Editor’s Note: After traveling to Fiji for 40 years, I’ve learned what to bring. That means the right gear for the right application. Better technology and manufacturing processes have improved everything from shoes to flashlights. I trust the the list I’ve compiled will make your visit to Fiji safer, and more comfortable.
Bring your mobile phone, but plan on using it only if it’s unlocked. That way you can add a SIM card from Vodafone of Digicel in Fiji. For about $25 US or less you’ll be able to make local calls and surf the web. The issue is that service varies from island to island. I used Vodafone for about 5 weeks on a recent visit and the service was satisfactory in Viti Levu’s urban areas such as Nadi and Suva. You could usually get a call through but occasionally a text would be delayed for a few hours.
On the neighbor islands such as Kadavu, Vanua Levu and Taveuni connectivity lacked bigtime. I depended on the service to provide myself a hotspot so I could update this website and half the time I just couldn’t get dependable bandwidth.
Vodafone has the distinction of providing the worst of both worlds–lousy connectivity and very high prices. Texting, as the locals often do, seems to be the only way around it. You’ll go through your allotted voice time in no time. I found myself topping up the voice every few days and easily spent around US$200 in 5 weeks.
To add insult to injury Vodafone spams several times a day with ‘special offers’.
I’ll give Digicel a shot next time.
If you are attached to your laptop or tablet by all means take it along. Wi-Fi is fairly ubiquitous in Fiji but more expensive than elsewhere so unless you’re staying at a high end property, bandwidth won’t be free, but it won’t cost too much.
A Small LED flashlight is indispensable, especially if you’re travelling to an outer island. There are occasional power outages in urban areas too so be prepared. I suggest the newer breed of flashlights that will charge up on a USB port. I like the Fenix UC35 or the Streamlight Protac HL USB. Both are priced at around $90.
If you plan to bring any electronic devices or appliances you’re going to need an adapter such as this one. You can purchase four of them for about $8 on Amazon.
Dress in Fiji is casual at all resorts and, because of the warm, humid climate, your wear should be breathable and light. Bathing suits and shorts (for men and women) are practical and always fashionable around resorts, but scanty clothing should never be worn outside these areas, especially in or near a Fijian village.
A practical item for visitors to adopt is the sulu, or sarong, worn both by men and women. It’s perfect for casual wear around the hotel or as a local-style pajama.
You’ll want to bring lots of underwear. Take my word for it.
A hat to shield you from the sun’s intense rays is a necessity. Baseball caps may not be enough. You’ll need something with a brim to protect your neck and ears.
Obviously choosing your clothing is a very personal exercise. I’m not a fashion maven but I do have practical expectations for any kind of “gear” (wearable or otherwise) that I take with me. For clothing it means fabrics made from polyester, nylon, rayon or acrylic which are often blended with other fibers. Microfiber fabrics are ideal for travel. They are light, durable, wrinkle resistant, easy-care, water repellent and wind resistant. They wick and breathe as well.
I really like crossover wear, essentially clothing that can be worn in the bush, at home, or at a resort. They are made to take punishment but look good enough to wear at just about any venue.
A company out of Utah named KÜHL manufactures a line of crossover apparel ideal for Fiji’s humid climate. The AirSpeed SS is made with a nylon/poly blend that feels like cotton against the skin. It has mesh panels to increase airflow and comfort but you have to look hard to see them with a casual glance. The fabric blocks the sun’s harmful UV rays, absorbs moisture and dries quickly. The other option is their Renegade Shirt (see above) which has a “breathable”, stretchy synthetic fabric that also wicks moisture and, is water-resistant. In other words it will soak up your sweat and repels light precipitation. Both shirts are durable and, stylish so you can wear them at any hotel or restaurant—or in the rain forest for that matter. KÜHL also has a line of pants that are outstanding. Figure on paying about US$70 for the Airspeed and Renegade.
If you don’t want to drop the money for crossover pants, a decent pair of khaki pants are fine for anything remotely formal or just walking the streets of Suva.
If you want something really cool, a crossover wear company called Triple Aught Design manufactures some excellent products. I really like their “Recon AC Pant” and wore it quite a bit during my last Fiji update. They are formal enough to wear at dinner and plenty tough enough to use on a day hike. They are made from a super durable, light nylon, and have nine pockets so you can squirrel away stuff things like hotel pass keys, passports, coins, etc. There’s even a “hidden” pocket so you can keep a key handy. They also dry quickly. Price is $135.
Rain Gear: As I’ve disclosed, the odds of getting rained on in Fiji are pretty good. (Welcome to the tropics). It’s a smart idea to bring one of those small umbrellas, but if you plan to be in the rain forest or outdoors for any length of time, you’ll want something more substantial. I’m a big fan of LL Bean which makes an excellent Stowaway (Gore-Tex) rain jacket
that is both seriously waterproof and highly breathable. This is really important in a humid environment like Fiji’s and it works wonderfully elsewhere.
It’s also really good if you’re going to be on a boat for an extended period of time. That was the case with me on a recent trip to Fiji and it worked wonderfully on a rather chilly, wet evening coming back from a fishing trip. The rain jacket easily packs into itself in a very small pouch and is stylish. It got a baptism by fire in Hawaii when I used at the onset of Hurricane Lane, about the time I finished up this version of the website. Price is $200.
Consider the Chaco brand of sandal. You’ll need them because it can rain buckets in Fiji and you’ll ruin your leather shoes (and presumably not want to drench your athletic shoes).
