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Summary

  • Exercise normal safety precautions in the Cook Islands. Use common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the media and other sources for changes to local travelling conditions.
  • A significant number of traffic accidents resulting in hospitalisation involve motorcycle riders. Wear a helmet (which is now legally required for riders and passengers), stay within the legal limits of alcohol consumption and ensure your travel insurance covers motorcycle or scooter use.
  • Cyclone season in the Cook Islands is between November and April, tropical storms and cyclones may occur in other months. See Additional information.
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in the Cook Islands. The Australian High Commission in New Zealand provides consular assistance to Australians in the Cook Islands.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Visas are not normally required for Australians visiting the Cook Islands as tourists for periods of less than 31 days.

As entry and exit conditions (such as visa requirements, currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice, contact the Cook Island authorities directly at the:

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration
PO Box 105
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Tel: +682 29347
Fax: +682 21247
Website: www.mfai.gov.ck
Email: admin@immigration.gov.ck

An onward or return ticket, proof of sufficient funds and proof of accommodation are required to enter the Cook Islands.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia.

Safety and security

Crime

The most prevalent crime against tourists is the theft of attractive items such as cash, jewellery, cameras and mobile phones. Unattended items on the beach or in unsecured storage, including items stored in scooters/motorcycles, are a particular target.

Overall the level of crime is low however cases of assault against tourists, generally opportunistic, have been reported. Take reasonable security precautions.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Worldwide bulletin for more information on terrorism.

Money and valuables

There are limited ATM facilities in the Cook Islands with terminals available on Rarotonga and Aitutaki.

The six new Cook Islands coins (10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, $1, $2 and $5) were launched in August 2015. Both new Cook Islands coins and New Zealand currency are legal tender in the Cook Islands.

Cook Island currency is not exchangeable outside the country but can be exchanged at the Airport bank.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport online, or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Local travel

Driving in the Cook Islands can be dangerous, particularly at night, due to poor visibility and road conditions.

A significant number of traffic accidents resulting in hospitalisation involve motorcycle riders. In 2016 the Cook Islands introduced a helmet law that requires anyone riding a motorcycle, bicycle or scooter to wear a safety helmet approved for that vehicle at all times. This also applies to passengers. Most travel insurance policies have exclusions for not complying with local laws or wearing a helmet.

For periods of up to six months, visitors to the Cook Islands can use an Australian driving licence to operate a vehicle in the Cook Islands, for the same class of vehicle identified on their licence. For example, an Australian car licence will allow a traveller to drive a car in the Cook Islands, but not a scooter. Travellers can obtain a temporary motorcycle/scooter licence by passing a practical test at the Police Headquarters in Avarua. To obtain a licence you will need to bring your current Australian driver's licence and passport. Allow sufficient time as queues can be significant.

Ensure your travel insurance includes the use of motorcycles and scooters before you hire one.

Don’t drink and drive. For further advice on road safety, see our road travel page.

The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators, including inter-island trips and adventure activities such as diving, may not be of the same level as in Australia. Sufficient safety equipment may not be provided and recommended maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be observed. Always use available safety equipment, such as lifejackets or seatbelts, even if others don't. If appropriate safety equipment is not available, use another provider.

Fatal swimming accidents have occurred due to tidal changes and breaks in the reefs. Seek advice from local residents and tour operators on areas that are safe for swimming and water sports.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths.

Please refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

You are subject to the local laws of the Cook Islands, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we cannot get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

The legal blood alcohol limit for drivers/motorcyclists in the Cook Islands is 0.08.

Penalties for possession and use of even small amount of illegal drugs may include fines and possible prison sentences. See our Drugs page.

Cook Island law prohibits homosexual activity or "acts of indecency" between men and penalties include prison sentences of up to seven years. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Information for dual nationals

Our Dual nationals page provides information for dual nationals.

Local customs

The Cook Islands is a conservative society. Dress and behave so as not to offend, especially when outside resort areas. If in doubt, seek local advice.

Health

If you need medical treatment in the Cook Islands, you may require medical evacuation to New Zealand for specialist care. These costs are a personal responsibility. Take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. For information about hospital fees in the Cook Islands, see the Ministry of Health National Service fee schedule.

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. Get vaccinated before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Hospital and medical facilities in the Cook Islands are limited, particularly in outer islands, and evacuation may be required in serious cases. Treatment may be expensive and you may be required to pay in advance. If medical evacuation is required to New Zealand or Australia, be aware that flights to these destinations are often heavily booked. Private or chartered evacuation is expensive.

There are no hyperbaric chambers on any of the islands for treatment of scuba diving related injuries. Serious cases of decompression sickness are evacuated to the nearest treatment centre in New Zealand. All registered dive companies carry basic treatment equipment to meet Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) standards.

Outbreaks of the mosquito-borne illnesses such as dengue fever, chikungunya and zika virus occur from time to time in the Cook Islands. Take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes, including using insect repellent, wearing long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

For further information on chikungunya, dengue fever and zika virus, see the Queensland Department of Health website.

Boil drinking water or drink bottled water with an intact seal.

Where to get help

Depending on your enquiry, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

For criminal issues, contact the local police on 22499 or enquiries@police.gov.ck. Always obtain a police report when reporting a crime.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can't do to assist Australians overseas. Australia does not have a Embassy or Consulate in the Cook Islands. You can contact the Australian Government at the Australian High Commission in New Zealand for consular assistance. See contact details below:

Australian High Commission, Wellington

72-76 Hobson Street
Thorndon, Wellington
New Zealand
Telephone: +64 4 473 6411
Facsimile: +64 4 498 7103
Email: nzinbox@dfat.gov.au
Website: newzealand.highcommission.gov.au
Facebook: Australia in New Zealand

See the High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

In an emergency, limited consular assistance which does not include the issue of Australian passports, may be obtained from:

New Zealand High Commission, Rarotonga

1st floor, Philatelic Bureau Building
Takuvaine Road
Avarua (PO Box 21)
Rarotonga
Telephone: +682 22 201
Facsimile: +682 21 241
Email: nzhcraro@oyster.net.ck

In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact the above High Commission you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Following a cyclone or natural disaster, contact your travel agent or tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.

Cyclones

Cyclone season in the Cook Islands is between November and April when flooding, landslides and disruptions to services may occur. However, tropical storms and cyclones may occur at other times. The direction and strength of tropical cyclones can change with little warning.

Up-to-date information can be obtained from the Fiji Meteorological Service, the World Meteorological Organisation Severe Weather Information Centre or the Humanitarian Early Warning Service.

Australians in areas affected by cyclones should monitor these websites, follow the advice of the local authorities and accommodation providers and ensure they have adequate supplies of bottled water for the duration.

In the event of an approaching cyclone, you should, identify your nearest local shelter. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly. The cyclone could also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe cyclone may not be available to all who choose to stay. Familiarise yourself with hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. Carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo identification) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. Contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts. For further information, see our Severe weather page.

Earthquakes and Tsunamis

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center website. Signage is in place throughout Rarotonga to provide direction in the event of a tsunami alert.

Additional Resources