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Tuvalu

Tuvalu is a group of low-lying islands and atolls in the South Pacific that form the fourth smallest country in the world.

Islands

Tuvalu derives from the Tuvaluan language meaning "cluster of eight", in fact there are over nine islands.

Cities

  • Fongafale

Understand

It is generally believed that the earlier ancestors came mostly from Samoa, possibly by way of Tokelau, while others came from Tonga and Uvea (Wallis Island). These settlers were all Polynesians with the exception of Nui where many people are descendants of Micronesians from Kiribati. There are three distinct linguistic areas in Tuvalu. The first area contains the islands of Nanumea, Niutao and Nanumaga. The second is the island of Nui where the inhabitants speak a language that is fundamentally derived from I-Kiribati. The third linguistic group comprises the islands of Vaitupu, Nukufetau, Funafuti and Nukulaelae. Today, Tuvaluan and English are both spoken throughout the islands. The first European explorer to make contact with Tuvalu was Alvaro de Mendana y Neyra, a Spanish explorer. He sailed westward across the Pacific in 1567-8 to discover, explore and name a substantial part of the eastern half of the Solomon Islands. On January 16, 1568 Mendana, with his ship Capitana, sighted his first island, which turned out to be Nui, and named it the Isle of Jesus.

The islands became part of the British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. However, ethnic differences within the colony caused the Polynesians of the Ellice Islands to vote for separation from the Micronesians of the Gilbert Islands. The Ellice Islands became the separate British colony of Tuvalu, and independence was granted on 01 October 1978. The country has the world's lowest gross national product (GNP), due to its isolation and relatively low population. This should not be confused with GNP per person, which is an indicator of poverty. If you want to visit the most isolated and remote independent country in the South Pacific, Tuvalu is the place to go.

In 2000, Tuvalu negotiated a contract leasing its Internet domain name ".tv" for $US50 million in royalties over the next 12 years.

Tuvalu uses the Australia/New Zealand electrical plug with 240 volts and 50 Hz.

Climate

The climate is tropical. Easterly trade winds moderate the weather from March to November, while westerly gales bring heavy rain from November to March. Natural phenomena do not occur frequently here, but low level of islands makes them sensitive to changes in sea level. Three cyclones were recorded in 1997.

Get in

Everyone is eligible for a one-month visa on arrival. This costs A$100, but some nationalities do not have to pay this fee and can get their visa for free. This applies to citizens of American Samoa, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Denmark, Fiji, Gambia, Gibraltar, Grenada, Hong Kong, Iceland, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Montserrat, Nauru, Niue, Norway, Samoa, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, United Kingdom, Vanuatu and Zambia.

By plane

There is one international airport in Tuvalu, on the island of Funafuti. Fiji Airways flies from Suva in Fiji to Funafuti on Tu and Th. Return trip costs around 948 Fijian Dollars including tax (Aug 2011).

By boat

Get around

There is one main road in Funafuti in addition to the runway, which is used for recreational purposes when landings are not scheduled.

A motorbike is the best way to explore the island some costing roughly $10 per day.

The other islands are only accessible by boat.

Talk

English is the language of government and of most business on Funafuti, but Tuvaluan predominates on the outer islands. Samoan and Kiribati, although not the official languages, are spoken as well.

See

Tuvalu is not a destination for those in search of spectacular sightseeing opportunities. The island nation is not only small, it also lacks any city-like destination or architectural heritage. There are no hills or mountain ranges, no rivers or gorges. And yet, it is a delightful pacific destination, where your time is well spent in the shade of a palm trees on one of the pretty beaches. Traditional local culture remains very much alive, making the people of Tuvalu one of the nation's best assets. Traditional dancing is performed on special occasions, and the local "maneapa" (the town hall) is your best chances of experiencing one.

The Funafuti Conservation Area on the western side of the Funafuti atoll has some of the best natural sights, and includes reefs, the gorgeous lagoon, channel, parts of the ocean and islands habitats. Its diversity in marine life makes it an excellent place for scuba diving or snorkelling.

The massive stationing of US troops in the Second World War left the island nation with a number of war time remains, including airstrips, bunkers and plane wrecks along the main island of Fongafale and near the village of Nanumea. The tiny island of Motulalo in Nukufetau has an airstrip too, as well as some plane wrecks. If you have any interest in postal stamps, the Philatelic Bureau on Funafuti is a must-see. The Tuvalu Women's Handicraft Centre at the airport is a good place to see and buy local crafts. If you have time however, try catching a boat to one of the outer islands and admire the local people's skills in making ornaments, fans, mats, baskets or woodcarvings there.

Do

The national game is te ano (the ball). Two teams line up facing each other hitting a ball. The objective is to keep the ball in the air as long as possible. It is similar to volleyball.

Buy

Money

The currency of Tuvalu is the Australian dollar (ISO code: AUD), and the currency symbol is $.

