General Information About the Islands of Tahiti
Location of Tahiti
The Islands of Tahiti lie halfway between California and Australia. It is an easy, 8 hour non-stop flight from Los Angeles or a 12 hour non-stop flight from New York’s JFK. You have the choice of several national airlines including: Air Tahiti Nui (voted 4th best airline in the world by Skytrax) Air France, Air New Zealand and Hawaiian Air (via Hawaii).
The Islands of Tahiti are 2 hours behind Los Angeles. If it is noon in Los Angeles, it is 10 am in Tahiti. However, during Daylight Savings, the difference is 3 hours.
French and Tahitian are the official languages of French Polynesia. On the main islands, you will find English is spoken in all the hotels and in most shops and restaurants. Communication is rarely a problem. Find out more about the Tahitian language here.
The French Pacific Franc (xpf) is the local currency and it's tied to the Euro with a fixed rate of 119.331. Visa & MasterCard are the most widely accepted credit cards. The major resorts accept American Express. As you get to the more remote islands, fewer places will accept credit cards. ATM machines are available on most of the larger islands. You'll also find on some of the larger islands, that the the US Dollar is accepted by many vendors. They will simply give you change in local currency.
Electric voltage in French Polynesia is 220v. Most hotels have 110v outlets for electric razors. You will typically need an adapter for other appliances. We use the same plugs as in France with two round prongs.
A Tropical Climate
French Polynesia enjoys a warm, tropical climate. The average temperature is about 79°F. This is a tropical destination blessed with lots of sun and enough rain to keep the waterfalls flowing and the flowers blooming. Tahiti is well outside the South Pacific cyclone zone, so you won't find a cyclone or hurricane season here. The water temperature remains fairly constant. It averages 79°F in the winter season (southern hemisphere) and 84F during the summer. From the ocean surface to 166' below there is only a one-half degree difference in temperature. Most people dive in a 2/3 mm wetsuit. Find out more about the weather here.
Le Marché in Papeete is open daily from 5:00am to 6:00pm. This is a great place to buy local crafts, pareos, flowers, fruit and local dishes. Most stores are open Monday - Friday from 8am-5:30pm. Many shops close from noon - 2pm for lunch.
Items worth buying include: Tahitian pearls, tattoos, carvings from the Marquesas, tifaifai quilts, woven bags, vanilla and pareos. Please do not haggle over prices. It simply isn't done here.
Traditionally, tipping has been contrary to the Tahitian custom of hospitality. You will find it is neither required nor expected. However, if you receive particularly good service from someone, please feel free to tip. I'm sure they will appreciate it.
Note: In Tahiti, the prices quoted on menus and in stores are all inclusive. You won't find any hidden costs.