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Traveling to Tuvalu: Trip Report by Catalin Gangalic

Tuvalu may be one of the world’s least visited countries, but it certainly packs a punch in terms of natural beauty and unique experiences. Traveling to this remote island can be challenging, especially considering its current jet fuel shortage. Based on Catalin Gangalic’s recent trip to Tuvalu, this article will focus on practical aspects of traveling to this Polynesian island nation. From navigating the complex flight situation to understanding the internet and currency conditions, we cover it all.

Flights: Jet Fuel Shortage

Secure Your Seat with Online Check-in

The jet fuel shortage in Tuvalu remains unresolved. This leads to frequent bumping of passengers on Fiji Airways flights from Suva, Fiji, to Funafuti, Tuvalu. Online check-in, which opens 48 hours before departure, is crucial for securing your spot. Note that no airline agent will assist you with this, even if you have OneWorld elite status.

What If Online Check-in Doesn’t Work?

Persistence is key. Catalin Gangalic reported having to try online check-in six times before succeeding. If you do get bumped, Fiji Airways provides accommodation in Suva and about 150 FJD/day for additional expenses.

Tips for the Return Journey

Bumping incidents seem to be less frequent on the return leg. However, it’s wise to arrive at the Funafuti airport by 9 a.m. to secure a handwritten boarding pass just to be on the safe side.

Staying Connected: Internet Options

Free Wi-Fi: Rare but Available

Tuvalu offers little in terms of free, open Wi-Fi. However, a somewhat reliable connection can be found in the governmental building across the airport (Network: “Rocks-Wireless”, Password: “RockusWiFi”).

For a Stable Connection: Purchase a SIM Card

For reliable internet, purchase a SIM card from the Telkom building near the airport. They offer various data plans with fairly good island-wide coverage. The office is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Currency and Banking

Limited Banking Options

Tuvalu uses the Australian Dollar (AUD). Note that there are no ATMs or cash advances available on the island. The National Bank accepts only cash for currency exchange. While they also mention checks and telegraphs, the processes are not clearly outlined.

Banking Hours and Location

The National Bank is open until 5 p.m. on weekdays and is located on the first floor (not ground floor). If you arrive on the Saturday flight, make sure to exchange currency beforehand.

Where to Exchange Currency

If you have time during a layover or are staying in Fiji, the exchange booth by Nadi central bus station offers the best rates, around 2% off the interbank rate. It’s advisable to exchange AUDs before your trip due to unfavorable rates in Tuvalu.

Activities and Local Insights

Immerse yourself in local culture by joining a football or volleyball game on the airport landing strip, generally starting around 5 p.m. and lasting until dark.

Maps for the Well-Prepared Traveler

Catalin Gangalic has also generously shared detailed maps that feature key facilities and attractions in Tuvalu, which are invaluable for any visitor.

In summary, while Tuvalu offers a paradise-like escape, a well-prepared traveler is a happy traveler. With these insights based on Catalin Gangalic’s experience, you can make the most out of your Tuvaluan adventure.

Original report was written for facebook group Every Passport Stamp

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