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What you need to know before travelling to Fiji

Fiji is one of my all time favourite destinations. The warmth of the Fijian people is evident with every smile and enthusiastic Bula greeting! The scenery is stunning, the water is crystal clear and it’s all within a short flight from Australia. You don’t need much to be happy in Fiji but it’s good to have a heads up on what to pack and what to expect as a traveller to Fiji. After many trips I’ve come up with my list of what I think you need to know before travelling to Fiji.

What you need to know before travelling to Fiji - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

What you need to know before travelling to Fiji

Accessibility

If you are travelling to Fiji and have accessibility needs due to being a wheelchair user or having a mobility restriction it’s important to know that Fiji lacks much of the accessible physical infrastructure we have in Australia but the Fijian people have an inclusive attitude and will go out of their way to assist. Braeden’s wheelchair was lifted onto boats and his wheelchair pushed through the sand by the Fijian people to ensure he didn’t miss out.

Fiji wheelchair access

Staying at one of the well-known hotel chains like Hilton or Intercontinental will assist with accessibility as the hotels will offer accessible rooms and better access throughout the main areas of the hotel. We noted that on our last stay in a three star resort the accessibility was trickier with longer alternative routes around the resort needed to avoid stairs. Staying in Denarau will also assist with accessibility as the restaurants around Port Denarau are more accessible than other areas in Fiji. We travelled with Braeden’s off-road tyres and a FreeWheel attachment to assist with some of the access challenges. While there were challenges, as a manual wheelchair user the Fijian people always found a way to lift or push Braeden so he could join in. I imagine a power chair user would find it somewhat more challenging negotiating some of the obstacles that come with the lack of infrastructure.

TTF (Tourism Transport Fiji) offers wheelchair accessible transfers, day tours and the hire of a Sandcruiser beach wheelchair. You can make enquiries or read more about what they offer on their website. 

Fiji wheelchair accessible
Wheelchair with FreeWheel attachment




What to pack

Aside from packing the usual items you should take for a tropical location (if you need some tips we have plenty in this blog) we suggest the following items for Fiji –

Sunscreen – pack more than you think you’ll need because it is expensive to buy in Fiji.

Repellent – tropical strength mosquito repellent to keep those mozzie bites to a minimum.

Be modest – a sarong and top that covers your shoulders if you intend visiting a village.

Wet weather gear – if you’re travelling in the wet season or just outside of it, take a rain jacket. An umbrella will be useless in a Fijian downpour or if it is windy. A rain jacket with a hood will be far more protective.

Chocolate = if you are a chocolate lover, pack some, a block of Cadbury chocolate ranges from FJD8-FJD15.

Drink bottle – pack a reusable stainless steel or aluminium drink bottle to keep your water cool. Buy your water in large bottles at the grocery store in Fiji and refill your bottle. It’s cheaper and kinder to the environment.

Medical kit – take a medical kit which covers all the basics but keep in mind many travellers to Fiji pick up tummy bugs so items to assist with diahorrea or vomiting can be helpful, just in case. We pack Gastro Stop, Stemitil tablets and Hydralyte tablets or sachets to help with rehydration. We also pack antibiotics, cream to help if the mosquitos bite and antihistamine tablets.




Money

The Fijian dollar (FJD) is the local currency. Credit cards are widely accepted in resorts and larger stores but there will be occasions where you may need cash including visits to local villages or if buying from stalls or locals selling souvenirs in the resorts.

When we recently travelled to Fiji the Westpac Money Exchange at Nadi Airport offered a better exchange rate than we could get in Australia. We arrived with a small amount of Fijian Dollars just in case there was any issue getting money at the airport but changed the majority at Nadi Airport.

Resort charges will be billed back to your room and when you are ready to settle your bill you can pay in cash or by credit card. Paying by credit card attracts between 3% and 4% surcharge.




Mobile/cell phone coverage

Mobile coverage is generally good in Fiji and most resorts provide free Wi-Fi, however in less expensive resorts the Wi-Fi may be limited to a common area like the resort’s bar or restaurant.

What you need to know before travelling to Fiji - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

We were staying in a three-star resort which only offered Wi-Fi in the common areas so we researched the best data plans prior to arriving in Fiji as our phone provider didn’t offer overseas coverage. We decided on a data plan through Digicel which is conveniently located at Nadi Airport in the arrival’s terminal. I bought the FJD20 plan which gave me 75GB Data valid for seven days which was more than I needed for my five-night stay. My daughter was staying in Fiji for three weeks and even with downloading TV shows, watching YouTube and more she didn’t use her 225GB of data which was valid for 30 days. The Digicel staff are efficient at swapping over sim cards and answering any questions.

