Tonga travel guide
From steep, active volcanoes, to low coral atolls, Tonga's 170 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.
748 sq km (289 sq miles).
106,915 (UN estimate 2016).
142.4 per sq km.
King George Tupou VI since 2012.
Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni since 2021.
Before you travel
No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you:
- women travellers
- disabled travellers
- LGBT+ travellers
- solo and independent travel
- volunteering and adventure travel
If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.
About FCDO travel advice
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.
This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Tonga set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Tongan High Commission in London.
Telephone: 020 7724 5828
There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Tonga.
Passport validity requirements
To enter Tonga, your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 6 months after the date you arrive.
Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.
You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.
You can visit Tonga without a pre-arranged visa for up to 30 days. Border officials will issue a free visa on when you arrive. You may need to show:
- an onward or return ticket
- sufficient funds – a bank statement is acceptable evidence
- confirmed accommodation such as a hotel booking or letter of invitation
Extending your visa
To extend your stay, contact the Tonga Immigration Department. Make sure you do not overstay your visa.
For details about medical entry requirements and recommended vaccinations, see TravelHealthPro’s Tonga guide.
There are strict rules about goods you can take into Tonga. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty, including all plant, animal and food products.
You must also declare any personal valuables worth 500 Tongan pa’angas (about £160) or more.
Taking money into Tonga
Declare cash or travellers cheques on the customs declaration form if the value is more than 10,000 pa’angas. You may need to pay duty.
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.
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 how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.
Terrorism in Tonga
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Tonga, attacks cannot be ruled out.
Protecting yourself and your belongings
The level of serious crime is low, but petty theft is fairly common. To protect yourself and your property:
- do not leave bags unattended
- use hotel safes or deposit boxes for passports and valuables
- stay in well-lit and populated areas after dark
- keep villas and hotel rooms locked and secure
Laws and cultural differences
Customs and dress code
Tongan society is very conservative and highly religious. People strictly observe the Sabbath. On Sundays, local people may consider recreational activities to be disrespectful. This does not apply to island resorts.
Topless sunbathing and nudity in public is illegal. You could be fined up to 100 pa’angas or get a prison sentence of up to 4 months if you refuse to pay.
Swimwear is acceptable on the beach or by streams and waterfalls, but in other areas it is likely to receive negative attention.
Mobile phone coverage
You can buy a local SIM card at the airport. You register it by giving your personal ID. Network coverage is usually reliable in towns, but can be patchy in rural locations.
Alcohol laws and bans
It’s illegal to drink alcohol in public except at bars or restaurants. The legal drinking age is 21. It is illegal for anyone aged 20 or under to buy alcohol. Drunken behaviour is likely to receive negative attention from locals.
Illegal drugs and prison sentences
Drug taking in all forms is illegal. The maximum penalty for importing or exporting illegal drugs is 30 years’ hard labour and fines of several hundred thousand US dollars. If you are found guilty of cultivating or distributing illegal drugs, you are likely to receive a severe punishment.
Same-sex sexual activity between men is illegal in Tonga and the law is occasionally enforced. Same-sex partners showing affection in public may receive negative attention.
Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.
Outdoor activities and adventure tourism
Swimming and surfing safety
Take local advice before swimming or surfing. Tonga’s tides can produce powerful currents in ocean lagoons. There have been fatal accidents on popular beaches.
Many waves break directly on to reefs. The sea and beaches may have loose rocks and other debris resulting from the underwater eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano. Take extra care when swimming.
For more advice, see water safety on holiday from the Royal Life Saving Society.
Before scuba diving, check you are covered by your insurance. You should also:
- ask for the dive operator’s credentials
- make sure safety equipment and oxygen is available on the boat
- check for damage before using any equipment
- insist on training and ask operators to explain safe practices
- check what to do if something goes wrong, including how to call for help while at sea
There is currently no hyperbaric chamber on Tonga, so only dive to safe depths.
Thousands of whales frequent the waters of Tonga every year between June and November. There are strict regulations on whale watching. It is illegal to swim or kayak with whales unless you are on a licensed boat with a certified guide. If convicted, you could get a fine of up to 5,000 pa’angas or an 18-month prison sentence – or both. The authorities can apply these penalties to a first-time offence.
If you are planning to drive in Tonga, see information on driving abroad. You can drive using your UK driving licence.
Roads are generally in good condition, but inland they can be narrow and potholed. Speed limits are low and traffic police can issue on-the-spot fines if you exceed them. All drivers and front seat passengers must wear seatbelts. It is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving.
When driving near villages watch for children and animals on the roads. Avoid driving at night as roads are poorly lit and hazards such as livestock and pedestrians make driving very dangerous.
Safety at sea, particularly on board older vessels, is a concern in Tonga. Ferries do not follow normal safety regulations and are often overloaded. Consider carrying your own lifejacket.
Severe weather can cause flight delays and cancellations. Stay in touch with your travel provider.
Extreme weather and natural disasters
Find out what you can do to prepare for and respond to extreme weather and natural hazards.
The tropical cyclone season normally runs from November to April, but cyclones can happen throughout the year. Severe weather may cause floods, landslides, road closures and disrupt essential services and infrastructure. Take local advice and monitor local and international weather updates from World Meteorological Organization or Tonga Meteorological Services.
Earthquakes and tsunamis
Tonga is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a zone of frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Earthquakes and volcanic activity can happen at any time and trigger tsunamis. Check tsunami alerts for the region.
Before you travel check that:
- your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
- you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation
This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.
Emergency medical number
Call 933 and ask for an ambulance.
Contact your insurance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Vaccine recommendations and health risks
At least 8 weeks before your trip:
- check the latest vaccine recommendations for Tonga
- see where to get vaccines and whether you have to pay on the NHS travel vaccinations page
Go to TravelHealthPro to see what health risks you’ll face in Tonga, including:
- Zika virus
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.
The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.
Healthcare facilities in Tonga
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.
Travel and mental health
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.
Emergency services in Tonga
Telephone: 911 (ambulance, fire, police)
Contact your travel provider and insurer
Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.
Refunds and changes to travel
For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.
Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:
- where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
- how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim
Support from FCDO
FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:
- getting help if you’re a victim of crime
- what to do if you’re in hospital
- if you’re affected by a crisis, such as a terrorist attack
You can also contact FCDO online.
Help abroad in an emergency
If you are in Tonga and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British High Commission in Wellington who provide consular assistance for Tonga.
FCDO in London
You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.
Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)