Terminal Drop-Off Charge

From 1 November 2021, a £5 charge will apply for vehicles dropping off passengers at the designated drop-off zones, located directly outside the terminals. Discounts and exemptions will apply. Free drop-off will be available at the Long Stay car parks.

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Changes to entering the UK using EU ID cards

From 1 October 2021, most EU, EEA and Swiss nationals will need to use a valid passport to travel to the UK. ID cards will no longer be accepted as a valid travel document to enter the UK, though some exemptions will apply. 

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  • Overview

    The 15 Cook Islands were formed by volcanic activity and are scattered across the south Pacific Ocean. These unspoilt Polynesian tropical gems have the combined population of around 20,000, comprised of unique and friendly people. Most Cook Islanders live on the capital island of Rarotonga, which is also where most of the 70,000-odd annual visitors stop off, arriving at the island's international airport.

    Circular Rarotonga is almost completely enclosed by a reef and harbours a lagoon of clear turquoise water and white sandy beaches. The small island is dominated by a high mountain peak from where 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, and tourist facilities as well as a busy port and yacht basin. The outer islands are becoming increasingly popular for excursions, remaining largely unspoilt by tourism.

    Just a 45-minute flight from Rarotonga, Aitutaki is the ultimate getaway destination for those who want to leave the world behind. With views of swaying palm trees, clear turquoise water, and sparkling white sand, it's no wonder that Aitutaki is quickly becoming the most popular holiday destination in the Cook Islands.

    Manmade attractions include a golf course, spa, and the bars and restaurants attached to the various resorts on the island. The destination's natural drawcards are scuba diving, fishing, windsurfing, and swimming, as well as excursions to various lagoons and small islands in the reef.

    The Cook Islanders have their own language and government, and enjoy a vigorous and diverse culture with significant differences between each island. Even if visitors go no further than Rarotonga, they will be ensured of a dream 'South Seas' holiday experience on the pristine beaches.

    Phrase Book

    English Pronounciation

    The climate in the Cook Islands is tropical, fairly constant, and placid. The rainy season coincides with the hottest time of year, between November and March, but the rain usually falls in the form of late afternoon storms. These cool the air temperature and give some welcome relief from the heat, which averages around 82F (28C) at this time of year.

    There is also a risk of cyclones and hurricanes during the hot season. Although these violent storms can do serious damage, the Cook Islands generally don't get hit too hard and extreme weather conditions are rare. The worst month for storms is February. The cooler, dry season, when temperatures range from 70F to 80F (20C to 26C), runs from April to October.

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

    Rarotonga International Airport
    Location: The airport is situated two miles (3km) west of Avarua.
    Time: Local time is GMT -10.
    Getting to the city: Hotel courtesy buses meet every flight, and public buses service the 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 such as Avis and Budget.
    Facilities: Facilities include a bureau de change and ATM, duty-free shopping, some small shops, and restaurants. Facilities for the disabled are also available.
    Parking Parking is available at the airport.
    Money:

    The currency is either the Cook Islands Dollar, which is divided into 100 cents, or the New Zealand Dollar (NZD), which is also divided into 100 cents, and the two are of equal value. Foreign currency exchange is available at the airport and ATMs are limited outside Rarotonga and Aitutaki. Credit and some debit cards are widely accepted on the capital island and some places on Aitutaki. Travellers should expect to need cash on the other islands.

    Language:

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

    Electricity:

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

    Entry Requirements:

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

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

    CA nationals: Canadian nationals must have a passport valid for six months beyond period of intended stay. A visa is not required for a stay of up to 31 days. Passengers who want to stay over 31 days can obtain an Entry Permit on arrival.

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

    ZA nationals: South African nationals must have a passport valid for six months beyond period of intended stay. A visa is not required for a stay of up to 31 days. Passengers who want to stay over 31 days can obtain an Entry Permit on arrival.

    IR nationals: Irish nationals must have a passport valid for six months beyond period of intended stay. A visa is not required for a stay of up to 31 days. Passengers who want to stay over 31 days can obtain an Entry Permit on arrival.

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

    Passport/Visa Note:Visa:

    Travellers are required to produce proof of onward passage, and adequate financial means to support their stay on entry into the Cook Islands. Those who plan on joining a tourist boat, yacht or other sea-going vessel to travel beyond the Cook Islands must apply for permission to enter via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration. It's recommended that passports be valid for six months beyond the intended period of travel. Visa extensions are possible.

    Travel Health:

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

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

    Locals consider the tap water safe, but boiled or bottled 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 facilities in the Cook Islands in general are limited and comprehensive travel insurance is advised to include air evacuation for emergencies.

    If travellers require medication during their stay in the Cook Islands, it is best to take it with them. Travellers should make sure they have the necessary documents from their doctor to get the medication through customs.

    Tipping:

    Tipping is not expected and is contrary to Cook Islands custom.

    Safety Information:

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

    Local Customs:

    Cook Islanders are known to be hospitable, generous and somewhat reserved, and will greet travellers who depart or return from voyages by placing a garland of flowers around their necks. Locals are also very religious and frown upon inappropriate dress. Beachwear should not be worn in town, and topless sunbathing is not acceptable behaviour.

    Business:

    The main business centre is Avarua on Rarotonga Island. The business environment in the Cook Islands is fairly casual and relaxed. However, punctuality is important and dress should be modest, particularly for women. Meetings will be conducted in English when foreigners are present, although islanders may speak to one another in Maori to clarify their understanding during proceedings. It is not meant as an offence. Meetings usually begin and end with a prayer. Business hours are generally 8.30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday.

    Communications:

    The country code for the Cook Islands is +682. Resorts that offer free WiFi are located throughout the islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki; visitors can purchase local SIM cards for unlocked phones.

    Duty Free:

    Travellers over 18 years to the Cook Islands may import 2 litres of alcoholic beverage or 4.5 litres of beer, and 200 cigarettes or 20 cigars or 250g of tobacco. No firearms, cartridges or cartridge cases, gunpowder, bullets, and other forms of ammunition are allowed without prior permission from the Minister of Police.

    Useful Contacts:

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

    Cook Islands Embassies:

    Cook Islands Honorary Consul, Los Angeles, United States: +1 213 974 1307

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

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

    Cook Islands Consulate, Sydney, Australia: +61 2 9907 6567

    Cook Islands High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 472 5126

    Foreign Embassies in Cook Islands :

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

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

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

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

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

    New Zealand High Commission, Rarotonga: +682 22 201

    Cook Islands Emergency Numbers : Police: 22 499. Emergencies: 999. Fire and rescue: 996.
    Cook Islands