Traveling Luck for Tonga

Tonga is located in Oceania, archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand.

Land in Tonga is most islands have limestone base formed from uplifted coral formation; others have limestone overlying volcanic base.

Tongan land covers an area of 748 square kilometers which is four times the size of Washington, DC

As for the Tongan climate; tropical; modified by trade winds; warm season (December to May), cool season (May to December).

Tongan(s) speak Tongan, English.

Places of note in Tonga

Tongan National Map

Tongan Map

Regions of Tonga

The archipelagos of "The Friendly Islands" were united into a Polynesian kingdom in 1845. It became a constitutional monarchy in 1875 and a British protectorate in 1900. Tonga acquired its independence in 1970 and became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. It remains the only monarchy in the Pacific.


Tonga Country Profile

Tonga, a small, open, South Pacific island economy, has a narrow export base in agricultural goods. Squash, coconuts, bananas, and vanilla beans are the main crops, and agricultural exports make up two-thirds of total exports. The country must import a high proportion of its food, mainly from New Zealand. The country remains dependent on external aid and remittances from Tongan communities overseas to offset its trade deficit. Tourism is the second-largest source of hard currency earnings following remittances. The government is emphasizing the development of the private sector, especially the encouragement of investment, and is committing increased funds for health and education. Tonga has a reasonably sound basic infrastructure and well-developed social services. High unemployment among the young, a continuing upturn in inflation, pressures for democratic reform, and rising civil service expenditures are major issues facing the government.

Tongan natural resources include fish, fertile soil

archipelago of 169 islands (36 inhabited)

Tongan religion is Christian (Free Wesleyan Church claims over 30,000 adherents).

Natural hazards in Tonga include cyclones (October to April); earthquakes and volcanic activity on Fonuafo'ou.

Travel Advice on Tonga

Tonga

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Summary and Political Situation section.  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

SUMMARY

  • Politically motivated violence took place in the Tongan capital Nuku'alofa on 16 November 2006, resulting in seven fatalities and extensive damage to the central business district and government offices.  The Government has introduced emergency powers, imposing an exclusion zone to restrict access to the area.  Law and order has now been restored, but the security situation remains uncertain and could deteriorate at short notice.  You should see the Political Situation of this advice for more details.

  • You should observe the restrictions in place around central Nuku'alofa, particularly the business district and areas surrounding Government buildings.  While shops, restaurants and bars continue to operate, restrictions are affecting opening hours.  You should also take sensible precautions for your personal safety; avoid large crowds, political gatherings and demonstrations; and monitor all available information on the local situation.

  • Court hearings relating to the November 2006 riots began on 20 December 2006.  We advise you to remain alert while the court is in session and not to travel into the exclusion zone, unless you have a pressing need to do so.  There may be increased searches at security checkpoints during this period.

  • The British High Commission in Nuku'alofa closed on 20 March 2006.  Routine consular services for British nationals are provided by the New Zealand High Commission in Nuku'alofa. If you need to visit the New Zealand High Commission, which is inside the restricted zone, you should telephone in advance. See contact details for information.  The British High Commission in Fiji will be responsible for non-routine consular matters.  Please see the General Section of this travel advice for more details.

  • The threat of terrorism in Tonga is low, but you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners.

  • Tropical cyclones are common in Tonga from the beginning of November until the end of April.  Please see:  Hurricanes for more information.

  • Most visits to Tonga are trouble free.  The main type of incidents for which British nationals require consular assistance in Tonga are for replacing lost or stolen passport and petty crime.  Incidences of robbery and theft have increased in Tonga.  There have also been some incidences of violent assault.  Foreign tourists and foreign residents may be at risk.  You should take particular care at night.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see Travel Insurance.


SAFETY AND SECURITY

Crime

Incidences of robbery and theft have increased in Tonga.  There have also been some incidences of violent assault associated with robbery.  Foreign tourists and foreign residents may be at risk.  You should take particular care at night especially on the main island of Tongatapu.  Petty crime and house burglaries are also on the increase.  There are sometimes instances of violence associated with alcohol, particularly late at night.

Political Situation

On 16 November 2006, politically motivated violence, including rioting and looting, took place in the capital Nuku'alofa.  This resulted in seven deaths and around 80% of the central business district being burnt down. The Tongan Government has exercised emergency powers and imposed an exclusion zone restricting access to the central business. Military checkpoints are in place and permits are required before entry to the area can be granted.  Law and order in Nuku'alofa has been restored, but the security situation remains uncertain and could deteriorate at short notice.  Police action against those involved in the rioting continues.
You should observe the restricted zone in central Nuku'alofa, particularly the business district and areas surrounding Government buildings.  You should also take sensible precautions for your personal safety; avoid large crowds, political gatherings and demonstrations; and monitor all available information on the local situation.
Court hearings relating to the November 2006 riots began on 20 December 2006. We advise you to remain alert while the court is in session and not to travel into the exclusion zone, unless you have a pressing need to do so. There may be increased searches at security checkpoints during this period.

