How to Travel Tonga on a Budget for the Independent Traveller - Straight On Detour

  Leading up to our trip to Tonga we spend hours trawling the web for information on camping, budget accommodation, ferries and activities and barely…

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How to travel Tonga on a Budget for the Independent Traveller

 

Leading up to our trip to Tonga we spend hours trawling the web for information on camping, budget accommodation, ferries and activities and barely came up with a page of useful information, most being ridiculously outdated anyway. With so little useful information out there for those who, like us want to travel Tonga independently or who want to travel Tonga on a budget, we were determined to find out as much as we could while we were there and have plenty of adventures along the way. Here is our destination guide.

 

How to travel Tonga on a Budget, Destination guide
Secluded beach on Uoleva Island

 

So…why did we choose to travel to Tonga anyway?

*First and foremost we wanted to catch a glimpse of the humpbacks during the migration. Nothing new there haha.

*After a freezing and wet winter in Auckland we were desperate for a simple beach bum lifestyle for a month.

*We wanted to camp by the water and attempt to travel Tonga on a budget and heard rumours that we could

*Neither of us have been and tickets from New Zealand were cheap eg. NZ$140 one way

*It’s a perfect time of year, plus the location is good to find a place as crew on an independent sail boat heading some else in the pacific

*We’ve heard about some pretty amazing drop offs to explore underwater.

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Short and Sweet. Was Tonga as good we thought?

Tonga was every bit as good as we thought plus MORE. We found an idyllic beach set amongst the palm trees and set up camp, we swam with whales a couple of times, found independent travel was indeed do-able, met some warm and friendly locals and didn’t want to leave.

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How to travel Tonga on a Budget, Uoleva Island
Uoleva Island

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Is it true? Can you Travel Tonga on a Budget?

YES YOU CAN!! We spent on average $50-60AUD per day between us on our food and accommodation over the entire month. Though this price doesn’t include the inter island ferry/flights, whale swims and alcohol it shows that Tonga has potential for the budget traveller.

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So how did we travel Tonga on a budget?

With all the information we collected and with what we wanted to do and achieve in Tonga, we decided to spend our month in and around Tongatapu and the Ha’apai group. Below is everything we found out whilst we were there to help your trip to Tonga on a shoe-string come true.

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How to travel Tonga on a Budget, Uoleva Island

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Tongatapu 

refer to our “how to travel Tongatapu on a budget” for absolutely everything you need to travel on the main island cheaply. It’s 1500 words of pure budget goodness.

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Ha’apai Islands 

Whether you arrive in Ha’apai by Ferry or plane you will spend some time in Lifuka Island and its main town Pangai. Pangai is really only one small road with a handful of local shops and a few western cafes. Don’t expect fresh fruit of vegetables or a wide range of products like in Tongatapu, think canned goods, chips, noodles and condiments. Lifuka island is not really a place that you would choose to stay. There are a few scattered beaches and a couple of resorts but the gems of Haapai are the islands surrounding it.

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To the north of Lifuka is Foa island (expensive resorts only) and to the south is Uoleva Island whose western edge has three expensive resorts amongst a couple of locally owned ones.

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How to travel Tonga on a Budget, Uoleva Island
Local pick up to Uoleva

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Budget accommodation options in Pangai on Lifuka Island:

.Fifita Guesthouse costs $40/55/70TOP single/double/ensuite.

Phone: +676 7318159

Email: fifitaguesthouse@yahoo.com

Tiulipe Guest House costs $25/30/45TOP dorm/single/double

Phone +676 60038 Mob: +676 7316812

Email tiulipe.guesthouse@gmail.com

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Uoleva Island

Uoleva island is relatively unknown, it’s the choice of travellers who want to escape the western buzz in Vava’u. It is barely connected to Lifuka by a shallow reef which at precisely low tide, in the right conditions and with exceptional footwear you can walk across (water will reach your upper calves at low tide). From town to edge of Lifuka is a 40 minute walk, across the reef is 40 minutes and then it’s anywhere from 10minutes to 1.5 hours walk to you resort depending on where you are staying. The other option is to accept a 20 minute scenic transfer from your accommodation, prices vary. Expensive resorts will include the transfer in the price or at the budget backpackers it’s a $30TOP p/p each way fee. The island itself has no roads, no shops, no fresh water springs and other than a few roaming pigs, cows and chickens in the bush there is nothing on it.

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How to travel Tonga on a Budget, Camping on Uoleva Island

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Budget Accommodation on Uoleva Island (plus budget food advice):

You are welcome to freedom camp on Uoleva but there are no natural springs and conditions can be quite rough when it is raining, for a small fee you can pitch your tent at one of the local resorts.

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Taiana’s Resort: Camping costs $25TOP single/double and a simple wooden Fale costs $25/45TOP single/double with shared facilities including flush toilets and a cold water shower. Tiana and her husband Kalafi left their home in Lifuka to run a resort in Uoleva 17 years ago. “Back then we had the pick of the island” says Kalafi, and they certainly chose wisely. Perched on an idyllic point of turquoise blue water and sandy beach this is a budget travellers haven with friendly staff, a volley ball court, free coconuts plus bonfire and kava nights. There is breakfast available for $10TOP p/p and dinner available for $15TOP p/p. It’s cold water showers but it’s clean. If like us you eat lunch, it would pay to stock up with snacks from Lifuka island. Just ask Noah the guy who will take you on the boat to Uoleva to stop at a shop, he will not mind at all. If you run out of food on Uoleva island itself Kalafi will order it free of cost from his daughter who is based on the island, you just need to fix up the receipt. The last food option is you can hire Kalafi’s kayak for the day for $20TOP and make a trip into town on your own to stock up, it took us 1.5 hrs each way. There is no wifi available but there is 3G. If you ask super nicely you can use Kalafi’s charger occasionally when he has the generator on. Most guests had their own solar generated power packs which was useful. Bring a torch with loads of batteries for late night toilet runs and for when the sun goes down. The perfect spot to camp for those who want to travel Tonga on a budget

 

Captain Cook Hideaway: Camping costs $25/30/50/60TOP camping/single/double/ensuite. The beach section isn’t as beautiful as Taiana’s resort around the corner but it’s still perched overlooking the water. It’s the only other budget accommodation on Uoleva island and has similar amenities to Taiana’s Resort which I have detailed above.

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How to travel Tonga on a Budget, Uoleva Island
Beaches on Uoleva

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Activities on Uoleva

Whale swimming: Costs $275-$350TOP per person, check out our “swimming with whales in Tonga“ for a full brief on what to expect from whale swimming in Uoleva.

Snorkelling: There is snorkelling equipment available at all accommodation options.

Island Walk: It’s a 14km loop around Uoleva Island which can take anything from a few hours to a whole day if you include snorkelling stops and whale watching.

Kite surfing lesson at Fanifo Lofa (no prices on website but were available upon request)

Massage: $75TOP for a 1 hour, massage available at Serenity Resort only.

Stand up Paddle boarding: Several  accommodation options have stand up paddle boards.

Kayaking: $20TOP per day from Taiana’s Resort.

Whale watching from beach: Free of charge and available all day every day from late July to October.

Stargazing: With no light pollution Uoleva is an incredible place for star gazing.

Beach volleyball/Badminton: Tiana’s Resort have a court for those epic sunset games.

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.Animal encounters- Tonga's Whales

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Want to know more about swimming with Whales? Read our blog ‘Swimming with Whales in Tonga: A Complete Guide

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How to travel Tonga on a Budget for the Independent Traveller

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