Palau

Your full Wanderlust guide to

Palau

Palau

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Capital
Koror
Languages
Palauan, Sonsoralese, Tobi, Anguar, English, Filipino
Population
20,800
Int. dial code
+680
Visa
Time zone
GMT+9
Voltage
110V 50Hz
Currency
US dollar USD. Credit cards are accepted in Koror State but not on smaller islands. This is the same with ATMs.
Palau travel advice
Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Papua New Guinea

Your full Wanderlust guide to

Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is the stuff of true travel legend – a distant, exotic, little-explored land laying just north of Australia in the Coral Sea, that will garner serious kudos at the water cooler.

Papua New Guinea and the nearby Solomon Islands are diving Mecca. WWII wrecks, manta rays, odd-looking multi-coloured fish and incredible reefs are among the underwater delights here.

Divers aren’t the only ones who will love remote Papua New Guinea. Nature-lovers come to spot forest-dwelling tree kangaroos, giant leatherback turtles and birds of paradise. Culture vultures love the local festivals where Highlanders dress in traditional regalia, powder and paint and dance for all they’re worth.

Diving

Simply, world-class: find corals to rival Australia’s Barrier Reef at spots such as Kimbe Bay while numerous wrecks lurk off Rabaul.

Trekking

As well as Kokoda, try the Black Cat Track around Morobe – a brutish coastal hike. Expeditions can be arranged to PNG’s highest summit, Mt Wilhelm (4,509m).

Surfing

PNG has some of the world’s best waves and reef breaks, with year-round action at locales such as Kavieng, on New Ireland, and Vanimo.

Islands

PNG has many islands, from New Britain (home to smoking Rabaul volcano) to the wilderness of Bougainville Island.

Community tourism

Mangalas is a lovely region of rainforest plateau in Oro Province. Stay with the Ese people and take safaris to find the world’s largest butterfly, the Queen Alexandra’s birdwing.

Birdwatching

Among PNG’s 700 species are 38 varieties of birds of paradise, the world’s smallest parrot and the only poisonous bird. Tari and Varirata National Park have lodges set up for birdwatchers.

Culture

With 820+ languages no other country boasts such unaltered human diversity. Cultural spectacles include the Huli Wigmen, the Skeleton Tribe, the Asaro Mudmen and the Baining hot coal dancers.

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Papua New Guinea is expensive. Get off the beaten track and stay in rural villages: it’s much cheaper. You can also save money by booking hotel rooms in advance from outside the country thus avoiding the 10% VAT that’s levied on higher-end accommodation.

Capital
Port Moresby
Languages
Tok Pisin (pidgin) unifies 800+ languages. English is widely spoken.
Population
6.3 million
Int. dial code
+675
Visa
Time zone
GMT+10
Voltage
240 AC, 50 Hz
Currency
Kina PGK

When to go

June to September is the coolest, driest and best time to visit PNG (except in the Lae region, where it will be wet at this time). The heaviest rains fall between December and March; that’s also when the bugs come out.

International airports

Port Moresby (POM), 8km from the city.

Getting around

Most visitors use the extensive, expensive internal flight network. Operators include Air Niugini, Airlines PNG and Travel Air.

Chartering a vehicle is very expensive. Few foreigners use local transportation (called PMVs; usually open-sided trucks/minivans) but for those with high pain thresholds they offer a cheap way of getting around. Travel around the Sepik is by dugout or dinghy.

Accommodation

Accommodation in Papua New Guinea is cripplingly expensive, especially when compared to nearby Indonesia. Resorts, top-end and mid-range hotels are the norm here.

At the budget end, there are a number of mission guesthouses (run by religious folk who frown upon drinking and smoking), community-run hostels and private guesthouses. Camping is a no-go. For an authentic experience, ask around about accommodation in village houses and stay with the locals.

Food & drink

Vegetables characterise the countryside diet; sagodominates in the lowlands, kau kau (sweet potato) in the highlands. Dessert might be bananas, papaya and pineapple. Outside city restaurants, meat is rarely eaten, although chicken and pork may be offered to tourists; fish is abundant in the Sepik.

PNG produces coffee although guests tend to be offered Nescafé. Kulau (young coconut milk), drunk from the nut, is widespread. The local beer is SP.

Health & safety

There’s a real threat if robbery and theft in Port Moresby and other cities. If using an ATM in Port Moresby, do so in the airport.

Roads are bad, motor accidents common. Tribal fighting can flare in the highlands. The Kokoda Track should not be attempted alone.

Malaria is a risk as is HIV, TB, typhoid and cholera. Seek medical advice pre travel.

