Tahiti & French Polynesia Update: Conditions of Entry/Stay

This just in from the government in French Polynesia:

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French Polynesia has confirmed conditions of entry and stay in the country applicable to all travelers arriving by air.

Starting from July 15th, 2020:

Quarantine measures will be lifted and French Polynesia’s borders will re-open to international tourism from all countries. All travelers will be subject to the following mandatory conditions:

  • Prior to boarding: Proof of a negative Covid-19 test carried out within three days prior to their international air departure
  • Present the printed receipt of the health registration on the Etis.pf (Electronic Travel Information System) platform
  • During the stay: Self-test 4 days after arrival in The Islands of Tahiti.

See full details at the Tahiti Tourisme site’s COVID-19 page.

Useful Travel Apps You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Everybody knows about apps that find you hotel deals, cheap flights, or what to see and do in any given city. But travel (especially these days) doesn’t ALWAYS mean hopping on a plane, staying in a big hotel, etc.

This post is about some of the less mainstream ones that are actually pretty useful–depending on where you’re going.

Useful travel apps: Mobile Passport

Mobile Passport

This app lets you load your passport info into it ahead of time, for you and the rest of your family. Then, you can use it to avoid filling out a bunch of paper documents at US Customs and Immigration. Currently supported at these ports of entry: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Newark, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, Raleigh Durham, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, San Juan, Seattle, Tampa, Washington Dulles, and West Palm Beach.

Cool little feature: if you upgrade to Plus ($15/year…worth it, as the free version loses your data after 4 hours), you don’t have to enter your passport info–you can just scan your passport.

Learn more here.


Useful travel apps: Avenza PDF Maps

Avenza PDF Maps

Avenza PDF Maps screenshot

This is helpful when you’re travelling to relatively remote areas where cell coverage is sketchy, and your usual Google or Apple Maps app won’t work because you can’t get a solid connection. Your phone still “knows” where it is, as the GPS receiver inside it doesn’t need cell coverage (it just needs to see the GPS satellites), but those apps can’t show you on a map because they need the cell connection to download the map.
With Avenza, you download topographical maps of where you’re going when you’re still back home, with a good wifi connection. Then, when you’re out in the wilderness, or a remote island, or wherever, the map is already on your phone, and Avenza will use your GPS in your phone and show you exactly where you are on that map.

There are maps for hunting units, parks, even off road recreational areas–where (at least here in Oregon) you can see every little single-track trail in the national forest that’s legal for dirt bikes or horses or ATVs or whatever.

Learn more here.


Useful travel apps: My Altitude

My Altitude

My Altitude screenshot

This app flexes the muscles of the GPS thingy in your phone: it’ll show you your exact latitude and longitude, your altitude in metres or feet, barometric pressure, and water boiling point.

Find it on the Apple App Store or Google Play.


Useful travel apps: Tide Charts

Tide Charts

Tide Charts screenshot

This app is great if you’re vacationing at the coast, and want to explore the tide pools. We go to Otter Crest, near Newport Oregon, several times a year, and at the end of the beach there, there’s a sea cave called Devil’s Punchbowl that you can only get to at very low tides. Timing your trek down to the beach is key if you want to explore it :-).

It’s here for iOS, and here for Android.


Useful travel apps: Google Translate

Google Translate

We’re all familiar with the version of this on the web, I’m sure. But did you know that they have an app as well? And the really, REALLY cool thing about this app is that you can use your camera and it’ll translate instantly. Here’s a photo of a menu from a restaurant in Paris. On the left I’ve taken a picture of the menu itself; on the right, you can see the view through Google Translate:

Untranslated menuMenu translated instantly by Google Translate app on iPhone

Pretty cool, huh? Find it on Google Play or on the App Store.


Useful travel apps: Peak Finder

Peak Finder

Peak Finder looking at the mountains around Bend, Oregon

I especially love this one, living in Bend, Oregon, and having 7 major mountain peaks around us. Point this app at the hills and it’ll tell you what you’re looking at:

Get it on the App Store or on Google Play.


