Fiji on a budget

Shimmering waters, blue starfish and volcanic islands make this South Pacific country an ideal holiday destination for backpackers, honeymooners and families

Fiji is a brilliant place to start your Pacific adventures. It’s a collection of volcanic islands spanning 1,600 Km. Most people think of Fiji as exotic and remote, and therefore a scary place, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. There are two main islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu and a collection of nearly 333 smaller islands.

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Contrary to popular belief, a trip to one of these beautiful islands doesn’t have to break the bank. The resorts and outer islands can be a bit on the expensive side, but there are budget guesthouses and good hostels. On the whole Fiji, with its inexpensive food and accommodation, plus the fact a lot of Pacific flights stopover on the main island, make it an easy and affordable place to drop in to. If you want to experience Pacific island life, then Fiji is the budget choice.

Nadi

Nadi

This town is located on the west side of Viti Levu island and is most likely the first port of call as it is the home to Fiji’s International Airport.

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The Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple in the centre of Nadi is a a real sight and the inexpensive food and transport make it appealling for the budget traveller. The market is one of the best in Fiji and the people are friendly.

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Most of the buses will have no glass in the windows and a trip along the beach is an experience but that’s what makes Fiji special. Remember to always buy bottled water, as water from the tap will make you ill.

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Suva

The capital city of Fiji is situated on the South East corner of the main island of Viti Levu. Suva has a colonial feel to it, with architecture dating back to British rule. The city can be a great place for nightlife, restaurants, mixed with beautiful mosques and temples.

A visit to the market is a must on a Saturday morning for a taste of Fijian life. This is a great place to pick up cheap food and some great souvenirs. Like any capitals always take precaution with your processions.

The Mamanucas

These tiny set of islands off the coast of Nadi are a good place to start your budget island trip. Popular with snorkelers, divers and tourists for a long day relaxing on the white sands, you can get lost in paradise.

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Once the day-trippers have left, you are on your own to enjoy your island.

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If you’re looking for an island to meet fellow pack packers and stay up all night, then Beachcomber is the place.

Bounty island

For a more relaxing feel, check into Serenity Island Resort on Bounty island or South Sea island.

Fiji HorsesSouth Sea island

Fiji Museum

The Fiji Museum is well worth a visit while staying Suva. It tells the story of the islands and details South Pacific culture. The displays include Indian art exhibits, HMS Bounty relics and other pieces showing traditional Fijian life through the ages. The jewellery, tribal weaponry and cannibal forks are great artefacts that will add to your understanding of the islands you’re living on.

Diving and snorkelling

Diving and snorkelling in Fiji is brilliant. The islands offer a great range of wildlife that can be seen at very little cost. Every island will have equipment for you to go out and find your nemo or blue starfish. The water is warm, and the visibility is fantastic, with deeps of up to 30 metres. For world famous diving spots, look no further than Rainbow and Astrolabe Reef, plus Beqa Lagoon. Head to South Sea island for a submarine boat ride that will let you take in the sea life while keeping bone dry.

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Yasawa Islands

The Yasawa Islands are a very popular destination for budget travellers. The inexpensive accommodation and cheap transport by ferry mixed with the late-night parties all help make it perfect for the traveller with a small budget.

You don’t have to stay up all night to have a good time on these islands and there are a lot of lesser known islands in the chain that offer quieter experiences.

Tribal experience

Why not visit one of the traditional tribal villages that used to fill these islands. After a ride up the Navua river to the heart of the jungle, you’ll be able to eat like the natives used to, watch ceremonies and celebrate their culture.

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It’s a great way to sample island life. At most hostels there will be a notice board with all the details for these tours and many others.

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Accommodation

Hostels like the one we stayed in, Horizon Backpackers & Travel Centre, on the islands begin at 15 FJD per night for dorms but many go up to 30 FJD. Camping is another possibility but is usually the same price as sites are owned by the hostels. Booking through Hostelworld is a good place to start. Budget hotels start at 60 FJD per night and resorts are 250 FJD per night.

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Transportation

Buses are the main way to travel around the islands. They may not be in the best condition, but they are inexpensive and efficient. A 4-hour journey from Nadi to Suva costs 50 FJD and a taxi around the two places will be no more than 10 FJD. Always agree a price before you set off.

Fiji Boats

Travelling between the islands is done by small boats run by local hotels or hostels. Ferry routes are available between Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, Ovalau and Kadavu and Vanua and Tavaeuni.

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If you are traveling to more than a couple of islands a ferry pass is the best way. A 7-day pass is 350 FJD.

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Food

A meal in Fiji can be as cheap as 4 FJD, but an average price in a restaurant can be between 10 to 30 FJD. On most islands like the ones we went to, the accommodation includes 3 main meals and sometimes all-inclusive drinks. Beer will cost 5 FJD and groceries for a week will cost 45 FJD. Again, watch what you wash your vegetables in as water isn’t drinkable.

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Tips

  • If you are going to the outer islands, then I would advise bringing as much as you can with you. Everything is about 50% more on these remote islands due to transportation costs. Saving money on water, food and alcohol is a good plan.
  • Don’t forget to take a sip of Yaqona, also known around the South Pacific as ‘kava’. It’s Fiji’s national drink and carries an important role in formal ceremonies.
  • Take a trip to Momi Bay Battery Historic Park, just an hour’s drive from Nadi
  • Pop to Sabeto Hot Springs and relax in the Mud Pool
  • Tap water is not advised for the casual visitor, so stock up on bottled water. Also use it for washing your food. There’s nothing worse than being ill while backpacking, especially with these great islands waiting outside!
  • Don’t forget to try a lovo lunch – meat, fish and vegetables wrapped in banana leaves and cooked underground

Checking out C & J

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