This was our first Round the World trip as a couple and we were looking forward to the Pacific island of Fiji in 2008. Shimmering waters, blue starfish and volcanic islands make this South Pacific country an ideal holiday destination for backpackers, honeymooners and families.
Catherine and I landed at Nadi International Airport in terrible weather. As we exited the terminal and bundled into a small minivan to our hostel, it all looked very gloomy compared to New Zealand.
The roads were full of pot holes and with torrential rain outside, you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face, let alone cars. The driver instructed us to get out, at a group of buildings near the beach and we followed a group into reception.
Catherine and I were staying at the Horizon Backpackers & Travel Centre, on the main island. Prices begin at 15 FJD per night for dorms. We didn’t have the money to splash out on a Budget hotel, which start at 60 FJD per night.
Our first couple of days was sending time in Nadi and its surrounding area. 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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
Suva was and option for us, but we set our sights on the islands and exploring the jungle tribe life. Suvais the capital of Fiji and 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 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.
From Nadi we took a tour to a remote tribal village of Nuku in the middle of the jungle. These villages used to fill these beautiful islands. They kindly showed us their traditional ways of life, from what and how they cooked to the many ceremonies they would hold.
It’s was 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.
Our last few days were spent experiencing Fiji’s small group of islands of the west coast.
The islands of Mamanucas, 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.
We caught the ferry from Denarau Island, where most of the transport to the islands starts.
Once the day-trippers have left, you are on your own to enjoy your island.
If you’re looking for an island to meet fellow pack packers and stay up all night, then Beachcomber is the place.
For a more relaxing feel, check into Serenity Island Resort on Bounty island or South Sea island.
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. After a couple of days we headed back to mainland.
On most islands, like the ones we enjoyed, the accommodation includes 3 main meals and sometimes all-inclusive drinks.
Catherine and I travelled between the islands 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.
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.
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.
Fiji is a brilliant place to start our Pacific adventures. Most people think of Fiji as exotic and remote, and therefore a scary place, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Catherine and I thoroughly enjoyed our time there and now we sit in offices, we find our minds wondering back.
Next stop Los Angeles.
- 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