Fiji has an extensive and reliable transportation network of airlines, rental cars, taxis, ferries, and both long-distance and local buses.
By Plane and Helicopter
The easiest way to get around the country is to fly with Pacific Sun (tel. 800/294-4864 in the U.S. or 672 0888 in Nadi, 331 5755 in Suva; www.pacificsun.com.fj) or Air Fiji (tel. 877/247-3454 in the U.S., 0800 347 3624 in Fiji or 672 2521 in Nadi, 331 3666 in Suva; www.airfiji.com.fj). Both fly small planes from Nadi to the tourist destinations and have offices in the international arrivals concourse at Nadi International Airport and on Victoria Parade in Suva.
Pacific Sun is the domestic subsidiary of Air Pacific, Fiji's international airline. The same offices handle both Air Pacific and Pacific Sun reservations.
One-way fares from Nadi as I write are about F$61 (US$40/£20) to Malololailai Island (Plantation Island and Musket Cove Island resorts); F$77 (US$50/£25) to Mana Island; F$135 (US$88/£44) to Suva; F$200 (US$130/£66) to Savusavu; and F$250 (US$163/£83) to Taveuni. Suva-Taveuni costs about F$250 (US$163/£83). You can save by booking round-trip fares; ask the airlines for specifics. It also may pay to shop for the airlines' Internet specials (Pacific Sun often offers up to 40% discounts on its website). And always compare their fares, which can differ over the same route.
You can also save with the four-flight Air Pass from Air Fiji. Any four flights cost US$270 if purchased in North America, F$517 (US$336/£171) elsewhere. The passes are not available to buy once you are in Fiji. Call or go to Air Fiji's website for details.
Pacific Islands Seaplanes (tel. 672 5644; www.fijiseaplanes.com) provides charter service throughout Fiji in its small, Canadian-built floatplanes, which use wheels to take off from Nadi airport and then use floats to land on water at the offshore.
Island Hoppers (tel. 672 0140; www.helicopters.com.fj) also will whisk you to the Mamanucas in one of its helicopters. If you have to ask how much these rides cost, you can't afford them. I would let my choice of resort arrange my transfers and tell me how much it will cost.
How to Fly Smoothly in Fiji -- Here are few tips to help make flying in Fiji a smooth experience:
- Book your domestic inter-island flights well in advance. You may not get on a plane at all if you wait until you arrive in Fiji to take care of this important chore.
- Although it's unnecessary for international flights, always reconfirm your return inter-island flight as soon as you arrive on an outer island within Fiji. That way the local airlines will know how to reach you if there's a schedule change or cancellation.
- Air Fiji's flights from Nadi and Suva to Taveuni stop in Savusavu going or coming (Pacific Sun's do not), so don't let an uninformed travel agent book you back to Nadi or Suva in order to get from Taveuni to Savusavu.
- Weigh your bag, since baggage allowances on domestic flights may be 10 kilograms (22 lb.) instead of the 20 kilograms (44 lb.) allowed on international flights. Usually you can check 20 kilograms if you're connecting from or to an international flight, but inquire with the airlines to avoid showing up with too much luggage.
By Rental Car
Rental cars are widely available in Fiji. Each company has its own pricing policy, and you can frequently find discounts, special deals, and some give-and-take bargaining over long-term and long-distance use. All major companies, and a few not so major, have offices in the commercial concourse at Nadi International Airport, so it's easy to shop around. Most are open 7 days a week, some for 24 hours a day. Give careful consideration to how far you will drive; it's 197km (122 miles) from Nadi Airport to Suva, so an unlimited kilometer rate could work to your advantage if you plan to drive to Suva.
Avis (tel. 800/331-1212, or 672 2233 in Nadi; www.avis.com.fj) has more than 50% of the business here, and for good reason: The Toyota dealer is the local agent, so it has the newest and best-maintained fleet. In addition to the office at Nadi Airport, Avis can be found in Suva (tel. 331 3833), in Korolevu on the Coral Coast (tel. 653 0176), and at several hotels.
Thrifty Car Rental (tel. 800/367-2277, or 672 2935 in Nadi; www.thrifty.com), which is handled by Rosie the Travel Service, is my second choice, with rates and cars comparable to Avis's.
Other international agencies here are Budget Rent A Car (tel. 800/527-0700 or 672 2735; www.budget.com); Hertz (tel. 800/654-3131 or 672 3466; www.hertz.com), and Europcar (tel. 800/227-7368 or 672 5957; www.europcar.com).
The most reliable local companies are Carpenters Rentals (tel. 672 2772, or 332 8628 in Suva; email@example.com) and Khan's Rental Cars (tel. 679 0617 or 338 5033 in Suva; www.khansrental.com.fj). I do not rent from other "kick-the-tires" local companies.
