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Holidays in French Polynesia

Understanding French Polynesia


Tropical, but moderate Natural hazards : occasional cyclonic storms in January Very humid

The average ambient temperature is 27°C 80°F and the waters of the lagoons average 26°C 79°F in the winter and 29°C 84°F in the summer But do not worry, most resorts and hotel rooms are air conditioned or cooled by ceiling fans

Summer is from November through April, with a warmer and more humid climate and winter is from May through October, when the climate is slightly cooler and drier When you step out of the airplane, you'll immediately notice that the air is warm and humid Consequently, besides your camera and your extra memory cards, do not forget to pack lightweight cotton clothes, sunscreen lotion and a baseball cap or a wide brimmed hat Synthetic fabrics can get hot and sticky in the tropics


Mixture of rugged high islands and low islands with reefs

Highest point : Mont Orohena 2,241 meters 6790 feet

Diverse landscapes:

  • Valleys cut by rivers and waterfalls
  • Crests leading to summits attaining heights of more than 2,000 meters 6,500 feet
  • Seashore paths bordering remote creeks overshadowed by cliffs


The Polynesians inhabited these islands for several hundred years before their discovery by western explorers Several marae religious sites still exist, scattered throughout the islands as evidence of this inhabitation

The British discovered Tahiti in the mid 1760's and Captain Cook visited there in 1769 to observe the Transit of Venus before sailing on to the south and west in search of the fabled Terra Australus Incognita with the assistance of a Polynesian navigator

The French annexed various Polynesian island groups during the 19th century

During the 1960's and 1970's, the French conducted atmospheric nuclear tests in the islands, primarily at Mururoa atoll Testing later moved underground after international protests from other Pacific countries, including a flotilla of yachts and a warship from New Zealand to monitor tests in 1974 Testing continued into the early 1990's, despite attempts to disrupt them by environmental activists In September 1995, France stirred up widespread protests by resuming nuclear testing on the Mururoa atoll after a three-year moratorium The tests were suspended in January 1996

In recent years the islanders have been working towards autonomy and economic independence from France However, the process is a gradual one and is expected to take a decade or two to occur

Talking in French Polynesia

The official languages are French and Tahitian English is also widely spoken particularly in tourist areas

Here are the main Tahitian words that you may pick up from a conversation:

  • Aita = no
  • E = yes
  • Fare = house
  • Ia ora na = Good Morning
  • Ma'a = food
  • Maeva = welcome
  • Maita'i? = How are you?
  • Mauruuru = Thank you
  • Nana = Goodbye
  • Pape = water
  • Tama'a = Let's eat

Tahitians have a tendency to mix up French and Tahitian words in their conversation, so don't be surprised

Buying stuff in French Polynesia

Be aware that everything is very expensive in French Polynesia Even budget accommodation is tough on the budget, as is food, even groceries So if you visit, take lots of money, you will need it

The following forms of payment are accepted: all legal bank notes, international credit cards and traveller's check The international banks with foreign exchange offices on Tahiti and the most frequently visited islands are the Bank of Tahiti, the Bank of Polynesia and Socredo International hotels also provide this service but be careful: some atolls and islands in the Austral and Gambier group have no banking facilities

Currency Exchange/Buy rates: As of 05/21/2007

  • 1 Euro = 12274 FCFP
  • 1 USD = 912 FCFP
  • 1 GBP = 17961 FCFP
  • 1 CAND = 84 FCFP


Black pearls are the high-end purchase in this part of the world They are beautiful, and of varied quality, so the buyer beware, and the sky's the limit There is lots of inexpensive mother-of-pearl jewellery that make very nice gifts Created only by the giant black-lipped oyster Pinctada Margaritifera which thrives in the lagoons of the Tuamotu Archipelago, the rare Polynesian black pearl varies in color from silver through dark grey with green and pink highlights This Tahitian jewel makes an exquisite and unique souvenir

For visitors who wish to discover the secrets of Tahitian pearls, a visit to one of the pearl farms on the island of Tahaa or on one of the low islands in the Tuamotu is an experience not to be missed

