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8 Tips for Living in Fiji

Betsy Burlingame

Summary: Expats in Fiji talk about make the move to Fiji and what it's like living in Fiji. Topics range from the pet quarantine to the Coconut grapevine to culture shock.

Pet Quarantine When Moving to Fiji

One family moving to Fiji asked about the pet quarantine, "We are preparing for a move to Sigatoka. Any advice on the pet import / quarantine you can offer? We understand it is a 30 day quarantine; how are the conditions and how strict are the regulations during the 30 days?"

"Depends which country you are coming from. From USA up to 90 days, Aus is 30 days, and I think NZ is less. They are kept in government outdoor kennels. So if summer, can be got and humid. Need to get a lot of pretravel vet checks. Check with Dept of Agriculture for details," replied one expat. Another added, "I can tell you from personal experience that pet quarantine from Australia is only 7 days when bringing into Fiji. My pets were happy and stress free when I collected them. The staff there are kind and caring."

Private Health Insurance for Expats in Fiji

For serious health issues, many expats travel to New Zealand or Australia for treatment. Expats recommend that newcomers find a private health insurance plan that covers travel to some of these locations for treatment. Take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA.

What to Bring When Moving to Fiji (and what to leave behind)

In a discussion about moving to Fiji on our forum, someone asked, "Hello, we're looking to move back to Fiji from Syd. We would like to be able to take our private vehicle back with us to Fiji along with some other personal items. My question is more around the vehicle. Does anyone know how this is done? Does anyone know if there are any taxes/duties applicable in Fiji when bringing in your own vehicle?"

"Yes can bring back, but you will have to pay duty (up to 32% on vehicle and shippjng) and if used, there any limit on she, and there is minimum $ amount regardless of value of car. When I moved back three years ago from Melbourne I calculated no savings of bringing over my vehicle, and much easier to just get new one here," answered one expat.

"Other personal items that are more than 12 months can be brought back duty free if permanently moving back. I found it cheapest and easiest to have 20 ft container dropped at my place, and then we load up all personal items. I used less than 1/2 but still cheaper than mover. Contact Seaway there in Sydney as they help me arrange mine. Their fee is the export side, but you will have to pay some fees in Fiji for unloading from shop and delivery, biosecurity, and customs (as they come to your residence to open container). You do have to pay duty and excise tax on liquor," added another expat.

Yes, if in good condition your personal and household are duty and VAT free if setting up permanent house and haven't used personal exemption previously. I brought back everything except car and liquor. Keep simple to avoid issue. But you can not bring back used refrigerator for biosecurity reasons. Customs website has info page on returning residents," explained another expat in Fiji.

We asked another expat what he wished he had brought to Fiji and what he had left behind.

"3 things I wish I had brought: more Coffee, Stronger insect repellent & quality chocolate (4th thing would be my hairdresser !) 3 things I could have left at home were half my suitcase, shoes and makeup - no need," said one expat living in Sigatoka Valley, Fiji.

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The Coconut Grapevine

When we asked expats living in Fiji to offer newcomers advice about choosing a neighborhood and finding a home, they replied: "Luckily through a friend we got onto a Fijian couple and we rented their kit home on 2 acres - we could not find anything on the internet for the area we wanted to live which was around the Sigatoka area," said one expat living in Sigatoka Valley, Fiji.

"Like everywhere be careful with giving away too much information. We could have easily been taken advantage of many times. Once in Fiji there seems to be a "Coconut grapevine" and if you want something or to rent somewhere somebody always knows how to get it or to arrange it for you. Anything we wanted there was a person for it. Again be careful about prices charged. Unfortunately where we were living was very disadvantaged and while we were not wealthy we did do a lot for the village and hence everyone thought we were rich," said one expat living in Sigatoka Valley, Fiji.

What Expats Appreciate about Their New Culture

We asked expats in Fiji what they appreciated about their new culture. Here's what they had to say:

"The kind and warm-hearted approach from the (Indigenous) Fijian people as well as the relative availability of many items and infrastructure areas (compared to our previous duty stations)," said one expat living in Suva, Fiji.

The Most Challenging Aspects of Living in Fiji

Then, we asked expats in Fiji what was most challenging about their new culture. They replied:

"That most things here are owned, operated and controlled by the Indian minority (with whom we have already had a negative experience while living in India)," said one expat living in Suva, Fiji.

"Settling in and finding somewhere you are happy to live. Once you find your shop that you know will not charge you extra, you can get cheap fruit and vege," mentioned another expat in Fiji.

Advice for Newcomers about Culture Shock

"Be careful, it is fairly easy to offend or step on toes in the traditional Fijian culture. Expect that many things (e.g. fast food chains) may sound like "at home" but definitely doesn't look like! Remember that this is an isolated island and that many items can be in shortage due to the high demand, and must be shipped from abroad," said one expat living in Suva, Fiji.

"Do not come to Fiji unless you are willing to be openly cheated, use to not having hot water, able to take bug bites and tolerate strange food," mentioned another expat in Fiji.

"Visit frequently if it is not too far away. And don't put any unrealistic expectations on yourself," commented one expat who made the move to Fiji.

"Be prepared to go through the stages. Make sure you drive down to areas you plan to live in. Dogs just keep barking. Be prepared to pay more money for rent. Off Denarau, in a semi decent area you are looking at 2500+ for a 3 bed house... But you may have dogs and prostitutes nearby. Join clubs if you can and expect to pay a lot of money for a car, but you definitely need a car," remarked another expat living in Nadi, Fiji.

"Don't lower your standards, but understand the locals don't understand problem solving or empathy," added another expat in Fiji.

The Reality of Living in Fiji

We asked expats how expat life lived up to their expectations. They said:

"The local Fijians are nice but be careful, a minority of them befriend expats for financial gains or profits or getting a foreign citizenship through fake marriage. Not many expat communities. Beaches and lifestyle relaxed and easy-going. Local Fijians are really nice people," said one expat living in Suva, Fiji.

"Having lived in another developing country of the South Pacific before, the way of life here is similar, except that there, people seemed more genuine than here and are able to smile and say hello without being paid for it," mentioned another expat in Fiji.

Read Next

Culture-Shock-in-NadiAn Expat Talks about Culture Shock & Living in Nadi, Fiji

An expat in Nadi, Fiji discusses the ongoing challenges she's experienced living there. It's taken her several years to come to the realization that locals aren't (and never will be) empathetic.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Some of Betsy's more popular articles include 6 Best Places to Live in Costa Rica, 12 Things to Know Before Moving to The Dominican Republic and 7 Tips for Obtaining Residence in Italy. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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First Published: May 06, 2018

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