Palau (Belau) is a group of more than 300 tropical islands in the Micronesia area of the Pacific Ocean, to the southeast of the Philippines.


Capital Ngerulmud
Currency United States dollar (USD)
Population 21.7 thousand (2017)
Electricity 120 volt / 60 hertz (NEMA 1-15, NEMA 5-15)
Country code +680
Time zone UTC+09:00, Pacific/Palau
Emergencies 911
Driving side right

After three decades as part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific under US administration, this westernmost cluster of the Caroline Islands chose independence in 1978, instead of joining the Federated States of Micronesia. A Compact of Free Association with the US was approved in 1986, but not ratified until 1993. Palau became independent on October 1, 1994.

It is illegal to sell/buy or use sunscreen or skin care products that contain chemicals that damage the reef. Details can be found on the ICRI web page.



Early Palauans may have come from Polynesia and Asia. Depending on the origin of a family, Palauans may represent many parts of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. However, they are not traditionally considered to be Micronesian. For thousands of years, Palauans have had a well established matrilineal society, believed to have descended from Javanese precedents.

Palau had limited relations before the 18th century, mainly with Yap and Java. Had it not been for shipwrecked islanders who took refuge in the Philippines, Europeans likely would not have found Palau until much later. Englishman Captain Henry Wilson was shipwrecked off the island of Ulong in 1783 and it was Wilson who gave the archipelago the name "Pelew Islands".

In the late 19th century, possession of the islands was claimed by Britain, Spain, and Germany. In 1885, the matter was brought to Pope Leo XIII for a decision. The Pope recognized the Spanish claim, but granted economic concessions to Britain and Germany. Palau then became part of the Spanish East Indies, along with the Northern Mariana Islands, the Caroline Islands and the Marshall Islands. They were all administered from the Philippines. Spain sold the Palau archipelago to Germany in 1899 after which it was administered from German New Guinea, and a period of economic development began. German engineers began exploiting the islands' deposits of bauxite and phosphate, and a rich harvest in copra was made. World War I intervened and the German period lasted only 15 years after which the League of Nations awarded Palau to Japan as a South Seas Mandate. The Japanese presence made Palau a major target for the Allied forces in World War II, and there were several major battles in the area.



Palau enjoys a tropical climate all year round with an annual mean temperature of 82 °F (28 °C). Rainfall can occur throughout the year, averaging a total of 150 inches (3,800 mm). The average humidity over the course of the year is 82%, and although rain falls more frequently between July and October, there is still much sunshine. Typhoons are rare, as Palau is outside the main typhoon zone.



Palau inherits its traditional practices and a modern cultural life in its closeness to nature. There is a tradition of storyboards (itabori), which is storytelling recorded in old Palauan legends and skill of woodcarvings.

Tourist information




English and Palauan are the official languages, although some islands also give official status to their own languages. The state of Angaur is actually the only place in the world where Japanese is an official language, as Japan has no official language.


  Babeldaob (Melekeok)
The largest island, with a population of roughly 6,000 people, also Babelthuap, Babelthwap, Babeldoub, Babeldaub, etc.
Home of the largest city of the same name.
  Rock Islands
A UNESCO World Heritage Site made up of almost 300 mostly uninhabited islands, home to Jellyfish Lake, a lake with millions of jellyfish with very weak stingers where snorkelers can safely swim.
about 700 people live here, mostly in the village of Kloulklubed.
remote southern outpost with about 200 inhabitants, site of a major World War II naval battle and a modern day surfing destination of some repute.
  Sonsorol Islands
consists of Sonsorol and Hatohobei states, these islands are home to about 100 people way to the southwest of the rest of Palau.


  • 1 Melekeok Melekeok (town) on Wikipedia - new capital (pop. 381) This is on the island of Babeldaob and is a pleasant drive from Koror along the new road constructed by Daewoo. Head out over the bridge and the road to Melekeok is clearly signposted.
  • 2 Koror - the largest city and former capital. Koror contains Palau's only real concentration of shops, restaurants, and hotels. Many of the largest dive operators are also based here.

Other destinations


The southwestern islands of Palau are worth a visit if you have your own marine transport such as an ocean-going yacht. There are Sonsorol, Fana, Meriil, Hatohobei and Helen Reef, a conservation area. However be sure to take mosquito repellent if you visit Meriil as its local name is Dancing Island. Go there and you will find out why! If you intend to visit any of these islands it is a wise idea to make the acquaintance of the governors at their offices in Koror. If you are lucky you just might be able to take a trip on the island supply vessel, the Atoll Way. Sleeping is on a hard wooden platform along with the other souls who are either returning to their home islands or maybe the doctor from Peleliu Island Hospital who is making a routine visit to check up on the health of the islanders.

Get in

Visa policy of Palau
  Visa on arrival
  Visa required

Visa requirements


Visas are not required by citizens of any Schengen country (90 days), Taiwan (90 days), the United States (a year), Israel (90 days), the Marshall Islands (a year) and the Federated States of Micronesia (a year). Nearly all other visitors can obtain a 30 day visa on arrival, except for citizens of Bangladesh and Myanmar who must obtain a visa in advance.

