BACKPACKING FIJI – EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
BACKPACKING FIJI – EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Just because of the five star resorts, private beaches and expensive activities does not mean Fiji is only reserved for the rich. Backpacking Fiji was one of the most incredible experiences we have ever had, however we made A LOT of mistakes and have put together this post to save you time, money and stress and avoid the issues we had! This is how Fiji on a budget is possible and why it should be added to your backpacking bucket list ASAP!
Why Not Watch Our Backpacking Fiji Highlights and Review?
BEST TIME TO VISIT FIJI
We so wished we had researched the best time to visit Fiji prior to booking. This is when we made our first mistake that *nearly* spoiled our entire trip. Due to our itinerary, we ended up backpacking Fiji in February which is peak tropical storm time and during our trip, Cyclone Gita ravaged the islands. Not exactly ideal snorkelling, sunbathing and sailing weather.
When we booked our trip our travel agent did not advise that from November until April is the rainy reason. We’re Scottish, we can deal with rain. Not. Tropical thunderstorms and a full blown cyclone meant not only a terrifying boat ride (Lauren cried and our entire boat was sick) but the majority of our activities and excursions were cancelled. This is not ideal if you’re backpacking Fiji and limited for time and money!
Peak Season occurs between July and September so we recommend the best time to visit Fiji is from late October to early November. It is the best time for backpacking Fiji due to cost as it is slightly out of season, therefor flights and accommodation are cheaper. It’s also before schools break up for holidays so beaches are less crowded and accommodation is cheaper. It also offers the best weather – expect warm, calm and dry. The exact opposite of our trip!
TRANSPORT IN FIJI
If you are backpacking Fiji, transport is very budget friendly. We recommend using Skyscanner for the cheapest flights, check out our best apps for backpackers post for our top tips on getting bargain flights straight to your phone!
It is most likely you will fly into the main island called Vita Levu, where the main international airport is in Nadi. We flew from Oahu in Hawaii as we were doing a Workaway there, however we recommend backpacking Fiji as part of a gap year in Australia or New Zealand as flights are usually around $200 AUD – sometimes cheaper!
Busses & Taxis
The most popular option for backpacking Fiji is to island hop the Yasawa islands as they are the most budget friendly. This means after arriving in Nadi, you will head straight to the port.
- Bus from Airport to the Port: $5 FJD
- Taxi from Airport to the Port: $30 FJD
Due to there being over 300 islands, when backpacking Fiji it’s inevitable you will need to get on a boat. Awesome Fiji run the Yasawa Flyer between the islands. There are mix of passes available, or you can get direct resort transfers, more information can be found on the Awesome Fiji website. Some journeys take 4+ hours, so take this into consideration when planning a route.
Transport Tips For Backpacking Fiji
- Like all places, make sure to agree with the taxi driver prior to getting in to the car, ours originally said $50 FJD but luckily we had read it shouldn’t be more than $30 FJD so haggled him down.
- Although it saves money getting the local bus (ideal if you’re travelling Fiji on a budget) they will not accept multiple suitcases/baggage and only certain busses stop at the airport.
- Sea sickness tablets are a preventative not a cure. Due to the crazy weather the waves crashed high over our boat causing even Darren (who worked in the North Sea for years) to feel squeamish. You need to take sea sickness tablets before your journey, not during when you start to feel ill as they won’t work. If you do feel sea sick head outside and get some fresh air.
- Although you island hop via a large boat, you are then transported into a smaller boat to reach your resort. Depending on the weather these can be TERRIFYING if it’s your first time backpacking Fiji. After your second boat, you don’t think about it but it’s not the easiest with a tonne of luggage so pack wisely.
RECOMMENDED ACCOMMODATION FOR BACKPACKING FIJI
Although Fiji is famed for it’s luxurious resorts and private islands, there are many Fiji hostels suited to a backpacker budget. Although the cheapest accommodation is on the mainland (Viti Levu) it is so worth the extra spend for a true taste of island life!
When we were backpacking Fiji, we mostly stayed on the Yasawa Islands as they were just too beautiful to miss. The Mamanuca Islands are also popular with backpackers and are also a chain of islands to the west of Nadi.