Vodafone is also located at Nadi Airport, but at the time we travelled the Digicel deal was better for us. I suggest researching it before you arrive at Nadi Airport if you plan to get a local sim.




Driving in Fiji

We have hired a car on our last two visits to Fiji. We love having the freedom of exploring with our own transport and it was especially good when we were staying on the Coral Coast. We felt that driving gave us a greater insight into Fijian life as we were able to get off the beaten track and take some of the back roads. It’s not everyday you see people wandering along the roadside with a machete in hand and feel it’s okay. We also liked having the freedom of visiting other resorts for meals.

We hired our car through NCH Rentals who proved reliable in meeting us at the airport on arrival. The car was in good condition and had a powerful air conditioner which we appreciated when visiting Fiji in November.

What you need to know before travelling to Fiji - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

It’s easy to navigate around Fiji but you do need to keep an eye on the changing speed limits, especially when driving through villages. If you are travelling on the Coral Coast the wild horses can appear randomly, but warning signs are posted alongside the road in the areas they tend to wander. The dogs seem road savvy and stick to wandering beside the road and don’t tend to dart across the road like our city dwelling dogs.

Many service stations offer driveway service with attendants coming out to the vehicle to pump the petrol. They usually also wash the car windscreen which is a nice bonus.




Village and school visits

What you need to know before travelling to Fiji - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

If you are planning a visit to a village while staying in Fiji make sure you pack appropriate clothing. For ladies it is necessary to wear a top which covers your shoulders and a skirt or sarong which covers your knees. Remove hats when in a village.

Shopping

What you need to know before travelling to Fiji - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

Depending on where you are staying in Fiji determines the price tag attached to groceries at the nearby stores. The supermarket in Port Denarau is primarily there for tourists and the prices reflect that. If you are wanting to do some self-catering it is still cheaper than buying food in a resort but the supermarkets outside of Denarau are much cheaper. When we stayed on the Coral Coast and went shopping in Sigatoka to buy groceries there were multiple supermarkets, so competition meant prices were cheaper.

What you need to know before travelling to Fiji - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

As a few examples, we bought large 1.25l bottles of Fiji water for FJD3.25, a cheaper brand was around FJD1.30. Visiting the local markets is not only a cheap way of stocking up on fruit but it’s also a great experience so if you have the ability, make sure you check out the markets. A large bunch of bananas is FJD5.

If you are looking to buy souvenirs, Jack’s of Fiji has nice quality items. Jack’s sarongs make a lovely gift and the coconut sarong tie is super helpful in keeping a sarong from sliding down to your ankles. If you purchase from the local ladies who display their products in the resorts you will be supporting those from the local village but from what I could see the majority of the products are mass produced and made overseas.

The majority of stores are closed on Sundays.




What meals cost

It’s always handy for budgeting to know what meals cost. We always look for a resort where breakfast is included because that takes care of at least one meal for the day. As an example of a few meals, at the resort we were staying at, which was a three star resort, a burger with fries cost us FJD28, the curry of the day was FJD29, a plate of fries was FJD9. A Hawaiian pizza at a nearby resort was FJD27. A glass of pineapple juice is FJD8 and cocktails are around FJD20. It’s worth heading to happy hour if you are free at that time or buy some wine from a supermarket and enjoy a sunset picnic by the water.

Unique souvenir

When I travel to a destination, I love nothing more than learning a new skill and if that involves making a unique souvenir to take home it is even better.

What you need to know before travelling to Fiji - Have Wheelchair Will Travel

When Amelia and I were staying on the Coral Coast we visited Hot Glass Fiji and took a lesson in glass blowing and each of us made an item to take home. There was a choice of items to make including a plate, glass, or vase.

Please note Hot Glass Fiji is located in a house with many stairs to get to the workshop area.

What you need to know before travelling to Fiji - Have Wheelchair Will Travel
Amelia’s vase

We both chose a vase. It’s not a cheap souvenir but it is a quality item and now that we are home our vases hold special memories of learning how to do it together and our time in Fiji.

Tourism Fiji offers plenty of information about travelling to Fiji on their website.

You may also find the following reviews helpful in planning your travel to Fiji.

Fiji Airways economy class review

Malamala Beach Club

Ecotrax Fiji

Go Dirty Fiji

Fiji wheelchair access tales




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