The Chaco brand was recommended by a former Fiji-based Peace Corps volunteer who swore by them. She is right. They are a durable and practical item to have. There are two types to consider. The classic Chaco is a sort of sandal with heavy duty straps that you can use as everyday wear. It has great arch support and is strong enough to hike or ford creeks with. You can get them with soles that have incredible grip. You can actually hike with them on day trips but it’s probably better to have a closed-sole shoe for serious hiking. I like the Z-Cloud series because it has a antimicrobial treatment for odor protection. I got the model without the toe straps, but that’s a personal choice. Price is $90.
In addition to the classic sandals they have a boot that is completely waterproof called the “Frontier Waterproof”. It is stylish and perfect for running errand or sightseeing in town or day hikes. It’s not really heavy duty enough for serious hiking and backpacking. It’s comfortable (also great arch support) and is seam-sealed. That means your feet will remain dry even when the gutters turn into torrents. They are light too, so it’s not like you’re carrying around a heavy pair of combat boots in your luggage. This boot will always comes with me to Suva! Price is around $170.
For serious trekking (as opposed to strolling the sidewalks of Suva) our friends at Talanoa Treks, the premier hiking operation in Fiji, suggest a trail shoe–preferably one that is not waterproof. There are good reasons for this. A waterproof shoe by definition doesn’t let water in, but if you’re ankle deep on muddy trails water will get in. The problem is once it’s in your shoe, it won’t get out. You don’t want to be walking around incessantly with soggy feet. Thus a ‘non-waterproof’ shoe by allowing water to go in and out, will dry out more quickly.
This is what you want.
Their choice is the Salomon XA PRO 3D, which I agree, is a helluva shoe. Call it a hybrid between a shoe and a boot.
The XA PRO 3D shines because it’s incredibly versatile–it performs equally well in wet or dry conditions and on various types of terrain. I had a chance to test it out in Hawaii, which has very similar geography to Fiji and it was superb on lava rock and rain forest trails. In short, it’s high quality, lightweight, and robust. The sole provides an excellent grip, in my opinion equal to my $200 German-made low cut Lowa boots. The XA PRO 3D is really comfortable too, which helps if you’re on a rough track for 8 hours a day.
To read more about why this shoe is ideal for Fiji, I suggest you read How to choose the best shoes for hiking in Fiji.
Other items to bring:
Start with a Nalgene water bottle with an optional carabiner clip. Both will come in handy.
You’re also going to need a good day pack–something that you can store in your suitcase. I did a lot of research on this acquisition and found the Stowaway Day Pack from LL Bean. Wirecutter rated this #1 and I can see why. It’s comfortable, extremely light, has excellent organizational features and compresses down next to nothing in your luggage. It has an external kangaroo pouch that you can toss your groceries in. Inside the pack you’ll be able to accommodate all your gear, including laptop, Chaco sandals, poncho, umbrella or what have you. It’s manufactured with rip stop-nylon to shed rain and it’s quite sturdy. It’s good for day hikes or trips to the mud baths and, you can slip your Nalgene water bottle in a side pocket. It’s covered by L.L.Bean’s one-year guarantee. Price is $50.
Sunglasses: You absolutely need decent eye wear in Fiji. The sun is wickedly intense and it’s smart to spend a few bucks on glasses that will protect you from UV and other nasty forms of radiation. I really like the new series of shades from Magpul, a company that makes durable gear used both by civilians and, the military. Called the “Terrain” (which I think is appropriate for a travel writer) they are light, incredibly strong, scratch resistant and even provide ballistic protection. Not to worry about IEDs in Fiji but it’s good to know that you have weapons grade sun glass protection!
They are available with either polarized or non-polarized lenses. They differ from typical eyewear because of a more complete wrap at the temples which will protect you from just about anything (such as wayward gravel hurled from a vehicle on an unpaved road). Just as importantly, they offer protection from UVA/UVB radiation as well as screening out around 90% of visible light. Just don’t lose them. (I added a strap to mine). They come with a sturdy, lined DAKA Can storage container with a case slip so they will be safe enroute to your destination. Price is $115.
A Swiss Army-type knife is a must for serious travellers. I use a Leatherman Juice CS4 multi-tool that comes in handy for a multitude of applications. I used it to cut my morning papaya the last time I was in Fiji and a half a dozen other things. Just don’t pack it with you on your carry on, or it will be confiscated.
Most resorts have snorkeling equipment for rent or loan, but we recommend bringing your own. You never know whether a rental mask will fit well, and what kind of shape it will be in. If you have your own you know how it fits and can use it at any time. A dive operator in Fiji use American equipment almost exclusively in their rental programs, and the vast majority is fairly new and well maintained. Wetsuits take a beating though, and again due to fit issues we recommend that you bring your own. We always bring our own dive gear, but many divers weigh the inconvenience of bringing their gear against the daily cost and other drawbacks of renting. Tanks, weights and belts are always provided by the dive operator.
- Mask, Fins (and booties) and Snorkel
- Dive computer
- Wet Suit
- Safety sausage, other safety items
- Mesh carrying bag
You will see some people diving in shorts and a t-shirt and others in a full 5mm with hood, both on the same dive. Your own comfort level depends on metabolism, water temperature, how many dives you’ve done that day and that week, and many other factors. You’ll find that you tend to get colder toward the end of each dive, more on repetitive dives, and further along your trip after having done multiple dives. We usually take a shorty and a 3/5mm full wetsuit. A lightweight hood is a good addition in case you get just a little cold.
Odds and Ends:
Of course bring good sun block, insect repellent and Chap Stick, which is nice to have on the plane as well.
If you do bring a towel bring a quick dry towel. In the US, REI sells some good ones. As I’ve alluded to , it can be really humid in Fiji so a real towel is going to take a while, if ever, to dry. Quick dry towels don’t smell like mildew all the time either.
Guitar strings and T-shirts make fine gifts for villagers. They also don’t take up too much room in your suitcase.