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French Travel Guide
Welcome to Tahiti Travel Connection and welcome to The Islands of French!
Tahiti is a completely different world. A world where as a tourist you can enjoy the best she has to offer without always stepping over another tourist! There are more hotel rooms in a typical Las Vegas hotel than on all of the 118 islands of French Polynesia and locals say that Hawaii gets more visitors in 10 days than Tahiti does in an entire year! It’s hard not to take it slow in these islands and Tahiti Time is something you will definitely need to get used to when visiting. The city of Papeete does move to a faster pace though! So whilst visiting The Islands of Tahiti, immerse yourself in the Polynesian culture and the Tahitian way of life … slow down, think only of the present, order a cocktail and sit back and soak it all up!
Of course the most important thing to remember when visiting The Islands of Tahiti is to smile and say Bonjour or Ia Orana to everybody you meet! Your gesture will be returned with an equally genuine and welcoming smile.
We love to share our first-hand experiences of The Islands of Tahiti and we invite you to discover our paradise.
Flowers and Shells
As soon as you step in to the arrivals hall at Tahiti Faa’a International Airport, your senses are in overload with the wondrous aromas of flowers. The Tiare is Tahiti’s national flower and is omnipresent throughout French Polynesia. Both men and women tuck a Tiare behind their ear to signify their relationship status and crowns of flowers are regularly worn by local women going about their daily tasks.
Traditionally flower leis are given as gifts upon arrival and shell necklaces upon departure. It is quite a spectacle to see a local being farewelled at the airport, his or her neck completely hidden beneath hundreds of shell necklaces, a simple yet powerful display of affection.
No matter where you find yourself in The Islands of Tahiti you will hear the hypnotic sounds of traditional Polynesian music. Ukuleles and percussion instruments feature heavily in this style of music and you will often stumble upon an impromptu Ukulele jam session on a street corner! Modern music is also being combined with the more traditional sounds, to create a unique and funky blend.
Singing and song plays an important role in daily Tahitian life and it seems that everyone you meet in the islands has been gifted with an angelic and melodious voice!
Tahitian dance is not just for the tourists – it is a fundamental part of Tahitian life and a vibrant way of expressing Polynesian culture. The dances are authentic and play an important role in spreading the Tahitian culture abroad. The Tamure dance, the famous hip wiggling movement, is recognised world-wide and is synonymous with long haired, beautiful Tahitian woman being serenaded by buffed, muscle bound Tahitian men. Most hotels will offer you a dance show that is performed by local islands groups, proud to showcase their culture and talent.
Each July, as part of the Heiva cultural festival, a dance competition takes place and groups from throughout the islands perform to a strict set of rules, vying to win the coveted title, amongst others, of Best Group. Behind these performances are months of rehearsals and a meticulously choreographed tale of a Polynesian legend.
If you are in Tahiti in July you can buy tickets to this unique and vibrant event. The atmosphere is more like a sporting event with locals whistling and cheering on their favourite performers. Not to be missed!
In French Polynesia a tattoo is not just a fashion statement – it is a symbol of one’s identity. Since the early 80s tattooing has enjoyed a strong revival and can be seen to proudly adorn the bodies of both men and women, eager to showcase their Polynesian culture.
You can even leave with a “permanent souvenir” of your visit, with Moorea being home to some of the most famous tattooists in the region!
Art & Crafts
Tahiti has a varied and vast array of local arts & crafts on offer.
The Marquesas Archipelago is known for its wood carving and a range of Tikis, bowls, spears and other items can be found. Tapa is a paper like cloth made from the bark of trees and these days is mainly fabricated on the island of Fatu Hiva. Fashion jewellery such as earrings and necklaces are in abundance in the markets and are fabricated with local shells, pearls, seeds and grains – a fabulous and often inexpensive souvenir! The weaving of baskets, hats, mats and bags from Pandanus leaves thrives in the southern Austral islands.
The Islands of Tahiti are renown throughout the world for their stunning Black Pearls. They are cultivated mainly in the Tuamotu Archipelago and can be purchased throughout the islands. You can purchase pearls that are already mounted in jewellery or simply choose the pearl of your dreams and have it mounted back in Australia. Try not to get too bogged down in the finer details of what or what not to buy as the more people you ask the more confused you’ll become! The quality and price vary enormously so our tip is … if you see it, you like and you can afford it …. buy it!
Irrespective of which island they are fabricated on, most art and crafts can be found in hotel boutiques, local shops and markets on the islands of Tahiti, Moorea & Bora Bora.
Traditional Tahitian food is called a Maa’a Tahiti and families often gather on a Sunday to share this meal cooked in a traditional ground oven. It includes starchy vegetables such as Taro and Uru along with pork, chicken and fish amongst many other delights.
Modern food in Tahiti is a heady mix of French inspired cuisine with fabulous Polynesian ingredients, Chinese inspired dishes and fresh local fish dishes. From Posisson Cru – a local raw fish dish with coconut milk through to fabulous NZ meat dishes (yes NZ is not far away!) you will find a mix of culinary delights sure to impress!
It is hot, hot, hot in Tahiti and so a pareo (sarong) is often worn by both men and women. It is versatile, colourful and very functional! Shorts, thongs and t-shirts are the staple attire in most islands – the vibe is very relaxed!
Religion permeates everyday life in The Islands of Tahiti and churches are jammed on Sunday mornings. There are a surprising number of churches compared to inhabitants throughout the islands. Today you will mainly see Catholic and Protestant churches with a smattering of other religions such as Seventh Day Adventist and Jehovah’s Witness.
One of the most memorable experiences in The Islands of Tahiti is a visit to a Sunday church service in the Austral Islands, where the congregations dress in vibrant coloured dresses and floral shirts; the women wearing hand woven hats made from dried Pandanus leaves. The ukuleles and drums are in abundance in the church and the hymns are sung in the local Tahitian language with a unique reverence and distinctly Polynesian flare.
French Polynesia is also known as the Islands of Tahiti or simply Tahiti. There are 118 islands comprising French Polynesia of which Tahiti is the main island and the location of the capital city of Papeete. Faa’a International Airport is located on the island of Tahiti approximately 5 kilometres west of Papeete. You cross the international dateline when flying to Tahiti from Australia - i.e. the first night of accomodation is normally the day before departure
Australian passport holders do not require a visa for a stay as a tourist of up to three months but must hold a passport with three months validity beyond the date of departure from French Polynesia. Please double check your visa requirements with the appropriate Embassy or Consular office as visa regulations may vary. If you are a non Australian passport holder please check your visa requirements with the appropriate Embassy or Consular office. Please note you may also require a transit visa for New Zealand if you are flying via New Zealand.
We strongly recommend that at the time of booking you purchase a comprehensive travel insurance policy of your choice.
Please note the following public holidays to be observed in French Polynesia in 2015:
* Jan 01 – New Years Day * Apr 03 – Good Friday *Apr 05 – Easter Sunday * Apr 06 – Easter Monday * May 01 – Labor Day * May 08 – Victory Day * May 14 – Ascension * May 25 – Whit Monday * Jun 29 – Autonomy Day * Jul 14 – National Day/Bastille Day * Aug 15 – Assumption * Nov 01 – All Saints Day * Nov 11 – Armistice Day * Dec 25 – Christmas Day
For all hotels in French Polynesia a compulsory local city tax of approximately 150XPF (French Pacific Francs) per person per night must be paid direct to the hotels.