Bamboo Backpackers, Nadi
If you are looking for Fiji hostels, we loved our time here before our flight. If you have time on the mainland, or just want a night’s rest before leaving Fiji this is the perfect place if travelling Fiji on a budget. The room was clean, there was free Wi-Fi & air conditioning. We also had dinner here and a couple of beers which was reasonably priced (huge portions = perfect for backpackers). There is a pool and it is right on Wailoaloa Beach where we watched the most stunning sunset from our entire trip! You can book it here.
Botaira Resort, Naviti Island
If you are backpacking Fiji please, please, please add this accommodation to your itinerary. It was not only our favourite from our entire Fiji trip but the best accommodation we have ever stayed at. As mentioned earlier, we arrived during Cyclone Gita this meant ALL our excursions/activities were cancelled and the majority of guests avoided the further north islands. When we arrived at Botaira it was only us, a housekeeper, gardener and a chef.
Yes, we felt like Kardashians in a private resort and yes, it is unlikely you will be the only ones there however the resort is ran by a local family and some of the kindest people we have ever met. They took us to their local village, the chef took us snorkelling, we watched a local rugby match and they even cooked Darren crab especially because he said he’d never tried it before.
Our bure was unforgettable – it had been painted by a local artist who was profoundly deaf (he lived along the beach from the resort, but due to the tide we couldn’t visit). The staff even sang with us in the evenings and shared with us the most amazing stories, we will never forget our stay and haven’t forgotten their kindness in making our trip so memorable when they could’ve left us to be bored in the room.
Beachcomber Resort, Beachcomber Island
We were told this was the party island and the best place to visit when backpacking Fiji. Yet again, by backpacking Fiji in February we hadn’t quite nailed the timing for this “party island” to be in full swing and due to the Cyclone, Beachcomber Fiji was very tame.
We didn’t mind however as the location was stunning, our bure was huge, clean and had the most amazing hammock and private sunbathing spot out the back. The staff were also very friendly and even decorated the whole resort on Valentine’s day which was a cute touch. We can imagine it being even more fun when busy with other backpackers however it was perfectly pleasant for travelling Fiji on a budget. . . and chilling during a Cyclone.
Accommodation Top Tips When Backpacking Fiji
- The majority of islands do not have cash machines so always check if they accept card or cash only. Take out cash in Nadi (we did it at the airport) before island hopping begins.
- Most resorts (all we visited) have meals included and this is the only booking option. Unlike ordinary hostels or dorms where a communal kitchen is available, when backpacking Fiji you pay for your meals as part of the accommodation package.
- Remember it is island life – do not be shocked to find lizards in your bathroom, or electricity running from a generator so air conditioning won’t run all day.
- If you are backpacking Fiji, the resorts are often rated by a coconut system instead of stars. For example, you usually have 3, 4 or 5 star resorts, but on the islands, it is rated 1 or 2 coconut resorts.
1 Coconut – Very basic. Will not always have hot water for showers. Bring your own towel, toiletries etc. These are however run by local people so you will receive a true Fijian experience. Food is included with the accommodation price.
2 Coconut – More home comforts such as towels, hot water and likely to have air conditioning. Meals are also slightly upgraded with more variety. More upscale however still offer an amazing Fijian experience. Meals are not included in the accommodation price for 2 coconuts, you pay the meals on arrival at each resort.
BACKPACKING FIJI – FOOD
As mentioned earlier, most resorts (even Fiji hostels) on the islands work on an all-inclusive style basis. You pay a one off fee when you arrive at your accommodation and all meals will be included during your stay – alcohol and other drinks are paid separately.
Despite paying all of our meals on arrival as a one off fee, each resort catered differently.
Beachcomber Resort – All meals were served buffet style, you helped yourself. As this was a backpacking resort food was quite basic although tasty and tables were long benches where you ate together with other backpackers – zero complaints!
Octopus Resort – More upscale, there was a full menu where you picked what you wanted like an ordinary restaurant except all meals were paid for. For dinner, there were white table cloths and “fancier” tables at the front basically on the beach. Although we were backpacking Fiji, we took our chances and asked to sit on the fancy tables (you are asked to book in advance for these) and the kind waiter squeezed us in so there’s no harm in asking!
