21 things I wish I’d known before I went to Fiji

I’m not exactly sure when my brain stopped working and google took over but I’d say it was around about the same time mobile phones got internet access and the definition of data no longer referred to something that is handwritten.

I’ve always been random at the best of times but more often that not, when my husband gives me “that look” for being “on my phone” I am not scrolling through social media I am probably “looking up random stuff” to add to the random stuff I already know.

We are in Fiji this week so conversations included “did you know that Fiji use to be a cannibal island babe?” “No babe” “yep, the last person known to be eaten was in the 1800’s, he touched a tribe chiefs head and that’s disrespectful”. “Really babe?” “Yep, they still have the tools that were used to eat people on display in the museum in Suva, special tools for picking the brain and stuff” “uh ha”.

And that’s pretty much how our holiday went, me playing the tour guide and him playing the tourist. All because it was the first time he had ever left Australia and I had been to Bali once before, but I had google.

I didn’t know a great deal about Fiji before I went but here are a few things I’ve learnt and wish I had known before our trip.

1. We didn’t get cash out before we came. The conversion rate is better in Fiji than in Australia so we planned to convert in Fiji but our plane was delayed. Lotus exchange has the best rates but they had just closed when we got there. We used a foreign ATM for a small amount of money, it charged us about $15fjd, rookie error. After that we used ANZ atms at no charge because we bank with them. There are plenty of them here.
2. We didn’t need much cash anyway. The Outrigger is a cashless resort which means everything is charged to your room and you pay your bill at the end (you can check your balance as you go on the TV in your bedroom).
3. We didn’t book transfers through our travel agent, we booked private transfers through Tropical Paradise Adventures who were a little cheaper ($250fjd return). We found them on Facebook and contacted Sue though messenger. Our driver stopped at the supermarket for us on the way to our resort to buy a case of beer. Nothing was a hassle, we enjoyed the personalised service and local knowledge our driver shared with us. We also didn’t have to stop for other people the way we would have if we had purchased the coach transfers. The trip to The Outrigger from Nadi takes about 1 1/2 hours.
4. A case of beer is $65fjd buy one of these on your way to your room and you will save a lot of money on drinks, we didn’t really drink the duty free spirits we bought though, the cocktails were just too good.
5. The resort is not overly expensive but it is not super cheap. They sting you with about thirty thousand taxes at the end of your bill on top of the menu price (surprise). There are much cheaper places to eat that have even better food. From the Outrigger if you walk down to the beach, turn right and follow the beach 25m you will come across the the “Beach Bar n Grill” which is nearly half the price. They also own “Flying Fin Restaurant” which is another 10 minutes down the road. You can transfer there for free, the resort reception will even make the booking for you.
6. It is not called the “Coral Coast” for nothing, don’t bother going to the beach without thongs, it feels like you are walking on fish bones. Australia really does have some of the best beaches in the world.
7. If you book an island trip you will have to go back to Denaru so expect it to be a big day leaving your resort at 7.30am and not returning until 7.30pm with a lot of traveling involved. If you are staying on the Coral Coast don’t book too many things departing from Denaru, you will need a holiday to get over your holiday, we only booked one tour on that side. Whales Tale takes you out to Schooner Island for snorkelling, swimming and glass bottom boat rides.
8. Bula. The people in the resorts are so frigin friendly that by the end you will wonder if they are taking the piss. They are not, they are genuinely that happy. Be prepared to say Bula and hear Bula ALOT.
9. Tours, tours and more tours and they are not cheap through the hotel. www.bookme.com.fj offer the same tours for a much cheaper rate.
10. The Fijians live simply, humbly and happily, we took note and supported locally as often as we could, just as we do at home.
11. The $1 bus. My husband mentioned that staying in the resort still felt like being in Australia so we took the $1 bus into Sigatoka town market for an authentic cultural experience. It leaves from the main road out the front of the Outrigger every half hour. You get a real taste of what it’s like to be local this way. The market is closed on Sundays and only operates for half a day on Saturday.
12. The Kava you get on the tours is “the tourist mix” you can mix your own with the Kava powder you purchase from the market. You will need some thin muslin style cloth to strain the powder through, you can buy this at the resort gift shop for $3.95fjd. Make it with warm water, strain and knead the Kava through the cloth for about 10 minutes. The more powder you use the stronger the mix.
13. “Fiji time” sounds fun, but when you have to wait 40 minutes for a coffee or for a butler that doesn’t come it can be frustrating at first. That being said we were given a complimentary bottle of champagne for the inconvenience.
14. The Outrigger offers free WIFI if you sign up to their mailing list. They don’t advertise this. We made sure we purchased global roaming before we left anyway but others in our group thought this was great.
15. We didn’t make it down to the sand dunes but they are a 10 minute Taxi drive from Outrigger ($10 fjd) and entry is $10 fjd. Local Aussies we met told us they are amazing. We did see a tour offering them for $160 fjd but we were advised they are really easy to get to and navigate yourself.
16. Bebe Spa was bliss, so much so that I went twice for the Bobo massage. Treatments that finish before 10am get a 20% discount but again you can get a much cheaper massage outside the resort. From Outrigger walk down to the beach, turn right and follow the beach about 25m to the Waitaci Villas. They also have braiding for a fraction of the price elsewhere and a nice Fijian man has a stall out the front with gifts cheaper than both the market and the resort. Tell him Jamie says hi.
17. Cheap flights are exactly that. A 5 hour flight with no leg room and no entertainment is very painful. Can you tell I flew Jetstar? We heard great things about Virgin Airlines, Qantas/Fiji Airlines. A friend even had their flights upgraded to Business Class for only $190 Australian Dollars with Qantas. I did check with Jetstar before I booked if their international flights to Fiji were on the larger plane with entertainment. I was told yes when they obviously should have told me no. We learnt from this and paid for the emergency exit seats on the flights back.
18. Hotel transfer by Helicopter is also a great way to travel for those who want to avoid the drive after the flight. It only takes 15 minutes and is $699 fjd per adult through www.islandhoppersfiji.com. The baggage allowance is 15kg each, you can pay for extra.
19. The difference between an Ocean View room and a Standard room at the Outrigger is one floor. All the rooms have great views in fact some of our friends in standard rooms had better views than our Ocean View room so go figure?
20. Sunsets are not only consistently stunning shades of oranges, reds and pinks but are free to enjoy from anywhere in Fiji every evening. Stop and take a moment for the spectacular half hour light show.
21. If I could do it again I’d spend more time on the islands, there are over 300 to choose from so a few nights tucked away on one of those would have been the perfect end to our Fijian stay. Who knows? Maybe next time.