If you are looking for French Polynesia travel tips, this post is for you. Finally after 10 years of planning and almost 2 years of delays, due to COVID, we finally made it to French Polynesia.
It is the most wonderful place that we have ever visited. Our expectations were high, but this was better than expected. We believed it would be a one time trip, but as soon as we returned home, we have already started discussing visiting again soon.
If you are planning a trip to French Polynesia, or simply dreaming of going, here are a few things that we wished we had known before going.
Where is French Polynesia?
French Polynesia is a collection of over 100 islands spanning over 2,000 KM, attached to France. Located in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, it’s about 6,000 km east of Brisbane, Australia and 7,700 km west of Lima, Peru.
French Polynesia is very quiet one of the reasons being that it is very remote and there are few ways to get there. From Canada, the options to get there are very limited. The options are to connect in Los Angeles, San Francisco or Honolulu.
To get there, our route took us from Calgary to LAX and a red eye flight from LAX to Papeete, on the island of Tahiti. From there, we traveled to the other islands via short Air Tahiti flights.
During our trip, we spent 6 nights in Moorea, 5 nights in Bora Bora and 2 nights in Tahiti. We had originally only planned on going to Bora Bora but we worked with a travel agent that suggested that we look at including Moorea. It was a great decision, Moorea is so wonderful.
Although, French is the official language of French Polynesia, you can get by with only knowing English. In hotels, on tours and in most public places, there is someone English speaking around.
The people of French Polynesia are so warm, friendly and polite. They are genuinely happy to have tourists visiting their Islands and make you feel very welcomed. One of our tour guides mentioned that French Polynesians love showing off their beautiful islands, that it’s something that they are very proud of. And, they should be!
The climate is tropical so warm and humid. A warm rainy season lasts from November to April, and a relatively cool dry season from May to October. The average yearly temperature is 27°C (80°F) with the lagoon average 26°C (79°F) in the winter and 29°C (84°F) in the summer. To Canadians like us, the water felt so warm. I swear I’ve had baths that felt much colder.
We visited in December, during the rainy season, and must say that the rain didn’t hamper our vacation much. We do have a funny story about rain and our ATV Tour in Moorea but that’s for another post.
Over the water bungalows are very popular in this part of the world. Most resorts offer the option to stay in an over the water bungalow but also has an on land option, typically garden bungalows or a more traditional hotel block.
Since it can be quite pricy, a money saving tip is to split your time between an over the water bungalow and a garden bungalow.Wary Travelers
The best way to describe Polynesian food is local and fresh with French and Chinese influence. And, it’s absolutely delicious. Some of their popular dishes include Poisson Cru and Poulet Fafa, both made with coconut milk.
Poisson cru is one of the top dishes to try in Tahiti. Poisson cru which means “raw fish” in French, can be found on most menus on the islands. This delicious, melt-in-your–mouth dish consists of raw tuna marinated in lime juice and coconut milk, mixed with diced vegetables. It’s so delicious that you’ll certainly miss it when you head home.
Poulet fafa, poulet is chicken in French, is made with taro leaves is another scrumptious dish you need to try. Chicken, taro leaves or spinach, onions, garlic and spices cooked with coconut milk, pure perfection!
Also worth mentioning, the bread and pastries are outstanding. I ate more bread in two weeks than I had in the past 10 years and I don’t regret it.
French Polynesia has its own currency, the Pacific Franc – CFP franc. It’s recommended to get some currency before going although we had no problems acquiring some while there. As Canadians, we were able to use our debit cards in the ATM, but I don’t believe it is the case for everyone. Fun story, an American couple that was staying at the same hotel as us in Moorea, tried to get some money at a bank there but weren’t able to as their cards didn’t work. So, don’t be that couple.
Also, credit cards are accepted in larger stores, restaurants and hotels, but cash is definitely king everywhere else.
How expensive is it?
Hotels and accommodations are expensive. If you are willing to go off resort for food and alcohol it is really not. There are fresh fruit stands all over with the freshest at very affordable prices (think 6 pineapples for $5).
You might have seen on several sites that tipping isn’t customary here, it’s not true. Every bill has a line for gratuities. Everyone is wonderful, so tip them well!
The Tahitian pearl or black pearl is an organic gem formed from the black lip oyster. Due to their rarity, the price of a black pearls depends on size, shape, luster, color and surface quality.
You can find pearls at markets and various vendors, but we were advised that if we were looking for quality pearls to go to a reputable jewelry store.
We did purchase some pearls while visiting Moorea at SAB‘s on the recommendation of our taxi driver. They had a great selection and were very helpful in helping select a beautiful pair of earrings and matching necklace. Larger hotels do have pearl shops on site, but their prices are much higher.
Papeete has traffic but the rest of the islands really don’t. The islands are pretty small so nothing is very far.
To rent a car or not? We talked to our travel agent who had been and she said that she had not while there so we decided not to reserve one before getting there. Once there, we did end up renting a car on Moorea for a single day. And honestly that was enough. It allowed us to drive around the island and make a few stops along the way. We arranged the car rental with the hotel concierge.
The rest of our trips were by taxi. In French Polynesia, most Taxis do round trips, not one way trips like we are used to in Canada. Arranging taxis in advance is recommended.
We heard conflicting reports on the drinkability of the water while there. A staff member at the hotel did tell us to not really drink the water, but it was okay to brush our teeth. It does get pretty expensive to buy water with every meal, so you might want to bring a refillable bottle that you can refill at the free sites on the island or at the hotel.
Travel Power Adapters
If you are traveling to French Polynesia from Canada or the USA, you’ll need to pack a Type E plug adapter to charge your electronics in their power outlets. The easiest way to travel is with a universal adapter, that way you know it will work wherever you go. We recommend you get one with USB ports, such as the one linked here.
Is it safe?
French Polynesia is very safe and a great destination for solo travel.
Finally, if you are looking for more French Polynesia travel tips, below are links to posts that will interest you.
Products we used during our trip
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