Photo source: Flickr - Mandy
Unless you're a scuba diver, you may not be entirely familiar with the small country of Palau. Officially, it's the Republic of Palau, and the country is made up of approximately 250 islands. Palau is regarded as one of the best diving destinations in the world; you'll find wartime wrecks, caves, vertical drop offs and loads of tropical fish and brightly colored corals. Other draws to the island nation include the world-famous Jellyfish Lake and the impressive Rock Islands.
If you're planning a trip to the small island nation, here are some helpful tips for first time visitors to Palau.
Palau does not have many flights coming in and out, so you will need to connect through one of a couple of key destinations Tokyo and Guam are typically the easiest. You'll find some chartered flights out of places like Taipei, Seoul, and Manila.
Most flights come in at odd hours and it's wise to schedule your transportation with your hotel. There are typically very few taxis at the airport, especially with a midnight arrival, so you would have to call one from town to come pick you up.
The U.S. Dollar is the official currency of Palau. Expect prices to be on the high side, given the island nation relies heavily on tourism. Credit cards are commonly accepted at resorts and hotels, but you should bring cash for shopping and restaurants.
Crime is rare in Palau, but you should always maintain the same safety precautions as you would elsewhere in the world. What you do need to pay attention to is your safety in the reefs. There are saltwater crocs and bull sharks that frequent the area. It's highly unlikely you'll be attacked, but it's important to note that these guys make their home around the islands.
Palau charges a departure tax and green fee to all passengers departing through the Palau International Airport. As of 2015, the fee is $50 US, payable in cash only. The fee consists of a $35 Airport Departure Tax and a $15 Environmental Protection Fee.
You won't find the large selection of lodging like you might expect with some tropical islands. There are a few budget spots and a couple of high-end luxury resorts, but they won't come cheap. And, internet access can be extremely slow and expensive. You're better off connecting at a public Wi-Fi spot versus relying on hotel provided internet.
Palau's official post office is the United States Postal Service. That means if you plan to shop and bring home a number of souvenirs, but are worried about your luggage allowance, you can mail your purchases home for reasonable rates. The USPS treats Palau as a territory, so you'll only pay the regular postal rates as with any other US territory.
Even if you're not a die-hard scuba diver, you might want to consider a liveaboard, at least for a portion of your trip. With the calm waters and abundant dive sites further out, the liveaboard is a great way to experience the best diving in Palau, no matter whether you're an open water or advanced diver.
One of the main adventures in Palau is Palau Jellyfish Lake. You have to pay for the tour, along with a hefty permit fee -- $100 US. The permit is valid for 10 days so its worth scheduling multiple visits during your time in Palau.
One of the main items to consider bringing back is a storyboard. These are long, wooden carvings that tell the story of an ancient Palauan legend. You may find them shaped like a local animal as well.
There are two main shopping centers in Koror, along with a number of smaller stores located along the main road. WCTC Shopping Center is the largest in the country and has everything you might need clothing, groceries, and independent shops selling jewelry, accessories, and more. Most stores open around 8am and close at 9pm, Monday through Saturday.
Not a scuba diver, but traveling with one? There is still a lot to do in Palau for non-divers. Take a kayak tour to Rock Islands, go snorkeling or book a fishing tour. You can also take a full day WWII tour, where you'll explore secret sites on Babeldaob Island. Check out the Palau International Coral Reef Center or visit the Koror Jail. Wondering why you'd want to visit the jail? The only prison in Palau has become a bit of a tourist attraction, with inmates creating the most intricate traditional storyboards. You can purchase a storyboard with the proceeds going back to the inmates' families.
While Palau is technically out of the typhoon zone, there is still a possibility of weather impacting your journey. And as with any adventure travel destination, having the appropriate travel insurance, such as RoamRight's Scuba Diving Trip Insurance, is always a precaution you should take for your journey.
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Erin is a travel and food writer who currently splits her time between the Netherlands and Belize. She's traveled to 60+ countries on 5 continents with a passion for culinary travel, luxury hotels, and all things Disney. Her writing has appeared in numerous online outlets including Gadling, BootsnAll, CNN, Art of Backpacking, TravBuddy, CBS, and more. She was the major author of Belize's official visitor magazine, Destination Belize 2013; wrote the official AFAR Guide to Belize; and is also AFAR Magazine's local Belize expert.. In addition to writing for other publications, Erin maintains several blogs, Our Tasty Travels, No Checked Bags, Pooh's Travels, and the brand new Caye To Belize. Follow Erin on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus.
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