- We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Tonga. You should exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour as you would in Australia, and monitor the media and other sources for information on local travelling conditions.
- Cyclone season is November to April, however, severe weather can occur at any time of the year.
- Earlier in 2015 the Tongan Ministry of Health announced an outbreak of dengue fever in Tonga. You should take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes, both during the day and at night. See Health.
- See Travel smart for general advice for all travellers.
- Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
- organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
- register your travel and contact details, so we can contact you in an emergency
- subscribe to this travel advice to receive free email updates each time it's reissued
- follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Entry and exit
Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest High Commission of Tonga for the most up to date information.
Tongan border control regulations require that your passport has at least six months’ validity from your planned date of departure from Tonga. It is likely that if you attempt to travel with less than six months’ validity, the airline will not allow you to board. In the unlikely event that the airline overlooks this requirement you may be fined on arrival, and your passport impounded by Tongan border control officers until the fine is paid. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.
Safety and security
Crime levels in Tonga are moderate. House break-ins and property theft occur. Electronic equipment such as iPads, mobile phones and other portable devices are particularly attractive to thieves. Security risks increase at night.
Sexual assaults against foreigners have occurred, including on public beaches. Women should avoid going out alone at night or alone to isolated locations, including beaches.
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin.
Money and valuables
ANZ and Bank South Pacific are represented in Tonga. ATMs will accept a variety of Australian cards, but you should ask your bank whether your ATM card will work overseas. While ATMs are easily accessible on the main island of Tongatapu, the more remote island groups have limited services. Australian dollars can be exchanged at local banks. Before you travel, you should ask your accommodation provider what payment methods are acceptable.
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept 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.
Inter-island ferries can be overloaded, poorly maintained or lack necessary life-saving equipment. Sufficient life jackets for boats, rafts and kayaks are not always provided. Check the operators' credentials and safety equipment in advance and ensure your travel insurance policy covers your planned activities.
Do not travel on any overloaded vessel.
Driving in Tonga can be hazardous, particularly at night, due to poor visibility, the quality of roads and the significant volume of pedestrian and animal traffic. The speed limit in most locations is 50 km per hour. For further advice, see our road travel page.
Although it is not yet a legal requirement to wear seatbelts in vehicles, you should wear one for your personal safety. Your travel insurance may not cover you in the event of an accident if you choose to not wear a seatbelt.
It is a legal requirement when riding motor scooters hired in Tonga that helmets be worn. Helmets may not be provided when hiring scooters. If you plan to hire a motor scooter check that your travel insurance will cover you.
It may be necessary to obtain a temporary Tongan driver’s licence in order to hire a scooter or car. Contact the Ministry of Transport (tel. 28415 or www.transport.gov.to) for more information.
Some Tongan road rules differ from those in Australia, including the requirement to give way to right turning vehicles.
Swimming and beach safety
Care should be taken when swimming on beaches with outlying coral reefs. Strong rips can occur at breaks in the reef and pose a significant risk to swimmers and surfers. A number of tourists have drowned recently in these conditions. Advice should be sought from locals on danger spots before going swimming.
Tonga’s domestic airline, Real Tonga, operates scheduled flights to all island groups. Limited domestic services may result in overbooking, overloading and late changes to scheduling.
The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Tonga.
Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.
You are subject to the local laws of Tonga, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. 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. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.
Sodomy is illegal in Tonga. The maximum penalty for a consensual act of sodomy is ten years imprisonment. See our LGBTI travellers page.
Child pornography is illegal. Other forms of pornography may attract criminal penalties.
There are two breath tests for blood/alcohol readings in Tonga. The first is a road-side test to determine whether you have alcohol in your system. If you test positive for alcohol you will be taken to a police station for a second test. The blood/alcohol limit for driving in Tonga is 0.0150 (limit in Australia is 0.05). If your reading is between 0.0150 and 0.0250 you will be given an on the spot fine. If your reading is above 0.0250, you will be charged and will have to appear in court. If the offence occurs outside of normal business hours it is likely you will be held in police cells until the charge can be laid.
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.
There are strict standards of dress and behaviour in Tonga and you should take care not to offend. Women in particular should dress modestly and wear clothing that covers the shoulders and knees. Bikinis can be worn at resorts, however swimwear should be more modest if swimming at public beaches away from resorts. Topless bathing is not accepted. Men are not permitted to go shirtless in public areas, unless at a resort.
Tonga is officially a Christian country with a high level of religious observance and a very conservative culture. Sabbath observance laws strictly limit Sunday activities, including business transactions, most restaurants, cafes and bars, and sporting events. Participation in activities, such as general exercise, running, swimming, snorkelling and fishing are regarded as inappropriate on Sundays, unless at a resort.