Tuvalu has also issued its own coins which are different from the Australian coins and can only be used on Tuvalu. The most common one is the Tuvalu 50 cent coin.

Costs vary, but Tuvalu is fairly cheap.

There is a handicraft centre and a philatelic bureau on Funafuti.

Eat

There are many lodges that have restaurants that serve food and beverages. They serve many types of ethnic cuisines such Chinese, Italian, and Indian. Fish is abundant since the island is surrounded by water.

Drink

Bars serve soft drinks and alcohol during meal times.

Sleep

  • 1 Vaiaku Lagi Hotel, Funafuti, ? +688 20501, fax: +688 20503, e-mail: vaiakulagi@gmail.com. State-owned, country's only hotel. It also has significant nightlife. The hotel has a fully licensed bar, a comfortable lounge and a dance floor. Power supply is 240 V/50 Hz. There are 16 rooms in the new complex face the lagoon. Every room is air-conditioned and have a warm shower, with a toilet and refrigerator, plus tea and coffee-making facilities. Internet access is available in all the rooms at a small surcharge. A conference room for up to 50 people is available for conferences, meetings and the like. The hotel has its own vehicle to transfer guests to/from the airport. Single: $105; Double: $133 government tax & breakfast included. Children under 12 FOC. No credit cards accepted..
  • Fale Tolu Motel, Northern side of the airstrip on Funafuti, ? +688 20545, e-mail: fale3tolu@gmail.com. 70 - 150 AS$.
  • Vailuatai Lodge, Alapi, Funafuti, ? +688 20664, e-mail: funafutit@yahoo.com. 60 - 80 AS$.
  • Militano Lodge, Senala, Funafuti, ? +688 20497. Mobile phone: +688-91019 60 - 80 AS$.
  • Filamona Moonlight Lodge, Vaiaku, Funafuti, ? +688 20833, +688 20983, fax: +688 20951, e-mail: the.filamonalodge@yahoo.com. Contact: Ms. Penieli Metia (Manager) 70 - 80 AS$.
  • Hideaway Guest House, Lofeagai P.O.Box 59, ? +688 20365, fax: +688 20835. HOST: Mr. & Ms Koepke 35 - 60 AS$.

Learn

Funafuti hosts a University of the South Pacific extension centre. Motufoua, the country's only high school, is a coeducational boarding school on Vaitupu island. The Tuvalu Marine School, on an outer islet of Funafuti, trains Tuvaluan mariners for service on foreign ships.

Work

The non-native work force is mostly comprised of contract employees from Britain and other foreign countries.

Stay safe

A siren signals when to leave the runway for an approaching plane.

Violent crime is rare, and usually involves alcohol and family disputes.

Male homosexuality is illegal in Tuvalu; therefore, the country is not safe for sexually active gay men.

Stay healthy

Respect

Connect

The international dialing code is: +688

Local numbers in Tuvalu have 5 digits, with the first 2 representing the islands as follows:

Funafuti: 20, 21

Nanumaga: 27

Nanumea: 26

Niulakita: 22

Niutao: 28

Nui: 23

Nukufetau: 24

Nukulaelae: 25

Vaitupu: 29

There is available a GSM network in 900 MHz, provided by Tuvalu Telecom, with ID: 553-01. (Please review the roaming agreement with your company)

Exercise normal security precautions

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Crime

Petty crime occurs. Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times.

Demonstrations

Demonstrations occur and have the potential to turn violent suddenly. They can lead to significant disruptions to traffic and public transportation. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.

General information

Tourist facilities and services are limited.

Shortages of fresh water occur. Bottled water is available but may be in short supply.

Transportation

Traffic drives on the left. Many roads are not paved and sometimes poorly lit. Exercise caution, particularly after dark.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in the Oceanic Pacific Islands, food and water can also carry diseases like hepatitis A. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in the Oceanic Pacific Islands. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in the Oceanic Pacific Islands, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, lymphatic filariasis and malaria.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Dengue fever
  • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.

Malaria

Malaria

There is no risk of malaria in this country.


Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Certain infections found in the Oceanic Pacific Islands, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.

For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.

Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.

High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical and dental facilities are limited. In the event of a major accident or illness, medical evacuation to Guam or Hawaii may be necessary. Medical transport is very expensive and payment up front is often required.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Laws

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Homosexual activity is illegal.

Culture

Dress conservatively, behave discreetly, and respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities.

Money

The currency is the Australian dollar (AUD). Credit card services are not available anywhere in Tuvalu. Traveller’s cheques are recommended. The National Bank of Tuvalu is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays.

Climate

The rainy (or monsoon) and typhoon seasons in the South Pacific extend from November to April. These storms can result in significant loss of life and extensive damage to infrastructure, and can hamper the provision of essential services.

During a typhoon or monsoon, hotel guests may be required to leave accommodations near the shore and move to safety centres inland. Travel to and from outer islands may be disrupted for some days.

Consult our Typhoons and monsoons page for more information.

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