In the evenings they had live music, crab racing and occasionally had a Kava ceremony.
Botaira –The best food of our entire stay. We feel like we didn’t stop eating our entire stay! We had a 3 course BREAKFAST and dinner and even tea and cake in the afternoon – all included!
Due to the cyclone, we were the only guests during our stay although when busier you may be given options, however we just ate what they made (and loved it all). The view from the dining area was incredible, with dinner complimented by guitar and singing. It was an experience we will never forget!
Oarsman Bay – Again, it was a set menu. We just ate what they made, there were no options. Food was perfect and they even cooked fish that other guests had caught on a fishing trip that day for us! You will eat as a “family” usually in one table. We loved having so many nationalities all around one table, however if you’re after a romantic escape then this style maybe isn’t for you!
After dinner, we also took part in the traditional Kava ceremony here!
FREE THINGS TO DO WHEN BACKPACKING FIJI
Chances are, if you are backpacking Fiji you are on a budget, then it’s probably cost you quite a lot in flights and accommodation already. Cue our little list of FREE suggestions of things you must do when travelling Fiji on a budget.
- Kava Ceremony – This is your opportunity to try the Fijian’s favourite drink and although it is best to see the full ceremony in a village, this often comes with a pricey excursion fee. Our accommodation offered the ceremony for free (mainly because the staff drank it after hours anyway). Although this wasn’t as exciting as a real ceremony as there was no village chief or costumes, the locals shared their knowledge and the Kava in abundance and we learned so much about this tradition.
- Local Village – Although the pristine beaches, refreshing swimming pools and snorkel spots are compelling please drag yourself away for a couple of hours and visit a local village. The gardener from our resort offered to take us to visit his parents. It was our highlight from backpacking Fiji and a true insight into how the local people live, away from the bubble of the resorts. We talked with locals, visited their church and watched a local rugby match. They even set up a mini market on the floor of one of the houses for us to purchase some jewellery, as a thank you we did and 6 months later that anklet is still going strong and hasn’t fell off!
- Attend a local rugby match – Who knows you could be watching the next big star in Rugby and village matches are a great way to chat with locals, old and young alike. It was beautiful to watch the entire village from infants to grandparents stop for the afternoon and support their team. We literally rocked up and sat on the grass alongside and felt like one of the locals.
- Snorkel – Fiji’s clear waters and stunning coral are some of the best in the world, so snorkelling is a must! We recommend purchasing your own mask before hand to avoid the over priced rental fees from resorts. Amusingly, the chef from Botaira resort took us in his kayak so our snorkel experience was accidentally free, but with your own mask and snorkel you’re good to go!
TOTAL COST OF BACKPACKING FIJI
Prior to backpacking Fiji we struggled to find information about the cost and we want to be as honest as possible, so this is our truthful view on what we booked and where we wished we hadn’t!
For both of us we paid the following for the 2 Coconut Fiji Discovery Package with Full Monty in a Double/Twin Share:
Boat Transport + Accommodation + Activities + Food, Drinks & Spending = £2,906.04
£1,967.04 was on the actual Fiji Discovery Package, that included the Boat Transport, Accommodation and Activities. The remaining £939.00 was on the mandatory meal spending plus the drinks, which we splurged on due to a lot of activities being cancelled.
Following are tips and advice for saving money in accommodation, transport and activities costs including the mistakes we made whilst backpacking Fiji so you can avoid them and spend alot less than we did!
The Yasawa Flyer is essentially the only boat that takes you between the Yasawa Island resorts. The staff onboard were very friendly and remained calm during the crazy Cyclone storm. They were very quick to attend to anyone who felt seasick (in our case, this was 90% of our boat!)
The Bula Pass allows unlimited travel between islands from 5 to 15 days, pricing and information for the Bula Pass can be found here. You can also upgrade to a Bula Combo which means your accommodation & transport is paid for in advance, you just book where you want to stay once you get on the boat, pricing and information for the Bula Combo Pass can be found here.
