Tahiti and French Polynesia Planning Tips and Fast Facts
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A paradise on earth of sultry islands with shimmering turquoise lagoons, idyllic powder beaches, signature luxe resorts, a brilliant underwater world, and lovely welcoming people. Take ten days if you can.
Pristine beaches, spectacular vistas, charming locals, world class diving and snorkeling, exquisite cuisine, and endless sunshine.
Location and Size
French Polynesia is a group of 118 islands stretching out over 1,200 miles (1,800 kms.) in the South Pacific Ocean. Its total land area is about 1,600 square miles (4,143 km). Tahiti is the largest island in the Windward group of French Polynesia and is part of the Society Islands archipelago which also includes Bora Bora, Huahine, and Moorea.
French Polynesia was one of the last places in the world to be settled by humans as well as one of the last places to be colonized by Europeans. No one is certain of the origins of the first settlers, but they likely sailed from Indonesia or the Philippines. These settlers are credited with superior navigation skills and are believed to have arrived around 300 BC.
European contact with the islands was gradual with various explorers from Portugal, Holland, Britain and France landing on different islands between the 16th and 18th centuries, returning home with tales of paradise on earth. The first permanent European settlers were Christian missionaries from Spain and Britain who were successful in converting the local chief, King Pomare II and his people to Protestantism.
When Queen Pomare IV deported two French Roman Catholic missionary priests in 1836, the French rulers sent a warship in 1838 to protect their missionaries and in 1942 established a French Protectorate. Since then, French Polynesia’s governing relationship with France has evolved, and today it is a French overseas collectivity with local autonomy.
French Polynesia has become a major tourist destination and a huge part of its revenue derives from tourism.
Fa'a'Ä International Airport (PPT) is the major gateway. Direct flights from the United States and New Zealand, and stopover flights from the United Kingdom and Australia are easily available.
Best Time to Go
Tahiti remains pleasantly warm throughout the year with average temperatures ranging between 75-82°F (24-28°C). May to October is considered the high season and also the best time to visit Tahiti. These months are considered the dry months with less humidity.
Local Customs to Observe
Tahitians are warm, friendly and welcoming. Most people here speak French or Tahitian but English is also a popular language in the prime tourist areas of the island. Visitors are advised to get some primary knowledge of French as most people would greet you in this language in Tahiti.
Helpful Fast Facts
Currency: CFP franc
Time Zone: Tahiti Time Zone (UTC-10:00)
Local language: The official language is French, but English is widely used along the coast. Tahitian language is spoken in the less visited areas of Tahiti.
Population: 285,131 as of April 17, 2016 (including the population of mainland French Polynesia)
Airport: Fa'a'Ä International Airport (PPT)
Entry Requirements: Every national is required to have a passport valid for 90 days beyond the duration of stay. Australian, American, Canadian, British & other EU nationals do not require a visa to enter Tahiti. French people only need to produce a National ID proof to visit Tahiti.
Departure tax: None
Legal Drinking Age: To buy or consume alcohol in Tahiti, one has to be at least 18-year-old.
Smoking Regulations: Smoking is not legally banned in Tahiti but several anti-smoking campaigns and big tobacco taxes have reduced the practice on the island to a large extent. However, you would find non-smoking sections in many hotels where non-smokers can enjoy fresh and smoke-free air.
Staying in touch: Most service providers offer international roaming facilities across the island which allow tourists to enjoy hassle-free calling from their own handsets. Internet services in the region are also up to the mark.
Medical Information: For medical emergency services in Tahiti, you just need to call 15 from your handset or any public telephone.
Public Holidays: New Year (Jan 1), Gospel Day (Mar 5), Good Friday (Mar/Apr), Easter Monday (Mar/Apr), Labour Day (May 1), Victory Day (May 8), Ascension Day (May), Whit Monday (May/Jun), Internal Autonomy Day (Jun 29), Bastille Day (Jul 14), Assumption (Aug 15), All Saints' Day (Nov 1), Armistice Day (Nov 11) and Christmas (Dec 25). Tourist Office: http://www.tahiti-tourisme.com/ provides information on Tahiti places to visit, tourism, accommodation and more.
Shopping Information: In terms of shopping, Tahiti is very different than other tourist destinations. The most precious and tempting thing you can get here is black pearl which lures most of the travellers. Apart from this, handicrafts are the second most popular things to buy in Tahiti. Handmade seashell jewelry, straw hats, needlework, rag dolls, mats, handbags and baskets are a few things that would force you to put your hand in your pocket and spend some money. Tropical clothing is another gem in the treasure of this shoppers' paradise.
Top Ten "Must Do's"
Explore our list of top 10 Tahiti things to do - we promise you'll find something to get excited about.
Snorkel with stingrays and manta rays on Rangiroa.
Hike the peaks of Mo'orea for spectacular coastal views.
Splurge on some precious and rare black-pearls.
Savor Tahiti’s divine speciality 'poisson cru'.
Quench your thirst with a local Hinano beer.
Dive into the aquamarine waters of Opunohuâ€¯Bay.
Hike to a marae (temple) on Huahuine.
Tour a vanilla farm on Taha’a.
Go into the wild on a safari tour on Bora Bora.
Treat yourself to a spa at one of the many 5-star resorts.
Major Local and Regional Events
Annual FIFO - Pacific International Documentary Film Festival (January) – held in the city of Papeete.
Tahiti Guitar Festival (February) – an annual event celebrated every year in February with dance and music.
La Ronde Tahitienne Cycle Road Race (May) – an annual cycle race.
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