The far east of Tonga
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The far east of Tonga

© Creative Commons / Antoine Hubert

Tonga Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

748 sq km (289 sq miles).

Population

106,915 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density

142.4 per sq km.

Capital

Nuku'alofa.

Government

Constitutional monarchy.

Head of state

King George Tupou VI since 2012.

Head of government

Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni since 2021.

Electricity

240 volts AC, 50Hz. Australian-style plugs with three flat, angled pins are used.

From steep, active volcanoes, to low coral atolls, Tonga's 176 islands offer a truly diverse array of backdrops for those seeking a Pacific getaway.

Tonga enjoys a laidback pace of life which visitors find easy to adopt, whether relaxing on one of the magnificent white sand beaches, first-class diving amid the stunning coral reefs or watching the migratory whales return to their breeding grounds (June to November). Many of the islands are uninhabited, and have much emerald flora and secluded coves to explore.

Sightseeing highlights include the Royal Palace on the waterfront in Nuku'alofa, the Mala'ekula (Royal Tombs), and the Anahulu Cave: an underground cavern of stalactites and stalagmites. Tonga is ruled by the last remaining Kingdom of Polynesia. The ruling family of Tonga, the last remaining Polynesian Kingdom, can be traced back more than 1,000 years.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Tonga on the TravelHealthPro website.

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International travel

Tonga’s border fully reopened on 27 September 2022. Flights are operating internationally to and from New Zealand, Australia and Fiji. More destinations may be added in due course and you should check with your airline for current scheduled routes.

You should familiarise yourself with the current immigration rules for visiting/transiting on the government websites of New Zealand, Fiji and Australia.

Entry and borders

Tonga’s borders fully reopened on 27th September 2022. Foreign nationals are required to show proof of vaccination status at check-in for incoming flights and ships. Foreign nationals who are medically exempt from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine will need to provide medical documents to the Ministry of Health in order to be permitted entry. For more information contact the Ministry of Health at travel@health.gov.to. See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Tonga.

Travelling from and returning to the UK

Check what you must do to travel abroad and return to England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

If you plan to pass through another country to return to the UK, check the travel advice for the country you’re transiting.

The Communicable Disease Section of the Ministry of Health conducts testing for outgoing passengers from Tonga. You should call +676 740 0416 for further advice including prices, and to arrange a test.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID-19. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Travel in Tonga

As of 27 September 2022 the two States of Emergency and Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted, including the night-time curfew. Anyone testing positive for Covid-19 will be required to self-isolate for 5 days in their accommodation.

For more information on border policy, you should check the latest declarations on the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga’s website.

Public places and services

As of 27 September 2022, public places and services can resume normal opening hours. Wearing masks, social distancing and hand washing are encouraged but not mandatory. Businesses may continue enforcing their own COVID-19 policies, such as wearing masks for staff and customers. For the latest information, check the declarations on the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga’s website.

Healthcare in Tonga

Medical care across Tonga is not as advanced as you would find in the UK. Access to medical services and the availability of fresh foods in Tonga could be impaired during a serious or extended COVID-19 outbreak.

Further information on precautionary measures and travel restrictions are available from the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga website.

Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health

View Health for further details on healthcare in Tonga

See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

For further UK government guidance on support you can access whilst abroad, visit our waiting to return guidance. This includes guidance on finance, health, and staying connected.

Help and support

Consular support is limited in Tonga. However, the British High Commission in Wellington, New Zealand can provide consular support to British nationals.
You should monitor guidance on social media. Check the UK in the South Pacific Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Crime

Most visits to Tonga are trouble free. The crime rate is low. However, petty crime and theft do take place. You should remain vigilant, especially at night.

Road travel

You can obtain a local visitor’s driving licence on production of a full UK driving licence. Roads are generally in good condition but can be narrow and are sometimes potholed. The low speed limits are strictly applied with on the spot fines. Take particular care when driving after dark and in poor weather. All drivers and front seat passengers must wear seatbelts. It is now an offence to drive and use a mobile phone. Please check with the Department of Transport for further details and updates.

Sea travel

Maritime safety, particularly of older vessels, is a concern in Tonga. In late 2009, 74 people lost their lives when the passenger ferry MV Princess Ashika sank. Safety regulations are not always adhered to when travelling by sea ferry and it is advisable to take your own lifejacket. Ferries are often overcrowded.

Air travel 

A list of recent incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.

The FCDO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.

In 2010 an audit of Tonga’s Civil Aviation Authority by the International Civil Aviation Organisation found that the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Tonga was well below the global average.

Internal flights are not always on schedule and can be subject to adverse weather conditions.

The MA60 aircraft is used for some internal flights. The MA60 is not certified for use in the European Union.

Political situation

The political situation is currently stable. Democratic elections were held most recently in November 2021.

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Tonga, attacks cannot be ruled out.

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 more about the global threat from terrorism.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Tongan society is very conservative and highly religious. You will be expected to dress modestly and respect local customs and culture. Tonga strictly observes the Sabbath. On Sundays any recreational activities undertaken outside of island resorts may be seen as provocative. 

Homosexuality is technically illegal in many Pacific countries and the law is occasionally enforced. Open displays of affection between same-sex partners may cause offence. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

Drug taking in all forms is illegal. Importing or exporting illegal drugs attracts a maximum penalty of 30 years hard labour and/or a fine of several hundred thousand US dollars. Those found guilty of cultivating or distributing illegal drugs are likely to receive similarly severe punishment.

This page has information on travelling to Tonga.

This page 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 Tonga set and enforce entry rules. If you’re unsure how Tonga’s entry requirements apply to you, contact its UK embassy, high commission or consulate.

