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World Travel Guide > Guides > Oceania > Tonga

Tonga travel guide

About Tonga

From steep, active volcanoes, to low coral atolls, Tonga's 176 islands offer a truly diverse array of backdrops for those seeking a Pacific getaway.

Tonga enjoys a laidback pace of life which visitors find easy to adopt, whether relaxing on one of the magnificent white sand beaches, first-class diving amid the stunning coral reefs or watching the migratory whales return to their breeding grounds (June to November). Many of the islands are uninhabited, and have much emerald flora and secluded coves to explore.

Sightseeing highlights include the Royal Palace on the waterfront in Nuku'alofa, the Mala'ekula (Royal Tombs), and the Anahulu Cave: an underground cavern of stalactites and stalagmites. Tonga is ruled by the last remaining Kingdom of Polynesia. The ruling family of Tonga, the last remaining Polynesian Kingdom, can be traced back more than 1,000 years.

Key facts

Area:

748 sq km (289 sq miles).

Population:

106,915 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

142.4 per sq km.

Capital:

Nuku'alofa.

Government:

Constitutional monarchy.

Head of state:

King George Tupou VI since 2012.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Pohiva Tu'i'onetoa since 2019.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Tonga on the TravelHealthPro website.

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International travel

All international flights to Tonga are suspended, except for repatriation flights approved by the Ministry of Health.

Air New Zealand are running one flight a week for outbound passengers. Contact Air New Zealand (+64 9 357 3000) or a travel agent of your choice to check onward transit options. Details of rules on transiting via New Zealand are on the New Zealand Immigration website. You should also familiarise yourself with the current rules on transiting via Australia.

Entry and borders

In line with the State of Emergency (see below), Tongan borders are closed for entry to all foreign nationals, except if authorisation has been granted by the relevant Tongan government authority. See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Tonga.

Returning to the UK

When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.

You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements. The Communicable Disease Section of the Ministry of Health conducts testing for outgoing passengers from Tonga. You should call 770 9537 or 740 0416 for further advice including prices, and to arrange a test.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Travel in Tonga

A State of Emergency was declared on 20 March 2020 by the government of the Kingdom of Tonga. This has been renewed until 8pm on 27 September 2021.

The Kingdom of Tonga has also extended the National COVID-19 Restrictions Directions until 8pm on 27 September 2021. These include a night-time curfew from midnight to 5am. Gatherings are restricted to 50 people at indoor venues and 100 people at outdoor venues, except for religious services and education institutions. Tongan authorities are encouraging social distancing and good hand hygiene . The Declaration of a Public Health Emergency (COVID-19) Regulations 2020 and the Declaration of an Emergency Notifiable Condition has been extended to 27 September 2021.

Public places and services

Public places are open including places of worship, shops, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. You must abide by the nationwide curfew and remain in your home or accommodation between midnight and 5am.

Healthcare in Tonga

Medical care across Tonga is not as advanced as you would find in the UK. Access to medical services and the availability of fresh foods in Tonga could be impaired during a serious or extended COVID-19 outbreak.

Further information on precautionary measures and travel restrictions are available from the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga website.

Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health

View Health for further details on healthcare in Tonga

See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.

COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Tonga

Wherever possible British nationals should aim to be vaccinated in the country where they live. We will update this page when the Government of Tonga announces new information on the national vaccination programme. You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.

The Tongan national vaccination programme started in April 2021 and is using the AstraZeneca vaccine. The Ministry of Health extended the programme to Ha’apai on 31 August. British nationals resident in Tonga are eligible for vaccination. People who have not yet received a vaccine are encouraged to pre-register at the Ministry of Health’s website. You should also monitor the Tongan Ministry of Health Facebook page for more information.

Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad.

If you’re a British national living in Tonga, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

For further UK government guidance on support you can access whilst abroad, visit our waiting to return guidance. This includes guidance on finance, health, and staying connected.

Help and support

Consular support is limited in Tonga. However, the British High Commission in Wellington, New Zealand can provide consular support to British nationals. You should monitor guidance on social media. Check the UK in the South Pacific Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Crime

Most visits to Tonga are trouble free. The crime rate is low. However, petty crime and theft do take place. You should remain vigilant, especially at night. A curfew is currently in place between midnight and 5am, in line with the State of Emergency.

Road travel

You can obtain a local visitor’s driving licence on production of a full UK driving licence. Roads are generally in good condition but can be narrow and are sometimes potholed. The low speed limits are strictly applied with on the spot fines. Take particular care when driving after dark and in poor weather. Under a new Traffic Act, all drivers and front seat passengers must wear seatbelts. It is also now an offence to drive and use a mobile phone. Please check with the Department of Transport for further details and updates.

