- We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in the Cook Islands.
- Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia.
- Cyclone season in the Cook Islands is from November to April. However, tropical storms and cyclones may occur in other months. See the Additional information: Natural Disasters, severe weather and climate section for more detailed advice.
- For your own safety, ensure you wear a helmet and stay within the legal limits of alcohol consumption when riding a motorcycle in the Cook Islands.
- In May 2012, several cases of dengue fever were confirmed on the main island of Rarotonga. See the Health section for more information.
- Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in the Cook Islands. The Australian High Commission in New Zealand provides consular assistance to Australians in the Cook Islands.
- Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
Entry and exit
Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Cook Islands or authorities in the Cook Islands for the most up to date information:
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration
PO Box 105
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Tel: (682) 29347
Fax: (682) 21247
Visas are not required for visits of less than 31 days. From 1 December 2012, departure tax has been incorporated into the cost of airline tickets and a separate payment is no longer required.
Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.
Safety and security
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General Advice to Australian Travellers.
The most prevalent crime against tourists is the theft of attractive items such as cash, jewellery, cameras, mobile phones and MP3 players. Unattended items on the beach or in unsecured storage, including items stored in scooters/motorcycles, are a particular target.
Money and valuables
Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out whether your ATM card will work in the Cook Islands. There are limited ATM facilities in the Cook Islands.
The New Zealand dollar and Cook Island dollar are both legal currency in the Cook Islands.
Cook Islands currency is not exchangeable outside the country but can be exchanged at the Airport bank.
Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.
While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.
As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.
You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.
Driving in the Cook Islands can be dangerous, particularly at night, due to poor visibility and road conditions. The most significant number of traffic accidents resulting in hospitalisation involves motorcycle riders. For your own safety, ensure you wear a helmet and stay within the legal limits of alcohol consumption when riding a motorcycle in the Cook Islands. For further advice on road safety, see our bulletin on Overseas Road Safety.
Visitors intending to hire a small motorcycle or scooter in the Cook Islands should ensure their travel insurance cover includes the use of motorcycles and scooters. A Cook Islands driver’s licence is required to operate a vehicle in the Cook Islands and can be applied for at the Police Headquarters. You should allow sufficient time to obtain a driver’s licence as queues sometimes occur.
The safety standards Australians might expect of tour operators are not always met, especially for adventure sports and inter-islands trips. Fatal swimming accidents have occurred due to tidal changes and breaks in the reefs. Consult local residents and tour operators for advice on areas for safe swimming and water sports.
Please refer to our travel bulletin for information about Aviation Safety and Security.
When you are in the Cook Islands, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.
Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.
The legal blood alcohol limit for drivers/motorcyclists in the Cook Islands is 0.08 (or 400 micrograms per litre of breath).
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.
Information for dual nationals
Our Dual Nationals brochure provides further information for dual nationals.
The Cook Islands is a conservative society and you should dress and behave so as not to offend, especially outside of resort areas.
We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.
Your doctor or travel clinic is the best source of information about preventive measures, immunisations (including booster doses of childhood vaccinations) and disease outbreaks overseas. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our 'Travelling Well' brochure also provides useful tips for travelling with medicines and staying healthy while overseas.
Hospital and medical facilities in the Cook Islands are limited, particularly in outer islands, and evacuation may be required in serious cases. Treatment may be expensive and you may be required to pay in advance. If medical evacuation is required to New Zealand or Australia, be aware that flights to these destinations are often heavily booked. Private or chartered evacuation is expensive.
There are no hyperbaric chambers on any of the islands for treatment of scuba diving related injuries. Serious cases of decompression sickness are evacuated to the nearest treatment centre in New Zealand. All registered dive companies carry basic treatment equipment to meet Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) standards.
Outbreaks of the mosquito-borne illness dengue fever occur from time to time in the Cook Islands. In May 2012, several cases of dengue fever were confirmed on the main island of Rarotonga. We recommended you take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes, including using insect repellent, wearing long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof. For further information on dengue fever see the WHO's Dengue factsheet.
It is recommended that all drinking water be boiled or that you drink bottled water.
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has confirmed cases of avian influenza in birds in a number of countries throughout the world. For a list of these countries, visit the OIE website. For information on our advice to Australians on how to reduce the risk of infection and on Australian Government precautions see our travel bulletin on avian influenza.
Where to get help
Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in the Cook Islands. You can obtain consular assistance from the nearest Australian High Commission, which is in New Zealand:
Australian High Commission
72-76 Hobson Street
Telephone: (64 - 4) 473 6411
Facsimile: (64 - 4) 498 7103
In an emergency, limited consular assistance which does not include the issue of Australian passports, may be obtained from:
New Zealand High Commission
1st floor, Philatelic Bureau Building
Avarua (PO Box 21)
Telephone: (+682) 22 201
Facsimile: (+682) 21 241
If you are travelling to the Cook Islands, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.
In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact the above High Commission you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.
Natural disasters, severe weather and climate
Cyclone Garry is expected to pass close to Aitutaki, Cook Islands on 25 January (local time) as a Category 2 cyclone. Australians in affected areas should follow the advice of the local authorities and accommodation providers and ensure you have bottled water for the duration. You should also keep your family in Australia informed about your welfare.
Australians in need of consular assistance should contact the New Zealand High Commission on Rarotonga on + 682 22201 or call the Consular Emergency Centre in Australia on +61 2 6261 3305.
Cyclone season in the Cook Islands is between November and April when flooding, landslides and disruptions to services may occur. However, tropical storms and cyclones may occur in other months. The direction and strength of tropical cyclones can change with little warning. Up-to-date information can be obtained from the Fiji Meteorological Service, the World Meteorological Organisation Severe Weather Information Centre or the Humanitarian Early Warning Service.
If you are travelling during cyclone season, you should contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.
In the event of an approaching cyclone, you should, where possible, identify your nearest local shelter. We encourage Australians in affected areas to follow the instructions of local authorities and monitor the media for the latest developments. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly. The cyclone could also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe cyclone may not be available to all who may choose to stay. You should familiarise yourself with hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. You should carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo identification) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. We also suggest that you contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts. For further information, see our Severe weather page.
All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure. Signage is in place throughout Rarotonga to provide direction in the event of a tsunami alert.
Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.
Australians are advised to respect wildlife laws and to maintain a safe and legal distance when observing wildlife, including marine animals and birds. You should only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators and closely follow park regulations and wardens' advice.
For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with Children brochure.
If you are planning on placing your children in schools or childcare facilities in the Cook Islands we encourage you to research the standards of security, care and staff training within those establishments.