Information for dual nationals
See our Dual nationals page.
We strongly recommend that you 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.
It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations 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 Tonga are very limited and medical evacuation may be required even in cases of minor illness or accident. Evacuation would normally be to Australia or New Zealand and at considerable expense. Airports in Tonga do not operate on Sunday. A medical evacuation on a Sunday is very difficult to arrange.
There are no decompression chambers in Tonga. Serious cases of decompression sickness are evacuated to the nearest treatment centre in Townsville, Queensland. Registered dive companies carry basic treatment equipment to meet PADI standards.
Earlier in 2015 the Tongan Ministry of Health announced an outbreak of dengue fever in Tonga. Outbreaks of chikungunya also occur, particularly during the wet season. It is strongly recommended you 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. The mosquito responsible for dengue fever and chikungunya are particularly active during the day.
Tonga is experiencing ongoing transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus. The infection often occurs without symptoms but in some cases can cause fever, rash, severe headache, joint pain, and muscle or bone pain. There are no vaccines. All travellers are urged to protect themselves by taking measures to prevent mosquito bites. Given possible transmission of the disease to unborn babies, and taking a very cautious approach, pregnant women (or women trying to become pregnant) should consider postponing travel to Tonga or talk to their doctor about implications. See our travel bulletin on Zika virus.
Water-borne, food-borne, and other infectious diseases (including tuberculosis, typhoid and filariasis) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. You should also be aware that illness caused by naturally occurring seafood toxins such as ciguatera, as well as scombroid (histamine fish poisoning) and toxins in shellfish can be a hazard (for more information see Queensland Health’s fact sheet). Seek urgent medical attention if you suspect poisoning.
Practicing good personal hygiene should help you to avoid contracting typhoid and other gastro-intestinal diseases. You are advised to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water with intact seals, and avoid ice cubes and raw or undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.
Where to get help
Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance. Your travel insurer should have a 24 hour emergency number.
If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police at the nearest police station. You should always obtain a police report when reporting a crime.
Australians and Canadians in Tonga who require consular assistance should contact the Australian High Commission.
Australian High Commission, Nuku'alofa
See the High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.
If you are travelling to Tonga, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.
In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the above mission, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
Natural disasters, severe weather and climate
During an emergency, updates from the Tongan National Emergency Management Office will be transmitted on radio station Radio 1 at frequency 1017 AM, and will be transmitted to all island groups.
If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.
Tropical Cyclone Victor: The Tonga National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) issued an advisory on Thursday 21 January that a tropical cyclone warning is now in force for Eua, Tongatapu, and Ha’apai. You should follow the instructions of local authorities and monitor the media for the latest developments.
Cyclone season is between November and April when flooding, gale force winds and disruptions to services can occur. However, severe tropical storms and cyclones may occur in other months. The direction and strength of tropical cyclones can change with little warning.
In the event of an approaching cyclone, you should identify your closest safe location. We encourage Australians in affected areas to follow the instructions of local authorities and monitor the media for the latest developments. 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 your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans, and carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo identification), or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. We also suggest that you contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts. For further information, see our Severe weather page.
Cyclone and storm information for the Pacific Ocean region is available from:
- the Tonga Meteorological Service,
- Joint Typhoon Warning Center, US Navy ,
- USA National Weather Service Forecast Office,
- the Fiji Meteorological Service, and
- the World Meteorological Organisation Severe Weather Information Centre
We recommend that Australians in Tonga monitor these websites during cyclone season for the most up-to-date information.
If you are travelling to Tonga during cyclone season, you should contact your tour operator to check whether services at your planned destination have been affected.
Tonga is situated in an active seismic zone and as a result is regularly subject to earthquakes. Information about earthquakes is available from the National Earthquake Information Centre of the United States Geological Survey. Comprehensive information on how to prepare yourself, and what do do in an earthquake, or other natural disaster, is available from the New Zealand Government’s Get ready, Get thru website.
All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis in the Indian and Pacific Oceans because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. Tsunamis could occur in Tonga, and you should be alert to warnings as a tsunami can arrive within minutes of a nearby tremor or earthquake occurring.
The Tonga Meteorological Service has advised that due to Tonga’s proximity to the Tonga Trench, strong earthquakes in the region could trigger a destructive tsunami which could reach Tonga in about 10 minutes.
In the event of a strong earthquake, you should immediately move to high ground and then monitor the media, Radio 1 at frequency 1017 AM and the Tonga Meteorological Service website. To receive immediate alerts, Australian should register with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and the Global Disaster Alert and Co-ordination System.