French Polynesia

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Thursday, 11 December 2014.   This advice contains new information in the Summary and under Health (cases of chikungunya virus have been reported on a number of islands in French Polynesia, including Tahiti). The overall level of the advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in French Polynesia.

French Polynesia overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in French Polynesia. You should exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia, and monitor the media and other sources for information on local travelling conditions.
  • Industrial disputes and strikes have the potential to cause disruption to the supply of essential services and transport, including international air links. You should monitor developments and plan accordingly.
  • Cyclone season in French Polynesia is from November to April. However, tropical storms and cyclones may occur in other months. See Additional information.
  • Cases of chikungunya virus have been reported on a number of islands in French Polynesia, including Tahiti. Outbreaks of dengue fever are also common. We recommended that you take precautions against being bitten by mosquitos. See Health for more information.
  • See also our general advice for business travellers
  • Australia has a consulate in French Polynesia headed by an Honorary Consul, who provides limited consular assistance. The Australian Consulate-General in New Caledonia provides full consular assistance to Australians in French Polynesia.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest French Embassy or Consulate for the most up-to-date information.

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.

Some goods are either prohibited from entering French Polynesia or require specific formalities. Refer to the website of the French High Commission in French Polynesia (in French) or contact the High Commission on +689 40 46 87 00 for the most up-to-date information.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin for more information on terrorism and our General advice to Australian travellers for tips on staying safe overseas.

Civil unrest/Political tension

Industrial disputes and strikes have the potential to cause social unrest and disruption to the supply of essential services and transport, including international air links. In the event of strike action, you should check the status of flights with your airline before travelling to the airport and contact your tour operator to check if tourist services have been disrupted.

You should avoid demonstrations and large public gatherings as they may turn violent.

Crime

French Polynesia has a low incidence of serious crime. Petty crime does occur. Be aware of your personal belongings at all times and don’t leave your belongings unattended or unsecured.

Money and valuables

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.

Review the general advice to Australian travellers for further information on being safe and prepared abroad.

Local travel

If you intend to hire cars, motorcycles, jet skis or any other motorised water sport equipment, talk to your insurer to check if it is covered by your insurance policy.

For information on driver licence requirements in French Polynesia, contact the nearest French Embassy or Consulate. See also our road travel page.

The safety standards you might expect of tour operators are not always met, especially for adventure sports such as diving and yachting. Sufficient life jackets and adequate safety equipment may not be provided. Recommended maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be observed. Check operators' credentials and safety equipment beforehand.. Always use available safety equipment, such as lifejackets or seatbelts, even if the locals don't. If appropriate safety equipment is not available, you should use another provider.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in French Polynesia.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

French Polynesia is an overseas territory of France and French laws apply. See the Laws section of our travel advice for France for information on French laws.

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. Research local laws before travelling.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Penalties for drug offences, even possession of small amounts, include fines and imprisonment. See our Drugs page.

France has passed laws allowing same-sex marriages, which also applies to French Polynesia. However, other than the tourist islands of Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora, French Polynesia is a conservative society and it is generally recommended that same sex couples avoid public displays of affection. For more information, see our LGBTI travellers page.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, 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.

Local Customs

Other than the tourist islands of Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora, French Polynesia is a conservative society and you should dress and behave modestly outside tourist resorts.

Information for dual nationals

Our Dual nationals page provides information.

Health

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.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Medical facilities in the capital Papeete are comparable with those of a medium-sized rural hospital in Australia. However, facilities in the outlying areas and on remote islands, including Bora Bora, are basic. Medical and hospital costs in French Polynesia are extremely high.

Rescue and emergency services are of a high standard although distances between the capital, Papeete, and the outer islands could delay the response to an emergency. A medical evacuation to Australia can cost tens of thousands of Australian dollars.

There is only one hyperbaric (decompression) facility in French Polynesia, in Papeete. Many of the popular dive sites are located on other islands and it may take hours to reach the decompression facility in the event of an accident. Many registered dive companies require participants to have insurance cover for diving. Regardless, you should ensure that your insurance covers whatever activity you intend to undertake.

Tap water in Papeete is safe to drink. It is recommended, however, that you boil all drinking water or drink only bottled water in rural areas.

Mosquito-borne diseases: Cases of chikungunya virus have been reported on a number of islands in French Polynesia, including Tahiti. Outbreaks of dengue fever are common during the warm wet months of February to May. It is strongly recommended you take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes, including using an insect repellent, wearing loose fitting, light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof. Seek medical advice if you have a fever. Local authorities have dengue fever and chikungunya virus prevention measures in place. For further information see the WHO's fact sheets on dengue and chikungunya. The mosquito-borne disease filariasis also occurs, particularly in rural areas.

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance.

In an emergency, you can contact the police on 17, ambulance on 15 and 18 for fire. You should also obtain a police report when reporting a crime.

If the matter relates to complaints about tourism services or products, contact the service provider directly.
Australia has a Consulate in French Polynesia headed by an Honorary Consul. The Consulate provides limited consular assistance which does not include the issue of Australian passports.

You can obtain full consular assistance from the Australian Consulate-General in New Caledonia:

Australian Consulate-General, Noumea

Norwich building
Level 2
11 rue Georges Baudoux
Artillerie, Noumea, New Caledonia
Telephone (687) 272 414
Website www.australianconsulatenoumea.embassy.gov.au
Facebook: L’Australie en Nouvelle CalÚdonie

See the Consulate-General website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

Australian Consulate, Tahiti

C/- Petropol Central Office
Papeava Port Zone
Papeete
Tahiti, FRENCH POLYNESIA
Telephone (689) 40 468 853
Facsimile (689) 40 468 854

If you are travelling to French Polynesia, 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 Consulate-General or Consulate, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Cyclone season is between November to April when flooding, landslides and disruptions to services may occur. However, tropical storms and cyclones may also occur in other months. The direction and strength of cyclones can change with little warning.

In the event of an approaching cyclone, you should identify your nearest safe location. 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 your 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.

French Polynesia has a five-level cyclone alert system: YELLOW (potential cyclone activity in the next 72 hours), ORANGE (potential cyclone activity in the next 48 hours), RED (cyclone is imminent – in the next 12 to 18 hours), PURPLE (assessment of damage phase) and GREEN (end of cyclone alert).

The Weather Bureau in French Polynesia provides weather information (in French) on its website, by phone on 44 27 08 and fax on 44 27 09 (both numbers are for within French Polynesia only). The French High Commission also opens a hotline when their emergency management centre is activated. The hotline can be reached at +689 40 44 42 10.
You can also get detailed weather information from Meteo-France in French Polynesia, The Fiji Meteorological Service, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, US Navy.

French Polynesia is in an active earthquake area. Further information on earthquakes and other natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service.

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. The French High Commission estimates that a tsunami generated in the Tongan or Kermadec islands would reach French Polynesia within one hour. A tsunami generated in Latin America or Alaska would take approximately 8 hours to reach French Polynesia. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure for more information.

If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

If you are travelling during cyclone season or after a natural disaster, you should contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.

Additional Resources

For additional general and economic information to assist travelling in this country, see the following links:



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.