We booked our entire trip as a package – Transport + Accommodation and then the “Full Monty” activities package on top. We DO NOT recommend this. It caused more stress when activities were cancelled as we could not rearrange as everything was booked in advance and it worked out more expensive than booking as you go which we realised once we arrived.
There were some resorts such as Botaira, where we so wished we could have stayed longer but we were restricted as we’d already pre-booked our next resort.
It is confusing however, when booking 1 coconut accommodation the meals are included. With 2 coconut accommodation you pay the meal fee when you arrive (it would make more sense if both included meals). If travelling Fiji on a budget, we recommend booking your own accommodation, that way you could mix and match 1 and 2 coconut properties and save money!
As mentioned, we made the error of booking all of our activities as a package, called Fully Monty, prior to our arrival. We thought this would save us time and money. It was the opposite. Upon arrival to our accommodation we realised some of the activities we had booked were not even available despite being advertised and advised by Awesome Fiji that they were and they were much cheaper than we had paid.
Then some were cancelled due to the cyclone (completely understandable) however it took SIX months for a refund (talk about Fiji time) and still we didn’t receive the correct money back. This was because we paid for 5 activities as a whole package, and the company would only refund a % of the whole fee, not the actual cost per activity. So for example, they said a hike which technically is a free activity is the same cost as a full day sailing trip with all food and drink included. Really!?
We cannot recommend enough how much easier it would have been to book our activities from our accommodation as we went. We would have saved money and A LOT of stress afterwards trying to chase Awesome Fiji for refunds.
Backpacking Fiji For Free
There are 27 villages within the Yasawas, living below the world standard of health and poverty. If you really want to submerge yourself in local life and give back to these communities whilst backpacking Fiji then we cannot recommend Workaway enough.
Read our full Workaway Review on how you can stay, eat and play in over 170 countries around the world for FREE. In return you volunteer your time, skills and your culture with locals. It is the perfect way to learn about the real Fijian way of life whilst avoiding crowded resorts and ideal if backpacking Fiji on a budget.
TOP TIPS FOR BACKPACKING FIJI
Learn The Language
We were able to snorkel, visit a local village and attend a rugby match when we were backpacking Fiji because we got chatting with locals. If you seclude yourself to only your accommodation then you won’t have these amazing opportunities. To increase your chances of a genuine Fijian experience, learn a few Fijian words to interact with locals. There are more than 200 dialects in the Fijian language (and we thought Scotland was bad) however these are a few words to get you by:
Bula (pronounced boola) – Means hello/welcome, it is probably the word you will hear most when backpacking Fiji.
Vinaka (pronounced vee naka) – Second most used phrase when backpacking Fiji, means thank you.
Yalo Vinaka (pronounced “yalo vee naka”) – Means please.
Yadra (pronounced yan dra) – Essentially means Good Morning.
Io (pronounced ee-oo) – If ever asked if you want a beer, reply Io, as it means yes.
Sega (pronounced sengah) – Means no. Said A LOT when offered your 7th cup of Kava.
Sega la neqa (pronounced sengah la nenga) – We loved this phrase, it means “no worries” like the Fijian Hakuna Matata
It might upset your stomach a little the next day so probably not the best idea to take part if you have a lot of activities planned the following day. Although we were totally fine (and drank 3 cups) our friend was a little ill the day after.
If you are backpacking Fiji it is not advisable to take your large backpack on the ferry and to all islands. For comfort and ease we suggest packing a smaller bag (or sharing a backpack between two which we did) and leaving your main bag in storage at the airport. Backpacks cost around $9.50 FJD per day to store.
Some islands have a “landing fee” or resort fees, these can be as much as $70 so be sure to check that before arriving. When we booked our accommodation as a package the fees were included, if you’re going for a DIY option take these into consideration as it may work out more expensive.
When backpacking Fiji do not skip on travel insurance thinking it will save you money. There were so many activities such as cave diving, sailing during the cyclone and snorkelling which are considered “high risk” and truthfully, there is little health and safety guidance compared to European countries. We recommend travel insurance regardless, but even more so when backpacking Fiji due to the nature of the activities you will do and limited safety precautions we experienced.
For more photos of our adventure, please take a peek at our Fiji gallery.
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