Fiji overland travel guide

Manta ray

Manta ray (photo credit: see below)

As with New Zealand, Fiji’s location in Polynesia means it doesn’t get many overland visitors, and those it does get are mostly cruise ship passengers. In my case I included it as a stop on a round-the-world ticket, visiting after doing a ski season in Queenstown and en route to an overland jaunt through Central America in pursuit of the Mysterious Cities of Gold.

Travel to Fiji overland

Being a Pacific island nation, there are of course no routes to Fiji overland – but by the same token, Fiji is surrounded by water and arrival (or departure) by sea is possible. There aren’t any passenger ferries though, so if you want to travel to Fiji by sea there are basically three options – cruise ship, cargo ship, or private yacht. Cruise ships are the most expensive, but by far the easiest to arrange if you have the budget; I’m sure it’s a nice way to travel, though I’m yet to experience it.

The other two are a bit harder to set up, requiring significant planning (and funds) to land a berth on a cargo ship, and good timing / good luck to score a spot (as a paying passenger or as a crew member) on a yacht. In the case of cargo ships, while some do have berths for paying passengers, it doesn’t seem to be all that common and most ships don’t take passengers. For those that do, you can contact them directly through their company websites (like here and here) or book through specialist cargo cruise travel agents (like this and this) – you need to do this months ahead of your desired travel time, as available berths and departures are limited. The going rate seems to be around 100 to 150 US dollars per day, and obviously with passage to Fiji from Australia or America taking weeks this isn’t exactly a cheap option – but then, considering that it essentially covers all food and accommodation costs, it doesn’t seem too bad as long as you find the time on board to be a good travel experience and time well spent rather than wasted.

Personally, I would love to travel by cargo vessel at least once – those enormous hulks are incredible and it would be pretty cool to be onboard, to see how they look and work inside, to see the daily lives of the crew, and to experience the pace of life aboard ship. Even more than that, I find the workings of global freighter trade fascinating – all those ships, all those containers, all filled with so much stuff, all going here, there, and everywhere… all those ports and docks and their workers running to and fro every day, loading and unloading all that stuff to send it on further, here, there, and everywhere by rail and road… first seeing new lands not as a miniature patchwork out of a plane window, but as the cliffs and towns of a rugged coastline; and first arriving in new lands not in the sterile confines of an international airport, but in the nitty and hustle and gritty and bustle of a container port.

I did actually once attempt to arrange passage on a cargo ship from Australia to Indonesia by just rocking up at the docks in Cairns and asking around – it was an unsuccessful (yet interesting) day, have a look at my Australia page for more details but basically if you want to travel by cargo ship it needs setting up months in advance.

Finally, there’s the yacht option. Some yachts will take paying passengers, but it’s more common to pay your way by working as a deckhand. For long-distance yachts to Fiji, it seems the best bet is to travel from America or New Zealand depending on the time of year; the main yachting routes around the world are generally done in specific directions at specific times, so your timing needs to be right. To get an idea about sailing from the US to the South Pacific, have a look at the Pacific Puddle Jump. It may also be possible to hitch a ride on a yacht from Fiji’s ‘neighbours’ like Tonga and Samoa; see here for a report on doing so from Tonga. Perhaps the best way to go about this, though, is to set it up through findacrew – this website allows captains to advertise for crew for upcoming crossings, and through it you can get things set up in advance instead of winging it.

(A word of caution though – two British co-workers of mine in Canada had attempted to travel from England to Vancouver overland, and having made their way by train down to southern Spain and then by ferry out to the Canary Islands, they sailed all the way across the Atlantic as crew on a yacht arranged on findacrew… only to be promptly arrested upon arrival in Antigua for not having the correct yacht crew visa and deported back to the UK by air and at their own expense! Obviously that’s Antigua and not Fiji, but if you manage to secure passage this way make sure you have whatever paperwork you need and don’t find out the hard way.)

Around Fiji overland

Fiji’s a small country consisting of hundreds of islands; there are no railways so local transport is by road, and inter-island transport is by ferry (or air).

Kava ceremony

Kava ceremony

Things to do in Fiji

Swimming with manta rays was the absolute highlight of my visit to Fiji – I did this at Manta Ray Island in the Yasawa island chain, and it was amazing. The island was pretty nice too! The mantas are there from May to October, and the scuba diving remains good throughout the year.

Take part in a kava ceremony and drink the bitter, mouth-numbing drink around which much of Fijian social life revolves.

Do some scuba diving.

Resources and Useful Links for Visiting Fiji

Flexible travel insurance from World Nomads, especially useful if you’re already overseas (this can be an important point, as I once found out the hard way in Bangkok). If you’re going scuba diving, make sure your insurance policy includes scuba diving cover.

Lonely Planet Fiji

(Photo Credit: mattk1979, Flickr. Used under Creative Commons licence)

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