Cook Islands
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Cook Islands


Cook Islands Travel Guide

Key Facts

237 sq km (91.5 sq miles).


20,948 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density

41.5 per sq km.


Avarua (on Rarotonga).


Self-governing territory in free association with New Zealand. New Zealand retains responsibility for external affairs.

Head of state

HM King Charles III since 2022, represented locally by Queen's Representative Sir Tom Marsters since 2013.

Head of government

Prime Minister Mark Brown since 2020.


220 volts AC, 50Hz. The New Zealand and Australian plug with three flat blades (two angled in a V shape) is standard.

Find lazy days dripping with sunshine in the tranquil Cook Islands, 15 sandy freckles in the South Pacific. There are no two ways about it, people come to the Cook Islands for the beaches: pristine ribbons, lapped by sparkling aquamarine waters. For those eager to dive straight in, the Cook Islands' best beaches are at Muri Lagoon and Titikaveka.

Despite covering a vast area, the Cook Islands host a tiny population, and secluded spots are easy to come by. Some islands, such as Rarotonga (where the international airport is situated) and Aitutaki, do feature a number of developed resorts. Mountainous Rarotonga also offers plenty of verdant scenery, should you – unlikely though it sounds – grow tired of the tropical beach paradise.

Situated between Samoa and French Polynesia, the inhabitants of the Cook Islands are Polynesian, with a proud and interesting culture. Calling themselves the Cook Island Maori, they trace their roots on the southern islands back a millennium to Tahiti and the Marquesas, while Samoans and Togans are responsible for settling the northern islands. The Cook Islanders also hold the tradition that New Zealand Maori migrations originated from their islands.

Named after Captain James Cook, who came here in 1770, the Cook Islands didn't come under British control until 1888. In 1965, the inhabitants chose self-government in free association with New Zealand, which had assumed administrative control over the islands at the turn of the century.

Apart from the interesting culture, it's the natural beauty of the Cook Islands that most captivates visitors. The islands are both volcanic and 'near atolls', which is to say land that's mostly lagoon and edged by islets. You'll find Rarotonga teeming with jungle, while Aitutake is the most photogenic island – a true paradise. Expect powdery sand, an abundance of tropical fruits, palm trees and no worries.

Travel Advice

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you:

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

About FCDO travel advice

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in the Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the New Zealand High Commission in the UK.

The Cook Islands and Niue are self-governing countries in free association with New Zealand. Tokelau is a non-self-governing territory of New Zealand.

COVID-19 rules

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering the Cook Islands, Tokelau or Niue.

Passport validity requirements

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.

Cook Islands 

Your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 6 months after the date you plan to leave the Cook Islands and have at least 2 blank pages.


To enter Tokelau, your passport must meet the validity requirements for travel to Samoa – see travel advice for Samoa. All travel to Tokelau is by ship from Apia, Samoa. You can email the Tokelau Apia Liaison Office:


Your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 3 months after the date you plan to leave the Cook Islands and have at least 2 blank pages.

Visa requirements

Cook Islands 

You can visit the Cook Islands without a visa for up to 31 days. If you’re staying longer, you may need a visa or entry on arrival permit. See visitor information from the Cook Islands government. You can get monthly Cook Islands visa extensions for a total stay of 5 months. You must apply at least 2 weeks before your visa or permit expires.


To visit Tokelau, you must get permission from the Tokelau council (‘Taupulega’) before you travel and buy boat tickets from the Tokelau office in Samoa. See visitor information from the Tokelau government and travel advice for Samoa


You can visit Niue without a visa for up to 30 days. If you’re staying longer, you may need visa. Email Niue’s immigration department for information:  

Sea travel from the Cook Islands

If you plan to join a tourist boat, yacht or other sea-going vessel to travel from the Cook Islands, you must apply for permission to enter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration.

Checks at border control

To enter the Cook Islands or Niue, you must have:

  • a ticket for onward or return travel
  • a visa for the next country you’re travelling to
  • proof of accommodation during your stay in the Cook Islands or Niue

To enter Tokelau, contact the Tokelau government office for their requirements.

Vaccine requirements

To enter Niue, you must have a certificate to prove you’ve had a yellow fever vaccination if you’re coming from a country listed as a transmission risk.

For full details about medical entry requirements and recommended vaccinations, see TravelHealthPro’s Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue guide.

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of:

You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.

Taking money into Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue

You must declare any currency if the value is 10,000 New Zealand dollars or more.