Pitcairn Island

Your full Wanderlust guide to

Pitcairn Island

Pitcairn Island

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Capital
Adamstown
Languages
English, Pitkern
Population
67
Int. dial code
+872
Visa
Time zone
GMT-9
Voltage
240V 50Hz
Currency
New Zealand dollar (NZD). Travellers cheques can be cashed here but there are no ATMs and few credit card facilities.
Pitcairn Islands travel advice
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Pitcairn Islands tourism board
Pitcairn Islands tourism

Nauru

Your full Wanderlust guide to

Nauru

Nauru

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Capital
No capital
Languages
Nauruan, English
Population
14,000
Int. dial code
+674
Visa
Time zone
GMT+12
Voltage
240V 50Hz
Currency
Australian dollar (AUD). There are no credit card facilities and no ATMs on Nauru, and the bank is not reliable.
Nauru travel advice
Foreign and Commonwealth Office

French Polynesia

Your full Wanderlust guide to

French Polynesia

French Polynesia

The five island groups of French Polynesia (comprising 118 islands and atolls) total only 3,827 sq km in land mass, but are spread across an area of the Pacific that is the size of Western Europe. The islands are mixed, but beautiful, whether they’re rugged dots rising high out of the blue waters or low-lying atolls with white sand and stunning coral reefs.

You can just lounge in a hammock with a cool cocktail, but the islands also offer exceptional diving, surfing and sailing, plus plenty of hiking and climbing in luscious mountains.

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Don a snorkel

Much of French Polynesia offers great snorkelling. Enlist a guide to take you to shark and humpback areas (humpbacks swim by Rurutu August-November) or simply float about gawping at a range of technicolour fish (Rangiroa has some great spots).

Get lost on Moorea

The jungles here are filled with hidden waterfalls and interesting old ruins, just waiting to be discovered.

Find a remote spot

Not all French Polynesian islands are equal – some are more developed than others. The small island of Maupiti is perfect for those wanting a secluded beach-break – lush, lowly populated and untouched by tourism.

Chill out on Huahine

Lie on the beach and watch life go slowly by on this lovely, laidback backpacker-friendly island, popular with surfers and the budget conscious.

Watch Tahitian dancers

Not just for tourists, dance performances are an important part of Polynesian culture. Catch a show: a whirl of bright costumes, brighter flowers and traditional music.

Everything that is imported into remote French Polynesia is rather pricey – and pretty much everything is imported. Take the essentials with you, including sun cream, your own snorkel and mask, and a raincoat.

Capital
Papeete (Tahiti)
Languages
French is the official language, however Polynesian is widely spoken
Population
294,000
Int. dial code
+689
Visa
if you’re travelling on a British Citizen passport you do not need a visa to enter Indonesia for visits of up to 30 days
Time zone
GMT-10 (Tahiti)
Voltage
220V, 60Hz
Currency
French Pacific Franc XPF
French Polynesia travel advice
Foreign and Commonwealth Office

When to go

French Polynesia’s rainy season runs from November to April. May to October is the best time to visit as it is less humid and rain is less frequent.

School holidays are often busy and expensive – book early if visiting at these times.

International airports

Faa’a International Airport (PPT) on Tahiti.

Getting around

Short flights are the quickest, easiest – and most expensive – way to get between islands. Plenty of boats and ferries run too.

On most islands, the best way to get around on land is via ‘Le Truck’, a reliable bus service. Taxis tend to be very expensive.

Accommodation

You can pay top dollar for a luxury beach lodge or slob out in a woven beach shack for a fraction of the cost.

Food & drink

The staple diet of most islanders is a mixture of starchy breadfruit, fish, fatty pork, coconut milk and a few vegetables. On special occasions, the whole lot is placed in a hole on top of burning coals, covered in banana leaves and then buried to cook for several hours.

Seafood is common, and may be curried or cooked in coconut milk. Pork is the preferred meat; chicken is often poor quality.

Coconut milk is the cheapest and most refreshing drink. Fresh fruit juice is delicious, but quite expensive.

The local beer, Hinano, is drunk everywhere.

Health & safety

Take remedies for seasickness if you are prone and plan on island-hopping. Wear plenty of sun cream. Drink lots of purified water.

Fiji

Your full Wanderlust guide to

Fiji

Fiji

On winter days, Fiji is where you dream of. Made up of over 300 islands, Fiji’s palm-dotted sandy beaches, turquoise waters and warm weather are the stuff of Monday morning fantasies. Popular with Antipodeans, this South Pacific archipelago is perfect for beach lounging.

Blessed with pristine coral reefs, it’s also a major snorkelling and diving destination and the breaks are good for surfers too. When you tire of kicking back, you can hike, sea-kayak or river raft before falling back once more into the easy laid-back rhythm of the islands.

