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French Polynesia

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Summary

  • Exercise normal safety precautions in French Polynesia. Use common sense. Look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the media for changes to local conditions.
  • Mosquito-borne diseases, including dengue fever and Zika virus, are risks. Protect yourself against mosquito bites. Outbreaks of leptospirosis, scabies and diarrhoea also occur. See Health.
  • Medical costs in French Polynesia are high. Even if you're travelling on a cruise ship with medical facilities, you may need to be treated in a French Polynesian hospital or clinic. Make sure you have adequate travel insurance, including for any pre-existing conditions. See Health.
  • Industrial disputes and strikes can cause disruption to essential services and transport, including international and domestic flights. Monitor developments and plan accordingly. See Safety and security.
  • Avoid demonstrations and large public gatherings, as they could turn violent. See Safety and security.
  • Cyclone season is normally from November to April but you could encounter tropical storms or cyclones at any time of year. See Natural disasters.
  • Fa'a'ā International Airport in Papeete is sometimes closed during periods of heavy rain. Contact your airline or tour provider for latest information on flight disruptions. See Natural disasters.
  • Australia has an honorary consulate in French Polynesia headed by an Honorary Consul, who provides limited consular assistance. The Australian Consulate-General in New Caledonia provides full consular assistance to Australians in French Polynesia. See Where to get help.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Visas

If you are visiting French Polynesia for tourism, you generally won't need a visa. In other circumstances, you may need a visa.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. French Polynesia is an overseas territory of France. Visit the Consulate of France in Sydney website or contact an Embassy or Consulate of France for up-to-date information.

Other formalities

Some goods are prohibited from entering French Polynesia. Others require specific approvals or other formalities.

More information:

Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia and has at least two blank pages.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to obtain access to your passport by deception. If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact the Embassy for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

The currency of French Polynesia is the Pacific Franc (XPF - Franc Pacifique). You can exchange Australian dollars for XFP at most commercial banks, the international airport, licensed exchange bureaux, hotels and resorts. Credit card and ATM facilities may not be available at smaller shops and on the more remote islands and atolls.

Safety and security

Civil unrest and political tension

You could encounter demonstrations and protests. Large public gatherings can turn violent.

Industrial disputes and strikes can cause social unrest and disruption to essential services and transport, including international and domestic air links.

  • Avoid all demonstrations, protests and other large public gatherings.
  • If there is a strike, check the status of your flights  before travelling to the airport and contact your tour operator to check if tourist services have been disrupted.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.

Crime

French Polynesia has a low incidence of serious crime but you could encounter drink-spiking and petty crime.

  • Carry only what you need. Leave other valuables in a secure location.
  • Take care of your belongings, especially in crowded places.
  • Don't leave food or drinks unattended, particularly in bars and nightclubs.
  • Never accept drinks, food, gum or cigarettes from strangers or new acquaintances.

More information: Partying safely

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Local travel

Industrial disputes can result in disruptions to transport and the supply of essential services. Monitor developments and plan accordingly.

Tours and adventure activities

The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators are not always met, including for adventure activities such as scuba diving and motorised water sports. Recommended safety precautions and maintenance standards may not be followed. Safety equipment such as lifejackets and seatbelts may not be provided.

If you plan to participate in adventure activities:

  • first talk to your travel insurer to check if the activity is covered by your insurance policy
  • check operators' credentials and safety equipment before booking
  • don't be afraid to ask about or insist on minimal safety requirements
  • always use available safety equipment, even if others don't
  • if appropriate safety equipment is not available, use another provider.

Road travel

Take care when driving, particularly at night, as many roads are narrow and unpaved. Roads may become slippery after rain.

  • Check you have adequate insurance cover before driving.
  • Familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and practices before driving.
  • Drive defensively.
  • Don't drink and drive.

More information: Road travel

Driver's licence

You can drive in French Polynesia with a valid Australian driver's licence and an International Driving Permit (IDP). You must obtain your IDP before departing Australia.