There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.    

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in the Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue

Although there is no recent history of terrorism in the Cook Islands, Tokelau or Niue, attacks cannot be ruled out.


Do not leave valuables unattended or in plain sight. Items left unattended on the beach or in unsecured storage, including in scooters or motorcycles, are a particular target.

Laws and cultural differences

Illegal drugs and prison sentences

There are severe penalties for possessing or importing even small amounts of drugs, including deportation and imprisonment.

LGBT+ travellers

Same-sex sexual activity is not illegal. However, showing affection in public may be considered offensive.

Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.

Accessing money

In the Cook Islands, the only ATMs are on the islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki. Credit and some debit cards are widely accepted on Rarotonga and some places on Aitutaki. You must use cash on the other islands.

There are no banks in Tokelau, so you’ll need to bring cash with you.

In Niue, most businesses accept New Zealand debit cards, Mastercard and Visa. Some businesses offer cashback. There are no ATMs in Niue, but you can withdraw cash from Kiwibank in Alofi. Kiwibank accepts only New Zealand debit cards, Mastercard and Visa.

Outdoor activities and adventure tourism

If you plan to hire motorbikes, jet skis or any other motorised vehicle, follow local licensing laws. Ask your travel insurance company if your policy covers these activities and get advice on any restrictions. Wear a helmet when using motorbikes or scooters.

Swimming safety

Follow local safety advice when swimming, snorkelling or diving. At certain times of the year, some beaches in Niue are closed for traditional fishing activities.

See water safety on holiday from the Royal Life Saving Society.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in the Cook Islands, Tokelau or Niue, see information on driving abroad.

You can use a UK photocard driving licence to drive in the Cook Islands. In Niue, you must apply for a local driving licence from the police department. If you still have a paper driving licence, you may need to update it to a photocard licence or get the correct version of the international driving permit (IDP) as well.

Driving on islands in the South Pacific can be challenging, particularly at night. Road conditions and street lighting are poor and there are few footpaths. Beware of pedestrians and animals on the roads.

Sea travel

Sea transport operators may not meet the safety standards you’d expect in the UK. Operators may not provide safety equipment or always follow safety regulations. Ferries are often overcrowded.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

Find out what you can do to prepare for and respond to extreme weather and natural hazards.

Tropical cyclones

The South Pacific cyclone season runs from 1 November to 30 April. There are severe storms across the region, although the risk varies between countries and from season to season. On average, there are around 9 tropical cyclones each season, with some likely to be classified ‘severe’ (category 3 or higher).

Monitor local news and check World Meteorological Organization weather reports for the Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue. Follow the advice of local authorities, including any evacuation orders. If you’re staying in a hotel, follow the guidance of hotel management or your tour operator.


There is a heightened risk of tsunamis in low-lying island countries in the Pacific. Follow any instructions issued by the local authorities.

The US Federal Emergency Management Agency website has advice about what to do before, during and after an tsunami.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

If you are in Cook Islands or Niue call 999 and ask for an ambulance. 

There are no hospitals or ambulance services in Tokelau.

Contact your insurance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Vaccine recommendations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip:

See what health risks you’ll face in the Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue, including dengue.

Drinking water

The water supply in the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau is limited and may be contaminated. Only drink boiled water or bottled water.

Tokelau and Niue’s water supply is still at the household level. Rainwater harvesting from roofs is the primary source of water in Tokelau. Boiling water and only drinking bottled water is strongly recommended.


The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.

Healthcare facilities in Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue

Medical facilities in the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau are limited. In a medical emergency, evacuation to mainland New Zealand is likely the only option for treatment.

Hospitals may not be as well-equipped as those in UK and may lack specialist equipment, including neo-natal equipment for premature babies. You may have to pay before receiving any hospital treatment. Tokelau does not have a hospital. The authorities may not be able to respond to emergency situations.

Not all Pacific islands have diver decompression chambers, and the nearest chamber may not be working. Divers needing emergency treatment may need medical evacuation. Check locally for the nearest working decompression chamber.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in the Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue

Telephone: 999 (ambulance, fire, police)

There are no hospitals or ambulance services in Tokelau.

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

You can also contact FCDO online.

Help abroad in an emergency

There is no British representation in the Cook Islands, Niue or Tokelau. If you need emergency help, contact the New Zealand High Commission to the Cook Islands or Niue. If you need emergency help in Tokelau, contact the British High Commission in Wellington.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.