As one of the few thousand visitors who are welcomed a year, this Tuvalu Travel Guide will provide you with the necessary information for an otherwise off-the-beaten-path experience. The isolated islands of Tuvalu are for keen travellers seeking tranquillity, cultural richness and untouched natural beauty in a place where the slow pace of island life is embraced, allowing time to connect with the friendly locals of a Pacific paradise.
Tuvalu consists of nine atolls, each with a unique charm and character. The largest and most populous atoll is Funafuti, which is also the country’s capital. This is home to government buildings, schools and the international airport.
Table of Contents
- Things To Know Before You Go
- Tuvalu Travel Guide
- Where to Stay in Tuvalu
- Tuvalu Travel Guide Tips
- Frequently Asked Questions
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Things To Know Before You Go
The day-to-day currency of Tuvalu is the Australian Dollar. It has been the legal tender since 1966.
Tuvalu is a cash culture society, however, there are no ATMs so arrived prepared. Otherwise, it is possible to change money at the airport, but the exchange rates do not tend to be favourable. Credit cards are not accepted anywhere in Tuvalu.
Whether you are looking for a data plan or any wifi connection, the internet is hard to come by in Tuvalu. There is a Telecom shop on the main street; Tuvalu Road. They are closed on the weekends, but if you catch them open you could potentially buy a 1GB SIM card for 10 AUD. Otherwise, there are other locations that where you can find a limited connection. For instance, Esfahan Hotel has wifi available within their property, though they do not appreciate anyone other than guests trying to connect.
Best Time to Go
The weekends are extremely quiet in Tuvalu, especially on Sundays whilst the locals attend their local church services. Shops, banks, restaurants and other services are closed with accommodations offering meals to nobody but their guests only. With this in mind, it may be preferable to plan your visit around the weekdays instead.
Tuvalu Travel Guide
How to Get to Tuvalu
Funafuti, Tuvalu’s capital, is home to the country’s famously small International Airport. This is served by flights from Fiji.
As of 2020, there is only one flight path to Tuvalu; Suva Airport in Fiji to Funafuti International Airport. This service is operated by Fiji Airways, flying two to three times a week, departing on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The flight takes approximately 00 hours. This is the most popular and easiest route into the country, but make sure to make your booking well in advance and check the schedule, as options are limited and can be affected by changing weather conditions and potential delays.
TIP: Request a window seat on the left side of the aircraft to be rewarded with spectacular views over the entire island and the lagoon between the atolls.
Being a small, remote island nation, Tuvalu has very limited transport options available but this only contributes to the charm of this Pacific nation.
👟 Foot – Funafuti, the main island in Tuvalu is only 00km by 00km, which is very walkable. This also allows visitors the opportunity to explore at a leisurely pace, interact with locals and soak in the laidback atmosphere of the island. Plus, there is only one road, so navigation is not difficult.
🛵 Moped – The island is best explored by moped, however, you will not find anything other than a manual transmission. Filamona Hotel has a moped available for rent, but you will also find an entire shop across from the Halavai shop which is beyond the Chinese restaurant. The friendly family owners offered us one moped for 20 AUD per day. It takes as little as 20 minutes to drive from one end of the island to the other.
🚤 Boat – It is possible to organise a boat trip that will transport you between two to three uninhabited paradise islands. This is an unmissable day trip where you’ll discover some of the best snorkelling opportunities, palm trees to climb and fresh coconuts to slurp on. The town council is the only place that will organise such a trip. You will need to visit the office in person at 9 am to ask for permission, a permit and a boat driver. The permit costs 70 AUD and the boat was 150 AUD, so it may be worth offering to share the journey with fellow travellers. The journey is flexible, and open to amendments, but typically runs from 10 am to 4.30 pm between islands such as Fualopa, Te Puka, Afuakliki and Fualefeke.
Where to Stay in Tuvalu
Accommodation options in Tuvalu range from guesthouses to small hotels, with only a few places located on the main island; Funafuti. With this in mind, consider booking your accommodation at the earliest convenience to avoid disappointment.
Filamona Hotel is a very popular option. Why is this place a top choice? Filamona Hotel is just metres away from the airport… Honestly, there is nothing but a building between the plane and the hotel’s reception desk! Besides the convenience, Filamona Hotel is the best for people-watching as there premises overlooks a large portion of the airstrip.
Funafuti Lagoon Hotel
Funafuti Lagoon Hotel is the largest of the accommodation options. It may be better equipped, but personally, I felt it was less charismatic and more of a hub for foreign workers.
This family-run hotel has a welcome resembling a guesthouse. The rooms have air conditioning, decent beds and a kettle, with a decent breakfast each morning too. Although Esfam is only a few minutes walk from the airport, it is not the closest. On the other hand, this hotel is conveniently located within the town’s main hub and the other restaurants. Wifi is also often available on the property.
Tuvalu Travel Guide Tips
Christianity is a common practice in Tuvalu, with church service being a focal point every Sunday. For that reason, don’t expect anything to be open so stock up on necessities and ensure you’re accommodation can prepare your meals on that day.
Tuvalu is not widely known for food, as fresh produce and wholesome options are hard to come by. Any meals that you will be presented with are likely to consist of deep-fried fish, noodles or Chinese food. In order to budget you stay, take enough cash for 10-15 AUD per meal in a restaurant, or 20-25 AUD to dine in hotels.
TIP: Given the lack of dining options, it may be worth bringing some snack to Tuvalu if you have specific dietary preferences or restricitions.
The main attraction in Tuvalu is the airstrip. When it’s not in use by incoming planes, Tuvalu’s famous runway is the town’s meeting point. During the day, you will find locals driving along the edges and across the centre of the airstip (only). Then when the sun falls, the residents will accept the cooler temperatures as an opportunity to play sport, socialise, or even stargaze on the tarmac.
Three loud sirens inform everybody on the island that a flight is due to land on the runway. The first sound is a warning; the second confirms the airstrip is closed to traffic and the third indicates the plane is arriving.
Due to Tuvalu’s remote location, it’s important to pack everything you might need. This should include reef-safe sunscreen, insect repellent, female products and any specific medications, as well as enough cash.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Why does no one go to Tuvalu?
Being, essentially, in a faraway corner of the world with limited transport links, Tuvalu is a very difficult country to access.
Is Tuvalu a country?
Tuvalu is an island nation in the Pacific Ocean between Australia and Hawaii. At 26 square kilometres (10 square miles), it is one of the smallest and most isolated countries in the world.
Does Tuvalu get tourists?
Tuvalu typically only welcomes one to four thousand tourists each year, although most of them are foreign aid workers and researchers. As a result, there is very little typical tourism infrastructure to support visitors. Nevertheless, the Tuvaluan people are still very welcoming but any tourist will undoubtedly be among a tiny number of curious travellers, with the majority of foreigners travelling for work, study or volunteering purposes.
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