The Islands of Tahiti travel guide
About The Islands of Tahiti
The Islands of Tahiti are known for their laid-back vibes. Expect romantic sunsets and giant curls of turquoise breaking over reefs. Remote and pristine, the islands give you a glimpse of paradise on Earth.
The first Europeans to arrive on the islands were 16th-century Spanish and Portuguese explorers. After them, the British and French took control in the 18th and 19th century respectively. Tahiti, the largest island in French Polynesia is characterised by its spectacular tropical scenery, banana groves, plantations and flowers. The isle is dominated by Mount Orohena at 2,241m (7,352ft) and Mount Aorai at 2,066m (6,778ft).
You'll find plenty of colonial history on Tahiti, which became a French protectorate in 1842, and was a full colony in 1888. The other islands were annexed by the turn of the century. This status quo remained until 1946, when Polynesia was made an Overseas Territory (Territoire d'outre-mer). A revised constitution, introduced in 1977, ceded greater autonomy to the islands.
For the next 20 years, Tahiti and the islands' politics were dominated by the French nuclear testing program. By the time the program ended in 1996, 193 separate explosions had been detonated, and Tahiti had become the focus of opposition throughout the South Pacific, with plenty of protesting and riots. Although the protesters failed to stop the tests, their campaign had an important political effect by linking the anti-nuclear movement and the burgeoning pro-independence movement, which had up until then been largely unrepresented in any political forum, despite the support of a large proportion of the population.
In more recent years, changes have been afoot: The Islands of Tahiti gained Overseas Country (pays d'outre-mer or POM) status in 2004, and a few months later, pro-independence leader Oscar Temaru was elected. Since then, Tahiti has seen a few more presidents, with Édouard Fritch assuming office in 2014.
Beyond the political questions, the Islands of Tahiti offer an idyllic getaway for holidaymakers keen on sun, sand and tranquillity. And let's be honest, who isn't enticed by that alluring package?
4,167 sq km (1,609 sq miles) - French Polynesia.
288,283 (UN estimate 2019)
67.8 per sq km.
Papeete (Tahiti Island).
Parliamentary system, Unitary state, Dependent territory
President Emmanuel Macron since 2017, represented locally by High Commissioner René Bidal since 2016.
The President of French Polynesia is Édouard Fritch since 2014.
Last updated: 01 July 2018
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.
French Polynesia is a French Overseas Territory. There is no British diplomatic representation. The British High Commission in Wellington can provide routine consular assistance. In an emergency you can also contact the Consulate-General of New Zealand in Noumea
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in French Polynesia, attacks can’t be ruled out. See Terrorism
Crime levels are low.
Many hundreds of British tourists visit French Polynesia each year. Most visits are trouble-free.
Tropical storms can occur between the months of November and April.
Safety and security
Diving is popular but you should be aware that the only decompression facility is located in Papeete and that in the event of an accident it might take some time to reach there.
Although there is no recent history of terrorism in French Polynesia, 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.
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.
French Polynesia is an Overseas Collective (Collectivité d’Outre-Mer) of France. If your passport describes you as a British Citizen you will not need a visa to enter French Polynesia. Other British passport holders should check the current entry requirements on the website of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and if necessary confirm with the nearest French Diplomatic mission.
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
Emergency travel documents
UK emergency travel documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from French Polynesia.
British nationals who wish to work in French Polynesia should make enquiries, prior to departure, at the nearest French Consulate.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures.
Check the lastest country-specific information and advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website or from NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) does not provide any health cover in French Polynesia. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
As French Polynesia is not one of the Overseas Departments which are seen as part of mainland France, for the purposes of the EU regulations governing access to healthcare, there is no cover for the cost of healthcare for any UK resident who goes to French Polynesia for a visit or to live.
Information can be obtained direct from the English language service of the Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (French social security service) on 00 33 8 20 90 42 12 or CLEISS (the Helpdesk in France for international mobility and social security) on 00 33 1 45 26 33 4.
Diving is a popular pastime in the Territory but you should be aware that the only decompression facility is located in Papeete and that in the event of an accident it might take some time to reach from some of the popular diving sites located on other islands.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 15 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
French Polynesia is located in an active earthquake area.
Tropical storms including cyclones can occur between the months of November and April. You should monitor local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation and follow the advice of the local authorities.
See our Tropical Cyclones page for advice about what to do if you’re caught up in a storm.
If you intend to use a credit card during your stay, you should be aware that only Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Diners and JCP (Japan) are widely accepted in French Polynesia. Holders of other cards may encounter difficulties obtaining cash and paying for goods.
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.