What makes Kiribati a unique country to travel to?
The Republic of Kiribati (pronounced kir-ree-bas) is an island group in the Western Pacific Ocean. It consists of three archipelagos totaling 33 mostly low-lying coral atolls surrounded by extensive reefs, with a total land area of 800 square kilometers. Kiribati gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1979. Kiribati has an elected president and a legislative assembly. The capital city is Tarawa. Kiribati has few natural resources, and its economy is very small. Kiribati does have small but growing niche markets for fishing, especially at Christmas Island, diving, surfing and bird watching.
Tourist facilities are not widely available.
Although the crime rate in Kiribati is low, visitors should not be complacent regarding their personal safety or protecting valuables.
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 Kiribati, 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. In Kiribati, you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. It is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. Driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and 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 Kiribati, 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 where you are going.
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 throughout Kiribati, including Tarawa, is substandard. Medication and supplies are limited and hospital accommodations are inadequate throughout the country. Serious medical conditions requiring hospitalization or evacuation to the United States or elsewhere may cost thousands of dollars. If a person dies in Kiribati, there are no funeral homes with embalming or cremation services. If a relative wishes to return their deceased family member to the United States, there will be additional requirements needed to prepare the deceased member for travel. These requirements depend on the cause of death. The only international air connections in Kiribati are a weekly flight connecting Kiritimati (Christmas) Island to Honolulu and two weekly connections between Tarawa and Fiji. Air Kiribati provides rare flights between the islands of Kiribati. A serious medical condition could require an expensive medical evacuation. All water should be regarded as a potential health risk. Visitors should refrain from drinking any water that is not bottled, boiled, or otherwise sterilized. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit should be peeled before being eaten.
Safety and Security
Emergency numbers in Kiribati: The general emergency equivalent to “911” is 999. You can also reach individual emergency services by directly dialing 992 for police, 993 for fire, and 994 for ambulance.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Kiribati, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
Traffic moves on the left side of the road in Kiribati. Roads in urban Tarawa and Christmas Island, while satisfactory in some areas, are generally in need of repair. After heavy rains, some road sections experience temporary flooding. Vehicle traffic proceeds at a relatively slow rate. Drinking and driving is a common practice, especially on the weekends. Since visibility is poor with no streetlights, drivers should be especially careful when driving at night. For specific information concerning Kiribati drivers’ permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Consulate of the Republic of Kiribati in Honolulu, Hawaii at (808) 834-6775.