Know the meaning of ‘bula’ and ‘vinaka’
While English is an official language, and most Fijians speak English to a certain level, you will hear bula and vinaka frequently throughout your stay. Bula is the Fijian greeting and vinaka means thank you. If you only ever learn two words of Fijian, make them bula and vinaka. Fijians are some of the friendliest people you can imagine, so come armed with a healthy dose of smiles and greetings.
People walk around with machetes, but it’s perfectly fine
No, they’re not about to carry out a massacre, they’re probably just working. Machetes are a common sight in Fiji and they’re the preferred tool for most workers who need to cut away grass, chop away any vegetation or open a coconut. Don’t be alarmed. You’ll even see older women armed with machetes in the villages or in rural areas.
Avoid walking about at night
While Fiji is generally considered a safe place to visit, common sense should always prevail. Outside of the resorts, it can be dangerous for women walking alone at night by themselves or even in a small group. It’s best to take a taxi at night rather than walking – including for male travellers.
Be careful of eating reef fish
Avoid reef fish if possible as they have been associated with sickness, not just in Fiji but in many of the South Pacific Islands. Reef fish live in shallower areas and feed off the coral, which at certain times of year can have a toxic bloom on them, infecting the fish. Choose deep water fish such as wahoo, tuna, marlin and mahi mahi. Food poisoning can occur in the Pacific so always drink filtered or boiled water, make sure hot food is piping hot and steer clear of rock melons, which aren’t always grown in pristine conditions.
The national speed limit is 80KMH
This limit is enforced by police and you will be fined if you are caught speeding. However, while driving around Fiji, the rest of the road rules can appear fairly…relaxed. Sometimes non-existent. Drivers will pull out suddenly in front of other cars or appear to come from nowhere, so always be prepared for the unexpected.
Also, if you do happen to have a car accident, don’t move your car off the road, even if there are other vehicles queuing to get past. Moving your car means you admit liability. Car crashes do happen in Fiji and it means all the other drivers have to stop and drive around the vehicles stuck in the middle of the road on seemingly minor crashes.
Sunday is church day
Most Fijians are Christian and they take Sundays very seriously. Everyone goes to church dressed in their Sunday best with many of the men wearing crisp white shirts and black sulus (a traditional black skirt men wear in the islands). Many shops are closed on Sundays or have limited opening hours, so it’s best to get all your shopping and main activities completed on another day of the week. The second most common religion is Hinduism because of the Fijian-Indian population. If you’re travelling to Fiji during Diwali or Holi festivals, expect plenty of celebrations and nightly fireworks.
Watch out for the mozzies
Mosquitos are common throughout the Fiji Islands so be sure to bring insect repellent and repeat applications through the day – especially in the evening or if you are hanging around waterways. Fiji is listed as one the countries known to have the Zika virus, which means men and women should take safety precautions as outlined by the World Health Organisation.
Imported food in Fiji is very expensive, but local fruit and vegetables from the produce markets are very cheap. Most produce is sold in a ‘heap’ for a between $2-$5FJD. The same products are typically more expensive and not as fresh when sold in supermarkets. There are also many locally crafted souvenirs available for purchase so you can easily take a piece of your Fiji holiday home with you.
Bring conservative clothing
In the resorts, pretty much anything works as far as clothing or swimwear goes. However, the dress code is more conservative in towns and especially small villages. Women should cover their shoulders and avoid short skirts or shorts, while men should wear shirts rather than singlets and longer length shorts. Always remove your hat and take your sunglasses off your head when entering a village or going inside. The head is very sacred for Fijians and you must never touch anyone’s head without permission.
Animals rule the road
Stray dogs are everywhere throughout Fiji and they’ll run across the road at any time, bark in the middle of the night and forage for food. Most of them are strays and therefore can have fleas and other diseases. Horses and cattle are frequently seen both in paddocks and wandering around on the road. You’ll come off worse if you run into a cow.