Sea travel

Maritime safety, particularly of older vessels, is a concern in Tonga. In late 2009, 74 people lost their lives when the passenger ferry MV Princess Ashika sank. Safety regulations are not always adhered to when travelling by sea ferry and it is advisable to take your own lifejacket. Ferries are often overcrowded.

Air travel 

A list of recent incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.

The FCDO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.

In 2010 an audit of Tonga’s Civil Aviation Authority by the International Civil Aviation Organisation found that the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Tonga was well below the global average.

Internal flights are not always on schedule and can be subject to adverse weather conditions.

The MA60 aircraft is used for some internal flights. The MA60 is not certified for use in the European Union.

Political situation

The political situation is currently stable following democratic elections in November 2017.

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Tonga, attacks can’t be ruled out.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

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.

Tongan society is very conservative and highly religious. You will be expected to dress modestly and respect local customs and culture. Tonga strictly observes the Sabbath. On Sundays any recreational activities undertaken outside of island resorts may be seen as provocative. 

Homosexuality is technically illegal in many Pacific countries and the law is occasionally enforced. Open displays of affection between same-sex partners may cause offence. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

Drug taking in all forms is illegal. Importing or exporting illegal drugs attracts a maximum penalty of 30 years hard labour and/or a fine of several hundred thousand US dollars.  Those found guilty of cultivating or distributing illegal drugs are likely to receive similarly severe punishment.

This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Tonga set and enforce entry rules. For further information 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.

Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Entry to Tonga

A State of Emergency was declared on 20 March 2020 by the government of the Kingdom of Tonga, this has been renewed until 8pm on 30 August 2021. Tongan borders are closed to entry to all foreign nationals, except if authorisation is granted by the relevant Tongan government authorities.

All international cruise ships and yachts scheduled to arrive after 19 March 2020 will not be granted entry into Tonga until further notice.

Some countries in the region have also introduced travel restrictions to and from the Pacific islands. You should check specifics for any countries that might be involved in your travel when planning a trip to Tonga.

Visas

If you hold a short-term visa for Tonga which is close to expiry, you should report to the Immigration Office to have your visa extended. Further information can be found at the Ministry of Revenue & Customs website.

Regular entry requirements

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum of 6 months from the date of entry into Tonga.

Visas

British passport holders visiting Tonga as a tourist or on business are normally given permission to enter the country for up to 30 days. You should be able to provide an onward air or sea ticket, adequate funds and relevant health certificates. If you wish to extend your stay you must obtain permission from the Principal Immigration Officer.

For further information contact the Immigration Division: Head of Immigration Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, PO Box 821, Nuku’alofa, TONGA; Tel: +676 26 969; Fax: +676 26 971.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Tonga.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Tonga on the TravelHealthPro website

See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Tonga.

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

There have been a number of outbreaks of measles in Pacific countries, including Tonga. You should visit the NaTHNaC website for information and advice about measles and monitor the advice of the local authorities.

UK health authorities have classified Tonga as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

There has been an increase in dengue fever cases recorded in Vava’u. You should take measures to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Health facilities in Tonga are basic. The range of drugs available is limited and modern equipment is in short supply. Medical evacuation from Tonga 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.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 933 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Earthquakes

Tonga is part of the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’, a zone of frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that surrounds the basin of the Pacific Ocean. Earthquakes and volcanic activity can occur at any time, and can trigger tsunami alerts.

Further information on earthquakes can be found on the US Geological Survey website. Further information on tsunamis can be found on the NOAA and Tonga Meteorological Service pages.

You should familiarise yourself with safety procedures in the event of an earthquake, and take note of earthquake and tsunami related instructions e.g. in hotel rooms. To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see the website of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Tropical cyclones

The tropical cyclone season in Tonga normally runs from November to April but cyclones can occur throughout the year. During this period there is a greater risk of strong winds and heavy rains with associated flooding, landslides and road closures. Essential services such as power and water can be disrupted. We strongly advise that extra care is taken around damaged buildings and fallen power lines.

You should monitor local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), from the Tonga Meteorological Service, in local newspapers and on Radio Tonga 1 and 2 on 1017 AM and 90 FM, and follow the advice of the local authorities including any evacuation orders. See our Tropical cyclones page for further advice about what to do if you are caught up in a storm.

The currency in Tonga is “Pa’anga”. ATMs are available in the capital city Nuku’alofa and in the main towns of ‘Eua island and the Ha’apai island group.

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 FCDO in London on 020 7008 5000 (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.

Travel safety

The FCDO 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 FCDO 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 FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice team a request.

Further help

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.

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