Fiji

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Introduction to Fiji

Fiji has over 300 islands in its archipelago, each fringed with coral reefs and lapped by warm azure waters - the diving and snorkelling are superb. Amid its wealth of natural beauty, Fiji's true magic lies in its people and the fascinating blend of their diverse cultures.

Fiji is an interesting blend of Melanesian, Polynesian, Micronesian, Indian, Chinese and European influences. For nearly 50 years, until the military coup of 1987, the indigenous people of Fiji represented an ethnic minority in their own land.

Fiji was the trade centre for the South Pacific during the 19th century, and the British claimed it as a colony in 1874. During the century or so that Fiji remained under British colonial rule, tens of thousands of indentured Indian labourers were imported to work on sugar plantations. Indigenous Fijians, however, managed to hold onto their traditional rites and practices - meke (narrative dance), bure (house) construction, kava ceremonies, tapa-cloth making and pottery.

Full country name: Republic of Fiji

Area: 18,300 sq km

Population: 840,000

Capital City: Suva

People: Indigenous Fijian 50%, Indo-Fijian 45%

Language: Fijian, English, Hindi

Religion: 53% Christian, 38% Hindus, 8% Muslims, and 1% Sikhs

Government: democracy

Head of State: President Ratu Josefa Iloilo

Head of Government: Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase

GDP: US$4.3 billion

GDP per capita: US$1,260

Inflation: 1%

Major Industries: Sugar, tourism, gold, fish, lumber and clothing

Major Trading Partners: Australia, Japan and New Zealand

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Traveler Facts

Visas: Most travellers will automatically be issued a four-month tourist visa upon arrival. This includes travellers from most Commonwealth countries, most north, central and south American countries, western Europe, India, Israel and Japan. The visa is issued free of charge and you won't have to pay for any subsequent extensions.Visitors must hold a return or onward ticket.

Health risks: dengue fever (Unlike the malaria mosquito, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits the dengue virus, is most active during the day and is found mainly in urban areas, in and around human dwellings. Signs and symptoms of dengue fever include a sudden onset of high fever, headache, joint and muscle pains, nausea and vomiting. A rash of small red spots sometimes appears three to four days after the onset of fever. Severe complications do sometimes occur. You should seek medical attention as soon as possible if you think you may be infected. A blood test can indicate the possibility of dengue fever. There is no specific treatment. Aspirin should be avoided, as it increases the risk of haemorrhaging. There is no vaccine against dengue fever. There are occasional outbreaks of Dengue fever in Fiji. Avoid mosquito bites (especially during epidemics))

Time Zone: GMT/UTC +12

Dialling Code: 679

Electricity: 240V ,50Hz

Weights & measures: Metric



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Events

Fijians celebrate New Year's Day with gusto and the festivities can last a week (or even a month!) in some villages. In February or March Hindu Holi (Festival of Colours) sees people squirt each other with coloured water. Ram Naumi (Birth of Lord Rama) is a Hindu festival held in March or April and includes a religious festival and party on the shores of Suva Bay.

The Prophet Mohammed's Birthday is celebrated in May, and on the first Monday in June, the nation honours Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna with a public holiday. He is considered Fiji's greatest statesman, soldier, high chief and scholar, and the day is celebrated with regional cultural shows and games. The Constitution Day holiday falls in July. The Sugar Festival is celebrated in September at Lautoka, and Fiji Day (Independence Day) falls in early October. During October or November Hindus celebrate the Diwali Festival (Festival of Lights). They worship Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, decorate their houses and settle up their business affairs.

Public Holidays

1 Jan - New Year's Day

Mar/Apr - National Youth Day

Mar/Apr - Easter

May - Prophet Mohammed's Birthday

1st Mon in Jun - Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna Day

mid Jun - Queen's Brithday

Jul - Constitution Day

Aug/Sep - Birth of Lord Krishna

Oct - Fiji Day (Independence Day)

Oct/Nov - Diwali

25 Dec - Christmas Day

26 Dec - Boxing Day

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Best time to Visit

Its mild tropical climate means that Fiji can be enjoyed all year round and it is a popular escape from the winters in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Perhaps the best time to go, however, is in the dry season or 'Fiji winter', from May to October. This time of year has cooler temperatures, less rainfall and humidity, and less risk of tropical cyclones.



