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American Express -- Fiji does not have a full-service American Express representative.

Area Codes -- Fiji does not have domestic area codes. The country code for calling into Fiji is 679.

Business Hours -- Stores are generally open Monday to Saturday from 8am to 5pm, but many suburban stores stay open until 6pm and even 8pm. Sunday hours are from 8:30am to noon, although some tourist-oriented stores are open later. Shops in most hotels stay open until 9pm every day. Government office hours are Monday to Thursday from 8am to 4:30pm. Banking hours are Monday to Thursday 9:30am to 3pm, Friday 9:30am to 4pm.

Camera & Film -- Caines Photofast, the largest processor of Kodak films, has shops in the main towns where you can also download and print digital photos.

Customs -- Fiji's Customs allowances are 200 cigarettes; 2 liters of liquor, beer, or wine; and F$400 (US$260/£132) worth of other goods in addition to personal belongings. Pornography is prohibited. Firearms and nonprescription narcotic drugs are strictly prohibited and subject to heavy fines and jail terms. Any fresh fruits and vegetables must be declared and are subject to inspection and fumigation. Customs will X-ray all of your luggage upon arrival. You will need advance permission to bring any animal into Fiji; if not, your pet will be quarantined.

Drug Laws -- Marijuana is grown illegally up in the hills, but one drive past the Suva Gaol will convince you not to get caught buying it -- or smuggling narcotics or dangerous drugs into Fiji.

Drugstores -- The main towns have reasonably well-stocked pharmacies, or "chemists." Their medicines are likely to be from Australia or New Zealand. Many pharmacists will dispense medications without a prescription if you have your original bottle from home. The Morris Hedstrom department stores throughout Fiji carry a wide range of toiletries, including Coppertone, Colgate, and many other familiar brands.

Electricity -- Electric current in Fiji is 240 volts, 50 cycles. Many hotels have converters for 110-volt shavers, but these are not suitable for hair dryers. The plugs are the angled two-prong types used in Australia and New Zealand. Outlets have on/off switches mounted next to them.

Embassies & Consulates -- The U.S. Embassy is at 31 Loftus St., Suva (tel. 331 4466; www.amembassy-fiji.gov). Other major diplomatic missions in Suva are Australia, 37 Princes Rd., Tamavua (tel. 338 2211); New Zealand, 10th Floor, Reserve Bank of Fiji Building, Pratt Street (tel. 331 1422); United Kingdom, Victoria House, 47 Gladstone Rd. (tel. 331 1033); Japan, Second Floor, Dominion House, Thomson Street (tel. 330 2122); France, Seventh Floor, Dominion House, Thomson Street (tel. 331 2233); People's Republic of China, 147 Queen Elizabeth Dr. (tel. 330 0215); and South Korea, Eighth Floor, Vanua House, Victoria Parade (tel. 330 0977).

Emergencies -- The police emergency number is 917 throughout Fiji. The emergency telephone number for fire and ambulance is tel. 911.

Etiquette & Customs -- Modest dress is the order of the day, particularly in the villages. As a rule, don't leave the hotel swimming pool or the beach in bathing suits or other skimpy attire. That includes low-slung pants and shorts that show everything from your navel down to your you-know-what. If you want to run around half naked, go to Tahiti, where the French think it's cool. The Fijians do not.

Firearms -- Guns are illegal in Fiji, and persons found with them could be fined severely and sentenced to jail.

Gambling -- Fiji has no casinos, but you can play the local lottery.

Healthcare -- Medical and dental care in Fiji are not up to the standards common in the industrialized world. Most hotels have private physicians on call or can refer one. Doctors are listed at the beginning of the White Pages section of the Fiji telephone directory, under the heading "Medical Practitioners."

Hitchhiking -- Local residents seldom hitchhike, so the custom is not widespread, nor do I recommend it. Women traveling alone should never hitchhike in Fiji.

Insects -- Fiji has no dangerous insects, and its plentiful mosquitoes do not carry malaria. The only dangerous animal is the bolo, a venomous snake that is docile and rarely seen.

Insurance -- Medical Insurance -- Most U.S. health plans (including Medicare and Medicaid) do not provide coverage in Fiji, and the ones that do often require you to pay for services upfront and reimburse you only after you return home.

As a safety net, you may want to buy travel medical insurance, particularly if you're traveling to a remote or high-risk area where emergency evacuation might be necessary. If you require additional medical insurance, try MEDEX Assistance (tel. 410/453-6300; www.medexassist.com) or Travel Assistance International (tel. 800/821-2828; www.travelassistance.com; for general information on services, call the company's Worldwide Assistance Services, Inc., at tel. 800/777-8710).

