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The Islands of Tahiti Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

4,167 sq km (1,609 sq miles) - French Polynesia.

Population

288,283 (UN estimate 2019)

Population density

67.8 per sq km.

Capital

Papeete (Tahiti Island).

Government

Parliamentary system, Unitary state, Dependent territory

Head of state

President Emmanuel Macron since 2017, represented locally by High Commissioner René Bidal since 2016.

Head of government

The President of French Polynesia is Édouard Fritch since 2014.

Electricity

110/220 volts AC (depending on the location), 60/50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins and American-style plugs with two flat pins are in use.

The Islands of Tahiti are known for their laid-back vibes. Expect romantic sunsets and giant curls of turquoise breaking over reefs. Remote and pristine, the islands give you a glimpse of paradise on Earth.

The first Europeans to arrive on the islands were 16th-century Spanish and Portuguese explorers. After them, the British and French took control in the 18th and 19th century respectively. Tahiti, the largest island in French Polynesia is characterised by its spectacular tropical scenery, banana groves, plantations and flowers. The isle is dominated by Mount Orohena at 2,241m (7,352ft) and Mount Aorai at 2,066m (6,778ft).

You'll find plenty of colonial history on Tahiti, which became a French protectorate in 1842, and was a full colony in 1888. The other islands were annexed by the turn of the century. This status quo remained until 1946, when Polynesia was made an Overseas Territory (Territoire d'outre-mer). A revised constitution, introduced in 1977, ceded greater autonomy to the islands.

For the next 20 years, Tahiti and the islands' politics were dominated by the French nuclear testing program. By the time the program ended in 1996, 193 separate explosions had been detonated, and Tahiti had become the focus of opposition throughout the South Pacific, with plenty of protesting and riots. Although the protesters failed to stop the tests, their campaign had an important political effect by linking the anti-nuclear movement and the burgeoning pro-independence movement, which had up until then been largely unrepresented in any political forum, despite the support of a large proportion of the population.

In more recent years, changes have been afoot: The Islands of Tahiti gained Overseas Country (pays d'outre-mer or POM) status in 2004, and a few months later, pro-independence leader Oscar Temaru was elected. Since then, Tahiti has seen a few more presidents, with Édouard Fritch assuming office in 2014.

Beyond the political questions, the Islands of Tahiti offer an idyllic getaway for holidaymakers keen on sun, sand and tranquillity. And let's be honest, who isn't enticed by that alluring package?

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for French Polynesia on the TravelHealthPro website.

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in French Polynesia.

Returning to the UK

When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Travel in French Polynesia

The French government has outlined measures to stem the spread of coronavirus. Local measures are also in place in French Polynesia . For further information on local restrictions in French Polynesia, please see the French government’s website and the French High Commission’s website.

Healthcare in French Polynesia

Local public health information is available from the Direction de la Santé of French Polynesia.

Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health.

View Health for further details on healthcare in French Polynesia.

COVID-19 vaccines if you live in French Polynesia

As information is available about the national vaccination programme, this page will be updated.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is the UK authority responsible for assessing the safety, quality and efficacy of vaccines. It has authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines for temporary supply and use in the UK. Find out more about MHRA approval for these vaccines.

British nationals living overseas should seek medical advice from their local healthcare provider in the country where they reside. Information about vaccines used in other national programmes, including regulatory status, should be available from the local authorities. This list of Stringent Regulatory Authorities recognised by the World Health Organisation may also be a useful source of additional information. Find out more information about the COVID-19 vaccines on the World Health Organization COVID-19 vaccines page.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Further information

If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.

Diving

Diving is popular but you should be aware that the only decompression facility is located in Papeete and that in the event of an accident it might take some time to reach there.

Road travel

From 28 March 2019, you will need to have a 1968 International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in French Polynesia. 1949 IDPs previously issued by the UK may no longer be accepted in French Polynesia after this date. From 1 February 2019, you can only get IDPs over the counter from 2,500 UK Post Offices. You will not be able to buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel.