Useful travel apps: Vivino

Vivino

Vivino screenshot

Ever been in another state, or country, and nothing on the wine list looks familiar? Just use the Vivino wine app to look up what’s on the wine list (you can even scan the bottle’s label with your camera).

You’ll see ratings, typical store prices, etc. Find it on the App Store or on Google Play.

12 Must-Do New Zealand Experiences

There is so much to see and do in New Zealand, from wine-tasting to bungy jumping, whale-watching to glacier hikes, gorgeous beaches to glow-worm caves, it can be difficult to choose.  Check out our recommended lists of experiences and talk to one of our free New Zealand travel experts for more advice.

  1. Try wine-tasting on Waiheke

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Photo copyright S Kaya

 

  1. Go bungy jumping in Queenstown

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Photo copyright michael 7601

 

  1. Say ‘kia ora’ to Māori culture in Rotorua

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Photo copyright scott1346

 

  1. Kayak around Milford Sound

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Photo copyright Bernard Spragg, NZ

 

  1. Explore the geysers of Rotorua

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Photo copyright Daniel Fernandes de Oliveira

 

6. Tour the The Lord of the Rings Hobbiton in Matamata

 

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Photo copyright othree

 

7. Heli-hike Fox Glacier

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Photo copyright Dani

 

  1. Cruise with whales in Kaikoura

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Photo copyright Anita Gould

 

  1. Kayak the Bay of Islands

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Photo copyright Teseum

 

  1. Sip wine among the vines in Marlborough

 

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Photo copyright Chris Gin

 

  1. Hike ancient lava flows at The Tongariro Alpine Crossing

 

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Photo copyright Jeff P

 

  1. Relax at The Coromandel’s Cathedral Cove

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Photo copyright Sandra Vallaure

 

For hotels in New Zealand visit https://www.visualitineraries.com/Explore.asp?only1country=NZ 

Find out more things to do at https://www.newzealand.com/us/feature/new-zealand-must-do-experiences/

12 Things You Won’t Find in Hawaii

Hawaii is full of natural beauty, stunning beaches and the Aloha spirit, but there are a few things that you won’t be able to find on the Hawaiian islands. While we usually define a place by the features it possess, sometimes it’s just as important to list off what it lacks.

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Photo copyright Skyseeker

  1. Billboards – Hawaii was the first state in the U.S. to outlaw billboards in 1927, thus preserving the natural beauty of the islands for decades to come.

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Photo copyright Drew Stefani

 

  1. Snakes – Because of the threat they pose to native birds, snakes are banned from entering the Hawaiian Islands.  

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Photo copyright Debs

 

  1. Rabies – While this makes it a pain to transport your pets to and from Hawaii, it’s comforting to know that it’s a rabid-free state, in fact it’s the only state in the country without rabies. 

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Photo copyright Marco Verch

 

  1. Private Beaches – All beaches in Hawaii are public and developers are required to provide public access and parking for anyone to enjoy the shorelines.

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Photo copyright Chris Murphy

 

  1. Loud Car Horns – Even in Honolulu rush-hour traffic, the streets are quiet, the drivers are patient and the Aloha spirit is alive and well.  

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Photo copyright Nick Mote

 

  1. Major U.S. Banks – None of the country’s major banks have branches in Hawaii, instead Hawaii residents are loyal to local banks, like Bank of Hawaii, and First Hawaiian Bank.

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Photo copyright Teemu008

 

  1. Daylight Savings Time – Hawaii’s proximity to the equator means that the length of a day doesn’t change dramatically throughout the year and so daylight savings time simply doesn’t matter here. 

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Photo copyright Harly504

 

  1. Affordable Housing – The cost of living in paradise is astronomical, the average cost to rent an apartment in Honolulu is $1,750-$2,000/month plus parking fees and utilities. 

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Photo copyright Rennett Stowe

 

  1. An Ethnic Majority – Hawaii is truly a melting pot of ethnic diversity and is home to the most multiracial residents in America.

