Is Fiji Safe to Visit?

According to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's travel advice website, Smartraveller.gov.au, "robbery, theft and violent assault occur in Fiji, including against tourists and expatriate residents. Incidents occur more frequently in urban areas and at night." Of course, the same could be said of Australia. Robbery, thefts, and violent assaults must occur there too, including against tourists. I'm no expert on Australia, but such incidents probably do occur more frequently at night in urban areas like Melbourne.

Over the past 27 years I've been to Fiji dozens of times and have never been threatened with robbery, theft or violent assault. I've cruised the night spots of Nadi, Lautoka, and Suva on numerous occasions and have not been troubled by thugs, Australian or Fijian. However, as anywhere else, I stay aware of my surroundings and avoid becoming inebriated. After dark, I stick to well lit streets and take a taxi straight back to my hotel after a night on the town.

Smartraveller.gov.au says: "The safety standards you might expect of tour operators are not always met, especially for adventure sports or on boats in coastal waters and between islands. There are sometimes insufficient life jackets for boats, rafts and kayaks." This is true, especially among local operators catering to the backpacker trade. It's up to you to decide if you're willing to take such risks.

Smartraveller.gov.au advises you to "take care when driving, particularly at night, because of insufficient street lighting and the poor quality of roads." While Fiji's roads are probably no match for those in Australia, I don't think they're that bad, but given the excellent bus and taxi services available in Fiji, I rarely rent a car. I wouldn't feel comfortable driving on the left anyway.

Smartraveller.gov.au is right when it reports that "homosexual acts between men are illegal in Fiji and can result in imprisonment." Foreigners have actually been prosecuted for this "offense." Gays and lesbians visiting Fiji should avoid public displays of affection, even at resorts. Those exercising discretion are unlikely to have problems, but Fijian leaders have used homophobia and racism to score political points way too often. It that grates, consider switching your vacation to French Polynesia or Vanuatu.

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