TAHITI and FRENCH POLYNESIA
Isn't a Tahiti vacation expensive?
Should I buy a package tour to Tahiti?
What's something special to do in Tahiti?
Do I need to know French to get around Tahiti on my own?
How much luggage am I allowed to take on interisland flights?
Of course it is if you stay at the US$600 a night resorts of Bora Bora, pay US$70 a day and up to rent a car, order dinner with wine at a fancy restaurant, jump into a taxi without inquiring about the fare, etc. On the other hand, Tahiti has no airport tax and public services are well developed. You can travel almost everywhere in the Society Islands by inexpensive buses and boats.
Pitching a tent in a coconut grove facing a lovely white beach on Moorea will only set you back about US$12 per person and two crusty French baguettes will cost under a dollar at a local supermarket. Grab a round of Camembert cheese and a bottle of red table wine and you're ready for the picnic of a lifetime. Medium-priced hotels and pensions are also available in Papeete and on all the islands.
You needn't tip here, there's almost no inflation, and prices are fixed. The best things about Polynesia - the breathtaking scenery, exotic atmosphere, and stimulating people - come free. Sure, you'll spend more than you would in Fiji or Samoa, but it's worth it.
If you plan to spend most of your time at a particular upscale beach resort or hotel, definitely yes. The rack rates charged to walk-in guests at the hotels are invariably higher than the group vacation prices negotiated by large tour operators. Indeed, some all inclusive tours to Moorea cost only a few dollars more than regular return airfare! If you're adventurous, however, and want to see a slice of the 'real' Tahiti at the risk of having to spend more money or rough it, you'll find the honeymoon tours a bore.
If you don't mind paying over US$2,000/3,000 per person dormitory/cabin for a two-week cruise, a voyage to the Marquesas Islands on the passenger freighter Aranui is truly the journey of a lifetime. The fare includes guided tours of all six inhabited islands of the Marquesas and the roster of passengers is congenial. You'll travel to one of the remotest areas on earth in relative comfort. The Aranui operates on a fixed schedule and any cruise specialist can book it.
Any knowledge of French will make things easier, and as elsewhere in the Francophone world, you should never hesitate to use whatever French you know, even mangled Franglaise. However, visitors armed with a guidebook will find everything well organized and easy to understand. You won't often be the first person who wants to travel somewhere or do something, so the locals will quickly understand what you're after. At times, English can even be an asset as many independence-minded Tahitians will put themselves out for an English speaker when a tourist from metropolitan France might get the brush-off.
Air Tahiti only allows 10 kilos (22 pounds) on locally-purchased tickets, but if you bought your ticket to Bora Bora, Rangiroa, or wherever through your travel agent a week prior to your arrival in Tahiti the allowance is 20 kilos. To determine the per kilo overweight luggage charge, divide the full one-way fare by 80. Surfboards over 1.8 meters long are not accepted in any case.