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Photo copyright Horschmology

 

  1. Good Mexican Food – Hawaii has a huge variety of diverse international cuisine, but sadly the state is not known for having high quality authentic Mexican food.

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Photo copyright Alex Archambault

 

  1. Popular Mainland Chains – Starbucks and McDonalds have made their way across the islands but if you’re craving breadsticks from Olive Garden, a Chipotle burrito, or even Dunkin Donuts, you’re out of luck. 

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Photo copyright Mike Mozart

 

  1. More than One Area Code – Hawaii residents are very proud of the 808 area code that is shared throughout the islands and serves all 1.4 million residents of Hawaii. 

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Photo copyright Eli Duke

 

What else have you not been able to find in Hawaii?

 

Original post by Megan Shute

What’s Better than a Honeymoon? How about a Buddymoon?

What’s better than a honeymoon with the person you love? How about bringing your closest friends along with you? This relatively new trend has been dubbed a buddymoon, and a lot of people are on board. A recent Priceline survey of more than 1,000 Americans found that 12% of people said they’d attended a group honeymoon (or buddymoon) in the last five years. In fact, Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux decided to opt for a buddymoon when they invited friends like Chelsea Handler, Jason Bateman, and Courteney Cox to the Four Seasons Bora Bora for their honeymoon in August 2015.  “We had thought about it; we could just do a normal honeymoon or we could go with friends, keep the party going, relax, and have fun,” Theroux told Extra.

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Photo copyright Velas Resorts

Velas Resorts in Mexico have decided to jump on this trend and are now offering buddymoon packages for couples hosting their destination weddings at four of their resorts – Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, Grand Velas Los Cabos, and Casa Velas.  Each of the four Velas Resorts in Mexico have their own version of the buddymoon, including activities such as private cocktail parties, eco-tours, picnics, meditation retreats, private cooking classes, golf trips, spa days and many more. 

So where would you go for a buddymoon?

 

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Photo copyright Antonio Rivera

The Islands of French Polynesia

When people think about French Polynesia, a tropical paradise comes to mind – but not all tropical paradises are the same.  Do you dream of sunbathing on beautiful white sand beaches? Or SCUBA diving through magical underwater reefs? Perhaps catching a wave on the Tahitian surf is your idea of a good time?  For some people the dream is hiking through lush jungles on remote islands, for others it’s learning the secrets of ancient Maori cultures. Whatever’s your definition of a tropical paradise, French Polynesia has it. But with 118 islands and atolls, stretching over 1,200 miles (2,000km), deciding where to go in French Polynesia can be overwhelming.  If that’s how you’re feeling right now, you’ve come to the right place!

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Photo copyright Daniel Chodusov

 

French Polynesia is divided into five groups of islands: the Society Islands Archipelago, the Tuamotu Archipelago; the Gambier Islands; the Marquesas Islands; and the Austral Islands.  Knowing about each of the island groups can help you narrow down your search for the ultimate vacation getaway. In this post, we will take an in depth look into each one to help you make the decision that’s right for you.

 

SOCIETY ISLANDS

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Photo copyright dany13

 

The Society Islands are the most well-known islands in French Polynesia, and include Tahiti, Mo’orea, Bora Bora and many others.  Tahiti was born when two volcanoes erupted and formed an island so large that it represents almost 30% of French Polynesia’s landmass and 68.7% of the population of all of French Polynesia. It is high and mountainous with surrounding coral reefs.  On the island of Tahiti, you will find small towns dotting the parameter of the island and the cosmopolitan city of Papeete in the northwest. The population drops as elevation rises inland, bringing you majestic peaks like La Diàdeme, and a stunning thousand-foot waterfall. Tahiti’s quieter side, Tahiti Iti, is on the southeastern end of the island and is home to the world famous surfing wave, Teahupo’o. Surfers, kiteboarders, and swimmers dot the shore and add color to the exotic black sand beaches that ring the island.

