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10 Things To Know About Fiji - Before You Travel

By:
Joanna Hall
 

Nestled in the heart of the South Pacific, Fiji is an archipelago of more than 300 islands, and famous for rugged landscapes, palm-lined beaches and coral reefs with clear lagoons. It’s also a popular holiday destination for many Australians, who are looking to get away from it all in a country which is is one of the most interesting, friendly places in the world. If you’re a first timer, however, there are a few things you should know about, from culture and food, to the country’s unusual airports. Here’s our top 10 of what we have learned visiting Fiji. 

The Culture

It’s important for visitors to understand the structure of villages, and the rituals and traditions in Fiji. Having travelled to the islands on many occasions I’ve learned something new with every visit. For example, what is a meke? The answer is a traditional style of dance typically performed during celebrations and festivals. Why do Fijians raise their eyebrows? The answer is to say yes to a question. And what should you wear on a village visit? The best advice is to dress conservatively; men, and particularly women, should cover shoulders and knees, and preferably wear a sulu or Fijian sarong around the waist. 

Fiji Time

I quickly discovered that Fiji Time is a thing and it does exist. You also quickly learn that you need to reset your watch or throw it away altogether when holidaying in Fiji; everything slows down and sometimes nothing gets done on time, but that’s simply  the way life is there - relaxed and easy going. Some common examples of Fiji time that travellers can encounter include flights which are late, or cancelled altogether leaving you sleeping at the airport, and a multi course dinner which either comes in bits and pieces or all at once.

Kava 

This is something you’ll likely either love or hate if you encounter it. One of the first times I drank kava was with American friends living in Fiji and their Fijian neighbour. What I discovered, to my cost, was two things. One is drinking “high tide” as the Fijian explained, which is a big mouthful rather than a sip, women not excepted. The second is that after a few solid drinks of kava you can get an odd numb sensation in your mouth, tongue and lips; it can also quickly leave you feeling pretty grim and needing to excuse to head to the bathroom!

The Cuisine

Fijians love to use lovo pits as a traditional method of cooking, with food buried underneath hot coals wrapped in banana leaves or palm fronds. Typically this includes marinated meats and fish on the bottom, while root crops like cassava, taro and yams are placed on top. Fijians also eat sweet potatoes, taro, rice, cassava, coconut and fish, plus other food from the sea including seaweed. The people are not into western style salads, you’ll likely struggle if you’re on any kind of a special diet, and you can’t drink the water anywhere. Indian curry is also a delicious meal which is readily available, unless you don’t like spicy food. And if you go to a market to buy fish to cook for yourself, get advice before you buy as there are many types of fish you won’t have eaten before and not all are tasty!

Rugby

Fijians are unashamedly obsessed with rugby - the country has a top Sevens team, and they also play rugby union and rugby league with great passion. Most islanders consider it a national sport, and love watching and talking about rugby. If your holiday in Fiji includes a village visit, rugby shirts from around the world, especially those for children, are always welcome gifts. 

It Is Remote

Some parts of Fiji are incredibly remote, which can be a good thing if you are keen to really get away from it all. Having travelled there near and far, most of the country and many of the islands are pristine and largely undisturbed by tourism, but this can create problems if you don’t plan for it. For example, you may not be able to get Wi-Fi, buy tampons, or get reading glasses fixed easily if you encounter a problem.

Men With Machetes

It’s quite a daunting sight, but don’t be put off by men with machetes. You’ll see them walking down the road, clear as day, but these scary men with big knives are usually simply farmers or a worker who have to slash vegetation to get their job done. Just smile and say bula. Overall, in spite of recent political issues, Fiji is a safe place to travel, and great for families; the police don’t carry guns, and crime is low.

The Beaches 

Not all beaches in Fiji are equal. Some, such as those on the Coral Coast of Viti Levu, are covered with broken shells which can make walking on the beach near impossible bare foot, while others, such as those on Castaway Island, are blessed with soft white sand. And others still have rich black volcanic sand which is completely harmless, but looks less attractive and almost muddy! 

The Airports 

Not all of Fiji’s airports are equal either. Although the country has more than 25, but only a handful are paved which can make landings interesting. And some of the flights to far outer islands can be hair raising if you’re a nervous flier, with flying between mountain peaks par of the course, and runways occupied by livestock as your plane makes its final approach.

The Fijian People 

Fijians are an incredibly hardworking people. Many who work in resorts only get one day off every 10-12 or so, yet they always have a big smile on their faces, and are always up for a chat. While you are visiting, always treat people with respect and courtesy, and don’t be afraid to ask them about their families and home - which may be further away than you think.

 

 

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