Visitors Guide D
Pardon the gratuitous photo of Likuliku Resort but who wants to see a photo of a mossie?!
A 1998 outbreak of dengue fever in Fiji resulted in an estimated 25,000 cases and 14 deaths. Since then the disease has been controlled through public education and a clean-up campaign, which reduced the number of vector mosquitoes. Although it’s mostly locals who are affected (and most of the deceased were infants), tourists are obviously not immune. The symptoms of “breakbone fever” are nausea, headaches, sore throat, pain in the joints, chills, and a rash. There’s no vaccine and all you can do is try to avoid being bitten (the dengue fever mosquito bites only during the day). If you’re unfortunate enough to be stricken, all you can do is rest in bed and wait for the fever to subside after five to 15 days. Drink lots of water but don’t take aspirin (which can cause complications). Dengue fever outbreaks are infrequent and I am never more concerned in Fiji than I am in Australia. Having said that, never travel without insurance!
A number of Indo-Fijian dentists have offices in Nadi, Lautoka, and Suva – any shopkeeper will be able to tell you where to find one. The charges will probably be much lower than what you’d pay at home, although the equipment may be older than you expect. The public hospitals also have dental clinics, but these are usually very crowded and you’ll wait a lot longer than you would at a private dental office.
Most visitors on package holidays don’t get to sample the restaurants outside their resorts but if you are in one of the larger towns and like curry, you’ll certainly be rewarded. Remember nearly half the population is Indian!
Within the resorts you will find a variety of international type cuisines using local and imported produce. Lamb will be from New Zealand, for example, while the seafood should come from the local waters. Local fruits and vegetables will be used.
Apart from the local marinated coconut-seafood delight, kokoda (pron. kokonda, photo), there won’t be too many surprises on the menus and many places turn out excellent wood-fired pizzas.
Unfortunately, Fiji is still a developing country when it comes to providing special facilities for people with disabilities. Before booking a resort holiday, you should verify their accessibility. The Sheraton on Denarau has lots of ramp access and, on the Coral Coast, The Outrigger Reef Resort, the Warwick and The Naviti Resort have wheelchair friendly rooms. For guests in wheelchairs, we usually recommend travellers stick with the mainland resorts but with cane assistance many of the islands will be accessible. For example, on Castaway Island Resort where everything you want is handy (e.g. proximity of restaurant, pool, beach, snorkeling etc) and the friendly boys are more than happy to give you a carry from the launch to the beach. We are happy to check facilities for you. The director of Small Guide Travel and author of this site, Ian, has MS and uses a cane (and sometimes wheelchair) for mobility assistance.
Diving in Fiji is fabulous. I got my PADI Open Water dive accreditation at Tokoriki Island Resort and my son (aged 16) did his course from the Outrigger resort on the Coral Coast. It makes sense to have the compulsory dives in great locations and be able to do the required theory poolside with a drink than in a classroom. The water is warm with wonderful visibility and lots of fish, coral and fans. Most resorts offer diving. For beginners wanting to have resort dive you will have a free lesson in the pool to see if you are comfortable with retrieving your regulator, clearing you mask and generally with moving about – then you will be offered a nice shallow dive – well worth it even if you don’t go on to be certified.
Experienced divers can find whatever they want – hard coral, soft, coral, shark dives, swim-throughs, huge sea fans, manta rays, drop offs, mazes and wreck dives.
Although many doctors have emigrated from Fiji to places like Australia and Canada in recent years, it’s still relatively easy to find a private doctor. A number of doctors have offices in Nadi, Lautoka, and Labasa, and there are several private clinics in Suva. You’ll be seen at any of these for an initial consultation fee of around $20, about the same as you’d pay to see a doctor at one of the crowded public hospitals.
I don’t think Elvis ever went to Fiji, but he sure knew about sensible tropical clothing. Think two ‘c’s – casual and cotton. Take t-shirts, short sleeved shirts (although a long-sleeved shirt can be handy for a cooler evening or if you are out boating), shorts, light dresses and swimwear. Jeans are a no-no. I’ll own up to a bit of tropical stupidity. In day two of my first visit there I had a meeting and a radio interview in Suva. Looking in the mirror in my air-conditioned room in Nadi, I thought I looked pretty sharp in a new pair of black jeans but knew I’d made a mistake before I reached Nadi airport’ after the flight, walking up hills between meetings, taking in the markets etc I was simply wet from the waist down and pretty uncomfortable. I’ll say nothing more than I also purchased some baby powder.
Don’t forget a hat and sunscreen and pack some reef shoes to avoid coral cuts. And remember to cover up when outside the resort as skimpy dress is offensive to the locals when in their own backyard.
The sulu (pareau, lavalava, sarong) is a versatile bit of clothing for men and women. Take one or buy one as a souvenir (you will also find it handy in summer at home). Apart from being easy to put on and take off it can double as something to separate you from the sand, to carry wet swimwear in or to provide instant shade for a little one. The simple wrap-around style is the most common way to wear one but there are around ten different ways for women to tie them, even as an elegant evening dress.
Consuming alcohol on the street is prohibited but you don’t have to look far to find a bar in Fiji. These fall into several categories. Fiji has many private clubs with large “Members Only” signs on the door which are generally open to visitors. You’ll usually find the local menfolk playing billiards at these. Look for the Farmers Club in Nadi, the South Seas Club in Lautoka, or the Merchants Club in Suva. They’re generally male domains, although overseas women are admitted. There are local nightclubs in all the towns, some of them rather rough. In Suva, you better know what you’re doing if you visit any of the clubs north of the center of town. The clubs along Victoria Parade south of the centre are a better place to start, especially Traps, Suva’s yuppie, groupie pub. In Nadi, Ed’s Bar at Martintar is the place to be. Of course, all upscale resorts and hotels also have bars.
To most visitors Fiji will appear pretty much “drug-free”. There may be a few expatriates who are part-time agriculturalists and, if you look the part, you could well be offered marijuana on the street in Fiji. Weed is a major cash crop in central Viti Levu where the roads don’t go. Be aware that the penalties can be severe, and you should never under any circumstances attempt to import drugs or take any Fiji marijuana home with you on the flight. The sniffer dog detachment at Nadi Airport is around back on the road to the heleport, if you’re interested. Alcohol and kava should provide enough legal stimulation and/or relaxation.
Visitors aged 17 have an allowance of 2 litres of alcoholic spirits, or 4 litres of wine or 4 litres of beer and 500 cigarettes or 500 grams of tobacco product. Other items like personal effects and household effects for residents or intending residents should not exceed $400.