Know Before You Go - Tahiti
Where should I stay? When is the best time to go? Do I need a visa? Is it safe? How do I get around? We cover the essentials so you can travel like a pro, and relax while you do!
PASSPORT & VISA
Citizens of the United States or Canada carrying a corresponding passport do not need a tourist visa prior to visiting Tahiti. Ensure your passport is valid up to 6 months after your departure date.
HEALTH & SAFETY
Tahiti is generally very safe. That said, always be aware of general crime targeted towards unassuming tourists, especially in crowded areas. No additional vaccinations are necessary, and it is safe to drink the tap water in most hotels and restaurants.
METHODS OF PAYMENT
The Pacific Franc, or XPF, is the currency of Tahiti. Credit cards will often work at most established vendors, though cash may be preferable at locally owned shops. The exchange rate typically hovers around 1 USD = 100 XPF, but check before you go to make sure you pay a fair price.
Haggling is not accepted in Tahiti, and will generally be received as disrespectful. If you are interested in an item but the price is beyond your budget, it is more polite to simply show interest to the vendor and politely acknowledge that the price is simply too high for you. For expensive items, such as jewelry, if the vendor offers to come down slightly, that means the price isn't fixed, and you can begin to negotiate. As in all communication, be respectful, and your shopping experiences will be fun and engaging.
Tipping is not generally expected in Tahiti, and is usually included in your bill. It is still recommended in all of the typical circumstances for exceptional service, though may not be as high as is customary in the United States. For example, a tip of 10% is generally acceptable at a restaurant, and more may be appropriate if the service was superb.
You likely won’t be doing much traveling once you arrive at your hotel, and that’s the way it should be. On larger islands you can find a public bus system, and renting a car to get around some of the larger islands can be a fun activity for a day or two. Also, consider renting a bicycle for a peaceful way to soak up the beauty of the island. Hotels, and even most restaurants, are very good at providing shuttles if you request one in advance.
WHEN TO GO
Anytime! Tahiti is a tropical paradise, with air and water temperatures averaging 80 degrees F throughout the year. The summer, November through April, is typically a little warmer and more humid, while the winter is a little cooler and dryer.
HOW DO I GET THERE?
Tahiti and Hawaii share the same time zone, as Tahiti sits below Hawaii in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, about the same distance south of the equator as Hawaii is north of it. Flights departing from Los Angeles (LAX) take about 8 hours and depart nearly daily. Weekly flights, or more frequent, depart from Honolulu (HNL) and take about 5 hours. All international flights land at Tahiti’s Faa'a International Airport, from which point Air Tahiti services interisland flights to the rest of the island chain.
WHERE TO GO
Bora Bora is the star, but we’d argue that Mo’orea is just as stunning, if not more so, plus is cheaper and easier to get to. Read our guide to Mo’orea, including where to stay on the island, here. No matter where you stay, there’s plenty of paradise to go around.
WHAT TO WEAR
It’s important to remember that the weather where you’re headed will be mostly sunny during the day and sometimes cool at night. Rain is possible too but it’s usually brief and refreshing. You probably won’t need to pack as much as you think; after all, you’ll mostly be wearing your swimsuit. So get through this list, set everything out, and unless you’re a really light packer to begin with consider thinning out your pack a bit and leave a few things behind.
Women: Swimsuits, sundresses and coverups are the name of the game for the ladies on a sailing trip. We’d recommend 2 or 3 swimsuits (at least 2 so one can be drying), a few sundresses, shirts and tank tops, shorts, underwear and at least 2 bras. Remember that sometimes the evenings are cool when the wind is blowing so a cover-up and leggings or longer pants are nice to have. You’ll also want a nice sun hat both to protect your skin from the hot sun and for those amazing over-the-shoulder Instagram pics.
Men: For men, really just swimsuits and a few shirts would do the trick. We’d recommend 2 swimsuits, a few pairs of shorts, 1 pair of light, long pants (linen are my preference), T-shirts, a nice sport shirt or two for dinners, underwear, socks and a hat. In terms of fabric, linen is light and cool and for the shirts we’d recommend a fast wicking synthetic fabric. These are not only great to facilitate fast drying but are perfect to wear during your snorkel adventures if you got too much sun the day before.
For both men and women, consider investing in a lightweight, long-sleeve shirt with 30 SPF or greater. Remember, in Tahiti, the sun is hot and sunburns are easy to come by. It’s always nice to have a sun-proof top to wear so you don’t miss anything even if you got your whole trip’s suntan on day 1.
WHAT TO BUY
A treasure unique to Tahiti, the black pearl shines with a deep, lustful radiance. It conveys a sense of mystery, drawing you in before capturing you under its spell. Grown in the local waters, Tahitian black pearls have undertones of green, red, blue, yellow, and even silver, meaning no two are the same. There is ample opportunity to shop for the perfect piece in shops around the island, or buy an un-mounted pearl to have placed on your favorite jewelry from back home.
You’re in French Polynesia, so French is the official language, along with Tahitian. Thankfully, the locals here are much kinder to those who don’t speak French than they are in France. As always, learning a few basic words and phrases can go a long way to opening up a further dialog, but if you simply can’t get the hang of it, don’t stress. The people here are some of the kindest you’ll ever meet. A few basics (in Tahitian / French), and all you’ll really need:
Hello: La Orana (yo-rah-nah) / Bonjour
Thank you: Maururu (mah-roo-roo) / Merci
Yes: E (ay) / Oui
No: Aita (eye-tah) / Non