Staying safe in Fiji
Fiji is a beautiful tropical island country, with over 330 islands in the archipelago. Travellers flock to this holiday destination to enjoy its beautiful beaches, friendly locals and relaxing atmosphere. Although Fiji is a well-established tourist destination, there are still some risks and dangers to watch out for.
The very features that are responsible for much of Fiji’s beauty also pose potential risks. Like many tropical destinations, the rainy season spans the summer months, from November to April, when humidity and temperatures are high. During this time torrential downpours and cyclones occur and flooding is common. There are also three volcanoes over Fiji’s islands, but all are dormant.
If you are in Fiji and a natural disaster occurs, your accommodation provider should have information about the procedures in place to deal with such an event. We recommend keeping up-to-date with local weather warnings or advisories before and during your trip.
Always check the government’s international travel advisory before booking any travel plans. Once you’ve booked your flights or accommodation, buy travel insurance so that you’re covered if the unexpected happens before you depart. For example, if a tropical cyclone results in your travel being cancelled before you set off, we may be able to refund any costs that your service providers can’t.
Animals and insects
There are some incredible creatures to be found in Fiji, with over 55 bird species living in its forests, over half of which are native to Fiji. Fruit bats are the only mammals native to Fiji and you’ll often see them flying or hanging in trees at night. Iguanas are also native to Fiji, so keep your eyes peeled if you want to spot one.
When walking in rural areas or at night, it’s a good idea to always wear appropriate closed in footwear, just in case you come across some of the less pleasant fauna. There are spiders, centipedes and cane toads in Fiji, some of which are poisonous. Stepping on a cane toad isn’t dangerous, but it is an unpleasant experience, especially in bare feet! If you do come into contact with a cane toad, it’s important to wash your hands thoroughly before touching anything as they are poisonous. While spider bites are uncommon, they do occur, so keep an eye out for arachnids.
Fiji has a tropical climate and is home to many insects, including the ubiquitous mosquito. These are known to carry diseases like dengue fever and the Zika virus, so always spray insect repellent before venturing outdoors and sleep with a mosquito net if you’re keeping windows open. It’s also important to avoid areas where there is stagnant standing water, like ponds and puddles, as these are mosquito breeding grounds. Fiji is also home to several types of large cockroaches, which aren’t dangerous but could give you a bit of a fright!
If you’re heading out on the water, keep an eye out for some of the less friendly water dwelling flora and fauna. Fire coral can cause nasty cuts if you stand on it, so if you’re venturing out to the reefs it’s worth wearing wet shoes. Sea snakes can also be found in Fiji’s waters, but bites are rare as they’re usually timid and will only attack if cornered. Keep an eye out for them and if you see one, give it plenty of space.
As with any trip, do some research into what animals or insects may pose a threat to you in the particular area you’re visiting, as well as in relation to any activities you’re doing (e.g. ocean encounters, mountain hikes).
Although Fiji is a beautiful and popular holiday destination, petty crime does happen and some resorts have reported burglaries of guest rooms. We recommend a few simple precautions to help keep yourself and your belongings safe:
- Burglaries have been reported in some resorts, so always keep your belongings in a safe at night, or if you’re heading out. Don’t leave the doors and windows to your room open or unlocked.
- When using a credit card, always take the usual precautions you would at home and keep your pin hidden from view. Credit card fraud can happen anywhere, even on a tropical island.
- If someone approaches you offering you drugs or prostitution, stay well away. Both of these things are strictly forbidden in Fiji and there are harsh penalties for anyone who disobeys the law.
Although Fiji is more of a relaxation destination than a party spot, there are some bars in the main centres for those who want to check out the nightlife. As with any public place at night, take a few precautions to stay safe:
- Know how to get back to your accommodation if you’re going out at night. If you’re in a group, take turns at staying alert and sober.
- Don’t walk around at night on your own and if you’re in town, catch a taxi home.
- We recommend that you never leave your drink unattended when you’re out, and never accept any food or drink from a stranger, unless you can see the barman pouring it or the waiter serving it.
- Avoid letting people know where you are staying and be very cautious of anyone asking for your personal details without sufficient cause.
- Try not to talk loudly or obviously about your plans or where you’re staying when you’re in public places. You never know who’s listening!
It’s possible you’ll come across a kava ceremony at some point during your stay in Fiji. Kava is a traditional drink, usually offered in a ceremony where guests sit in a circle and are offered a cup filled from a ceremonial bowl. Kava is made from the roots of the pepper plant and looks a lot like muddy water.
Although it’s not technically alcoholic, it does have a mild sedative effect and can also cause a numbing sensation. Kava can react badly with certain medications, so if you’re on a medication where alcohol should be avoided, it’s best to avoid kava too. You should also avoid drinking kava if you’re pregnant or planning to drive.
There are a few laws and customs in Fiji that some foreigners will not be aware of. Here are a few basic rules to follow to avoid landing yourself on the wrong side of the law:
- Smoking is banned in many public areas and buildings, but not in all hotels and restaurants. Keep an eye out for no-smoking signs or check with staff if you’re unsure.
- Public affection is frowned upon and public nudity, including topless sunbathing, is considered unacceptable behaviour.
- It is illegal to drink and drive in Fiji. If you’re planning on driving, don’t consume alcohol at all. It will not only land you in trouble with the police, but it will invalidate your insurance.
- Full drivers licences from most English-speaking countries are accepted in Fiji, as long as the driver is over 21 years of age, but if in doubt, check before you go.
- Drug laws in Fiji are strict and you should avoid narcotics under any circumstances.
- Some prescription drugs that you purchased at home could be illegal in Fiji. If you need to take medicine with you, bring your prescription note from your doctor and a letter explaining why you need the medication to avoid any trouble with customs.
Cyclones and flooding have resulted in some travellers being stuck at their destination for longer than planned, or even being unable to reach their destination at all!
You can prepare for natural disasters by purchasing a Single Trip policy as soon as you book your flights and accommodation. Or if you’re buying an Annual Multi-Trip policy, set the start date of your insurance to the day you make any travel bookings. That way, if your trip is cancelled due to an unexpected event before your trip, we will reimburse you for any unused pre-paid costs.
If your travel is interrupted for more than 12 hours and you’re stuck overseas as a result of an unexpected event, we can reimburse you for your accommodation and other expenses to enable you to continue your original planned journey.
We have seen claims from people whose hotel rooms have been burgled and it is a common occurrence in certain parts of the country. Always keep your valuables in a safe when you’re out, even when you’re just sitting by the pool within the resort. It’s also a good idea to leave valuables locked in the safe at night while you’re asleep so they’re not visible to potential burglars.
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