Asia and Oceania

Tonga Flag of Tonga

Still current at: 11 June 2008
Updated: 01 May 2008

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Health section (Elections held on 23-24 April). The overall level of the advice has not changed.

(see travel advice legal disclaimer)


Travel advice for this country


Travel Summary

  • Since politically-motivated rioting took place in Nuku'alofa in November 2006  emergency regulations have prevented public meetings within prescribed areas of Nuku’alofa. Elections took place on 23-24 April and the potential for violence remains. You should avoid large crowds, political gatherings and demonstrations. See the Political Situation of this advice for more details.

  • There is no British consular representation in Tonga. Routine consular services for British nationals are provided by the New Zealand High Commission in Nuku'alofa. The British High Commission in Fiji is responsible for non-routine consular matters. See the General (Representation) section of this advice for more details.

  • There is a low threat from terrorism in Tonga.  But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

  • Tropical cyclones are common in Tonga from the beginning of November until the end of April. 

  • Most visits to Tonga are trouble free.  The main types of incidents for which British nationals required consular assistance in Tonga in 2007 were for replacing lost or stolen passports and petty crime.  Incidences of robbery and theft have increased in Tonga and there have also been some incidences of violent assault and foreign tourists and foreign residents may be at risk, especially at night.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.  

Safety and security

Terrorism

There is a low threat from terrorism in Tonga.  But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. 

For more general information see Terrorism Abroad.

Crime

Incidences of robbery and theft have increased in Tonga.  There have also been some incidences of violent assault associated with robbery.  Foreign tourists and foreign residents may be at risk.  You should take particular care at night especially on the main island of Tongatapu.  Petty crime and house burglaries are also on the increase.  There are sometimes instances of violence associated with alcohol, particularly late at night.

For more general information see Victims of Crime Abroad.

Political Situation

Tonga Country Profile.

Elections took place in Tonga on 23-24 April.  The first sitting of the new parliament is expected to take place in late May.

On 16 November 2006, politically-motivated violence, including rioting and looting, took place in the capital Nuku'alofa and around 80% of the central business district was destroyed. Law and order in Nuku'alofa was quickly restored, but the security situation could deteriorate again at short notice. You should take sensible precautions for your personal safety; avoid large crowds, political gatherings and demonstrations, as there is the potential for these to turn violent.

Since November 2006 the Tongan Government continue to maintain emergency powers which prevent the holding of public meetings within prescribed areas of Nuku’alofa. On occasion access to an area in the administrative district close to the Courthouse is restricted.  You should be aware that there might be searches at security checkpoints around the Central Police Station and Courthouse when  Court hearings relating to the November 2006 riots are in session.  
 
LOCAL TRAVEL
 
The tropical cyclone season from November to April can seriously affect local travel.  If you are contemplating sea journeys in particular during this period, you should obtain a weather report from the Tongan Meteorological Office; (Tel: 23401) or on the Tongan Met website: http://www.met.gov.to/

Road Travel

You can obtain a local visitor’s driving licence on the 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.  Care should be taken when driving after dark and there is sometimes a risk of rock falls particularly after heavy rain.

For more general information see Driving Abroad
 
Air Travel
 
Internal flights are not always on schedule and can be subject to adverse weather conditions.

Local laws and customs

Tongan society is very conservative and highly religious.  You will be expected to dress modestly and respect local customs and culture.
 
Gay and lesbian travellers should note that Tongan attitudes towards homosexuality are complex. There can be aggressive reactions to homosexuality.
 
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.

Entry requirements

Visas
 
As a British passport holder visiting Tonga as a tourist or on business you are normally given permission to enter the country for a period not exceeding 30 days, provided that you are in possession of a passport valid for a minimum of six months from the date of entry, 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.
 
Passport validity
 
Passports should be valid for a minimum of six months from the date of entry into Tonga.
 
Travelling with children
 
Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country.
 
For further information on exactly what is required please contact the Immigration Division:
 
Head of Immigration Division
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
PO ox 821
Nuku'alofa
TONGA
Tel:  +676 26 969;  Fax:  +676 26 971

Health

Health facilities 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.  You should therefore ensure that your policy covers you for medical evacuation by air ambulance.
 
Dengue fever occurs in Tonga, for which there is no vaccination or immunisation.In March 2008 the Tongan Health Ministry issued a Dengue Fever warning following an upsurge in dengue fever cases on the island of Tongatapu.
 
