Kiribati travel guide
White sandy beaches and crystal-clear lagoon waters characterise the Republic of Kiribati, which is made up of over 30 coral islands scattered across the Pacific. Kiribati is remote, and the tourism industry remains very much in its infancy – all the more reason to visit sooner rather than later.
They may be relatively unknown, but the isles are peppered with swaying coconut palms, swathed in balmy breezes, and waters glistening in every direction. And so it’s hard to feel anything other than intense holiday escapism. While lazing on desolate beaches is a huge draw, Kiribati does have an interesting population of both human and wildlife.
Capital Tarawa is fast becoming one of the most densely populated areas in the Pacific, while Christmas Island, stretching for almost half the land mass of Kiribati, is carpeted with lakes and ponds great for game fishing, and boasts some of the largest colonies of birds.
Other islands include Phoenix, Line and Gilbert – during British rule in the 19th and 20th centuries, Kiribati was known as the Gilbert Islands. In World War II, the islands were occupied by Japan, while in the post-war era the US and UK used Christmas island for nuclear weapons tests. The islands finally became independent in 1979.
Despite Kiribati’s colonial history, many of its islands have remained much the same as they’ve ever been. Locals live off breadfruit, fish and coconuts to this day. The inhabitants of the main island Tarawa also continue to live in raised thatched huts like their ancestors.
You needn’t fear a total separation from civilisation, however, as bars, cinemas, cars and the internet are increasingly a part of life in Kiribati. The people aren’t unwelcoming, but you’re more likely to be greeted by the children than adults, who tend to eye visitors cautiously. Once you break the ice, you’ll find a fascinating culture, and plenty of glorious nature to explore.
The tiny nation is only 800 km sq, but if you include the many atolls, this rises to a 3.5 million km square-swathe of the Pacific. Better get the swimming costume on.
811 sq km (313 sq miles).
114,405 (UN estimate 2016).
130.3 per sq km.
President Taneti Mamau since 2016.
President Taneti Mamau since 2016.
240 volts AC, 50Hz. Australian-style plugs with three flat pins are used.
Last updated: 19 October 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
The wet season normally runs from November to April. Severe weather may result in flooding, coastal inundation and disruption to essential services and infrastructure.
There’s no British diplomatic representation in Kiribati. The British High Commission in Suva, Fiji provides consular assistance for British nationals in Kiribati. In a case of emergency the Australian High Commission in Kiribati may be able to help.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Kiribati, attacks can’t be ruled out.
Most visits to Kiribati are trouble free. However, petty theft can occur and you should take care with personal possessions. Women travelling on their own should take care, particularly at night.
Safety and security
You can hire a car using a full, clean UK driving licence. Residents should obtain a Kiribati driving licence. Road conditions are poor on Tarawa, but driving standards are reasonable. Minibuses can be dangerously overloaded at times.
It’s not always possible to travel directly from one part of Kiribati to another. If you need to get to Kiritimati (Line Islands) from Tarawa (Gilbert Islands) you have to fly via Nadi, Fiji.
Don’t swim in the lagoon in south Tarawa as it is highly polluted. Take great care when swimming in the sea around Kiribati, as there are very strong rip tides along coast and reef areas. You should wear safety equipment at all times during boating trips. Squalls can occur at very short notice. Some people have drowned in recent years.
The Republic of Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas) is an independent republic within the Commonwealth. It is a full member of the United Nations and Pacific Islands Forum. Politics are stable.
Internet and mobile phone services are available in some parts of Kiribati. Not all of the outer islands are connected however. Telecoms services can be unreliable and expensive due to the country’s remote location.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Kiribati, attacks can’t be ruled out.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
Possession or trafficking of drugs is a serious offence under the Kiribati penal code and prison sentences may be heavy.
Homosexual relations are not widely accepted.
Local laws forbid nudity and revealing swimming costumes.
Kiribati operates a strict quarantine regime for the import of food, plants and animal (including fish) products. Further information on restricted or prohibited imports can be obtained from:-
SPC-Plant Protection Service
Private Mail Bag
Suva, Fiji Islands.
Tel: (679) 3370 733
Fax: (679) 3370 021
Some local handicrafts (including straw products and shells) may be subject to strict Australian or New Zealand import regulations. Phyto-sanitary Certificates should be obtained in Kiribati, but items may nevertheless be confiscated.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Visas aren’t required from visiting British passport holders provided you hold a return/onward ticket and sufficient funds for your stay. You’ll normally be granted a 1 month stay. This can be extended on application to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration in Bairiki, for additional 1 month periods for a maximum 3 additional months, provided your passport remains valid. If you’re arriving for employment you should obtain a visa in advance by arrangement with your employer.
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Kiribati
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Yellow fever vaccination is required for travellers arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission.
Departure Tax of AU$20 is applicable for both adults and children.
Being so close to the equator, Kiribati doesn’t usually experience tropical cyclones. However, during the wet season, which normally runs from November to April, strong winds and sea swells are sometimes experienced.
Kiribati is subject to periodic spells of drought. These can be severe, and water restrictions may be put in place.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
Medical facilities at the general hospital in Tarawa are modest. Elsewhere, clinics are generally staffed by nurse practitioners. Pharmaceuticals and prescription medicines are generally not available. You should bring any medicines you need for existing medical conditions with you. Medical evacuation from Kiribati is required for most non-basic medical problems. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation/evacuation by air ambulance.
Dengue Fever, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, occurs in Kiribati.
There have been several reported cases of Tuberculosis.
Drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks. Avoid eating local shellfish or lagoon fish on Tarawa.
There have been reports of visitors being bitten by stray dogs. Be vigilant, particularly on the beach. If you are approached by a dog, do not run. Reaching down as if to pick up something off the ground can be enough to scare dogs away. If you are bitten seek medical attention immediately.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 999, then ask for the specific number (994 – medical emergency, 993 – fire, 992 – police). You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Credit cards have very limited acceptance in Kiribati. There are ATMs at branches of the Bank of Kiribati and ANZ in Betio, Bairiki and Bikenibeu (all on Tarawa atoll). Kiribati uses the Australian dollar.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.