Canadians should check with their provincial health plan offices or call Health Canada (tel. 866/225-0709; www.hc-sc.gc.ca) to find out the extent of their coverage and what documentation and receipts they must take home in case they are treated overseas.

Travelers from the U.K. should carry their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which replaced the E111 form as proof of entitlement to free/reduced cost medical treatment abroad (tel. 0845 606 2030; www.ehic.org.uk). Note, however, that the EHIC only covers "necessary medical treatment," and for repatriation costs, lost money, baggage, or cancellation, travel insurance from a reputable company should always be sought (www.travelinsuranceweb.com).

Travel Insurance -- The cost of travel insurance varies widely, depending on the destination, the cost and length of your trip, your age and health, and the type of trip you're taking, but expect to pay between 5% and 8% of the vacation itself. You can get estimates from various providers through InsureMyTrip.com. Enter your trip cost and dates, your age, and other information, for prices from more than a dozen companies.

U.K. citizens and their families who make more than one trip abroad per year may find an annual travel insurance policy works out cheaper. Check www.moneysupermarket.com, which compares prices across a wide range of providers for single- and multi-trip policies.

Most big travel agents offer their own insurance and will probably try to sell you their package when you book a holiday. Think before you sign. Britain's Consumers' Association recommends that you insist on seeing the policy and reading the fine print before buying travel insurance. The Association of British Insurers (tel. 020/7600-3333; www.abi.org.uk) gives advice by phone and publishes Holiday Insurance, a free guide to policy provisions and prices. You might also shop around for better deals: Try Columbus Direct (tel. 0870/033-9988; www.columbusdirect.net).

Trip Cancellation Insurance -- Trip-cancellation insurance will help retrieve your money if you have to back out of a trip or depart early, or if your travel supplier goes bankrupt. Trip cancellation traditionally covers such events as sickness, natural disasters, and State Department advisories. The latest news in trip-cancellation insurance is the availability of expanded hurricane coverage and the "any-reason" cancellation coverage -- which costs more but covers cancellations made for any reason. You won't get back 100% of your prepaid trip cost, but you'll be refunded a substantial portion. TravelSafe (tel. 888/885-7233; www.travelsafe.com) offers both types of coverage. Expedia also offers any-reason cancellation coverage for its air-hotel packages. For details, contact one of the following recommended insurers: Access America (tel. 866/807-3982; www.accessamerica.com); Travel Guard International (tel. 800/826-4919; www.travelguard.com); Travel Insured International (tel. 800/243-3174; www.travelinsured.com); and Travelex Insurance Services (tel. 888/457-4602; www.travelex-insurance.com).

Language -- English is an official language of Fiji and most residents can speak it to some degree.

Liquor Laws -- The legal drinking age is 21. Most grocery stores sell beer, spirits, and wines from Australia and New Zealand. Both beer and spirits are produced locally and are considerably less expensive than imported brands, which are taxed heavily. While local Bounty rum is okay, the other stuff is rotgut. I bring quality brands of liquor with me. The locally brewed Fiji beer is served in a short bottle and known as a Stubbie. Fiji Gold is a lighter lager than Fiji Bitter. Most bars also sell Australian and New Zealand beers.

Lost & Found -- Be sure to tell all of your credit card companies the minute you discover your wallet has been lost or stolen and file a report at the nearest police precinct. Your credit card company or insurer may require a police report number or record of the loss. Most credit card companies have an emergency toll-free number to call if your card is lost or stolen; they may be able to wire you a cash advance immediately or deliver an emergency credit card in a day or two.

Mail -- All the main towns have post offices operated by Fiji Post (www.postfiji.com.fj), and there is a branch at Nadi International Airport, across the entry road from the terminal. Allow at least a week for delivery of airmail letters from Fiji. Surface mail to North American and Europe can take 2 months or more. Mail moves faster if you use "Fiji Islands" on envelopes and packages sent here. Post offices usually are open Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm. FedEx, UPS, and DHL Express all have express service into and out of Fiji.

Measurements -- Fiji is on the metric system.

Newspapers & Magazines -- Two national newspapers are published in English: the Fiji Times (www.fijitimes.com) and the Fiji Sun (www.sun.com.fj). Both appear daily and carry a few major stories from overseas. The international editions of Time and the leading Australian and New Zealand daily newspapers are available at some bookstores and hotel shops. Published monthly in Suva, the excellent Island Business Magazine (www.islandsbusiness.com) covers South Pacific regional news.