More information: Road travel

Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Your policy may not cover you for accidents that occur while using these vehicles. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet.

Taxis

Taxis can be flagged down on the street in Papeete or engaged from stations in Centre Vaima and Boulevard Pomare. Always negotiate the fare with the driver before departure. Be aware that Drivers may charge for luggage.

Public transport

Limited mini-bus (Le Truck) networks serve major centres. Mini-bus services can be hailed from the side of the road and operate until 6pm on weekday, noon on Saturdays, with no service on Sundays. Inter-island ferries also operate between Tahiti and smaller islands.

Sea travel

A number of international cruise liners visit French Polynesia. Medical facilities on-board cruise ships may not be as comprehensive as in Australia, and on-board medical treatment may incur additional fees. In recent years, several Australians have been evacuated from cruise ships to hospitals in French Polynesia. Many insurance claims by cruise passengers have been refused, particularly claims by travellers with pre-existing medical conditions.

If you plan to travel on a cruise ship

  • check the on-board medical facilities are adequate for you
  • understand the costs of medical treatment on-board
  • take out travel and medical insurance appropriate to your circumstances, including coverage for all your pre-existing medical conditions and for medical evacuation. See Health.

More information:

Going on a cruise?Air travel

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in French Polynesia. More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

French Polynesia is an overseas territory of France. A mix of French and local laws apply. More information: France

Drug laws

Penalties for drug offences, even possession of small amounts, include fines and imprisonment. More information: Drugs

Other laws

By law, you must carry identification at all times. 

French law allowing same-sex marriage applies in French Polynesia. However, outside of the main tourist islands of Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora, same-sex relationships are not widely accepted in French Polynesian society. Avoid public displays of affection. More information: LGBTI travellers  

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

Read Dual nationals.

Local customs

Outside the tourist islands of Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora, French Polynesia is a conservative society. Take care not to offend. Dress and behave modestly outside tourist resorts.

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Make sure your policy includes adequate coverage for any pre-existing conditions.

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 your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel

Take legal prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Carry copies of your prescription and a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Mosquito-borne diseases

Outbreaks of dengue feverZika virus and chikungunya occur from time-to-time, particularly during the warmer and wetter months of the year. Filariasis may be present, particularly in rural areas. The Australian Department of Health advises pregnant women to discuss any travel plans with their doctor and defer non-essential travel to Zika virus-affected areas.

Protect yourself against mosquito-borne illnesses:

  • ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including always using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • if you're pregnant, discuss your travel plans and possible health risks with your doctor before you travel
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.

More information

Leptospirosis

Outbreaks of leptospirosis occur.

Local authorities recommend you:

  • wear closed-in shoes when walking
  • avoid swimming in rivers
  • don't play in muddy water
  • store food in enclosed containers
  • don't drink straight from cans (use a straw instead)
  • remove rubbish from around your home.

More information: Leptospirosis (World Health Organization)  

Other infectious diseases

Outbreaks of water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including scabies and conjunctivitis) occur from time to time. Tap water in Papeete is generally considered safe to drink.

  • Maintain strict hygiene standards.
  • Don't ignore symptoms such as itchiness and skin lesions.
  • Avoid raw and undercooked food.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering diarrhoea.

In addition, outside of Papeete:

  • Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes.

Medical facilities

The standard of medical facilities in Papeete is very high. However, facilities in the outlying areas and on remote islands are basic.

Medical and hospital costs in French Polynesia are very expensive.

Rescue and emergency services are of a high standard but distances between the capital, Papeete, and the outer islands can delay the response to an emergency.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you may need to be evacuated to Australia. Medical evacuations can be very expensive.

There is only one hyperbaric (decompression) facility in French Polynesia, located at the Central Hospital of French Polynesia in Papeete. Many of the popular dive sites are located on other islands and it may take hours to reach the decompression facility if there is an accident.

Natural disasters

French Polynesia experiences cyclones, severe weather, earthquakes and tsunamis.

