What makes Fiji a unique country to travel to?
Fiji is a South Pacific island nation with 333 islands and islets, 106 of which are inhabited. The capital of Fiji is Suva. Once a leader of Pacific democracies, Fiji has been under military rule since 2006. Since the government's abrogation of Fiji's Constitution in April 2009, the government has ruled by decree and limited basic freedoms. A new constitution promulgated on September 6, 2013 restores some freedoms while keeping decrees in place until the first seating of Parliament sometime after elections, which are expected in September 2014.
Tourism is a major industry in Fiji, and a full range of services are available. The Fiji Visitors Bureau has a wide range of information for travelers that can be accessed by visiting the Fiji Visitors Bureau's website.
Urban areas experience a higher incidence of crime than do rural areas. Most crime takes place in Suva and Nadi, away from resort areas. You should always protect your valuables and be aware that theft from hotel rooms, purse snatching, and pick pocketing are the most common crimes against tourists. Be attentive of your personal safety and be cautious about sharing too much personal information about where you are from and where you are staying while traveling. If you are not familiar with an area, ask hotel staff about areas to avoid. There has been an increase in incidents involving sexual assaults and harassment in Fiji. You should not walk alone after dark and always be sure to avoid isolated and deserted areas. You should lock your doors and windows when you are alone at home or in your hotel room. Since there is crime directed at taxi drivers, do not allow taxis to pick up other passengers while you are en route. Similarly, you should not enter a taxi already carrying other passengers.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
While you are traveling in Fiji, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. You should carry photo identification with you at all times. If you are suspected of being involved in criminal activities, you will be taken in for questioning and asked for identification. Respect any cultural sites with security warnings posted against photography. Fiji enforces laws against driving under the influence of alcohol, and offenders may be taken to jail. If you are stopped and found to be driving under the influence of alcohol, you will be taken to the police station for further tests. If the second test is affirmative, you will be detained in a prison cell to sober up, typically overnight, and you will be charged the following morning. If you do not have a permanent address in Fiji, the local police will keep you in custody and will arrange for a special court hearing with a Magistrate. These hearings take place during regular work days, and on the weekends and holidays. If you have a permanent residence in Fiji, you will be charged and may be released, and then you will be asked to attend court on a set date.
Criminal penalties vary from country to country. There are some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. For example, you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Fiji, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not wherever you go.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Health-care facilities in Fiji's urban areas are adequate for routine medical problems. In the rural areas, staff training is limited and there are often shortages of supplies and medications. Travelers should carry adequate supplies of any needed prescription medicines, along with copies of their prescriptions, the generic name of the drugs, and a supply of preferred over-the-counter medications. Emergency response is extremely limited. Ambulance availability is minimal, and ambulances are often poorly equipped and staffed. Two major hospitals, the Lautoka Hospital in the western city of Lautoka and the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva, provide limited emergency and outpatient services. A recompression chamber at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva can treat decompression sickness (See also Special Circumstances, Water Sports). A private hospital in Suva provides Western-style medical care, and other hospitals and clinics provide a limited range of health services. Medical emergencies may be evacuated to Australia, New Zealand, or the United States. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States or elsewhere can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for health services. Medevac to Australia or NZ will only be considered if patient has adequate insurance or upfront payment which can be expected to run into tens of thousands of dollars. In some cases, medevac to Australia or NZ can require a medical visa.
Dengue fever, carried by infected mosquitoes, occurs throughout the country of Fiji, especially during the rainy season.
Safety and Security
The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to exercise caution when traveling to or within Fiji. Since the Fijian government's abrogation of Fiji's Constitution in April 2009, the Fijian government has ruled by decree and limited somebasic freedoms. U.S. citizens in Fiji should remain cautious and alert in public places and near military activities in the greater Suva area. Although demonstrations are not common in Fiji, you should avoid demonstrations and large crowds, remembering that even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent unexpectedly.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Fiji, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Traffic moves on the left in Fiji. While most roads in urban areas are paved, they are poorly maintained. Roads outside the city are usually not paved. In the city, be especially attentive when driving after dark. Outside of the city, it is best to avoid driving after dark except in emergency or exceptional circumstances. Insufficient lighting, stray animals, unwary pedestrians, and potholes make driving dangerous and particularly hazardous at night.