A valid Yellow Fever certificate is required by all travellers over one year old who have been in an infected area prior to arrival in Tonga.
 
You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date.  NHS Direct (0845 46 47) can provide you with advice on the vaccination requirements for Tonga.
 
For further information on endemic diseases, like malaria, health outbreaks and vaccination requirements for Tonga you should check the websites of NaTHNaC and NHS Scotland’s Fit for Travel
 

NATURAL DISASTERS

Tonga is part of the Pacific "Ring of Fire"; earthquakes, tidal waves and volcanic activity can occur at any time.
 
The 'ring-of-fire' is a horse-shoe-shaped zone of frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that surrounds the basin of the Pacific Ocean. It is 40,000kms long and is associated with a nearly continuous series of oceanic trenches, island arcs, and volcanic mountain ranges and/or plate movements.
 
It is understood that 90% of the world's earthquakes and 81% of the world's largest earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire, which is a direct consequence of plate tectonics and the movement of collisions of crustal plates.
 
Earthquakes
 
The most recent earthquake to affect Tonga was in May 2006, when an earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale was recorded 95 miles off the coast of Tonga.  These events can be disorientating and disturbing, and they can trigger tsunami alerts.  For more information on earthquakes and their effects, please visit: http://www.earthquake.usgs.gov/
 
Tropical cyclones
 
The tropical cyclone season in Tonga normally runs from November to April.  You should monitor local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).  You can also access http://www.met.gov.to/ for updates.
 
 

General

Insurance
 
We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before leaving UK.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake, particularly if you plan to engage in adventure sports.  Medical evacuation from Tonga is required for most non-basic medical problems.  You should therefore ensure that your policy covers you for medical evacuation by air ambulance.
 
Consular Representation
 
The British High Commission in Nuku'alofa closed on 20 March 2006.  Routine consular services for British nationals are provided by the New Zealand High Commission in Nuku'alofa.  See below for contact details
 
The British High Commission in Fiji will be responsible for non-routine consular matters.  Please see Travel Advice: Fiji for contact details.
 
Registration
 
We advise all British nationals residing in, or visiting, countries overseas to register so that they can be contacted easily in an emergency. To complete the online registration form, please go to: http://www.locate.fco.gov.uk/locateportal/
 
Replacing your passport
 
If you require a new passport, application forms can be downloaded from the Internet or obtained from the New Zealand High Commission.  You should send your completed passport application by courier to the British High Commission in Wellington, New Zealand (see contact details below). Where possible, you are advised to apply at least one month before your passport is due to expire.  Follow the British High Commission Wellington weblink below for more information.
 
British High Commission, 44 Hill Street, Wellington 1, New Zealand.  Mailing Address: PO Box 1812, Wellington, New Zealand.  Telephone: (64) (4) 924 2810 (Passports).  Facsimile: (64) (4) 473 4982.  E-mail: passportmail.wellington@fco.gov.uk.  Website: http://www.britain.org.nz
 
In the event of a lost or stolen passport the Tongan authorities will allow your departure on the strength of a “to whom it may concern” letter.  You will also need to present a report confirming that you have informed the local police of the loss of your passport.  A “to whom it may concern” letter can only be issued once enquiries have been completed to verify the passport holder’s identity, a process which may take several days.  Such a letter would only allow you to travel as far as New Zealand/Australia, where you will then need to apply for a replacement passport.
 
Once in New Zealand/Australia, the British High Commission will be able to issue a replacement passport within two to three weeks.  If you need to travel more urgently, a limited validity passport can be issued to enable you to continue your journey.  There will be an additional fee for any passport service provided outside normal consular office opening hours.
 
We strongly advise you to keep a photocopy of the relevant pages of your passport, to avoid any complications.
 
Money
 
ATMs are available in the capital cities of Tongatapu, Ha’apai and ‘Eua.
 
CONTACT DETAILS
 
New Zealand High Commission, Nuku`alofa
Address:
Corner Taufa`ahau and Salote Roads,
Nuku`alofa, Tonga
Postal Address:
PO Box 830, Nuku`alofa, Tonga
 
Telephone +676 23122  Facsimile _676 23487
Email nzhcnuk@kalianet.to
Office Hours Mon – Fri 0800–1230, 1300-1600

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