Food and eating in French Polynesia

Fine food in Tahiti and her Islands is typically a natural style of cooking based on fresh products exotically blended There is a presence of European cuisine within a tropical setting Asian cooking has also added its own tastes and textures

Fish of all kinds, whether tuna, bonito, mahimahi or the many varieties of lagoon fish are prepared in many different ways: roasted, boiled and raw

The top rated dishes are raw fish a la tahitienne which is marinated in lemon juice and coconut milk and the very popular Chinese ma'a tinito which is a mixture of pork, kidney beans, chinese cabbage and macaroni

Family occasions and celebrations are the time for a huge tamara'a Tahiti Tahitian-style feasts where a meal consisting of suckling pig, fish, breadfruit, yams and fe'i bananas is wrapped in banana leaves and steamed in an earth-dug oven over layers of hot rocks

The larger hotels organize big buffet evenings that offer a vast panorama of local culinary delights accompanied by traditional dance performances

Do note that tipping is not a custom in Tahiti and her Islands

Drinking in French Polynesia

Bottles of water are readily available Being a French territory, wine is common and easy to find As this is a tropical island, a multitude of fruit juices from pineapple juice to coconut milk are to be found everywhere Pineapple juice from Moorea is not to be missed! It is sometimes better to crack open your own coconut yourself and drain it for lunch Orange juice is the states favorite drink and oranges are grown all along the coastlines

If you're a fan of beer, the Hinano Beer will definitely be one you will like to taste and bring a few cans home

Accommodation in French Polynesia

Around fifty international class hotels can be found on twelve islands covering three different archipelagoes - Society, Tuamotu and Marquesas Although the islands of Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora provide over 80% of hotel capacity, the lesser known islands are also opening top-of-the-range establishements Several international groups are established: InterContinental, Sofitel, Novotel, Meridien, Starwood-Sheraton, Orient Express, Club Med and Radisson Two local chains, Maitai and South Pacific Management, complete the hotel scene Although complying with international standards, Polynesian style has been respected in the overwater bungalows with the use of pandanus, bamboo and shell light fixtures Some bungalows are fitted with glass-bottomed tables for watching the fishes without ever getting your feet wet

For travelers who prefer the simplicity and authenticity of the local experience, family hotels are the ideal type of accommodation The welcome is warm and friendly Family hotels are divided into four categories: Bed and Breakfast, Holiday Family Homes, Family-run guest houses, Family hotels

  • Bed and Breakfast: furnished bungalows limited to four dwelling units per home and able to accommodate twelve persons, equipped with bathrooms either private or shared
  • Holiday family homes: furnished bungalows limited to nine dwelling units and able to accommodate twenty-seven persons, equipped with bathrooms and kitchenette
  • Family-run guest houses: same as the above + breakfast and dinner service
  • Family hotels: offers full board meal service and a la carte food menu

Working in French Polynesia

For European people coming from an EU country, working in French Guiana is allowed without problem If you're from outside the EU, you will probably need a work permit - check with the French Embassy in your country Do not forget though that the unemployment rate is high But if you work in the health sector doctor, nurse, it will be much easier

Voluntary service: Volontariat Civil à l'Aide Technique VCAT, 8 Conditions: you must be French or from another EU-member state or a country belonging to the European Economic Area You must be over 18 and under 28 years old inclusive You must not have had your civic rights revoked by a court or have been convicted of certain offences

Cities in French Polynesia

afaahiti  afareaitu  amaru  anapoto  anatonu  anau  arue  atuona  avera  faaa  faanui  faaone  fare  fitii  haapiti  haapu  hitiaa  mahaena  mahina  mahu  maroe  mataiea  mataiva  mataura  moerai  paea  paopao  papara  papeari  papeete  papetoai  pirae  pueu  punaauia  rairua  rikitea  tautira  teahupoo  teavaro  tevaitoa  tiarei  toahotu  uturoa  vairao  vaitape  vaitoare  vaiuru  

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