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Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending

Currency: Fiji dollar

Meals

Budget: F$10-18

Mid-range: F$18-25

High: F$25-35

Deluxe: F$35+

Lodging

Budget: F$18-35

Mid-range: F$35-50

High: F$50-105

Deluxe: F$105+

It's quite possible to travel around the Fiji islands relatively cheaply; however, because the country is so heavily geared for tourism, it's also easy to spend loads of money. If you stick to backpacker beds, eat cheaply (and include some self-catering), and plan your inter-island travel well, you'll get by on around USD30.00-USD40.00 a day or less. You can save money by coming to Fiji as a package tourist (especially if you have particular interests such as diving or kayaking), but organised tours are arranged around mid to upper-end accommodation-and-meal packages.

Tipping is not expected or encouraged when paying for goods or services.

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Attractions

Suva

Suva, Fiji's capital, is on the southeastern coast of the big island of Viti Levu. While Nadi, in the west of this island, is the tourism centre of the country, Suva is interesting as the country's political and administrative centre, as well as its major port.

Suva and its surrounds are home to half of Fiji's urban population, and it is one of the South Pacific's largest and most sophisticated cities, housing the University of the South Pacific, the fascinating Fiji Museum and many interesting colonial-era buildings.

Mamanuca Group

The Mamanucas are a bunch of tiny islands just off the western coast of Viti Levu, and they are easily accessible by boat from Nadi, either as a day trip or to stay in one of the many flashy resorts or backpacker spots. The islands are popular with divers, snorkellers, surfers and people who just want to lay about on open stretches of white-sand beach. The lovely reefs and colourful fish make snorkelling around these islands a highlight for many travellers. Only a few of the islands, like Monu and Monuriki, have significant areas of native forest left. These places are home to many birds and reptiles.

Nadi

Fiji's third-biggest town is set against a mountainous backdrop on the west coast of Viti Levu. The local economy of Nadi relies almost totally on tourism, and although it's not the most attractive part of the country it is a good place to organise your travels around the Viti Levu island.

Nadi is also a good place to organise activities - anything from diving, golf, horse riding and rafting to joy-riding in a jet-boat or light plane. There is a plethora of tourist services from dirt-cheap accommodation and places to eat to luxury resorts like the Sheraton and the Regent.

Nausori Highlands

Due east from Nadi, on Viti Levu island, are the fantastic landscapes and remote villages of the Nausori Highlands. The village of Navala is perhaps the most picturesque in all Fiji. the buildings are traditional bure arranged around avenues with a central promenade leading down to a river.

They don't get too many visitors here, and it's customary to ask to see the village chief, and then ask him if it's OK to hang around and take some photos. Sunday is not a good time to come as it's the day of worship and for spending time with the family. Bukuya village is further west and it, too, is a worthwhile excursion. There's simple accommodation available in the villages, but as you will most likely find yourself a guest in someone's home, the best of manners are required.

Sigatoka

Sigatoka is a small town on the southern coast of Viti Levu, 61km (38mi) south of Nadi and 127km (79mi) west of Suva on the banks of Fiji's second-largest river. It's principally a farming community, but acts also as a service town for the Coral Coast resorts.

There's a produce market, a large mosque and a few cheap places to stay and eat. The most striking thing about the town is the sight of the weird fantasy-style mansion on the hill behind the town. Sigatoka is a good base for exploring the the huge Sigatoka sand dunes nearby, the southern coast, and the Sigatoka Valley. The Sigatoka Valley is a highly fertile strip containing almost 200 cultural and archaeological sites, including the Tavuni Hill Fort, a series of defensive earth works built by the Tongan cheif Maile Latemai in the 18th century. The valley is also home to some of Fiji's best potters.

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Sources: CIA FactBook, World FactBooks and numerous Travel and Destinations Guides.

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