Fiji on a Budget
Natalie is the owner of the nataliexlau Instagram page. Here page shows off some stunning travel pictures and pictures about her daily life. She is also a talented writer who has been on some great travels and we can't wait to work with her again on more projects in the future.
She is writing today to show us how we can travel the beautiful island nation of Fiji for a thrifty travellers budget. I loved reading this blog as it made me dream about heading to Fiji, especially now I know it is attainable on a smaller budget.
When people think of Fiji, they usually think of a tropical dream destination with lots and lots of small islands, white sand beaches and warm weather all year round. But after this beautiful first thought, the not so beautiful realization hits one quickly: The money. Most people connect Fiji to expensive accommodations, high-priced honeymoon resorts and luxury travel. While it can definitely be all that, Fiji can also show itself from another beautiful, but more affordable side.
In this blogpost I will tell you everything you need to know about Fiji and how I managed to travel around some of the most beautiful Fijian islands for 9 days on a low budget as a backpacker. Let me start with a disclaimer: Unfortunately, no South Pacific island state will be very cheap to travel around, including Fiji. It is not comparable to countries in South East Asia, like Thailand or Indonesia, but there is still a way to make the most of your money, without spending an endlessly high amount.
The Flights Let us talk about the flights. Flying to Fiji from basically anywhere in the world will most likely be very expensive, but there are two exceptions: Australia and New Zealand. The distance between those countries and Fiji is relatively short, so there is a higher chance of finding more affordable flights. So, if you ever find yourself in any of those two countries, you should consider adding at least a few days in the South Pacific dream destination, called Fiji.
My return flight from Sydney to Nadi with Fiji Airways back in July 2018 cost me about 600 Australian Dollars, which is around 370€ or 450 USD. I personally think it was a very good offer, but you certainly need to compare different websites, dates and prices. You may even be able to find a cheaper offer than I did. But the flights will be one of the biggest challenge for your budget.
High and low season You should also take into consideration that Fiji, like any other destination, has high and low seasons: Weather wise the best time to travel is from July to September, during high season. You can expect it to be more crowded and more expensive. May, June and October are great months to enjoy Fiji with relatively good weather and without big crowds. The prices will likely drop a bit, as well. November through April is considered wet or “typhoon” season, with very hot temperatures and short storms throughout the day. That is definitely the time where you will find the cheapest flights and accommodations.
When I went to Fiji mid-July, which is the beginning of high season, it was not too crowded at all. The beaches, restaurants or dorm rooms never felt packed, especially at the “Simple Stay” resorts. More about those later.
Arriving in Fiji
The international airport in Fiji is Nadi, on the main island Viti Levu, where you will most likely land. Most hostels and resorts close to Nadi offer a free pickup from and to the airport and from and to the harbour (port of Suva). I did not spend too much time on the main island, so I can’t tell you what to do and what to see, but I’m pretty sure that it has a lot to offer with more reasonable prices than on the smaller islands.
My friend and I did spend our first and last night of our Fiji trip in a hostel on the main island, called Smugglers Cove. It was the perfect option for us, because it has an ATM with a relatively good rate to get Fiji Dollars, if you get a lot of cash out (it was 5 FJD per withdrawal). It is located right at the beach, a small (but expensive) shop was nearby and it has a travel desk. Though I think you will find a travel agent in every hostel on the mainland. Moneywise the stay was very cheap: One night in a four-bed female dorm room cost me only 7€.
That hostel was the only thing we booked beforehand, because we knew that there would be a small travel desk on site, where we could plan our accommodation and transportation. We talked to a very friendly travel agent from Awesome Adventures Fiji, she informed us about all the resorts, island groups and the different ferry passes.
Three kinds of resorts The resorts do not have a ranking system with “stars”, it used to be “coconuts” from one to three, with “three coconuts” being the best. But now they changed the “coconut” system into the three categories “Simple Stays”, “Relaxed Resorts” and “Relaxed Resorts – Upgrade”: “Simple Stays” are often run by families, which is probably why we liked them the most. The amenities are pretty basic, but more than enough for a low budget backpacking trip. To save money, we stayed in the biggest dorm rooms available (up to 16, 32 or 64 bed dorms), but like I said before, it was not crowded at all. Twice, we even found a cheap offer for a private bungalow, which was a good change, so we booked it. All of the local people were very friendly and heartwarming, sang and danced a lot, and genuinely cared for us. The meals were basically home cooked and the offered activities, some were free and some cost extra (bring cash!), were simple but very authentic. Every resort has a different variety of activities, depending on the island and the location. For example, “Simple Stays” often offer snorkeling tours to different reefs or caves, village tours, crafting lessons with coconuts, a Fijian language lesson, game nights with prizes and many more.
