Constitutional monarchy. Gained independence from the UK in 1978.
Head of state:
HM Queen Elizabeth II, represented locally by Governor-General Filoimea Telito.
Head of government:
Prime Minister Apisai Ielemia since 2006.
220/240 volts AC, 60Hz (Funafuti only).
Tuvalu, the world's second-smallest country and, according to the United Nations, one of the least developed, fulfils the classic image of a South Sea paradise. Visitors come to the islands to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and palm-fringed beaches. Pandanus, papaya, banana, breadfruit and coconut palms are typical. Traditional buildings with thatched roofs can be seen virtually everywhere on the islands.
Most activity is centred in the capital, Funafuti, where the greatest attraction is the enormous Funafuti Lagoon. The lagoon is 14km (9 miles) wide and about 18km (11 miles) long and is excellent for swimming and snorkelling. The second most populated island in the atoll is Funafala, which can be visited by hopping aboard the Funafuti Island Council's catamaran. There are no shops whatsoever in Funafala, so visitors should take their own provisions.