How is your experience traveling to Fiji

Fiji: Somehow different than expected

"You have to show proof of your departure," said the lady at the counter as I was about to take my flight from New Zealand to Samoa. "Otherwise you won't be able to take this flight!" I actually wanted to think about this during my three-week stay in Samoa, but now I had to make this decision within twenty minutes.

After just a few clicks through search engines, there was no alternative to Fiji. While I had assumed that Fiji was an island like Samoa, I was taught otherwise before I arrived: The archipelago consists of over 330 islands, around 100 of which are permanently inhabited. When looking for accommodation, a surprisingly wide range of options awaited me:

On the one hand there were the famous luxury hotels for honeymooners for several hundred euros a night; on the other hand dorms for a daily budget of just 5 euros - in which you share a room with around 15 people, or rather have to share it. My neighbor in the airy wooden dwelling on Samoa noticed my burgeoning despair when I was looking for a hotel and smiled.

"You already know that Fiji is to the New Zealanders like Mallorca is to the Germans or Bali is to the Aussies, don't you?" No, I didn't know that. Since I didn't feel like having a loud party, I had to get a single room and it quickly became clear that with a room price of around 70 euros / night I would not be able to stay long with my limited world travel budget.

The selection would therefore have to fall on one of the two largest islands Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. Since I hadn't noticed when booking the flight that it was on the largest island Viti Levu there are two airports and I would land in the west, the choice was suddenly reduced. So I booked 4 nights in Fiji's second largest cityLautoka and 3 nights on an island called Robinson Crusoe Island.

Every day for my not exactly cheap once-in-a-lifetime stay at the other end of the world including transfers and full board on Robinson Crusoe would cost me over 80 euros per day and that on a normal level without any luxury. But it seemed like the best middle ground in this case. And then finally on arrival on Nadi Airport the next surprise soon.

A taxi driver came up to me and spoke to me with a familiar accent. An Indian in Fiji? Why this? Later in the hotel I was able to read that in the 19th century almost 1/3 of the population died from a measles epidemic. The British colonial rule at the time then allowed Indian contract employees to enter, many of whom stayed and now make up 35% of the Fijian population.

Lautoka - a place with a question mark

What would a city look like on a South Sea island that was considered one of the most desirable dream destinations for newly-weds and lovers? A few moments later, I would know. TheTanoa Waterfront Hotel offered a beautiful view of the bay and was a bit out of the way, but still within walking distance of the city center. Barbed wire adorned the fence around the garden, which seemed somehow inappropriate somehow.

After the welcome drink in the hammock by the pool, I made my way to the center. In the big park next door, children played, women sat in small groups on the lawn and hungry Fijians formed a queue at the brightly painted, mobile hot dog stand. The street to the center made a neat impression, but I couldn't classify the very different houses and shops.

The first generation of white Apple computers and electronics from the 80s and 90s were still on offer here behind barred shop windows. Other streets were lined with shops selling cheap kitschy items. Loud music came from many shops, in which children and adults alike moved happily through the fully loaded shelves. For me there was nothing to it except the kind of joyful confusion that I couldn't assess a place at all.

The cars couldn't have been more different either: rickety oldtimers vs. modern small and medium-sized cars. Telephone booths hung on the walls at regular intervals in a strangely spacey outfit, and oversized cartoon characters - which I had never seen before - were placed on some of the roofs of the two-story houses.

The market hall became my daily center for buying fruit that tasted incredibly good and was extremely cheap at the same time. Otherwise there wasn't much to do or see except to relax and wait by the pool in dream weather for the coming trip, which would take place on a small island about an hour's drive south of Nadi Airport. At least I would get to know the western part of the island on this trip.

In the footsteps of Robinson Crusoe

I shared a taxi with two lovebirds to get to the pier where a boat would take me to my island. The road to the south led through a rather unimportant landscape of tall sugar cane. The couple got off earlier at a luxury hotel, which I was able to get a brief insight into through the short stop. What an extreme contrast at a short distance of just a few kilometers.

The sight of “my” island from the boat was more than promising: Small, surrounded by a turquoise sea and thus like from a picture book! After the reception in the hut surrounded by palm trees, there was a late breakfast for me: toast, butter, fruit, instant coffee and juice. Well, it's a little island, I told myself. Then I saw my accommodation.

The small, yellow wooden house was just 2 × 2 meters in size and inevitably only contained a narrow bed, a chair and a small table. In a way, it seemed kind of funny and bizarre, but not a cheap treat for this minimal level of comfort. A few hours later I learned that I had to shower myself with a 5 liter bucket of cold rainwater. Sometimes a new and admittedly interesting experience.

While Robinson Crusoe would probably have looked around for firewood somewhere in the area and probably also fought one or the other poisonous snake, there was a relatively mundane full board and evening entertainment program in the form of dances for my roughly thirty roommates and me. which were presented in the classic bast skirt. In between, the time had to be killed.

Here I was finally able to pursue the often asked question about what I would do every day on a lonely island. While I would have said earlier, "No problem, that would be a dream!", The reality looked a little different after a while. I would have had to pay extra for slow wifi, so the search for suitable employment began. Since a walk on such a small island is over quickly, I was able to at least learn from this experience that compulsive doing nothing in the smallest of spaces is extremely demanding!

On the last evening of my 4-day stay on the small island there was a small boat tour and then the farewell to Robinson Crusoe Island and the entire South Pacific approached to fly from Nadi back to Melbourne.

My conclusion on Fiji

Both the stay in Lautoka on Viti Levu and on Robinson Crusoe Island were shaped by the most varied of impressions and emotions. To this day I cannot say whether it was worth the experience or not - or whether, in retrospect, I would have preferred to do without it. Lautoka was on the one hand not really worth seeing and on the other hand it was so unusual that I am thoroughly grateful for this insight. Robinson Crusoe Island was too expensive for the quality of the accommodation and the food. B. the dances were a classic tourist program; on the other hand, it was still a very beautiful, very small island with corresponding mental learning effects.

Maybe I wasn't in the right places (although there is actually no right or wrong) and I would have had to stay there longer and see more places. Nevertheless, I wanted to share my experiences here, in order to perhaps be able to give one or the other reader some help for the pros and cons of this travel destination. Fiji is the most touristic destination in the South Pacific and may not be right for the traveler who prefers more authentic destinations with less tourism. If you still include one of the Fijian islands for the onward journey, in my opinion it is worth doing more extensive research for individually suitable accommodation.

Ute