French Polynesia is touted as one of the worlds most expensive destinations. While this is true to an extent, it is also possible to enjoy the islands without breaking the bank. Keep the following tips in mind during your trip to French Polynesia to save money while also having a memorable vacation.
While cabs are convenient, they're certainly not the most economical way to get around French Polynesia. Depending which island you're on, a smarter option is opting for the Le Truck or cycling. The Le Truck refers to the destinations colorful, open-air equivalent of the bus. That being said, many islands are bike-friendly, allowing you to get around without spending a fortune (and burning off all that decadent French fare). Getting around by bike also allows you to feel the beat of the island, an added bonus.
Forget all the luxurious over-water bungalows and 5-star hotels you see printed on French Polynesia brochures; these aren't the only forms of accommodations offered. Along with a few 3-star hotels, guesthouses and hostels, travelers can book pensions, which are essentially homestays. These allow you to stay in a family-run guesthouse, savoring home-cooked meals and immersing yourself in local culture, for a lower rate than your average hotel. While they range in class, it's possible to find ambient pensions with many amenities.
Tip: Opt for a pension with a kitchen and free activities like kayaking and biking to further save money.
While there are a number of interesting tours worth booking, those on a budget should also sprinkle free activities into their itineraries. As stated above, booking an accommodation that offers free non-motorized water sports and/or bikes is a great way to experience the islands without spending a penny. As French Polynesia is composed of lush islands full of natural beauty, hiking, swimming, bird watching and nature photography are other free options for filling your time.
April to June and September to November is considered shoulder season in French Polynesia. During this time, flights, hotels and tours are cheaper, and you're more likely to find discounted package deals that can make the usually expensive destination much more affordable.
While you'll typically be able to find street vendors and market stalls on every island, one of the destination's top street food experiences occurs on Tahiti on the waterfront in Vai'ete Square. Each night after 6pm, the square fills with vendors selling everything from crepes to ice cream to seafood to Asian delicacies and beyond. Best of all, its surprisingly cheap. In the square you'll also enjoy free entertainment as musicians and performers show off their skills.
For those flying to different islands during your French Polynesia trip, Air Tahiti offers an island hopper pass that saves you about 30%. There are eight pass choices, allowing you to visit everything from popular islands like Moorea and Bora Bora as well as lesser-traversed options such as Nuka Hiva, Hiva Oa and Timatara.
Apps like LivingSocial and Groupon advertise all types of amazing travel discounts -- typically for more than 50% off. Flash sale sites like Jetsetter, Luxury Link and Expedia ASAP are also good ones to keep an eye on. If you can't find any flash sales relating to French Polynesia, another tactic that could save you a few hundred dollars is booking your trip as a vacation package (i.e. booking your air and hotel and car if you'll be using one together, although you won't really need one except maybe on Tahiti).
Follow Tahiti Tourism on Twitter, as they regularly post air and travel deals, as well as offer suggestions to help visitors have a memorable French Polynesia vacation.
Enjoy your trip to paradise!
Note: Available plans and coverages may have changed since this blog was published.
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Jessica Festa is a full-time travel writer who is always up for an adventure. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia and doing orphanage work in Ghana. You can follow her adventures on her travel websites, Epicure & Culture and Jessie On A Journey. You can also connect with Jessica directly on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, or follow her epicurean adventures on Facebook and Twitter.
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