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  • Overview

    Halfway between Hawaii and Australia, atop nine reef islands, lies the remote Polynesian island nation of Tuvalu. Large lagoons and coral reefs dominate the palm-fringed islands, creating dramatic and unusual landscapes.

    Tuvalu's atolls were formed when coral rings grew around sinking volcanic islands. The coral continued to grow upward while the central islands eventually disappeared leaving lagoons in their stead. The nine islands are spread over 420 miles (676km) of ocean, but together comprise only 10 square miles (26km) of land to explore.

    The tiny island is a dream destination for those in search of an unspoiled beach paradise where luxury resorts and tourist hordes are unheard of. However, the remote landscape comes at a price, the lack of tourist infrastructure means visitors are usually left to their own devices for beach activities and water-sports.

    The capital, Funafuti, offers simple accommodation in a few hotels which sometimes host feasts and dances. Unfortunately, tourism is growing at about the pace of the coral and neither is enough to keep the island afloat.

    As rising sea levels threaten a number of low lying countries, Tuvalu's three islands and six atolls are expected to be some of the first landmasses to take the plunge. The country's leaders are trying to find high and dry quarters for Tuvalu's 11,000-odd people in New Zealand and Australia. The country has no fresh water, few natural resources, and poor soil for agriculture that is being further degraded by salt water seeping through porous coral ground.

    Yet despite the island's woes, a few hardy tourists that make the voyage still find a pleasant, hospitable country with a unique atoll geography. And for the competitive off-the-beaten track traveller a visit to a country that may soon be submerged has obvious appeal.

    Funafuti is connected to Fiji by flights, although the remoteness of the islands mean that flights don't come cheap. Some of the outer islands can be reached by ship or boat from Funafuti, but getting around the archipelago can be challenging. Those willing to embrace the challenges Tuvalu has to offer will be rewarded with a traditional island experience surrounded by hundreds of miles of sparklingly blue ocean.

    Phrase Book

    English Pronounciation
    Money:

    The unit of currency is the Australian Dollar (AUD) with Tuvaluan coins. There is a shortage of small coins and you will often get chewing gum instead of change at shops. Credit cards are not accepted, but MasterCard may be used at the National Bank of Tuvalu for cash advances.

    Language:

    The official languages are Tuvaluan and English; however, Tuvaluan is used far more on a daily basis than English.

    Electricity:

    220 - 240 volts, 60Hz. Australian three-pin, flat-blade attachment plugs are standard. Electricity is limited to the main island.

    Entry Requirements:

    US nationals: US citizens require a passport that must be valid for at least 6 months on arrival. Visas are required and can be issued on arrival to visitors for a stay no longer than one month, provided they hold confirmed return/onward tickets and sufficient funds for their stay.

    UK nationals: UK citizens require a passport that must be valid for at least 6 months on arrival. Visas are required and can be issued on arrival to visitors for a stay no longer than one month, provided they hold confirmed return/onward tickets and sufficient funds for their stay.

    CA nationals: Canadian citizens require a passport that must be valid for at least 6 months on arrival. Visas are required and can be issued on arrival to visitors for a stay no longer than one month, provided they hold confirmed return/onward tickets and sufficient funds for their stay.

    AU nationals: Australian citizens require a passport that must be valid for at least 6 months on arrival. Visas are required and can be issued on arrival to visitors for a stay no longer than one month, provided they hold confirmed return/onward tickets and sufficient funds for their stay.

    ZA nationals: South African citizens require a passport that must be valid for at least 6 months on arrival. Visas are required and can be issued on arrival to visitors for a stay no longer than one month, provided they hold confirmed return/onward tickets and sufficient funds for their stay.

    IR nationals: Irish citizens require a passport that must be valid for at least 6 months on arrival. Visas are required and can be issued on arrival to visitors for a stay no longer than one month, provided they hold confirmed return/onward tickets and sufficient funds for their stay.

    NZ nationals: NZ citizens require a passport that must be valid for at least 6 months on arrival. Visas are required and can be issued on arrival to visitors for a stay no longer than one month, provided they hold confirmed return/onward tickets and sufficient funds for their stay.

    Passport/Visa Note:Visa:

    Passports must have at least six months validity remaining upon arrival in Tuvalu. Visitors are required to hold proof of sufficient funds to cover their stay and the documents required for their next destination.

    Travel Health:

    Vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A and hepatitis B for all travellers. Those who are spending lots of time outdoors and may be at risk of animal bites should consider a rabies vaccination, but in most cases this will not be necessary. Tap water should be avoided unless boiled, filtered, or chemically disinfected.

    There are no particular health risks associated with travel to Tuvalu, but medical care is extremely limited and even essential medications can be in short supply. Therefore, comprehensive travel health insurance is recommended, and all required medications should be brought with, in the original packaging, along with a signed and dated letter from a doctor detailing what they are and why they are needed.

    Local Customs:

    Social interactions in Tuvalu are friendly and informal. Respect for elders is important. The population of Tuvalu is predominantly Congregationalist, and conservative Christian values are practised. Homosexuality is illegal in Tuvalu.

    Duty Free:

    Visitors to Tuvalu over the age of 18 can freely import 200 cigarettes or 225g of tobacco or cigars; 1 litre of wine or spirits; and 1 bottle of perfume.

    Tuvalu