What makes Tonga a unique country to travel to?
Tonga is a South Pacific island nation consisting of 171 islands, of which 45 are inhabited. Tonga is a constitutional monarchy and a member of the British Commonwealth. Its agrarian economy is developing, and its tourist industry, although limited, is growing. Tourist facilities are concentrated in and around the main island of Tongatapu where the capital, Nuku’alofa, is located. Tourism is expanding to the island of Va’vau. The Tongan Visitor’s Bureau has a wide range of information of interest to travelers.
Although Tonga has a low crime rate, there has been a recent rise in house break-ins and property theft. Though rare, sexual assaults against foreigners have occurred, including on public beaches. Females in particular should avoid going out alone at night or alone to isolated locations. You should not be complacent regarding your personal safety or the protection of your 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.
The Tonga equivalent numbers to the U.S. “911” emergency lines are: 911, which connects to the Tonga Telecommunications emergency operators; 922, which connects directly to the police; and 933, which connects directly to the hospital. U.S. citizens requiring immediate emergency services in Tonga should call one of these emergency contact numbers.
While you are traveling in the Kingdom of Tonga, 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 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. 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 Tonga, 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.
Tongan is the language used for everyday communication, while Tongan and English are both official languages. The majority of Tongans are of Polynesian descent. Tongan is spelled with a Latin script, and sounds the way it looks.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Medical facilities, including medications, in Tonga are extremely limited. The cities of Nuku'alofa and Neiafu have hospitals with limited emergency and outpatient facilities. Local residents and visitors with serious medical problems are often referred to New Zealand for treatment. For additional information on medical visas for New Zealand, contact the Embassy of New Zealand, 37 Observatory Circle NW, Washington, DC 20008, (202) 328-4800 or the Consulate General in Los Angeles (310) 207-1605. Serious medical conditions requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Tonga, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Tonga is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
No roadside assistance is available. Traffic moves on the left in Tonga. While roads in Nuku’alofa are paved, most other roads are not. Animals and unwary pedestrians walking in the road make night driving on unlit secondary roads hazardous. There are no stop lights in the country; drivers are required to stop at all roundabouts and allow vehicles on the right side to proceed. For specific information concerning Tonga driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, please contact the Consulate General of Tonga in San Francisco.