Tonga’s borders fully re-opened on 27 September 2022.

The Government of the Kingdom of Tonga advises all foreign visitors to hold comprehensive travel insurance. Additionally, all foreign nationals must present proof of vaccination status at check-in for flights and ships. Foreign Nationals who are medically exempt from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine will need to provide medical documents to the Ministry of Health in order to be permitted entry. For more information contact the Ministry of Health at travel@health.gov.to.

Foreign travellers

Foreign travellers aged 12 years and above are normally required to be fully vaccinated with the prescribed two COVID-19 vaccine doses (or one dose of Johnson & Johnson) before seeking entry to Tonga. Proof of vaccination status is required on check-in for flights and ships. All travellers are also encouraged to have their booster dose(s) complete before travelling to Tonga.

Tonga will accept the UK’s printed version of proof of COVID-19 vaccination  and proof of COVID-19 vaccination issued in the Crown Dependencies. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate your vaccine status.

A COVID-19 vaccine certificate is required for check-in. Ideally a hard copy of the vaccine certificate should be presented at check-in unless you are permitted an exemption (see the ‘If you are not fully vaccinated’ section below) However, electronic documents, including emails, on mobile phones or other electronic devices are acceptable.

All documents presented must be in English. The use of any other language will result in you being denied boarding.

Failure to produce a vaccination certificate without an exemption from the Ministry of Health, will result in you being denied boarding and entry to Tonga.

Further guidance is available at the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga Government’s portal

If you’re not fully vaccinated

Foreign Nationals who are medically permitted not to get vaccinated, but wish to enter the country, will need to provide medical documents to the Ministry of Health in order to be permitted to travel. For more information contact the Ministry of Health in advance of making travel plans at travel@health.gov.to.

Children and young people

The rules for fully vaccinated travellers apply for children aged 12 years and over.

Exemptions

Passengers with medical conditions who deem themselves exempt from Tonga’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements must email the Ministry of Health at travel@health.gov.to before confirming travel plans. Tonga’s Ministry of Health can provide further guidance on entering Tonga without fulfilling the vaccination requirements.

Any other requests for an exemption to Tonga’s entry requirements should be sent to the Ministry of Health by email at travel@health.gov.to.

Check your passport and travel documents before you travel

Check with your travel provider to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Passport validity

If you are visiting Tonga, your passport should be valid for a minimum of 6 months from the date you arrive.

If you are a resident in Tonga, your passport must be valid for a minimum of 6 months from the date you arrive.

Visas

British passport holders visiting Tonga as a tourist or on business are normally given permission to enter the country for up to 30 days. You should be able to provide an onward air or sea ticket, proof of adequate funds and relevant health certificates. If you wish to extend your stay you must obtain permission from the Principal Immigration Officer.

For further information contact the Immigration Division: Head of Immigration Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, PO Box 821, Nuku’alofa, TONGA; Tel: +676 26 969; Fax: +676 26 971.

If you hold a short-term visa for Tonga which is close to expiry, you should report to the Immigration Office to have your visa extended. Further information can be found at the Ministry of Revenue & Customs website.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Tonga.

Returning to the UK

Check what you must do to return to the UK.

If you have a health condition, or you are pregnant, you may need specialist healthcare abroad. Check whether your destination country can provide the healthcare you may need and ensure you have appropriate travel insurance for unexpected medical evacuation or local treatment.

See the Coronavirus travel health and Healthcare sections in the Coronavirus page for COVID-19 health information.

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate
of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

There have been a number of outbreaks of measles in Pacific countries, including Tonga. You should visit the NaTHNaC website for information and advice about measles and monitor the advice of the local authorities.

UK health authorities have classified Tonga as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

There has been an increase in dengue fever cases recorded in Vava’u. You should take measures to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Health facilities in Tonga are basic. The range of drugs available is limited and modern equipment is in short supply. Medical evacuation from Tonga is required for most non-basic medical problems. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 933 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Earthquakes

Tonga is part of the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’, a zone of frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that surrounds the basin of the Pacific Ocean. Earthquakes and volcanic activity can occur at any time, and can trigger tsunami alerts.

Volcanic Activity

There has been an increase in volcanic activity at Home Reef, located 245 km north-northeast of Tongatapu and 91 km southwest of Vava’u. More information and updates can be found on the Tonga Geological Service Facebook page .

The underwater volcano Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Ha’apai, located 65km North North West of Nuku’alofa, erupted on 15 January 2022 with the resulting tsunami and ash fall causing significant damage and continuing to disrupt telecommunications services.

Further information on earthquakes can be found on the US Geological Survey website. Further information on tsunamis can be found on the NOAA and Tonga Meteorological Service pages.

You should familiarise yourself with safety procedures in the event of an earthquake, and take note of earthquake and tsunami related instructions e.g. in hotel rooms. To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see the website of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Tropical cyclones

The tropical cyclone season in Tonga normally runs from November to April but cyclones can occur throughout the year. During this period there is a greater risk of strong winds and heavy rains with associated flooding, landslides and road closures. Essential services such as power and water can be disrupted. We strongly advise that extra care is taken around damaged buildings and fallen power lines.

You should monitor local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), from the Tonga Meteorological Service, in local newspapers and on Radio Tonga 1 and 2 on 1017 AM and 90 FM, and follow the advice of the local authorities including any evacuation orders. See our Tropical cyclones page for further advice about what to do if you are caught up in a storm.

The currency in Tonga is “Pa’anga”. ATMs are available in the capital city Nuku’alofa and in the main towns of ‘Eua, Vava’u and the Ha’apai island groups.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the FCDO in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or cannot offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you cannot find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice team a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry, or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

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.