Tonga Country Profile

Local Travel

The tropical cyclone season from November to April can seriously affect local travel.  If you are contemplating sea journeys in particular during this period, you should obtain a weather report from the Tongan Meteorological Office; (Tel: 23401) or on the Tongan Met website: http://www.met.gov.fj

Road Safety

You can obtain a local visitor’s driving licence on the production of a full UK driving licence.  Roads are generally in good condition but can be narrow and are sometimes potholed.  The low speed limits are strictly applied with on the spot fines.  Care should be taken when driving after dark and there is sometimes a risk of rock falls particularly after heavy rain.


LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS

Tongan society is very conservative and highly religious.  You will be expected to dress modestly and respect local customs and culture.
Gay and lesbian travellers should note that Tongan attitudes towards homosexuality are complex.  Despite examples of cross-dressing within the traditional Pacific culture, there can be aggressive outbursts against homosexuality.
Drug taking in all forms is illegal.  Importing or exporting illegal drugs attracts a maximum penalty of 30 years hard labour and/or a fine of several hundred thousand US dollars.  Those found guilty of cultivating or distributing illegal drugs are likely to receive similarly severe punishment.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

As a British passport holder visiting Tonga as a tourist or on business you are normally given permission to enter the country for a period not exceeding 30 days, provided that you are in possession of an onward air or sea ticket, adequate funds and relevant health certificates. If you wish to extend your stay you must obtain permission from the Principal Immigration Officer.
Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country.


HEALTH

We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before leaving UK.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake, particularly if you plan to engage in adventure sports.  Medical evacuation from Tonga is required for most non-basic medical problems.  You should therefore ensure that your policy covers you for medical evacuation by air ambulance.  Please see: Travel Insurance.

Health facilities are basic, the range of drugs available is limited and modern equipment is in short supply.

Dengue fever, a mosquito-borne disease, is prevalent in Tonga.  You should wear insect repellent at all times, especially during daylight hours when the dengue-carrying mosquitoes are active.  You should be aware of the symptoms of dengue fever and seek immediate medical treatment should you suspect infection.

A valid Yellow Fever certificate is required by all travellers over one year old who have been in an infected area prior to arrival in Tonga.

You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date.  For further information on health, check the Department of Health’s website at: www.dh.gov.uk.

NATURAL DISASTERS

Earth tremors are not unusual.On 3 May 2006, an earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale was recorded 95 miles off the coast of Tonga.  Tsunami alerts were earlier in place for Tonga, Fiji, New Zealand, Samoa and Hawaii.
The tropical cyclone season in Tonga normally runs from November to April.  You should monitor local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).  You can also access http://www.met.gov.fj for updates.  Please also see Hurricanes for more detailed information about what to do if you are caught up in a tropical cyclone..


GENERAL

If things go wrong when overseas, please see What We Can Do To Help.
The British High Commission in Nuku'alofa closed on 20 March 2006.  Routine consular services for British nationals will be provided by the New Zealand High Commission in Nuku'alofa.
New Zealand High Commission in Nuku'alofa
Address: Corner Taufa'ahau and Salote Roads, Nuku'alofa, Tonga
Postal Address: PO Box 830, Nuku'alofa, Tonga
Telephone: +676 23122 Facsimile +676 23487 Telephone +676 23977 Immigration Facsimile: +676 23011 Immigration Email: nzhcnuk@kalianet.to.
The British High Commission in Fiji will be responsible for non-routine consular matters.  Please see below for contact details.
If you are a British National and plan to stay for an extended period in Tonga, you are strongly advised to register upon arrival with the New Zealand High Commission.
If you require a new passport, application forms can be downloaded from the Internet or obtained from the New Zealand High Commission.  You should send your completed passport application by courier to the British High Commission in Wellington, New Zealand (contact details can be found on the FCO Travel Advice for New Zealand).  Where possible, you are advised to apply at least one month before your passport is due to expire.
We strongly advise you to keep a photocopy of the relevant pages of your passport, to avoid any complications.
ATMs are available in the capital cities of Tongatapu, Ha’apai and ‘Eua.
Following the rioting and violence in the central capital Nuku’alofa, Air New Zealand has stopped all flights to Nuku’alofa. Internal flights are not always on schedule and can be subject to adverse weather conditions.