The South Pacific gem of Fiji is relatively easy to get to, friendly and hospitable and, of course, strikingly beautiful. During your visit to this tropical treasure, there are few things to keep in mind as far as basic etiquette and personal safety. Here are the top five things to know before you vacation in Fiji:
Say “Bula” and “Vinaka.”
For the most part, Fijians speak English as their official language, but you’ll also hear a fair amount of the native language during your stay on the island, particularly “bula” (“hello”) and “vinaka” (“thank you”). “Bula” is used as a catch-all greeting that means good day, bless you, hi, etc. The formal way to say it is, “Ni sa bula,” but it’s typically shortened to simply, “Bula.” It’s friendly and respectful to learn a few phrases in the language of your destination, so practice these before you arrive and you’re guaranteed to get smiles and greetings in return.
Sundays are sacred.
Sundays are quiet church days in Fiji, so don’t plan for much beyond hitting the beach with a good book. It’s a day of church and family gatherings, rest and relaxation. You’ll see the locals in their Sunday best headed off to Christan services (the second most common religion on the islands is Hinduism). Shops are closed or open very limited hours on Sundays, so plan your shopping for other days of the week.
Pack insect repellent.
Include insect repellent (and quite a bit of it) on your packing list – you’ll be reapplying it throughout the day. The mosquitoes (or mozzies, as they’re called here) are common throughout the islands, particularly in the evening hours and near the water. Be aware that the Zika virus exists in Fiji, so adhere to World Health Organization protocols during your stay (including choosing repellent that contains 20 to 30 percent DEET or 20 percent Picaridin).
Do not touch anyone’s head without permission.
Fijians consider the head to be the most sacred part of the body. Never touch another adult’s or child’s head without their express permission – it is considered an insult. (This includes patting a child’s head.) A couple other things to remember: Ask before taking someone’s photograph. Do not wear a hat when visiting a village. Dress conservatively when attending local gatherings. And, if offered an invitation to eat with local residents, accept it!
Watch out for animals on the road.
Animals rule the road in Fiji. You’ll see stray dogs everywhere, any time of day or night. Don’t approach the dogs, as most of them are strays and may carry disease. In addition to dogs, you’ll see horses and cattle, which while usually in their paddocks, do wander frequently onto the road.
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