Tokelau is three coral atolls in the Pacific Ocean to the south of the equator. It is the dependent territory of New Zealand. It is situated about midway between New Zealand and Hawaii. The capital city is Nukunonu.
The climate is maritime tropical with frequent trade winds. The temperature does not change much throughout the year, so the tourists come here all the year round. But the best time to spend the holidays on the islands is from April to October when it does not rain so often.
The official languages are Tokelau and English. The majority of the population are the Protestants and about one-third of the population are the Catholics. Tourism infrastructure in Tokelau is not well-developed. There is only one hotel here. The only tourist attraction is the ocean.
A warm weather, ocean and the lack of tourism infrastructure make the islands attractive for those who prefer privacy and isolation. The lack of expensive hotels, luxurious restaurants and noisy discos means the lack of crowds of tourists which is a great advantage for some people.
The Tokelau Atolls are of a coral origin and the coastal areas always have something to offer. Snorkelling and diving allow enjoying more varied holidays.
The everyday life and the culture of the local people present a great interest. The tourists can watch and participate in some celebrations. Although Tokelau celebrations cannot compete with South American carnivals, traditional songs and dances of this remote place are a great entertainment for the tourists.
The travellers can take part in sea fishing with the local people.
There is neither port nor airport in Tokelau. The only means of transport that can land on the islands is a helicopter. Private helicopters are the most convenient way to get to the atoll.
The majority of tourists come to Tokelau by sea. Often they come to Samoa first by plane from New Zealand, Australia or Asian countries and from Samoa they travel to Tokelau. Once in two weeks, a small ferry arrives at Tokelau and once a month a cruise ship comes alongside. The tourists can also rent a small boat or a yacht.
All the tourists travelling to Tokelau must obtain a visa. One can do it by contacting directly the Consulate of Tokelau in Samoa by phone or by fax or applying to the Embassy of New Zealand. You will have to wait for a visa about two weeks.
Be aware that due to the remoteness of the islands, you may need to get transit visas of the countries through which you are going to get to Tokelau.
Import and export of any currency are not restricted in Tokelau.
The tourists can bring in Tokelau the following things duty-free:
- some alcohol and tobacco;
- personal belongings;
- other goods the total cost of which does not exceed 700 New Zealand dollars (NZD).
It is prohibited to import:
- food (including canned food);
- any plants;
- pets from certain countries;
- goods of plant and animal origin, including things made of turtle shell or ivory.
- many drugs;
- cold weapons (including for underwater hunting) without a special permit.
The tourists are not allowed to export rare animals and plants and things made of them.
The isolation of the islands and the lack of economic contacts with other countries allowed the local people preserve their own cooking traditions virtually as they were. That is why Tokelau is a place for foodies. The staple food as in many other countries of the region is fish and seafood, yams, and breadfruit.
On the smaller islands, there is an acute shortage of meat. The locals can treat themselves to some pork and poultry only during celebrations. They roast meat over the charcoal or cook it in the ground oven umu.
In Tokelau, you will have a chance to try various seafood dishes. Fish, crabs, shrimps, and lobsters are used everywhere: in soups, porridges, roasted and raw. A speciality of the islands is Ika Mata, chopped raw fish marinated with lime and served with tomatoes, onion, and coconut water.
A typical side dish is sweet potato, taro root, boiled or fried bananas. The coconut meat is added to many dishes. We recommend trying Rukau, boiled and mashed taro root and sweet potatoes wrapped in banana or taro leaves and baked.
For a dessert, you will be offered fresh fruits or sweet dishes made from coconut milk.
The people on the islands drink herbal or seaweed tea. Other non-alcoholic drinks are imported from other countries.
Beer is extremely popular on the islands. It is imported in large amounts from Samoa. The locals also drink a traditional Polynesian beverage Kava (or Kaleva as they call it here). It is made of coconut water and some other ingredients. Though Kava is not an alcoholic beverage, it produces a very similar effect. If you want alcohol of a good quality, you should bring it with you.
The official currency on the islands is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD) equal to 100 cents. In circulation are the banknotes from 5 to 100 dollars, 10 cent and 2 dollar coins.
There are no banks or exchange offices in Tokelau. One can take advantage of the local money changers and the rate is usually agreed on. The tourists usually prefer to buy the New Zealand currency beforehand. Of course, it is easier to it in New Zealand. One can also exchange currency in Samoa.
Samoan tala and US dollars are willingly accepted here as well.
Credit cards and traveller’s checks are useless here as people accept only cash and there are not ATMs in Tokelau.
Be aware that tips are not accepted here and your attempts to give a tip can be misunderstood.
Details of interest
Sightseeing in Tokelau
In Tokelau, there are not places inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The tourists can visit the main sights of the islands:
- The Atafu Island is the northernmost and the smallest atolls. It better preserved the traditional way of life. The people on Atafu build traditional Polynesian houses, make canoes and hold the most interesting celebrations and festivals. The tourists for whom this special atmosphere is important come to this island.
- The Village Hall on the Fakaofo Island is the major public building in the most populated atoll. It is built in the traditional Polynesian style. There is a coral plate symbolising the ancient God Tui Tokelau.
- The Village Hall on the Nukunonu Island is a former port warehouse which the locals made into the major building.
- Luanaliki hotel is the only hotel in the country situated on the Nukunonu Island close to the Fale Fa Resort. Almost all tourists stay in this hotel. There is also a guest house Feliti Lopa on the Atafu.
- Christian churches. The people of the atolls were turned into the Christianity by the Europeans. Today, on the islands, there are several working churches which look very unusual in the background of the island nature.
Souvenirs in Tokelau
The tourists usually buy:
- collector’s coins;
- crafts of coconut shell;
- small copies of canoes;
- woven baskets and hats.