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Guam is an increasingly popular travel hub in the South Pacific. The island offers lush tropical jungles that bump up against sandy white beaches largely undiscovered by Western tourists. Although it is Micronesia's largest and most populous island, Guam is still small enough to explore in a day or two, and its resorts and attractions are ensuring that it becomes more and more popular as a Pacific holiday destination.
The island is an unincorporated US territory. Allthough US accents abound, traditional Guam culture is a unique blend of Spanish, Micronesian, Asian, and Western influences. The original inhabitants, the Chamorros, have inhabited the island for over 4,000 years, surviving occupation by Spain and the United States.
Many tourists in Guam base themselves in the city of Tumon Bay, which offers a number of resorts and a wealth of duty-free shopping. However, the real attractions of Guam lie in the less densely inhabited areas of the island.
Southern Guam is home to many traditional Chamorros villages, and here you'll have a better chance of experiencing local culture than in the more cosmopolitan cities. The village of Talofofo is a worthwhile stop, as much for the spectacular two-tier waterfall as the village culture.
Northern Guam is largely occupied by the US military's Andersen Base, but if you venture that way you'll discover the pristine beaches of Ritidian Point. Popular activities in Guam centre on the ocean, and include scuba diving, reef fishing, surfing, wind surfing, jet skiing, kayaking, boat trips, and even submarine rides.
Central Guam is more developed and contains the capital city of Hagatna (formerly called Agana), which retains reminders of the island's colonial history in the pretty Spanish architecture alongside less cultural attractions like one of the world's largest K-marts. Both Hagatna and Tumon Bay offer an array of nightclubs, shops and restaurants. Nearby, the War in the Pacific National Historical Park is a must-see for World War II history buffs.
Guam has a tropical marine climate, and remains hot and humid throughout the year, with an average temperature between 86°F (30°C) and 76°F (24°C). The rainy season occurs between July and November, and there is a greater risk of typhoons in October and November. Guam is located in the area of the Pacific known as Typhoon Alley.
The dry season in Guam is from December to June. There is little variation in temperature throughout the year and Guam is generally hot and humid. The heat is pleasantly moderated by trade winds. The summer months of May and June are the warmest and December is the coolest month in Guam.
Guam is a year-round destination and visitors can often barely distinguish the difference between the wet and dry seasons. It does still rain in the dry season but much less than during the rest of the year. Travel during the wet season can also be very pleasant though, and it is slightly cheaper.
The US Dollar (USD) is the official currency in Guam. It is possible to exchange major currencies at airports and banks and there are ATMs on the island which can be found at the airports, in shopping malls and at some hotels. Major credit cards are widely accepted.
English and Chamorro are the official languages of Guam.
Electricity in Guam is 110/120 volts, 60Hz. Two-prong, flat-blade plugs are standard.
US nationals: US citizens require a passport valid on arrival. No visa is required.
UK nationals: British citizens require a passport valid for the duration of intended stay. No visa is required for a maximum stay of up to 45 days granted an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) is acquired prior to travelling. Those with any other endorsement in their passports should check official requirements before travel.
CA nationals: Canadian citizens require a passport valid for period of intended stay. No visa is required if travelling from the US mainland.
AU nationals: Australian citizens require a passport valid for the duration of intended stay. Australian passport holders do not require a visa for stays of up to 45 days, provided the document is machine-readable and is accompanied by the relevent Visa Waiver forms. Passengers travelling with an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) do not require a visa for a maximum stay of 90 days.
ZA nationals: South African nationals require a passport valid for the duration of their stay. A visa is required.
IR nationals: Irish citizens require a passport valid for the duration of their intended stay. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days provided an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) has been acquired prior to arrival in the country.
NZ nationals: New Zealand nationals require a passport valid for the duration of their intended stay. Visas are not required for stays of up to 45 days granted the given passport is machine-readable and is accompanied by the relevant Visa Waiver forms. Passengers travelling with a Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) may enter without a visa for a maximum stay of 90 days.
As an unincorporated US territory, entry requirements for Guam tend to follow US guidelines. All visitors to Guam must hold return or onward tickets, documents required for their next destination, and sufficient funds to cover their stay (US visitors are exempt). In some cases an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) is required to enter the country visa-free. Passports must be valid for the intended period of stay. It is recommended to have six months' validity remaining on your passport whenever travelling. Immigration officials may apply different standards than the official policy.
Although no vaccinations are required for travel to Guam, hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccinations are recommended for all travellers. A Japanese encephalitis vaccination is recommended for those planning to spend time in rural areas or outdoors. An MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccination is recommended if not previously given.
Do not drink tap water in Guam unless it has been boiled, filtered, or chemically disinfected, and don't have ice in your drinks. There are medical facilities available on the island but for life-threatening injuries or diseases you may well need to be transferred overseas to receive treatment; comprehensive travel insurance is recommended. It is best to bring along any medication you require, with a signed and dated letter from your doctor detailing the medication you need and why.
Trips to Guam are usually trouble free but travellers should take precautions to protect themselves against petty theft and pickpocketing. Make sure you have duplicate copies of your travel documents and don't carry all your valuables in one pocket or bag. Make use of hotel safes and don't flash wealth.
The urban population of Guam is diverse and generally accepting, but modest clothing is always good etiquette. The native Chamorro people are predominantly Catholic, and respect for the elderly and authority figures is crucial.
Official portal for tourism in Guam: www.visitguam.org
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