Just off the coast of Tahiti is Mo’orea, a heart shaped island with two small, nearly symmetrical bays on the north shore. It is encircled by coral reefs which provide a tranquil refuge to a wide variety of exotic and iridescent fish. Bora Bora is a 12 mile-wide island group consisting of a main island surrounded by a lagoon and barrier reef. The center island is known for its towering volcanic spires which disappear into the clouds, adding a touch of mystery to the island’s remote beauty. Bora Bora is famous for its aqua-centric luxury resorts and overwater bungalows.  

 

TUAMOTU ISLANDS

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Photo copyright Alessandro Caproni

 

With their unparalleled beauty, the low-lying Tuamotus island chain is a scuba diver’s dream. Rather than volcanic activity, these island atolls relied on coral reefs to form.  The heavenly lagoons are so precious and rare that many of them have their own unique ecosystems. In fact, the pristine Fakarava, is deemed a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.  

 

GAMBIER ISLANDS

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Photo copyright Kyle Pearce

 

The Gambier islands is well off the beaten track and offer the perfect mix of cultural treasures and natural scenery.  The mountains on the island of Mangareva rise above the surrounding lagoons and neighboring islands, in fact Polynesian mythology tells of the demi-god Maui lifting the island of Mangareva from the ocean floor. Famous for their pearl farms and historic churches from the 1800’s, travelers to the Gambier Islands get the sense that they have been transported back in time.  

 

MARQUESAS ISLANDS

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Photo copyright Mustad Marine

 

The fierce Marquesas Islands have the hottest and driest climate of all the island chains in French Polynesia. Surrounded by deep, navy colored sea and cold currents of the Pacific Ocean they’re not known for their beaches; but these wild, wonderful and barely populated islands are a dream destination for hikers. Not only are the Marquesas islands home to exotic species of bird and plant wildlife found nowhere else in the world, you will also have the opportunity to experience the rich Maori culture. Pick up a handmade pareo from the local markets of Nuku Hiva, or a protective tiki amulet made by the expert Maori craftsmen of Tahuata.  

 

AUSTRAL ISLANDS

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Photo copyright Montereydiver

 

The inhabitants of the Austral Islands are as friendly as they are artistic. Visit the colorful, picturesque villages to discover the craftsmanship of the islanders who make a living off of their hand-made goods. Plan your trip to the Austral Islands between August and October and you will see the mesmerizing humpback whales who migrate to the islands each year and frolic in the waters just offshore. 

 

So what will it be?

With so much diversity and natural beauty, a trip to French Polynesia is sure to create memories that will last a lifetime. Hopefully this post has helped you narrow down your perfect French Polynesian destination. For those of you who have already decided where to go, or for those of you who are still needing help deciding, contact one of our French Polynesian travel experts for assistance. Their free, no-obligation help will bring you closer to making your dream vacation a reality, and as a bonus they have access to exclusive discounts to save you money on your trip.

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Photo copyright RDPixelShop

10 Things to Know Before Going to Fiji

Your flight and hotel are booked, your bags are packed, and you are ready to go! Before you head out to the beautiful islands of Fiji, it’s important to know a little bit about the culture.  We’ve done the research and gathered 10 helpful tips for you to have the best possible vacation! So read on:

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Photo copyright Duncan Odds

 

  1. Get To and From the Airport

You don’t want to be stranded after your long flight, and if you’re in a pinch there are taxis for hire, but the best course of action is to have a driver waiting for you when you land.  Most hotels, especially those on the outer islands, will offer an airport service. Double check with your travel agent that this has been arranged before you set off on your trip.  

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Photo copyright Roderick Eime

 

  1. Fijians Drive on the Left

This can come as a shock to people who are accustomed to driving on the right side, and it’s all the more reason to hire a driver if this is something you’re not used to. You’ll probably adapt to it quickly enough, but if you’re nervous about the prospect of driving, it’s best to sit back, relax and to hire a local.  

