10 things I wish I knew before going to Fiji
Going to Fiji should be on any travellers list - it is literally a paradise on Earth for many reasons. The beauty of these islands, the warm smiles of the locals, and amazingly delicious food are just a few of the things you might have already heard of. But what do I need to know about going to Fiji? And what other interesting things about Fiji are there to find out? An article like this would not be enough to convey all the wonderful facts about this nation in the Pacific Ocean, but surely I will tell you some of the useful things to know about Fiji for travellers! After all, it is a place with a unique cultural background and particular ways of living that any incomer should respect, including you. Hopefully, this intro will give you first impressions and set some expectations on the right track. Off we go!
So you will ask what do I need to know about going to Fiji?
It is an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean and consists of about 330 islands (just 100 are inhabited though). All of them combined to cover a land area that is about twice the size of Cyprus, and about 870.000 people can call this country their home. About 75% of people live on the main island Viti Levu, and it is also where you will find the capital city Suva.
The closest continental location is the eastern coast of Australia, and it is about a 3-4 hour flight away. You will probably arrive at Nadi International Airport and then take either a local airline or boat taxi to other islands if you are not staying on Viti Levu. One of the things to know about Fiji for travellers is that island hopping might be a tat expensive!
So when is the best time to travel to Fiji?
Let’s start with understanding what do you expect from your travel and if you are going to Fiji on a tight budget or not.
The cheapest time to travel to Fiji will be around February. Based on information from the past five years, it is the month when flights and accommodation have been at better prices. The smartest way to make sure this trip doesn’t bankrupt you, is planning the visit during the wet season (it lasts from October to April) and avoid international holidays. It will also be less crowded! Even though this might be the cheapest time to travel to Fiji, it will also come with a few BUTs. As I mentioned - it is the wet season and therefore might not be the best time to travel to Fiji due to weather conditions not being as ideal. The middle way and therefore objectively the best time to travel to Fiji would be in May - after the wet season is over and before the peak season has actually started.
What are things to know about Fiji for travellers?
1. Bula on every corner
The moment you set your foot on the Fijian grounds, you will hear two words right and left. It is the greeting ‘bula’ and ‘vinaka’ which means thank you. Concerning the language - most people speak somewhat English there because it is the official language and this nation belonged to the United Kingdom until 1970. But knowing some local phrases is always useful! Also, know that Fijians are some of the friendliest people so be ready to be welcomed with smiles and reciprocate that with equal amounts of happy vibes!
2. Be careful what you put in your mouth!
The most popular ingredients you will encounter are cassava, coconut, sea grapes, amazingly fresh local seafood and fish, breadfruit, and more. They offer a lot of comfort food, and the recipes are passed down from one generation to another. Nevertheless, there are a few things to keep in mind if you do travel there.
- Buying fresh ingredients in the local markets is an amazing idea. They are cheap, fresh, and delicious. But keep in mind - you will have to buy a bunch because that is the local custom to share what you have with family and friends (and the price is super low already).
- One of the staples is taro, and it is often used to make roro (steamed taro leaves with onion, garlic, oil, and coconut milk). Don’t try to cook it yourself as the crystals in the taro leaves might cause small cuts on your throat and itchy hands if not cooked properly! Leave it to the expertise of the locals.
- As I mentioned - fresh fish is one of the best treats here, but also be careful with what fish you choose to put in your mouth. In certain times of the year, reef fish might get toxic due to feeding on blooming corals; therefore the suggestion is to prefer deep water fish like wahoo, tuna, marlin, and mahi-mahi.
- And always, always drink filtered or boiled water!
3. Kava ceremony
Even though lately it has become a rather touristy attraction, it is still an old local tradition. Carefully weighing where and with whom you do it (making sure it is authentic), you will enjoy this relaxing ceremony. Kava is basically a powdered root of pepper plant mixed with water. Locals call it also Yaqona and usually drink this muddy drink from half - coconut bowls passed around the circle. Be ready to feel a tingly feeling in your lips and tongue and get some calming effects too - the drink is considered as a mildly narcotic relaxant and anaesthetic.
4. Don’t forget about sevusevu
There are just so many interesting things about Fiji, and this tradition is one of them. The direct translation could be something like a gift-giving ceremony. You will probably visit many different places and islands, but remember that sevusevu is an absolute must. Basically, it just means that wherever you go, especially if you plan to visit someone or go to a rural village, you have to give a gift to the hosts. If you are willing to visit a scenic place on an island, the head of the village will come to greet you and this is the moment when you give your sevusevu. Usually, it can be kava, but if you go for dinner - might as well be bread or butter. Another thing to remember - when gifting the host, avoid wearing anything on your head (like hat or sunglasses).
5. History of cannibalism is true
Imagine, you get an idea about Fiji. You think, “What do I need to know about going to Fiji?” I bet cannibalism is something you did not think right away, rather turquoise waters and palm trees, right? But it is actually one of the interesting things about Fiji - they used to be called the Cannibal Isles despite the friendliness everyone encounters nowadays! Their human-flesh-eating history is no secret and dates back over 2.500 years. It is also an interesting topic to talk about with the locals!
6. Fijians are conservative
And it will apply to your clothing too. Packing your bag for this trip make sure to bring some clothing that will cover your skin, unless you literally plan on staying the whole time on the beach in a resort. However, if you plan to go to smaller towns and villages, keep in mind a few rules to stay respectful. Women should cover shoulders and avoid short skirts/shorts, and similar rules would apply to the men. Whenever you enter a place, take the hat/sunglasses off your head!
7. Machetes are just fine
You will see many people walking around with machetes. Don’t be alarmed - it is the preferred tool for many locals who cut grass or other vegetation for work and not for harming anyone.
8. Get used to Fiji time…
Which means - nothing will ever be urgent or on time. You will just have to get used to this kind of attitude. Asking ‘when is the best time to travel to Fiji’ will somehow sound slightly ironic after knowing this and you will be left with the sense of freedom and the idea, that any time will be great!
9. Sitting under palm trees is not the best idea
I know going to Fiji will not be the same and sorry for ruining your long-lasting dream. But it is for your own safety! Did you know that falling coconuts kill about 150 people each year, but sharks just 5? Well, now, you know.
10. Soak in the culture of Fiji in Bula festival
There is one thing I forgot to mention answering the question when is the best time to travel to Fiji. If you really really want to get to know parts of their background at once, just consider visiting the Bula festival that takes place every August. It is really the best time to travel to Fiji because you will see local dances, music, rituals, and moreover - the locals enjoying their time to the fullest. A sight not to be missed!
Isn’t this place just dreamy? So authentic and pleasing on the eye that all your daily worries will go away instantly! You might find out that the cheapest time to travel to Fiji will hardly ever be actually cheap, but you can’t put a price tag on memories that will last a lifetime, do you? The only thing left to say here is… Pack your bags already. And practice saying ‘BULA!’ with a big smile on your face!
Ieva Miltina is an activist and entrepreneur of many sorts. By profession project manager of marketing and culture events, in her heart she is a passionate traveler and a cook, soon to become a pastry chef. Deeply rooted in non-formal education she has been involved in youth work since her teenage years and up till nowadays holds a deep interest in innovative approaches to learning and personal development, which she transfers to people from all Europe during various international trainings. Always looking for new discoveries and adventures she happily shares her positive view on the world and the neverending stories with the people who cross her path. While studying hospitality and tourism management she wrote a thesis on home-chefs, which ignited her dream of owning her cozy and heartwarming home restaurant, which will hopefully materialize very soon. Meanwhile writing articles and doing food photography she is working towards another dream of hers - becoming a published author someday.