French Polynesia

 


Spread amidst the Pacific Ocean, halfway between Tokyo and Chile's Santiago, the French Polynesian archipelagoes are found -5 in total-, which comprise a sum of 118 islands. Of these archipelagoes, two of them, the Gambier Islands and the Austral Islands, don't report any major touristic interest because the tourism industry never quite developed in the area, and because the place the islands are located in makes them a little difficult to reach.

Of the other 3 archipelagoes, each one with its particular charm and attractions, the most densely populated and economically active is the Society one, being itself divided in two other archipelagoes, the Windward Islands (comprising the Tahiti, Moorea and Tetiaroa isles mainly), and the Leeward (with the Bora Bora, Huahine, Raiatea, Taha'a and Maupiti islands). Of the total population in French Polynesia (245.500 inhabitants), 75% of it is concentrated over the islands of Tahiti and Moorea approximately. The other 116 islands share the 25% left of the population.

The Society Archipelago is the one with the most "traditional" touristic destinations, being Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora the most frequently visited. For the exotic voyager, French Polynesia has Huahine or the Tuamotu to offer, or even the straight-forwardly wild Marquises.

French Polynesia, often referred to as "Tahiti and her Islands", wears a particular atmosphere blending french sophistication with the local joyful and party-like spirit. The native people combine the XXI century way of life with ancestral rhythms of sun and the sea.

In French Polynesia the widest variety of activities can be found, ranging from sport ones like golfing, tennis and hang gliding; watersports like snorkeling, scuba diving, windsurfing and water skiing; to night activities like local and international taste night clubs, restaurants to please any kind of liking and budget, and local style bars. Plus, stores and hotels capable of satisfying the most exigent international tourist are available.

French Polynesia has an exceptional gastronomic tradition, and blends antique culinary techniques from the South-Pacific with french gastronomy and chinese and italian cuisines' influence. This is not only stated through classy restaurants, but also in the mobile "roulottes", streetside bars with cheaper prices.

Food is still cooked in traditional ovens, very abundant in the whole Pacific. A hole is digged in the ground, it is later filled with stones and, after that, a fire is lighted to heat the stones. On top of it goes the food, wrapped in banana tree's leaves. The hole is once again filled with earth. The cooking process lasts several hours. In French Polynesia, this kind of oven is called ahima'a and the banquet, tamara'a.

After visiting French Polynesia, and having seen its mixture of spectacular mountain peaks, wild and lush vegetation, and the clearest waters ever, any tripper will be able to understand why Tahiti is often called the "Isle of Love" or "Paradise on Earth".



 
     
     

 
General Knowledge

Geo-political Information
5 Archipelagoes · 118 Islands
Area: 3.125.000 sq. miles · Land Area: 2.200 sq. miles
Population: 245.500 inhabitants (150.000 in Tahiti)

Society Archipelago:
Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora (75% of total population)
Capital City: Papeete (in the island of Tahiti)

Nationalities and Ethnias: 83% Polynesian (maori), 12% European, 5% Asian.

Official Languages: Tahitian and French, English also spoken.

Religion: 55% protestant, 30% catholic, 6% mormon, 2% Seventh Day Adventist, 2% buddist and confucionist.

Activities
Golf, Tennis, Gliding, Scuba Diving, Snorkeling, Aquatic Ski, Windsurf, etc.

Infrastructure
Hotels, Bungalows, Restaurants, Shopping Stores, Typical Markets, Pubs, Discotheques, etc.

Weather
Weather in French Polynesia has two different seasons. The humid one, between november and april, with an average temperature of 27° C min and 30° C max, high humidity levels, plenty of rainfall (75% of anual rainfall) and short, violent storms. During the dry season, between may and october, rain is more rare, the air drier and temperatures a little cooler.

Money

The cost of life in French Polynesia is almost as expensive as it is anywhere else in the world. There are no taxes falling on personal income, but non-direct taxes and import fees are high, and as almost every product on sale is imported (and subject to taxes of 200% on the product's value!), it's understandable if some items don't end up being very cheap. However, there are more budget-friendly lodging options in bigger towns' residences and family-run pensions in farther areas; in the several bars available it is often possible to eat for a relatively cheap price.

If one chooses economic bars, lodges oneself in lower-quality accomodation, moves around by le truck (local bus) and spend its days scuba-diving and exploring the archaeological emplacements and the inner-islands on foot, it's posible to make it on an 80 to 100 dollar daily basis (60 to 80 euro). However if one prefers to eat in restaurants, sleep in cozy rooms, rent a car or submarine gear, make a touristic excursion and dive into nightlife, it's easy to see that sum multiplied by 3 or 4.

Banks are not too generous when it comes to exchanging currency or traveler's checks and, in general, it's foreseeable for one to lose about 5% on each transaction, even if exchange rates and banking commissions vary from office to office. In Tahiti, there are plenty of ATMs and in the other touristic islands at least one or two can be found.

It's vital to remark that preferred ways of payment should always be € (euros, in cash , can be exchanged for pacific francs at the official rate in any hotel), or credit cards. US dollars ($) are not suggested, as they have to be changed and money is lost in the transaction.

 

 
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