5 things you need to know about French Polynesia
We recently got back from French Polynesia and I can truthfully say that it was the most incredible country I have been to. And it’s not just because it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world, but the people and the culture are totally addicting. In full transparency, I did not know much about the area before we went on our trip and we learned some amazing things about the region that we want to share with you.
1. Tahiti and Bora Bora are just 2 of more than 100 islands in French Polynesia
If you ask anyone, they’ll have heard of Tahiti and Bora Bora. But it’s far less likely that they have heard of Moorea or Rangiroa or any of the other gorgeous islands that make up French Polynesia. Bora Bora is one of the most luxurious island destinations on earth and I’m sure you’re familiar with the Four Seasons or the Conrad there, but there is so much more to French Polynesia. For example, have you ever heard of The Brando? The Brando sits on its own private island and yet is only a 20 minute flight from Fa’a International Airport (PPT) and has the most idyllic location on its own lagoon. Similarly, have you heard of Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa? Nestled on the small island of Tautau, the resort features spectacular views of Bora Bora and the neighboring islands. These are just two examples of the extraordinary luxury you will find across French Polynesia.
On our last trip, we spent the majority of our trip in Moorea, a stunning island just 20 minutes by ferry from Papeete (Tahiti). The top three luxury hotels on Moorea are the Sofitel Ia Ora, Hilton and the Intercontinental. It’s easy access to the main island and the international airport along with the absolutely crystal clear waters and incredible people make this one of the best island experiences you can ask for. We, personally, fell totally in love with Moorea. The island itself is lush and absolutely beautiful. There’s also only 1 road around the entire island so you can literally never get lost. It’s also so close to Tahiti that it makes for an easy (and reasonable) journey.
2. Before heading to the islands, grab some cash from the ATM
We learned this the hard way. There’s only a few ATMs on Moorea (most likely the same on other islands) and sometimes they are empty! Just like anywhere else, make sure you bring enough cash because not everywhere takes credit card. Even though French Polynesia has some of the most luxurious, high end places in the world, doesn’t mean they have Chase Banks around every corner. Good thing to know: most places take US dollars so you don’t need to exchange all your cash.
Note that some hotels do offer the option to use them as an ATM by taking cash and putting it on the room. You may want to check in advance if this option is available at your hotel.
3. Wearing flowers is the best thing in the world
I was overwhelmed by the flowers in French Polynesia. Everywhere you went, someone was selling flowers, wearing flowers or decorating construction sites in flowers! It was truly incredible. It seems like every woman had a flower headdress or a flower in their hair. I loved this aspect of the culture and bought myself a headdress on the first day. They’re super reasonable and 100% instagrammable. We bought this one for about $10.
While we were there, we learned that a flower behind the left ear means you’re taken and a flower on the right means you are single – so keep that in mind if you pop a flower in your hair ;).
4. Everyone speaks multiple languages
There are three main languages in French Polynesia. Pretty much everyone we encountered spoke French, Tahitian and English. We discovered that French Polynesia is everything we love about France: delicious food, amazing wine and the beautiful language. People are so friendly and willing to help in any language you speak, or try to speak. We also learned some helpful words in Tahitian:
- Hello = ‘Ia Ora na
- Thank you = Māuruuru
- Welcome = Mānava
- Goodbye = Nānā
- Cheers = Manuia!
Everyone we encountered always wanted to help us learn a few word here and there and it was so fun to practice with them.
5. Flight are about to get a lot cheaper!
The best news of all that we learned about French Polynesia is that flights are about to get a whole lot cheaper. For many years, only a few airlines flew into Papeete, causing prices to be dramatically high. However, as of this summer, there are a number of airlines that are now allowed to fly into French Polynesia. United, for example, will begin to fly to PPT as well as a discount carrier called “French Bee” will begin roundtrip fares from San Francisco starting at about $450. Allowing other airlines to enter the market is going to drive down prices and make getting to Tahiti much more reasonable!
Have questions about French Polynesia? Send us an email at email@example.com!
Have you had good experience flying with French Bee? I’ve heard to never, no matter what the cost, to ever use them.
Hi Tina! Thanks for your comment :). We have not heard very good things about French Bee to be honest. We have yet to fly them, but they have cancelled a lot of flights that people we know have booked and they have to fight to get a refund. Also, they charge you extras for everything, including water. I personally would say, only book them if it’s SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper and you don’t mind delays! That being said, some people have had great experiences with no delays or issues.
Hi, I just found your site and love your French Polynesia reviews and information so thanks! We are due to go tot French Polynesia in October for 12 nights, staying Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora. We tend not to really take much cash on holidays but I note your comment about shortage of ATMs and the fact they can often be empty. So we need to be prepared before we come. My question is about a budget for the 12 nights. We have breakfast included everywhere and we are half board in Bora Bora. Do you have any suggestion as to how much we’d be best budgeting as I don’t want to run out especially if not everywhere takes credit cards. And again thanks for your inspirational information and videos! FYI we are coming from the UK but an idea of budget in USD or XFP is fine. Thank you.
hi Tracey! Thanks so much for your comment! That sounds WONDERFUL! I hope you have the best time :). So every hotel, ferry company and major store will take credit card, so that’s the good news. Cash is primarily for the markets, small shops and a few restaurants that are more “local” that take cash only. The only place we’ve had issues with ATMs that don’t have cash is Moorea. Tahiti has TONS of ATMs all over town and the airport and Bora Bora has multiple banks on Vaitape so I wouldn’t sweat it too much. We usually pull out 200-300 at the airport to have cash for the cab and spending money on Tahiti and then we pull out more before we head to moorea.
In terms of a budget, I would say each meal (so lunch and dinner) will cost you around $150-300 for 2 depending on your hotel and if you drink alcohol. Le Bora Bora, for example, had very reasonable prices overall so that would be closer to the 150 range. If your hotel offers a half-board package, it could be worth considering as they are typically quite generous. I would consider buying some wine/alcohol and snacks at the grocery stores to save on the casual drinks at the hotels. Glasses of wine at Le Bora Bora started at $9 versus Four Seasons was around $15. Beer at the resorts is typically 7-10 USD.
I hope this helps!! Let us know any other questions you have anytime!