Diving is a big attraction in the Solomon Islands
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Diving is a big attraction in the Solomon Islands

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Solomon Islands Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

28,896 sq km (11,157 sq miles).

Population

594,934 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density

21.5 per sq km.

Capital

Honiara.

Government

Constitutional monarchy.

Head of state

HM Queen Elizabeth II since 1952, represented locally by Governor-General Frank Kabui since 2009.

Head of government

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare since 2014.

Electricity

240 volts AC, 50Hz. Australian-type plugs with three flat, angled pins are in use.

The Solomon Islands archipelago is made up of nearly 1,000 tropical islands scattered across the southwestern Pacific, just to the east of Papua New Guinea. The remote location has kept the islands an unspoilt gem of a travel destination, with a slowly developing tourist industry.

The main islands to visit are Guadalcanal, Malaita, Choiseul, New Georgia, San Cristobal and Santa Isabel. The capital of Honiara, on Guadalcanal, is also well worth some time, with a museum, botanical gardens and its very own Chinatown. Villages and scenic drives are within easy reach of the capital, as are the popular World War II battlefield tours and carving villages on the islands of Rennell and Bellona.

Many Pacific islands are well geared to tourism today, but Solomon Islands bucks the trend, with a few shambolic guesthouses to stay in and a thoroughly laid-back approach to life. No palatial resorts here. The locals pride themselves in preserving the natural beauty of the islands.

Wander the jungle-strewn landscapes and take pleasure in stumbling across leaf-hut villages. Indeed, the traditional culture of the islanders endures to this day. Some 70 languages are spoken among the half a million largely Melanesian inhabitants, the majority of whom are Christian, though they also cling to their ancient customs. Many still wear traditional indigenous clothing, while the pan flute can be heard everywhere.

On the natural side, there are volcanic islands to explore, vast lagoons, spell-binging rainforests and countless tropical islands. Be sure to tour the mangrove forests, but beware of crocodiles. More active visitors can go surfing and kayaking, while the well-kept coral reefs offer ample opportunity for snorkelling. Guided tours into the yawning chasm of an extinct volcano is another unmissable, as are dives down to shipwrecks from World War II.

The Solomon Islands may not be that well known compared to other regional destinations, but this makes them all the more enticing for the adventurous traveller.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 13 March 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.


Political situation

A general election was concluded in December 2014. Former Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare was returned for a 3rd term. The election was conducted peacefully. Previous major political events, however, have resulted in civil unrest. You should monitor local media and be vigilant around political demonstrations and large gatherings.

Crime

The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force has limited resources and response times to calls for help can be slow. There have been reports of robberies involving violence, handbag snatching, pick-pocketing, distraction thefts and harassment, particularly around the central market. There has been a recent increase in the number of house burglaries. Make sure you have effective security in place.

Civil unrest and drunken behaviour can occur. Foreigners and expatriates may be attractive targets for violence. Take care if going to local nightclubs and be aware that such venues rarely have adequate fire precautions in place.

Take sensible security precautions at all times, and maintain a high state of personal awareness. Where possible avoid travel around Honiara at night. Take particular care in the squatter settlements around Honiara, White River and the Lungga Bridge, Sun Valley, Mataniko Bridge, Burns Creek and Henderson (airport) area. Security incidents in these areas have included improvised road blocks, sporadic rock throwing and more serious violent criminal acts, including sexual assault, robbery and vehicle hijacking. If you plan to visit rural Guadalcanal, take day trips outside Honiara or visit the island of Malaita you should check local advice before travelling. Visits to other provinces in Solomon Islands are generally trouble-free.

Road travel

There are few roads in Solomon Islands; 90% of these are on Guadalcanal and Malaita. Many are very heavily potholed and in some areas bridges have collapsed. Standards of driving and vehicle maintenance are poor. Be especially careful when overtaking. Many Solomon Islanders chew betel nut and frequently open vehicle doors, including on the driver’s side, when travelling at speed, in order to spit onto the road. Take care when driving in and around town. Poor pedestrian discipline and speeding has resulted in a number of fatal accidents. Driving at night requires even more care as there is little street lighting.

If you are involved in a road accident the law requires you to stop and stay at the scene until the police arrive. There may however be circumstances where this is not safe, for example if a large and hostile crowd has gathered. In this case, it may be preferable to drive to the nearest police station to report the incident.

Air travel

Reliability of services can be patchy and cancellations occur. Domestic flights are particularly prone to disruption and visitors with international connections should take note and plan accordingly. Facilities at Henderson International Airport are well below those at most international airports and you should prepare accordingly. International flight departures are to Brisbane, Sydney, Port Moresby and Port Vila.

Sea travel

You should avoid travel on inter-island ferries wherever possible. Ferry services are usually crowded and safety regulations are not always strictly applied. Some domestic inter-island passenger ferries are operated at a nationally acceptable standard, but most domestic shipping is operated at a standard that would not be acceptable to an international traveller, and few carry recognised insurance. You should check with the operator before embarking. Bring your own lifejacket if you are taking sea journeys. Journeys to small and/or remote islands are usually in small-motorised canoes.

On 18 December 2013, an inter-island ferry travelling from Honiara to the island of Malaita sank with at least 300 people on board. The MV Francis Gerena sank 8 miles north of Anuha as a result of overcrowding. All were rescued but at least 11 people needed hospital treatment.

In May 2012 an inter-island ship travelling from Honiara to Temotu foundered in rough seas. After a search and rescue operation lasting several days, all 49 people on board were rescued.

Dangerous wildlife

Salt water crocodiles are native to many parts of Solomon Islands, and there are regular sightings on beaches. Take local advice before entering unfamiliar waters, including lakes. There are also large species of shark (such as bull, hammerhead and tiger sharks) in the coastal waters.

Water sports

Many visitors to Solomon Islands take part in water sports, including scuba diving and snorkelling without incident. However, deaths and serious accidents have occurred because basic safety measures weren’t taken. Safety precautions and emergency responses may be less than those expected in the UK.

There’s a decompression chamber in Honiara staffed by volunteers. Registered dive operators can provide information on access arrangements.

Make sure your travel insurance policy covers you for the activities you take part in.

Communications

There are two mobile telephone networks operating in Solomon Islands. Coverage is variable but does extend to the outer provinces and is becoming more extensive. Contact your service provider for further details. Your UK mobile phone is highly unlikely to work in the Solomon Islands. Local SIM cards and handsets are available. Solomon Telekom offers a hire service for satellite phones. Mobile 3G internet services are available. Check with the operator for tariffs.

There are plenty of internet cafes in Honiara; costs are around 50 cents per minute.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.