7 Tips For Travel in Fiji
Have you ever felt culturally out of your depth in a foreign country?
It's important to know a little bit about the cultural and social norms of any country that you plan to visit. When on holiday in a foreign country, by the very nature of the experience you are likely to encounter situations that are new to you. Doing a little research and preparing beforehand can make a world of difference to how positive an experience you have.
Fiji is a beautiful and friendly tropical destination, but like anywhere else it has its share of dangers and unusual cultural practices that you need to be up to speed with if you want have an incident-free trip.
Fijian society is still quite conservative and dressing appropriately is a must. In Fiji dress is closely related to ideas of respectability so following these guidelines is important so as to avoid giving offense, coming across as immodest, or attracting negative attention. When travelling around Fiji, wearing loose shorts and a top is fine for men and women.
However, there are some places where this is unacceptable. If you are invited to a church service, men will be expected to wear either long pants or the traditional formal sarong made from suit material. This is known as a 'sulu'. Women on the other hand will need to wear a skirt or dress that comes at least down to the knees.
Another place where dressing is important is in Fijian villages. While men may wear shorts, women absolutely must not. They must wear either a skirt, dress or sarong that comes down to the knees. The best way to satisfy this dress requirement is for women travelers to always carry a sarong in their bags where ever they go. They are light and useful for many things and can ensure you are properly dressed if your itinerary suddenly changes. Men must also be sure not to go topless in villages.
In resorts the dress code is much freer and bikinis and revealing resort wear is the go. However, outside of resorts it is best to dress more conservatively. Stick to outfits that come down to the knees and don't reveal much of your body, especially bust and midriff.
You will be viewed far more favourably by the local people if you follow their lead when it comes to clothing and maintain a 'casual-modest' dress code.
What Is Kava?
- Learn More About This Cultural Drink
Kava is an alternative health substance that can help with relaxation and stress-relief and is used as a traditional cultural drink among many cultures in the Pacific.
Respect The Traditional Drink
As the traditional drink of Fiji kava is intricately interwoven into the historical and modern day culture of these islands. It is important as a visitor to be respectful of the kava drinking traditions, in particular during the rituals and the formal kava drinking ceremonies. if you take part in one of these ceremonies - which you likely will - it is important to drink the beverage that will be offered to you in a small bowl.
Any refusal, or shows of displeasure after drinking it can be regarded as disrespectful. It is true that the kava drink - known locally as 'yaqona' - is an acquired taste, but having a serving of kava as part of the ceremony is important so you don't offense to your host.
More Etiquette for Visiting Fijian Villages
- Etiquette for Village Visits
Visiting a Fijian village can be a culturally rewarding experience if you know the customs and practices to follow.
Don't Enter Villages without a Guide
Fijian villages are located throughout Fiji and although they may only look like groups of houses, they are often designated villages. In the Fijian culture, it is offensive for a stranger to enter a village and wander within it's boundaries. If you want to visit a village you need to be invited in by someone or formally be introduced to the village in a formal ceremony. If you don't know if an area is a village or not, it is best to ask someone who is familiar with the area.
Don't Reveal Your Name
Well, let me explain. A bane of some of the larger towns in Fiji are the dreaded 'sword sellers'. They seem to be able to sniff out tourists from a mile off and they take advantage of their trusting attitude - and the fact that they are caught off guard.
They will approach you on the street and begin polite and interested conversation, sharing a little something about their family, perhaps, and asking about yours. They usually ask your name after offering their name and once you have politely reciprocated they will reveal some cheap handicraft they have on their person. In a moment they will carve your name upon it, and then pressure you into buying this 'personalised gift' they have made, for a ridiculously high price.
The best advice is not to give out your name too easily when approached in the street. You don't want to brush off every local that speaks to you because some are genuine. Generally engage in conversation if you like, but if you have any suspicion that the person is too friendly or overly inquisitive, cut the conversation short. If they persist, simply make your way into the closest large store like a bank or supermarket. Usually they will leave you alone as the local shop owners don't allow them to ply their trade within their stores as it annoys shoppers.
Remember, unless you have made an arrangement with the person, you are under no pressure to buy anything from these sellers.
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Nudity in public is not acceptable in Fiji. There are no designated nude beaches and topless sunbathing for women is also not permitted. Even at resorts in Fiji there is no precedent for this, although at some secluded exclusive island resorts you may find that you have privacy enough. However you will need to exercise caution - discretion is key. To be on the safe side, it is best to check with the hotel where you are staying.
Drink Bottled Water
While many people find that they can drink the tap water in the major towns in Fiji, if you are travelling into the interior or to the outer islands you need to use bottled water. It can get confusing, so it is a good idea to simply use bottled water throughout your trip. if you have cooking facilities at your accommodation you can also rely on cooled boiled water.
Beware of Pubs and Clubs
Most pubs in Fiji are not suitable for tourists and are rarely visited by locals as many of them are rough spots. This doesn't give much option for having a drink during the day. However, some restaurants do have alcohol that you can order with your meal. Some night clubs, which are more upmarket locations, are safe to visit - however, always exercise caution and it is better to go with someone, rather than alone, especially for women.
The best place to drink is within your own hotel or at other hotels in the vicinity. It is commonplace for people to go to resorts in Fiji just to visit the bar or restaurant. Note that you will not be able to use the other resort facilities while you are there though.
A Few More Things To Keep in Mind
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Fiji is overall a friendly and safe holiday destination. Follow the above tips and you will be well on your way to having an enjoyable and incident-free time in Fiji.
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