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  • Overview

    The 15 Cook Islands, formed by volcanic activity, arescattered across the south Pacific Ocean. These unspoilt Polynesiantropical gems have the combined population of around 20,000,comprised of unique and friendly people. Most Cook Islanders liveon the capital island of Rarotonga, which is also where most of the70,000-odd annual visitors stop off, arriving at the island'sinternational airport.

    Circular Rarotonga is almost completely enclosed by areef, harbouring a lagoon of clear turquoise water and white sandybeaches. The small island is dominated by a high mountain peak fromwhere lush rain forests cascade down to the palm-fringed shore.

    The commercial centre of the islands is the friendly,bustling town of Avarua on Rarotonga, which has banks, shops, andtourist facilities as well as a busy port and yacht basin. Theouter islands are becoming increasingly popular for excursions,remaining largely unspoiled by tourism.

    The Cook Islanders have their own language andgovernment, and enjoy a vigorous and diverse culture withsignificant differences between each island. Even if you go nofurther than Rarotonga, though, you will be ensured of a dream'South Seas' holiday experience on the pristine beaches,snorkelling the reef, or exploring the island by bus, motorscooter, bicycle, or jeep.

    Phrase Book

    English Pronounciation

    The climate in the Cook Islands is tropical,fairly constant, and placid. The rainy season coincides with thehottest time of year, between November and March, but the rainusually falls in the form of late afternoon storms. These cool theair temperature and give some welcome relief from the heat whichaverages around 82ºF (28ºC) at this time of year.

    There is also a risk of cyclones and hurricanesduring the hot season. Although these violent storms can do seriousdamage, the Cook Islands generally don't get hit too hard andextreme weather conditions are rare. The worst month for storms isFebruary. The cooler, dry season, when temperatures range from 70ºFto 80ºF (20ºC to 26ºC), runs from April to October.

    The Cook Islands are a year-round destinationbecause the weather ensures it is almost always suitable forswimming and beach lounging, which is the main reason people visit.Prices for accommodation and the like are pretty constant all yearas there is not a 'peak season' for tourism. The best time to visitthe Cook Islands is probably in the slightly cooler months whenthere is no chance of cyclones or serious storms.

    Rarotonga International Airport
    Location: The airport is situated two miles (3km) west ofAvarua.
    Time: Local time is GMT -10.
    Getting to the city: Hotel courtesy buses meet every flight, and public buses servicethe island; the bus stop is across the car park from the terminal.Taxis are also available.
    Car Rental: Car rental is available and includes well-known companies suchas Avis and Budget.
    Fascilities: Facilities include a bureau de change and ATM, duty-freeshopping, some small shops, and restaurants. Facilities for thedisabled are also available. The airport is only open duringarrival and departure times.
    Parking Only rental cars can park at the airport.
    Money:

    The currency of the Cook Islands is either the Cook IslandsDollar, which is divided into 100 cents, or the New Zealand Dollar(NZD), which is also divided into 100 cents. Foreign currencyexchange is available at the airport and two banks in Avarua. ATMsare also available in Avarua and are slowly becoming morewidespread. American Express, Visa and MasterCard are accepted atrestaurants and hotels in the main towns, and major foreigncurrencies can be exchanged at larger shops and hotels. Banks areopen Monday to Friday from 9am to 3pm.

    Language:

    Cook Island Maori is widely spoken by locals, but Englishis in common use.

    Electricity:

    Electrical current is 240 volts, 50Hz. The three-pinflat blade plug with two slanted pins are used.

    Entry Requirements:

    US nationals must have a passport valid for six months beyondperiod of intended stay. A visa is not required for a stay of up to31 days. Passengers who want to stay over 31 days can obtain anEntry Permit on arrival.

    UK nationals must have a passport valid for six months beyondperiod of intended stay. A visa is not required for a stay of up to31 days. Passengers who want to stay over 31 days can obtain anEntry Permit on arrival.

    Canadian nationals must have a passport valid for six monthsbeyond period of intended stay. A visa is not required for a stayof up to 31 days. Passengers who want to stay over 31 days canobtain an Entry Permit on arrival.

    Australian nationals must have a passport valid for seven daysbeyond period of intended stay. A visa is not required for a stayof up to 31 days. Passengers who want to stay over 31 days canobtain an Entry Permit on arrival.

    South African nationals must have a passport valid for sixmonths beyond period of intended stay. A visa is not required for astay of up to 31 days. Passengers who want to stay over 31 days canobtain an Entry Permit on arrival.