Rates at all agencies range from F$100 (US$65/£33) and upward per day with unlimited kilometers. Add about F$22 (US$15/£7) a day to reduce your collision damage liability. Your home insurance policy might cover any damages that occur in Fiji, but I recommend getting local coverage when you rent a car. Even if you do, the local policies require you to pay the first F$500 (US$325/£165) or more of damages in any event. Underbody and overhead damage is not covered, so go slow when crossing Fiji's innumerable "road humps" -- and do not park under coconut trees!
All renters must be at least 21 years old, and a few companies require them to be at least 25 or have at least 2 years driving experience.
Gasoline (petrol) is readily available at service stations in all the main towns. Expect to pay about twice what you would pay in the United States and Canada, about the same as elsewhere.
Driving Rules -- Driving is on the left-hand side of the road throughout Fiji. Your valid home driver's license will be honored in the islands. Seat belts are mandatory. Speed limits are 80kmph (48 mph) on the open road and 50kmph (30 mph) in the towns and other built-up areas. It's illegal to drive while talking on a cellphone. You must stop for pedestrians in all marked crosswalks.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs is a criminal offense in Fiji, and the police frequently throw up roadblocks and administer Breathalyzer tests to all drivers. Even if I have a rental car, I take a taxi home after a session with friends at a local bar.
Watch Out for Cows, Horses & Road Humps! -- Most roads in Fiji are narrow, poorly maintained, and crooked. Not all local drivers are well trained, experienced, or skilled, and some of them (including bus drivers) go much too fast for the conditions. Consequently, you should drive defensively at all times. Constantly be alert for potholes, landslides, hairpin curves, and various stray animals -- cows and horses are a very real danger, especially at night.
Also keep an eye out for speed bumps known in Fiji as road humps. Most Fijian villages have them. Although big signs made to resemble traditional Fijian war clubs announce when you're entering and leaving villages on the Queen's Road, road humps are usually positioned between the clubs, so slow down! The humps are large enough to do serious damage to the bottom of a car, and no local rental insurance covers that.
Appealing to backpackers and other cost-conscious travelers, Feejee Experience (tel. 672 5959; www.feejeeexperience.com) runs a bus counterclockwise around Viti Levu 4 days a week. The vehicles have local guides and stop for sightseeing and activities such as village visits, hiking, and river rafting. You buy a pass, which allows you to get on and off the bus at will for up to 6 months. The "Hula Hoop" pass costs F$396 (US$257/£131) and includes the bus around Viti Levu. The "Lei Low" pass for F$558 (US$363/£184) adds a night in a dorm on Beachcomber Island Resort in the Mamanuca Islands off Nadi. The "Hotel Lei" adds hotel accommodations for F$710 (US$462/£234) double occupancy, F$1,013 (US$658/£334) single occupancy. Otherwise you must pay for your accommodations, although Feejee Experience will book and hold rooms or dorm beds at its preferred hostels, including Mango Bay Resort on the Coral Coast, Raintree Lodge in Suva, and Volivoli Beach Resort in Rakiraki. You can get around by bus for a lot less money, but you won't have the guides, the activities, or the companionship of youthful fellow travelers.
Public buses are plentiful and inexpensive in Fiji, and it's possible to go all the way around Viti Levu on them. I did it once by taking the Fiji Express from Nadi to Suva one morning, a local express to Rakiraki the next morning, and then another express to Lautoka and a local back to Nadi.
The most comfortable bus between Nadi airport and Suva is the air-conditioned Fiji Express (tel. 672 3105 in Nadi, 331 2287 in Suva). One bus leaves Nadi airport daily at 7:30am and stops at the major hotels along the Queen's Road before arriving at Suva about 11:30am. It departs Suva at 4pm and returns to Nadi at 8pm. Another bus begins its daily runs at 7:30am from the Holiday Inn Suva and arrives in Nadi about 11:30am. It begins its return to Suva at 1pm, arriving in the capital about 5pm. One-way fares run up to F$20 (US$13/£6.50), depending on how far you go. You can book at any hotel tour desk.
Sunbeam Transport Ltd. (tel. 666 2822 in Lautoka, or 338 2704 in Suva) and Pacific Transport Ltd. (tel. 670 0044 in Nadi, or 330 4366 in Suva) operate express and regular buses that go all the way around Viti Levu. They stop at the domestic terminal at Nadi Airport and the markets at Nadi Town, Sigatoka, and Navua. Express buses take about 4 hours between Nadi and Suva, compared to 5 hours on the local "stages." These buses cater to local residents, do not take reservations, and have no air conditioning. The Nadi-Suva fare is about F$10 (US$6.50/£3.30), express or local.