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Wanderlust recommends

  1. Stay in a traditional bure in a rural village
  2. Sea-kayak your way around Kadvu island Walk the
  3. Bouma Falls Trail for pretty coastal villages and multiple waterfalls
  4. Get your fins on and go snorkelling
  5. Grab a beer and watch the sunset at Coral Coast
Capital
Suva
Languages
English, Fijian, Hindustani
Population
1 million
Int. dial code
+679
Visa
Time zone
GMT+12
Voltage
220/50Hz
Currency
Fijian dollar (FJD). Credit cards are widely accepted, although it’s wise to double check first with your resort that they do. ATMs are available in most towns on Viti Levu. Banks will change currency.
Fiji travel advice
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Fiji tourism board
Fiji tourism

When to go

The dry season is between May and October. Fiji is especially busy with holidaymakers from Australia and New Zealand in June and July.

Summer is from November to April when you can expect biblical downpours in the afternoon.

The island is particularly lush during this rainy season when it’s a great time for scuba divers.

Cyclones can be a risk between December and April.

International airports

Nadi International Airport (NAN) – 10km from Nadi.

Getting around

Island hopping isn’t as easy as it looks in Fiji.

Nadi and Suva on the main island of Viti Levu are the main transport hubs.

Buses and vans plough the biggest islands, elsewhere you’ll need to rely on cargo boats and passenger ferries to get around.

Domestic flights can be expensive and are not for nervous fliers.

Cars can be rented at Nadi Airport or in Suva.

Accommodation

Staying in Fiji isn’t cheap.

Beach resorts are everywhere and smaller boutique style resorts are becoming more popular.

Budget travellers should look for guesthouses, bed and breakfasts, hostels and village homestays.

Camping is frowned upon.

Food & drink

Fijans often skip lunch and have dinner very early – late eaters beware.

Local specialities include various variations on fish with coconut served with yams. Try kokoda, fish marinated in lime and chilli, seasoned with coconut cream and served up cold.

Bananas, pawpaw and coconuts are available year round.

Expensive buffets in resort hotels might be your only option on smaller islands.

Health & safety

Speak to your GP about vaccinations for Fiji. Protect yourself from mosquito bites – dengue fever outbreaks do happen.

Petty theft can be a problem – don’t leave clothes, money or jewellery lying about.

Sexual harassment has been reported so female travellers should take extra care and avoid walking alone at night.

Micronesia

Your full Wanderlust guide to

Micronesia

Micronesia

The Federated States of Micronesia is an independent, sovereign island nation in the west Pacific, made up of four states: Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae.

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Capital
Palikir (Pohnpei)
Languages
English (official), Chuukese, Kosrean, Pohnpeian, Yapese, Ulithian, Woleaian, Nukuoro, Kapingamarangi
Population
107,000
Int. dial code
+691
Visa
Time zone
Guam: GMT+10. The islands are spread across a large area so others may use a different time.
Voltage
110/120V 60Hz. For Nauru and Kiribati the voltage is 240V 50Hz.
Currency
US Dollar USD and Australian Dollar AUD. Travellers cheques are widely accepted and there are banks on all the major islands.
Indonesia travel advice
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Micronesia tourism board
Micronesia tourism

Marshall Islands

Your full Wanderlust guide to

Marshall Islands

Marshall Islands

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Capital
Majuro
Languages
Marshallese, English
Population
65,000
Int. dial code
+692
Visa
Time zone
GMT+12
Voltage
120V 60Hz
Currency
US dollar USD. ATMs are available on Majuro, but not on the other islands. Credit cards are accepted on Majuro and Ebeye, but again not on the other islands. Travellers cheques can be easily exchanged.
Marshall Islands travel advice
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Marshall Islands tourism board
Marshall Islands tourism

Samoa

Your full Wanderlust guide to

Samoa

Samoa

A volcanic dot in the South Pacific, not far from the equator, Samoa is about as remote as countries come. In many ways the islands that make up Samoa – the two main atolls of ’Upolu and Savai’i plus a scattering of others – are your typical tropical paradise: white sand, swaying palms, turquoise waters, reefs full of fish.

But Samoa is much more than just a pretty postcard. Delve inland and Samoa reveals a gnarled and verdant interior of craters, lava fields and tropical forest, while the strong indigenous culture – called fa’a Samoa – is alive and well: the locals still live in traditional fales (thatched, open-sided houses), farm their own land and abide by a village hierarchy system that dates back centuries.