Our activity costs were definitely on the lower end, because again, we were on a low budget, so remember: The more activities you want to participate in, the more money you need to bring! You obviously have crystal clear and turquoise water, white sand beaches, palm trees, frangipani and hibiscus bushes and a perfect little ocean breeze right in front of your doorstep. This alone was enough for me to relax and enjoy my South Pacific bucket list dream destination. We also borrowed snorkels and fins for free or for cheap and snorkelled our way through the beautiful marine life of Fiji. We stayed in Nabua Lodge, Long Beach Resort and White Sandy Beach Resort and we loved all of them.
“Relaxed Resorts” are pricier and have more of a hotel vibe, while they still have huge dorm rooms additionally to normal hotel rooms or bungalows. Amenities are better and you have more food options. Moreover, they offer pricier activities, like dive courses or snorkeling with manta rays (unfortunately we missed the latter because we had food poisoning for a day). We did not do a dive course because we previously did one at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Again, the people seemed incredibly friendly and caring, they sang a lot of songs and we had fun nights playing games with other resort guests and the locals.
All in all, we liked the “Relaxed Resorts”, we just liked the not so western vibe at the “Simple Stays” a bit more.
We stayed in Mantaray Island Resort, Barefoot Manta Resort, South Sea Island and Beachcomber Island Resort.
“Relaxed Resorts – Upgrade” are basically the honeymoon and luxury resorts. We did not stay in any of them, but we drove past them with the ferry and they looked beautiful. The beaches and villas looked amazing but were way too expensive for us.
Set or flexible?
You can book all those resorts and more with the travel agent in your hostel on the main island, there even is a travel package with flexible ferry rides, it is called “Awesome Pass”, but it is quite expensive. You can also book the resorts with specific single ferry rides between them separately, but I don’t know if that option is worth it moneywise.
There are also ready-made packages with set resorts, including transportation, for short stays, medium to long trips and even a diving package.
We decided to book all the resorts spontaneously online via Hostelworld, Agoda and Booking, because we compared the prices and they seemed to be cheaper. And even though they were cheaper, I would not recommend you to book the accommodations spontaneously on every island for the next day, like we did, because the WIFI situation can be bad. Instead, book the resorts on the main island while you still got good and working WIFI.
Compare the prices online with the travel desk prices and remember that you can negotiate with the travel agent. I would recommend you stay at least 2 or 3 nights in a resort and don’t switch them too often, because that was our biggest mistake. It was very stressful to take the big ferry everyday and to switch the location daily, we could not properly settle down for a while.
Transportation between the islands Nevertheless, we booked the “Bula Pass” for 7 days with the travel agent, because we were able to negotiate the price. On the Awesome Adventures Fiji website it currently costs 233€ for 7 and 8 days during high season. That pass is basically a hop-on-hop-off pass for the big ferry, called Yasawa Flyer, which cruises around all the resorts on the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands (very picturesque and beautiful island groups), twice daily. Once a day for the drop-off and once a day for the pick-up.
The employees of the ferry will make an announcement as soon as they will drop you off at the pick-up location for each resort, so listen closely. Then, a smaller boat will pick-up you and bring you to your booked resort. Generally, the boat rides just take about two to ten minutes to arrive at your desired accommodation.
It’s all about the food Food wise, hostels/resorts work a bit differently in Fiji than most hostels in the rest of world. Hence every resort on the small islands must import most of their food and water from the main island, and hence a food plan with three meals a day is already included in the price of the resort or added to the price when you check-in, the prices for one night can be quiet high.
Depending on your resort, the food either comes in a buffet style or you can order it a la carte. They will also ask you about your dietary restrictions beforehand. The pricier an accommodation is, the more choice you will have when it comes to food. But don’t worry, the food in the smaller, family-owned resorts was still very good, you just could not choose between a lot of different options.
Also, you don’t have a community kitchen for everyone to use and cook your own food, and there are little to no shops on the islands. So, I would recommend you buy a few snacks, water and drinks to bring them with you, before you fly out to Fiji, because alcohol is expensive, as well.
Ultimately, we spend about 800 AUD in total during our Fiji low budget backpacking holiday, which is about 497€ (55€ a day) and 608 USD (68 USD a day). Plus 600 AUD for the flights that we payed about two months earlier, makes a total of 1400 AUD (873€, 1064 USD).
So, like I said in the beginning: Fiji is not the cheapest country to visit, but it is definitely worth it AND possible for every traveller out there.
Finally, I can say that Fiji was paradise on earth for me, it is one of the most beautiful destinations in the whole world with the most amazing, relaxed and friendly people and culture. It stole my entire heart and I will definitely come back one day..
@nataliexlau on Instagram
I would like to thank Natalie again for sharing her tips and tricks for travelling this beautiful region of the world for those with a much smaller budget. I am going to start looking at flights now.