Denarau beachside blues
Your travel agent may or may not tell you, but the beaches on the west, north, and east sides of Fiji's main island, Viti Levu
, are pretty poor. Only the Coral Coast
in the south has some good beaches but even there, the lagoons tend to be narrow, and strong currents occasionally drag swimmers through reef passages to their deaths. The mainland beaches around Nadi
, including those in front of the international resorts on Denarau Island
, have murky water with no coral. Some resorts, such as the Hilton
, have dumped white sand onto their gray beaches, but that doesn't change much. On the plus side, all of the Denarau resorts have lovely pools. For the sparkling beaches and clear waters of the travel brochures, you should head for the Mamanuca
Tourist disinformation centres
Fiji visitors should be aware that virtually all of the "tourist information centres" found in Nadi are commercial travel agencies that provide biased information. They only promote those tours and hotels that pay commissions, and will even try to dissuade you from going to a resort not on their list. Avoid the disinformation by doing your homework on the Internet beforehand.
Car rental considerations
Fiji's excellent public bus services make renting a car unnecessary. High taxes cause rental cars to be expensive. Collision damage waiver (CDW) insurance is extra and there's usually a "non-waivable excess" amount for which you'll be liable insurance or no insurance. This can be as high as $6,000 Fijian, and since many cars on the road have no insurance, you could be charged even if you are not responsible for the accident. Unmarked speed bumps in Fijian villages are a hazard, as are local motorists who pass on blind curves, park on the road, and drive at high speeds. On the plus side, Fijians drive on the left side of the road and any driving licence will do so long as it's in English.
Mask and sword sellers
The vendors at the Curio and Handicraft Market
in downtown Suva
can be aggressive, especially if a cruise ship is in port. Be aware that the masks and "tikis" sold there are produced exclusively for tourists and have no place in Fijian culture. A more authentic purchase would be a carved cannibal fork or a Fijian war club. The fixed-price Jack's Handicrafts
outlets around Fiji are a good place to become familiar with prices before haggling at the market. In the main towns, you may be accosted on the street by overly friendly Fijian men with small packages or bags in their hands. These are likely to be "sword sellers" who will ask for your name, carve it on a wooden sword or mask, and then demand a high price for the item. Other times you may be offered an unsolicited "gift". Walk away quickly if you meet such people as they can suddenly become unpleasant.
Got any more places to avoid? Have your say using the comments form below.
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