Hotel from Nadi -- Representatives of the hotels and tour companies meet arriving visitors and provide free transportation to the hotels for those with reservations.

Taxis line up to the right outside the concourse. Only taxis painted yellow are allowed to take passengers from the airport. They have been inspected by the airport authority and are required to have air conditioning, which most drivers will not voluntarily turn on.

Local buses to Nadi and Lautoka pass the airport on the Queen's Road every day. Walk straight out of the concourse, across the parking lot, and through the gate to the road. Driving in Fiji is on the left, so buses heading for Nadi and its hotels stop on the opposite side, next to Raffle's Gateway Hotel; those going to Lautoka stop on the airport side of the road.

Departing from Nadi -- The Nadi domestic terminal and the international check-in counters are to the right of the arrival concourse as you exit Customs (or to the left, if you are arriving from the main road). Several snack bars are near the domestic counters, including the excellent Republic of Cappuccino, the local version of Starbucks.

Fiji has no departure tax for either international or domestic flights.

Nadi Airport has a modern, air-conditioned international departure lounge with a currency exchange counter, snack bar, showers, and the largest duty-free shops in the South Pacific. Duty-free prices, however, are higher here than you'll pay elsewhere in the country, and haggling won't change the set prices.

Arriving at Suva -- Nausori Airport is on the flat plains of the Rewa River delta about 19km (12 miles) from downtown Suva. The small terminal has a snack bar and an ATM but few other amenities. Taxis between Nausori and downtown Suva cost about F$25 (US$16/#8.25) each way.

Departing from Suva -- Nausori Airport has a small duty-free shop in its departure lounge but no currency exchange facility. Some of Air Pacific's flights between Nadi and Samoa and Tonga stop first at Nausori, where you will deplane and clear Immigration and Customs.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.