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Capital
Apia
Languages
Samoan and English
Population
220.000
Int. dial code
+685
Visa
Time zone
GMT-11
Voltage
240 AC 50 Hz
Currency
Samoan Tala WST
Samoa travel advice
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Samoa tourism board
Samoa tourism

Wanderlust recommends

Browse the fruit and flowers of Apia’s Maketi Fou market

Visit Robert Louis Stevenson’s Villa Vailima, and hike up the hill to his grave for great views

Lounge on ’Upolu’s south coast beaches, especially lovely Lalomanu

Hike up Tafua Savai’i volcano to peer into a Lost World crater and spot rare Samoan flying foxes

Clamber through the undergrowth to reach Pulemelei Mound, Savai’i, Polynesia’s biggest (but little-visited) stone monument

Look out for fa’afafine, Samoa’s affectionately mocked, super-camp transvestites

Take the boat to little Manono Island – no cars, no dogs, just laid-back life Samoan style

Wanderlust tips

On arrival buy a lava-lava, the local sarong. Practically all Samoans wear them, accessorised with jandals (flip-flops). Local women in Samoa dress fairly conservatively – away from the beach you should wear below-the-knee shorts/dresses.

Attend a church service and, if possible, a family to’ona’i (Sunday lunch) for a slice of real Samoan culture. Always remove your shoes before entering a fale (traditional Samoan house).

When to go

Close to the equator, Samoa’s temperature is fairly consistent year round, averaging a very pleasant 26°C on the coast. That said, Samoa’s dry (and therefore peak) season runs from May to October; the wet season is November-April, when it can very hot and humid.

Cyclones are most likely between November and March; they don’t often make landfall but can disrupt travel plans and cause high winds and torrential rain as they swing offshore.

September is party month in Samoa, when the Teuila Festival takes over Apia.

International airports

Faleolo International (APW) 35km from Apia.

Getting around

Travel between Samoa’s two main islands, ’Upolu and Savai’i, can be done by 15-minute flight or 75-minute ferry ride; views are good from the plane, but you won’t be able to take a hire car across. The ferry is much cheaper, too. You can also take boats to smaller islands; for example, boats leave ’Upolu for the short hops to car-less Manono and Apolima islands.

The easiest and most flexible way to get around is by hire car; the coastal roads around ’Upolu and Savai’i are good, head off that and standards dip considerably. The speed limit is quite low (55km/h tops; slower in towns).

Local buses are cheap – and quite an experience: multi-coloured, noisy, bouncy and packed.

Accommodation

The grand dame of Samoan accommodation is Aggie Grey’s Hotel in Apia, where the Wednesday night fiafia show shouldn’t be missed. Other high-end hotels exist, though boutique styling hasn’t yet caught on – with a few notable exceptions on the coast.

Most fun, and the cheapest option, is to stay in a traditional Samoan beach fale. These thatched-roofed, raised, open-sided shacks are basic (furnishings run to a mattress and a mosquito net; the bathroom will be elsewhere and shared) but are generally right by the sea and allow you to sleep wafted by a blissful Pacific breeze.

Food & drink

Samoans love their food – portions are huge. Root vegetables taro (often cooked in a underground umu, a hot-rock oven) and breadfruit are ubiquitous. Meat is found in most Samoan meals, so vegetarians will have to work a bit harder to find sustenance. For example, Samoa’s roadside barbecue shacks serve up cheap platters that typically include sausage, pork, ribs and steak.

Fish is also common in Samoa. Coconuts are delicious – try a drinking coconut for a thirst quencher, or palusami, a yummy concoction of taro leaves and coconut cream. Snacks for sale in small Samoan shops are generally fried and unhealthy.

Vailima is Samoa’s locally brewed lager. Other alcoholic drinks are imported and therefore more expensive. ’Ava, made from the dried roots of the kava plant, is drunk on ceremonial occasions; it looks like muddy water and has a mildly sedative effect.

Health & safety

There is no malaria on Samoa, but dengue fever is present – cover up and take DEET-based insect repellent to protect from day-biting mosquitoes. It can get very hot and humid in Samoa – take high-factor sunscreen and stay well hydrated.

Feral dogs can be a nuisance, but shout and they usually run away. Beware Samoa’s coconut palms – falling fruit can kill; look up, and pass under trees quickly, especially when it’s raining or windy.

Solomon Islands

Your full Wanderlust guide to

Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands

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Capital
Honiara
Languages
English is widely spoken and there are over 70 indigenous languages
Population
609,000
Int. dial code
+677
Visa
Time zone
GMT+11
Voltage
230/240V 50Hz
Currency
Solomon Islands Dollar SBD
Solomon Islands travel advice
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Solomon Islands tourism board
Solomon Islands tourism