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Photo copyright Kyle Post

 

  1. Forget About Vibrant Nightlife 

Fijians generally go to bed early and wake up with the sun, so if you plan on partying until the sun comes up, you might be on your own. Instead, plan to enjoy your drinks by the pool or on the beautiful beaches by the light of day and save partying for another time.

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Photo copyright Chris Isherwood

  1. Go Hiking with a Local Guide 

Fiji is full of wonderful natural beauty and hiking is a great way to experience the gorgeous tropical rain-forests. However, it’s important to know that many of the paths aren’t well-maintained and the terrain can be hazardous, so hiring a local guide is going to be the safest and most enjoyable option.  Ask your travel agent for help on finding great deals on local tours.  

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Copyright Pablo Marx

 

  1. Be Mindful of Your Attire in the Local Villages

Sundresses, shorts and tank tops are fine in and around the resorts but if you decide to visit a local village it’s best to dress a little more conservatively in order to show respect. Visitors should plan to remove all hats and sunglasses while in the village and plan to wear clothing that covers both shoulders and knees.  

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Photo copyright Kanaka Rastamon

 

  1. Visit the Outer Islands 

Many people have the impulse to stay on the main islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu on their trip to Fiji but the real magic is on the outer islands.  Steer clear of the urban areas and opt for a seaplane or speedboat ride to places like the Mamanuca Islands, known for their scuba diving, snorkeling and coral reefs or check out Yasawa, known for its pristine beaches and jungles.  With more than 300 islands, there is no shortage of places to explore. 

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Photo copyright Joyce T

 

  1. Embrace ‘Island Time’

It can be difficult to slow down when you’re used to fast-paced living but that’s why you’re taking a vacation from the hustle and bustle, right? In Fiji, like most of the South Pacific, people live by ‘island time,’ a slowed down, relaxed mentality and they are happier for it. So relax, take a load off and embrace the slow pace living, you might just learn to love it!

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Photo copyright MickiTakesPictures

 

  1. Attend a Kava Ceremony

Kava is a legal and traditional herbal drink made from the ground root of a spicy pepper plant and is used for medicinal and cultural purposes throughout the Pacific. It has relaxing effects similar to alcohol, but without the risk of intoxication or hangover.  In Fiji, a formal kava ceremony will often accompany important social functions, usually involving drinking kava and a ritual presentation of bundled roots as a gift. If you have the opportunity to attend a kava ceremony, I highly recommend it. 

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Photo copyright Melody Tan

 

  1. Respect the Locals

Fijians are some of the most welcoming, friendly people I have ever met, and are quick to greet you with “bula,” (meaning hello) and a huge smile on their faces.  Just know that while they are making sure your vacation goes smoothly, they are often away from their families for weeks at a time. It should go without saying to treat them with the respect deserved to all people, but especially those in the service industries. 

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Photo copyright Tomas Maltby

 

  1. Watch the Sunrise

Vacations are for sleeping in, right? Yes, but we recommend devoting at least one morning to watch the magnificent light reflecting off the tropical waters. The colors in the sky will make waking up well worth it, just don’t forget to have your camera ready!

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Photo copyright Kyle Post

Keep Garbage Out Of Our Oceans

As a scuba diver, I’m appalled by the amount of trash I see in our oceans. But the bulk of it isn’t on the coral reefs–it’s worse in other places.

Last month, a dead sperm whale in Indonesia was discovered to have over 12 lbs of plastic in its stomach.

There’s a floating garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean that’s twice the size of Texas!

Boyan Slat from the Ocean Cleanup Project. Photo courtesy USA Today.

Photo courtesy Ocean Cleanup Project.

Luckily there are folks with great ideas and plans for cleaning it up, including The Ocean Cleanup Project.

Snorkel Adventures Destin from Florida has put together this infographic with some simple guidelines–some of which are being implemented by cities today. Some US cities have made the news for their plans to ban plastic straws, and others, including Visual Itineraries’ hometown of Bend, Oregon, have voted to ban plastic bags.

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