In addition to Sunbeam Transport Ltd., Reliance Transport Bus Service (tel. 666 3059 in Lautoka, or 338 2296 in Suva) and Akbar Buses Ltd. (tel. 669 4760 in Rakiraki) have express and local service between Lautoka and Suva via the King's Road. The Lautoka-Suva fare is about F$13 (US$8.50/£4.30).
Fume-belching local buses use the produce markets as their terminals. The older buses have side windows made of canvas panels that are rolled down during inclement weather (they usually fly out the sides and flap in the wind like great skirts). They run every few minutes along the Queen's Road between Lautoka and Nadi Town, passing the airport and most of the hotels and restaurants along the way.
Minivans scoot along the Queen's Road between the Nadi Town market and the Suva Municipal Market. Those with yellow license tags with the prefix "LM" (licensed minivan) are regulated by the government. I avoid the others, which can be unsafe, and strongly suggest you do the same.
Taxis are as abundant in Fiji as taxi meters are scarce. The Nadi Airport taxis are now required to have both meters and air-conditioners, but the drivers do not always turn them on. Always settle on a fare to your destination before striking out. Some drivers will complain about short fares and will badger you for more business later on during your stay; politely ignore these entreaties.
Not to be confused with minibuses, "share taxis" or "rolling taxis" -- those not otherwise occupied -- pick up passengers at bus stops and charge the bus fare. They are particularly good value on long-distance trips. A taxi returning to Suva, for example, will stop by the Nadi Town market and pick up a load of passengers at the bus fare rather than drive back to the capital empty. Ask around the local market bus stops if share taxis are available. You'll meet some wonderful Fijians that way.
Although the government sets all taxi fares, it has not raised them for several years despite skyrocketing fuel prices. They may be higher by the time you arrive. In the meantime, many drivers will ask for a few dollars more than the official fare. Even if they don't, I usually give them a small tip anyway -- provided they haven't pestered me, refused to turn on the air-conditioner, or blared music from their radios. The following are distances from Nadi International Airport via the Queen's Road and the official government-regulated taxi fares at press time.
It Never Hurts to Bargain -- In Nadi and on the Coral Coast, you will see the same taxi drivers stationed outside your hotel every day. Usually they are paid on a salaried rather than a fare basis, so they may be willing to spend more time than usual showing you around. Also, they might charge you less than the government-regulated fares for long-distance trips, such as from Nadi to the Coral Coast or Suva, because many would rather earn one big fare a day than several small ones. It never hurts to bargain politely.
Three reliable shuttle boats operated by Nadi-based South Sea Cruises (tel. 675 0500; www.ssc.com.fj) connect the Mamanuca and Yasawa islands to Denarau Island and Nadi. The Tiger IV and the Cougar make three runs daily through the Mamanucas, while the Yasawa Express goes to the Yasawas and back once a day.
Vehicle- and passenger-carrying ferries also run between the main islands. Their schedules can change abruptly depending on the weather and the condition of the ships, however, so I don't recommend them unless you have unlimited time. Call the operators below for the latest information.
Bligh Water Shipping Ltd. (tel. 331 8247 in Suva; 990 2032 in Lautoka; www.blighwatershipping.com.fj) operates the cleanest and most reliable ferries between Suva, Savusavu, and Taveuni, and between Lautoka and Savusavu. Its ferries are fully air-conditioned and have both economy and first-class cabins. One departs Suva for Savusavu and Taveuni thrice weekly. Adult economy fare for the 11-hour run to Savusavu starts at F$63 (US$41/£21). Another ferry runs between Lautoka and Savusavu via the north coast of Viti Levu, going in one direction one day, the opposite way the next. Adult economy fares are F$60 (US$39/£20).
Patterson Shipping Services (tel. 331 5644 in Suva; firstname.lastname@example.org) has bus-ferry connections from Natovi Wharf (north of Suva on eastern Viti Levu) to Buresala Landing on Ovalau and to Nabouwalu on Vanua Levu. You connect by bus from Suva to Natovi, from Buresala to Levuka, and from Nabouwalu to Labasa (local buses connect Labasa to Savusavu). The Suva-Levuka fare costs about F$30 (US$20/£10), while the Suva-Labasa fare is about F$60 (US$39/£20). Patterson's office is in Ste. 1-2, Epworth House, Nina Street in Suva.
Based at Taveuni, the small ferry Amazing Grace (tel. 888 0320 on Taveuni, 927 1372 in Savusavu) crosses the Somosomo Strait between Buca Bay on Vanua Levu and Waiyevo on Taveuni. The one-way fare is F$25 (US$16/£8), including a bus ride from Savusavu to Buca Bay.
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.