Although there is no recent history of terrorism in French Polynesia, attacks can not be ruled out.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

From 9 June, those travelling to French Polynesia from France, the USA or the UK, aged over 11:

  • Do not need an essential reason for travelling, if fully vaccinated.
  • Need an essential reason for travelling, if not fully vaccinated.

All travellers to French Polynesia must undertake a PCR test for COVID-19 within 72 hours before departure and show proof of a negative result when embarking. Airlines may refuse boarding to anyone who does not have proof of a negative PCR test result.

All travellers will need to register on the French Polynesian Electronic Travel Information System (ETIS) and provide the receipt at check-in. If you are fully vaccinated, you will validate your vaccination status through this portal. The process is mandatory and passengers need to register at least 6 days before departure. Minors travelling with their parents can be included on their ETIS form.

Demonstrating your vaccination status from the UK is not yet formalised for entry into French Polynesia, so you should follow alternative advice for entry on the ETIS system as above. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate your vaccine status.

Those who are not fully vaccinated must undergo 10 days of self-isolation upon arrival in FP and take Covid-19 tests on the first, fifth, and ninth days.

Minors accompanying a vaccinated adult do not need an essential reason to travel, nor do they need to self-isolate, but must take Covid-19 tests on the first, fifth, and ninth days of their sojourn in FP.

Everyone over 6 must undergo an antigenic test upon arrival.

Further details are available on the website of the French High Commission (in French).

If travelling from France, travellers may also need to produce an international travel certificate to be completed in order to travel to French Polynesia. Further information is available on the French government website.

If travelling via France, you should also check our Travel Advice for France.

These entry requirements are subject to change. For further information on the entry restrictions in place for French Overseas Territories, please see the French government’s website before travelling.

Regular entry requirements

Visas

French Polynesia is an Overseas Collective (collectivité d’outre-mer) of France.

If you hold a British Citizen passport, you don’t need a visa to enter French Polynesia for stays of up to three months. Other British passport holders, and those who plan to stay longer than three months, should check the current entry requirements on the website of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and, if necessary, confirm with the nearest French Diplomatic mission.

Passport validity

UK residents in French Polynesia

If you live in French Polynesia, you should carry your residence document, as well as your valid passport when you travel. If you have applied but not yet received your document, carry your certificate of application. You will have received this as an email. If you have not yet applied for a residence document, you should carry evidence that you are resident in French Polynesia. This could include a tenancy agreement or a utility bill in your name, dating from 2020. For more information, including on how to apply for a residence document, see the French government’s website.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK emergency travel documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from French Polynesia.

Working in French Polynesia

British nationals who wish to work in French Polynesia should make enquiries, prior to departure, at the nearest French Consulate.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for French Polynesia on the TravelHealthPro website

See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in French Polynesia.

General health

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate
of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Other health risks

Cases of Chikungunya virus have been confirmed in French Polynesia. You should take appropriate precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Diving is a popular pastime in the Territory but you should be aware that the only decompression facility is located in Papeete and that in the event of an accident it might take some time to reach from some of the popular diving sites located on other islands.

Local medical care

Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

As French Polynesia is not one of the Overseas Departments which are seen as part of mainland France, for the purposes of the EU regulations governing access to healthcare, there is no cover for the cost of healthcare for any UK resident who goes to French Polynesia for a visit or to live.

Information can be obtained direct from the English language service of the Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (French social security service) on 00 33 8 20 90 42 12 or CLEISS (the Helpdesk in France for international mobility and social security) on 00 33 1 45 26 33 4.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 15 (or 40485906 from a landline) and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

French Polynesia is located in an active earthquake area.

Tropical storms including cyclones can occur between the months of November and April. You should monitor local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation and follow the advice of the local authorities.

See our Tropical Cyclones page for advice about what to do if you’re caught up in a storm.

If you intend to use a credit card during your stay, you should be aware that only Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Diners and JCP (Japan) are widely accepted in French Polynesia. Holders of other cards may encounter difficulties obtaining cash and paying for goods.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can not offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can not find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.