Can you travel to a tropical island paradise without the jaw-dropping price tag? Get ready to say, “Bula Bula” from your hammock, because Fiji’s famous welcome is definitely available on a tight travel budget.
This is a place where the smiles of the locals, marine-life filled seas and swaying palm trees lull you into bliss, without needing to spend up big on tours or accommodation. All you have to do is set your watch to Fiji time and dive into the simplicity of island living.
When to go
With balmy temps and light breezes to sway those picture-perfect palm trees all year round, you don’t need to worry about the weather, to book your flight to Fiji. Peak seasons are from July to September and December to early January, and they’re the times you need to avoid.
Coinciding with the Australian and New Zealand school holidays, flights, resorts and tours are much more expensive and you’re not likely to find any last minute deals.
Search for flights in March and November for the best deals and you’ll save a bucket load for the fun stuff.
Exploring Viti Levu
Fly into Nadi International Airport during the day and you’ll get a glimpse of tiny tropical islands glinting in the sun, with Viti Levu’s soaring mountains in the distance. After you land, there’s not really any reason to hang around in town, except to get supplies. This is the place to stock up on snacks, alcohol, cash from ATM’s and any necessities, as it’s much cheaper than resort areas or the outer islands.
Then, you’re ready to explore the tropical waterfalls, traditional villages, historical sites and walking tracks of Fiji’s largest island. A budget-friendly base is Wailoula Beach, with cheap hostels available just steps from the sand. From here, it’s easy to catch local buses, or more expensive taxis, to major tourist attractions like Tavuni Hill Fort, Sigatoka Town and Natadola Beach.
It’ll take you about half a day on the bus to get to Fiji’s capital, Suva, but it’s cheap and worth it to check out the multicultural vibe. You’ll find farmers markets, malls, restaurants, bars, gardens, museums and lots of good budget accommodation.
Discovering paradise islands
On a very tight budget, it’s pretty hard to do the whole ‘island hopping’ thing, but you don’t need to in order to have the Fijian beach experience from travel brochures. You can get various tickets, like a Bula Pass, to explore the islands of Mamanuca and Yasawa over 5 to 21 days, via boat transfers. There are packages with accommodation included too, however other costs soon add up, including expensive, compulsory meal inclusions.
A cheaper option is to stay on just one island and do your own ‘hopping’, as your budget allows. Or, don’t hop at all and simply soak up the sun from your hammock and experience idyllic tropical living. In terms of gorgeous scenery, you can’t go wrong in either region. If you’re happy with backpacking and hostels, the glowing aqua water is the same, whether you pay top dollar or not.
Mana Island, in the Mamanuca’s, has the white sand and riot of marine life from your paradise island dreams. There are two hostels to choose from, a PADI dive centre and all the snorkelling, hiking, fishing, water sports and traditional entertainment you could want. Free breakfast is available and you generally pay for a meal plan on booking, as with most resorts. If you choose to island hop during the day from here, an awesome option includes Modriki Island, from the Tom Hanks movie, Castaway.
Top money saving tips
The top tip for sticking to a budget in Fiji, like most places, is to steer clear of tourist traps and do things the local way. For transport, this means taking the open air buses, which are a fantastic way to meet people and only cost small change. Buy fresh food from farmer’s markets or roadside stalls and take bottled water and snacks with you always, so you don’t get caught out paying over-the-top prices when hunger hits.
Most of all, settle into the slow-paced Fijian way of life and you won’t feel the need to spend money on expensive touristy activities. Instead, in the midst of salty air and welcoming smiles, adventure will come to you.