Passports -- Allow plenty of time before your trip to apply for a passport; processing normally takes 3 weeks but can take longer during busy periods (especially spring). And keep in mind that if you need a passport in a hurry, you'll pay a higher processing fee.

For Residents of Australia: You can pick up an application from your local post office or any branch of Passports Australia, but you must schedule an interview at the passport office to present your application materials. Call the Australian Passport Information Service at tel. 131-232, or visit the government website at www.passports.gov.au.

For Residents of Canada: Passport applications are available at travel agencies throughout Canada or from the central Passport Office, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ottawa, ON K1A 0G3 (tel. 800/567-6868; www.ppt.gc.ca).

For Residents of Ireland: You can apply for a 10-year passport at the Passport Office, Setanta Centre, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2 (tel. 01/671-1633; www.irlgov.ie/iveagh). Those 17 and under and 66 and over must apply for a 3-year passport. You can also apply at 1A South Mall, Cork (tel. 021/272-525) or at most main post offices.

For Residents of New Zealand: You can pick up a passport application at any New Zealand Passports Office or download it from their website. Contact the Passports Office at tel. 0800/225-050 in New Zealand or 04/474-8100, or log on to www.passports.govt.nz.

For Residents of the United Kingdom: To pick up an application for a standard 10-year passport (5-year passport for children 15 and under), visit your nearest passport office, major post office, or travel agency or contact the United Kingdom Passport Service at tel. 0870/521-0410 or search its website at www.ukpa.gov.uk.

For Residents of the United States: Whether you're applying in person or by mail, you can download passport applications from the U.S. State Department website at http://travel.state.gov. To find your regional passport office, either check the U.S. State Department website or call the National Passport Information Center toll-free number (tel. 877/487-2778) for automated information.

Police -- The nationwide emergency police number is tel. 917 throughout Fiji. The non-emergency numbers are tel. 670 0222 in Nadi, 334 3777 in Suva.

Radio & TV -- The Fijian government operates two nationwide AM radio networks with programming in Fijian and Hindi. Several private stations operate on the FM band in Suva and Nadi. The best is Radio Fiji Gold, which carries news bulletins on the hour and world, regional, and local news reports and weather bulletins daily at 7am and 6pm. The interim government has approved licenses for at least two more TV channels to join Fiji One, heretofore the country's sole over-the-air station. Fiji One has local news and weather at 6pm daily. The schedules are carried in the local newspapers. Many hotels have Sky TV, a pay system with the BBC, sports, and a few other channels.

Safety -- Property theft, armed robberies, burglaries, and home invasions are common. Caution is advised at all times, especially in Suva. Stick to the main streets everywhere after dark, and take a taxi back to your hotel if you're out late at night. Do not leave valuables in your hotel room or unattended elsewhere, including in rental cars and tour buses. Women should not wander alone on deserted beaches and should be extremely cautious about accepting a late-night lift back to their hotel or hostel.

Smoking -- Smoking is legally prohibited in many public buildings in Fiji, but not at hotels, businesses, and restaurants. Ask for a nonsmoking room at your hotel and an outside table at restaurants.

Taxes -- Fiji imposes a 12.5% value added tax (VAT) on most goods and services. These "VAT-inclusive prices," or VIP, are included in most prices. In addition, you will pay a 5% hotel tax. Hotels are not required to include the VAT and hotel tax in the rates they quote outside Fiji, so be sure to ask whether a quoted room rate includes all taxes and fees. You will not be entitled to a VAT refund when you leave the country.

Telegraph, Telex & Fax -- Telegraph, telex, and fax services are provided at Fiji Post offices nationwide. Fiji Post also is an agent for Western Union (tel. 800/325-6000; www.westernunion.com), as is Forex in Nadi Town (tel. 670 1666). You can telegraph (wire) money, or have it telegraphed to you, very quickly over the Western Union system, but this service can cost as much as 15% to 20% of the amount sent. Most hotels have fax machines available for guest use (be sure to ask about the charge to use it).

Time -- Local time in Fiji is 12 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. Although the 180° meridian passes through Taveuni, all of Fiji is west of the international date line, so it's 1 day ahead of the United States and shares the same day with Australia and New Zealand. Translated: When it's 5am on Tuesday in Fiji, it's noon on Monday in New York and 9am on Monday in Los Angeles. Fiji does not observe daylight saving time.

Tipping -- Tipping is discouraged throughout Fiji unless truly exceptional service has been rendered. That's not to say that the porter won't give you that where's-my-money look once he figures out you're an American.

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.