Pacific Islands are generally not considered the most budget destinations. When compared with nearby southeast Asia, I can understand how they get that reputation. But when compared to Europe, and near by neighbours of Australia and New Zealand, Pacific Islands actually turn out to be very good destinations for budget travel.
Accommodation costs came in as our biggest expense, but only slightly beating out food costs. We stayed at budget hotels and guest houses and on average paid about 18 US dollars per person per night. Our entire accommodation expenses for the seven nights totalled $126.72 US dollars per person. Not too shabby.
Now when I say, “we stayed at budget hotels and guesthouses,” what I mean is that they were not super luxurious resorts. But they were all extremely good quality. At some of the hotels we actually had our own little bungalow. In some cases we had private bathrooms, in other cases they were shared facilities. All were centrally located and had excellent customer service.
We found that most of the hotels that offered on line booking were also the most expensive, so don’t let an internet search of Tongan hotels put you off. There are plenty of great value options available. I recommend picking up a guidebook or getting the free Jason’s guide, which has great listings of accommodation options. Some hotels even have email so you can book in advance.
Over seven days in Tonga, we spent exactly 224.30 Pa’anga, or 114.84 US dollars per person. That’s $16.40 per day. Keep in mind that I wasn’t drinking at all as I was pregnant at the time, but that being said, the cost of beer was very reasonable.
We did not self cater at all during the trip and either ate all our meals at the guesthouse or in restaurants.
When it comes to budget travel in Tonga, you won’t be able to cut much cost from your food budget. In some regions, the only restaurant is at your hotel, so choice is limited. That being said, prices are still very reasonable despite the lack of competition.
Your biggest transport cost will be getting to Tonga in the first place. But once you are there, costs are very reasonable. There are not many public buses on the island, but many hotels offer an airport shuttle for a small fee. You may find you are taking taxis. As with taxis in other parts of the world, negotiate your price before you commit.
The best way to explore Tonga is by renting a car. You will need to get a temporary Tongan license which will cost you 40 Pa’anga. We paid another 80 Pa’anga to rent a car for two days, and put about 20 Pa’anga worth of fuel into the tank. The overall cost? $71.68 US dollars for both days of road trip freedom.
If you are planning to go to some of the further away island groups in Tonga then you will also have the cost of a domestic flight. We decided to spend time on the eco-tourism island of ‘Eua, and our return ferry was only 54 Pa’anga or $27.65 per person.
There isn’t much else you can spend your money on in Tonga. We bought a sim card but found we actually didn’t really need it as we got the ladies at the Tourist Information Office to call and book our hotels for us. There are not many souvenir shops around either, although there is a craft market in Nuku’alofa.
Budget travel in Tonga
Tonga is a great destination for those wanting an island and nature holiday on a small budget. The lack of shopping and splurging opportunities means that accommodation, food and transport will really be your only costs.
We travelled frugally, but comfortably, and spent on average 70.225 Tongan Pa’anga per day, or just $35.95 US dollars (based on 09/2014 exchange rate).
If you want to see a break down of our costs, check out our budget spreadsheet which shows exactly where our Pa’anaga went.
Want to learn more about budget travel to Pacific Islands? Check out these great posts: