Where is Tahiti?
In the South Pacific, roughly 2,700 miles south of Hawaii and more than 2,500 miles east of New Zealand. It's the largest island in French Polynesia, a collection of 118 isles and atolls spread across two million square miles of turquoise sea.
How long does it take to get there?
A flight from Los Angeles to Tahiti's capital city, Papeete, takes about eight hours. Flights from Australia last between seven and eight hours, depending on your departure point.
When is the best time to take a Tahiti cruise?
Cruises are available here year-round, thanks to the region's breezy tropical climate. Temperatures dip slightly in winter (in the Southern Hemisphere, the season stretches from May to October), but they rarely sink lower than 68 degrees. Humidity rises here each summer (November through April) and brings the occasional seasonal rain shower, but the thermostat generally hovers around 90 degrees.
How long do Tahiti cruises last?
Cruises specific to Tahiti and French Polynesia spend between seven and 14 days at sea. Longer itineraries often incorporate surrounding destinations like Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii.
Will I need a passport or visa?
Passports and round-trip tickets are required for all international visitors. Residents of North America need a visa only if they plan to stay in the region more than one month at a time.
Is English spoken?
It is spoken and understood by most residents, especially those connected to the tourist trade. French and Tahitian are the island's official languages.
What is the time difference?
French Polynesia lies south of the equator, but the region shares a time zone with Hawaii. Tahiti does not observe daylight saving time. When the United States observes daylight saving time, Tahiti is three hours behind Pacific Daylight Time. When the United States is off daylight saving time, Tahiti is two hours behind Pacific Standard Time.
What is the local currency? Where can I exchange currency?
French Polynesia uses the French Pacific Franc, or CFP. Currency exchange stations are available at most local hotels and airports, though many tourist destinations accept credit cards.
Is tipping a common practice?
Tipping is a welcome reward for top-notch service, but the gesture is not customary in French Polynesia.
What should I wear?
Annual temperatures of both the air and water hover around 80 degrees, and Tahiti dresses accordingly. Visitors should opt for breezy, free-flowing clothes made from natural fibers -- shorts and t-shirts make great resort wear during the day, while casual slacks, polo shirts and sundresses are perfect for evening activities.
What should I pack?
Bring your summer essentials when visiting Tahiti. Sunscreen, sunglasses and swimsuits are a must; so are protective hats, insect repellent, good walking shoes and a sturdy camera.
Is the water safe to drink?
Most resorts and restaurants filter their tap water, though bottled water is available almost everywhere.
What sort of medical precautions do I need to take?
Shots aren't necessary for visitors from North America. However, entering Tahiti from an area monitored by the World Health Organization requires certain certifications.
What types of electrical outlets are used?
Depending on your location, outlets can be either 110 or 220 volts. Converters and adapters come in handy for international visitors.
How do I make a telephone call from Tahiti?
Tourist resorts and public phone booths offer direct dialing for international calls. Calling cards also are available. U.S.-based cell phones might not work here.
Are hotel rooms outfitted with air conditioners?
Most hotels on Tahiti and her neighboring islands, including high-demand destinations like Moorea and Bora Bora, offer sizable A/C units. Travelers looking for a breezier experience might rent a bungalow cooled by large windows, ceiling fans and tropical trade winds.
What is the shopping like? What souvenirs should I buy? Can I haggle over prices?
Papeete's public market is a popular spot for tourists. Tahiti's top products are on display here, including black pearls, fruit- and coconut-infused soaps, seashell jewelry, wood carvings and the hand-dyed fabrics worn by island residents. Bargaining with shop owners is not customary.
How do I get around?
Tour guides scattered throughout the islands offer bus, boat and helicopter tours. Tahiti also provides taxis, bicycle rentals and a public bus system.
Can I rent a car?
Yes, if you're over 21 years old, carrying a valid driver's license and can provide a major credit card to cover insurance costs. Car rentals are rarely necessary in the islands, though, as public transportation is cheap and readily available.
What can I do there?
Tahiti offers the best of the tropics, from water sports (fishing, diving, snorkeling, sailing and surfing) to land-based adventures (museums, archaeological tours, shopping, hiking, biking, tennis and golf). Most visitors opt for a little of both and plant themselves on the nearest beach.
What is the diving like?
Tahiti is ringed by clear, shallow waters suited for snorkelers; farther afield, shipwrecks and underwater caverns lure eels, wrasses and other large species. In addition to coral gardens teeming with giant clams and tropical fish, this region is home to dolphins, rays, sharks and migrating whales. Tourists staying a week or more have time to take a full scuba certification class or opt for a shorter course offered by their hotel.
Do you have any photography tips for travelers in Tahiti?
There's plenty of beauty to capture, so be sure to bring plenty of gear. Users of "point-and-shoot" digital cameras should pack rechargeable batteries, a charger, electric adaptors and high-capacity memory cards (1 gigabyte is recommended). If you're bringing a digital video camera, don't forget the long-life batteries, charger, adaptors and converter.