    Irish nationals must have a passport valid for six months beyondperiod of intended stay. A visa is not required for a stay of up to31 days. Passengers who want to stay over 31 days can obtain anEntry Permit on arrival.

    US nationals must have a passport valid for six months beyondperiod of intended stay. A visa is not required for a stay of up to31 days. Passengers who want to stay over 31 days can obtain anEntry Permit on arrival.

    New Zealand nationals must have a passport valid for seven daysbeyond period of intended stay. A visa is not required for a stayof up to 90 days.

    Passport/Visa Note:Visa:

    Proof of onward passage, adequate financial means to support thestay, and proof of confirmed accommodation are required on entryinto the Cook Islands. We recommend that passports be valid for sixmonths beyond intended period of travel. Visa extensions arepossible.

    Travel Health:

    There is little risk of disease on the Cook Islands,but visitors should take precautions against insect bites andsunburn. Outbreaks of dengue fever can occur so a good arsenal ofmosquito repellent and protective clothing is advised.

    Although no vaccinations are required, one or two maybe recommended by your doctor as a precaution: vaccinations forhepatitis A and hepatitis B are sometimes recommended while atyphoid vaccination may also be required.

    Locals consider the tap water safe, but boiled orbottled water is advised for visitors, particularly in rural areas.A range of medical and dental services are available on Rarotonga,including a hospital and various pharmacies, but medical facilitiesin the Cook Islands in general are limited and comprehensive travelinsurance is advised to include air evacuation for emergencies.

    If you require medication during your stay in theCook Islands, it is best to take it with you. Make sure you havethe necessary documents from your doctor to get the medicationthrough customs.

    Tipping:

    Tipping is not expected and is contrary to Cook Islandscustom.

    Safety Information:

    Visits to the Cook Islands are usually trouble-free. There isrelatively little crime, but it is always advisable to protect yourvaluables.

    Local Customs:

    Inhabitants of the Cook Islands are very religious and frownupon inappropriate dress. Beachwear should not be worn in town, andtopless sunbathing is not acceptable behaviour.

    Business:

    The main business centre is Avarua on Rarotonga Island. Thebusiness environment in the Cook Islands is fairly casual andrelaxed. However, punctuality is important and dress should bemodest, particularly for women. Meetings will be conducted inEnglish when foreigners are present, although islanders may speakto one another in Maori to clarify their understanding duringproceedings. It is not meant as an offence. Meetings usually beginand end with a prayer. Business hours are generally 8.30am to4.30pm, Monday to Friday.

    Communications:

    The country code for the Cook Islands is +682. In the main townof Avarua, there is a telecommunications office, Telecom CookIslands, offering international telephone, fax, email, internetconnections, and other services.

    Duty Free:

    The following goods may accompany travellers over 18 years tothe Cook Islands: 2 litres of alcoholic beverage or 4.5 litres ofbeer, and 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 1kg of tobacco. Nofirearms, cartridges or cartridge cases, gunpowder, bullets, andother forms of ammunition are allowed without prior permission fromthe Minister of Police.

    Useful Contacts:

    Cook Islands Tourism Corporation, Rarotonga: +682 29 435 orwww.cookislands.travel

    Cook Islands Embassies:

    Cook Islands Honorary Consul, Los Angeles, United States: +1 213974 1307

    New Zealand High Commission, London, United Kingdom (alsoresponsible for Cook Islands): +44 20 7930 8422

    New Zealand High Commission, Ottawa, Canada (also responsiblefor Cook Islands): +1 613 238 5991

    Cook Islands High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4472 5126

    Foreign Embassies in Cook Islands :

    United States Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand (also responsiblefor Cook Islands): +64 (0)4 462 6000

    British High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand (alsoresponsible for Cook Islands): +64 (0)4 924 2888

    Canadian High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand (alsoresponsible for Cook Islands): +64 (0)4 473 9577

    South African High Commission, Canberra, Australia (alsoresponsible for Cook Islands): +61 (0)2 6272 7300

    Australian High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand (alsoresponsible for Cook Islands): +64 (0)4 473 6411

    New Zealand High Commission, Rarotonga: +682 22 201

    Cook Islands Emergency Numbers : For emergencies that require police, dial 999. Foremergencies that require an ambulance, dial 998. For fire-relatedemergencies, dial 996.
    Cook Islands