The High Commission of France in French Polynesia has procedures in place for natural disasters. Monitor the High Commission of France website for weather notifications and up-to-date information. If there an emergency, the High Commission of France will open a hotline to their Emergency Management Centre. The hotline telephone number is +689 40 44 42 10.

Stay up-to-date on weather conditions and forecasts, natural disaster watches and warnings throughout your stay in French Polynesia and plan accordingly. Monitor the Weather Bureau in French Polynesia (Meteo-France Polynesia Francaise) website and/or regional sites such as:

If a natural disaster occurs:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag).
  • closely monitor local media, the High Commission of France website and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

If you're travelling after a cyclone or other natural disaster, contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.

Cyclones

Cyclone season is from November to April. Flooding, landslides and disruptions to infrastructure and essential services can occur. Tropical storms and cyclones may also occur in other months. The direction and strength of tropical cyclones can change with little warning.

If there is a cyclone or severe tropical storm, you may not be able to leave the area: flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended, and available flights may fill quickly. Access to sea ports could also be affected. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe cyclone may not be available for all those who stay.

French Polynesia has a six-level cyclone alert system:

  • YELLOW (potential cyclone activity in the next 72 hours)
  • ORANGE (potential cyclone activity in the next 48 hours)
  • RED (cyclone is imminent – in the next 12 to 18 hours)
  • RED (during the cyclone) 
  • PURPLE (assessment of damage phase)
  • GREEN (end of cyclone alert).

Details on the alert system and recommended responses for each level (in French and Reo Maohi) are on the High Commission of France website.

If a cyclone is approaching, follow the advice for all natural disasters above and:

More information:

Earthquakes

French Polynesia experiences occasional earthquakes. What you need to do to protect yourself in an earthquake depends on where you are at the time. Read Earthquakes and ask your accommodation provider about local procedures and advice if there is an earthquake.

If there is an earthquake:

After an earthquake:

  • expect aftershocks
  • anticipate travel delays in some areas and plan accordingly
  • reconfirm travel arrangements and availability of accommodation with travel agents and tour operators.

Tsunamis

French Polynesia is susceptible to tsunamis. Be alert to warnings as a tsunami can arrive within minutes of a nearby tremor or earthquake occurring. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center provides real-time information on tsunamis in the region.

The High Commission of France Tsunami Alert brochure (in French and Reo Maohi) advises there are two likely evacuation scenarios:

  • immediate for a tsunami originating from Tonga which would reach French Polynesia in one (1) hour, and
  • staged for a tsunami originating from South America or Alaska which would take around 8 hours to reach French Polynesia.

Move immediately to high ground if advised by local authorities or if you experience any of the following:

  • feel a strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand up, or a weak rolling earthquake that lasts a minute or more
  • see a sudden rise or fall in sea level
  • hear loud and unusual noises from the sea.

Do not wait for official warnings. Once on high ground, monitor local media and weather services.

More information:

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, 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.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Fire: dial 18
  • Medical emergencies: dial 15 or go direct to the hospital
  • Criminal issues: dial 17 or contact the nearest police station

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas. Australia has a Consulate in French Polynesia headed by an Honorary Consul. The Consulate provides limited consular assistance, which does not include the issue of Australian passports or the provision of notarial services.

Australian Consulate, Tahiti  

C/- Petropol Central Office
Papeava Port Zone
Papeete
Tahiti, FRENCH POLYNESIA
Telephone +689 40 468 806
 
You can get full consular assistance from the Australian Consulate-General in Noumea, New Caledonia.

Australian Consulate-General, Noumea

Norwich building
Level 2
11 rue Georges Baudoux
Artillerie, Noumea, New Caledonia
Telephone +687 272 414
Website noumea.consulate.gov.au
Consular email: consular.noumea@dfat.gov.au
Facebook: Australia in New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna
Twitter: @AusEmbCL

Check the Consulate-General website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are unable to contact the Consulate-General or Consulate in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Australia on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources