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Pasports

All South Pacific countries require each new arrival to have a passport that will be valid for 6 months beyond the duration of the visit, as well as an onward or return airline ticket. For an up-to-date, country-by-country listing of passport requirements around the world, go to the "Foreign Entry Requirement" Web page of the U.S. Department of State at http://travel.state.gov.

I always keep a copy of the critical pages, with my passport number, in a separate place. The United States has embassies in Fiji and Samoa. The governor of American Samoa can issue a temporary U.S. replacement passport. Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom have high commissioners in Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga.

Note that every individual who travels by air must have his or her own passport, regardless of age.

Medical Requirements

The only vaccination required anywhere in the South Pacific is for yellow fever, and then only if you're coming from an infected area of South America or Africa.

Customs

Each island country has its own Customs laws.

What You Can Take Home from the South Pacific -- Some South Pacific governments restrict the export of antique carvings and other artifacts of historic value. If a piece looks old, check before you buy. Jewelry made of shells and of pink or black coral is available in many countries, as is scrimshaw, but items made of black coral and whalebone cannot legally be brought back to the United States and most other Western countries.

U.S. citizens who have been in the South Pacific for at least 48 hours are allowed to bring back, once every 30 days, US$800 worth of merchandise duty-free (US$1,200 from American Samoa). For specifics on what you can bring back and the corresponding fees, download the invaluable free pamphlet Know Before You Go online at www.cbp.gov (click on "Travel," and then click on "Know Before You Go! Online Brochure"). Or contact the U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20229 (tel. 877/287-8667) and request the pamphlet.

Canadian Citizens: For a clear summary of Canadian rules, write for the booklet I Declare, issued by the Canada Border Services Agency (tel. 800/461-9999 in Canada, or 204/983-3500; www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca).

U.K. Citizens: For information, contact HM Customs & Excise at tel. 0845/010-9000 (from outside the U.K., 020/8929-0152), or consult their website at www.hmce.gov.uk.

Australian Citizens: A helpful brochure available from Australian consulates or Customs offices is Know Before You Go. For more information, call the Australian Customs Service at tel. 1300/363-263, or log on to www.customs.gov.au.

New Zealand Citizens: Most questions are answered in a free pamphlet available at New Zealand consulates and Customs offices: New Zealand Customs Guide for Travellers, Notice no. 4. For more information, contact New Zealand Customs, The Customhouse, 17-21 Whitmore St., Box 2218, Wellington (tel. 04/473-6099 or 0800/428-786; www.customs.govt.nz).

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.