Cruise ship docked outside Palau

By plane


The only realistic choice. There is only one airport, Airai (ROR IATA), or officially Roman Tmetuchl International Airport, on Babeldaob. As of 2022, the only scheduled international flights are from Manila and Guam, both on United, or Taipei, on China Airlines. Alii Palau Airlines started regular flights from Singapore to Palau from 23 November 2023.

By boat


Possible but only recommended for experienced mariners. Cruise ships occasionally visit Palau.

Get around


Taxi and rented car. Lots of local taxis. If you rent a car, be prepared to drive slowly on some bumpy roads. Both left and right hand drive cars are present in Palau, which can cause some confusion. If you drive south, to Ice Box Park, the facility behind it is a sewage treatment plant. Any other diving will be from a boat, after an hour or more ride and cost around US$150 for a two-tank dive. There are no dive spots or beaches on the main island — Koror. The road north is paved and is very nice... once you get past the airport.


Rock Islands

Most visitor attractions are found on and around The Rock Islands or Chelbachebover. These 250 rock islands — many tiny, uninhabited places — offer some enchanting views and are a World Heritage site. Popular dives include Blue Corner, Blue hole and the German Channel.

Head to Jellyfish Lake for the extraordinary experience of snorkeling between the countless and unique stingless jellyfish. The isolated location and lack of predators have led the jellyfish to develop this significant difference from the ones in the nearby lagoon. Take a guided tour along ancient stone monoliths and terraces while your guide tells you all about the legends that surround them. With just over 21,000 inhabitants, even the capital might feel like a village, but there's a handful of interesting sights and a few museums showcasing traditional Palau culture and the country's turbulent war time history. Again though, it's the sheer beauty both above and under water that makes visitors rave about this small island nation.

Palau is the site of the world's first shark sanctuary across 629,000 kilometers in exclusive economic zone and breeds a variety with 135 species of endangered sharks.


Bull Shark

Palau is most famous for scuba diving. One of the most famous dive sites, Blue Corner, with constant sharks and a high current — is less than 1 hour's boat ride from most resorts. There are many local dive shops and live-aboards that offer tours in Palau. There are also tours to World War II battle fields on Palau.

The Blue Corner, German Channel, Ulong Channel and Blue Holes are all amazing dive sites. You can dive the same site again and again and have completely different experiences each time.

Palau is also famous for its jellyfish lakes. These lakes contain jellyfish which have evolved away their stingers in the absence of predators. There are many tours which will go to the jellyfish lake to snorkel. SCUBA diving is not permitted, nor is necessary, in the jellyfish lake. Palau Jellyfish Lake is included in the category of natural phenomena and scientific mysteries.





Exchange rates for U.S. dollars

As of January 2024:

  • €1 ≈ $1.10
  • UK£1 ≈ $1.27
  • AU$1 ≈ $0.68
  • CA$1 ≈ $0.76
  • Japanese ¥100 ≈ $0.71

Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from

Palau uses the U.S. dollar as its currency ("$", ISO currency code: USD). It is divided into 100 cents.



As you might expect from a remote island where tourism is the main industry, prices are comparatively high, and even a low-end daily budget would be around $100/day. An increase in visitor numbers in 2015-16 (including many Chinese package tours) has caused overcrowding; in 2017, President Tommy Remengesau proposed policy intended to reposition Palau as a destination of primarily "five-star hotels" (so fewer visitors, at a higher cost) to limit the negative environmental and social impact.



Palauan storyboards are traditional wood carvings depicting Palauan myths and legends.



Palau has large communities from Taiwan, the Philippines, Korea, Japan and the USA and the local stores have evolved to supply their needs. So Koror offers an amazing range of foodstuffs in its stores, at a price of course. Japanese-inspired Bento lunch boxes are very popular. Koror also has the largest concentration of restaurants.


Red Rooster beer

Many licensed establishments in Palau — from quiet little bars to Japanese-style karaoke bars complete with bar girls. For a decent affordable drink, try Sam's Dive Shop or High Tide. Alcohol is readily available at most stores. Public drinking is not allowed, and the local police are more than happy to inconvenience you if you are caught.

Red Rooster Beer. Despite its size Palau has a small brewery, to be found next to the West Plaza by the Sea hotel (see below). It offers Amber and Stout and three other beers. Abai Ice in Koror is a small hut that offers fresh fruit smoothies — highly recommended.





Palau offers a number of guest house style boutique accommodations. Some are close to or within Koror, some are not. These are available for international bookings via dive shops that offer holiday packages (such as Sam's Tours). Prices range from US$50 a night upward.



There are also a number of nice basic hotels available in Palau.



There are lots of reasonably high end resorts on Palau, most catering for scuba divers.


  • Palau Community College. Offers AS/AA degrees and occupational certificates. The campus library is open to the public, and offers computer terminals for community members and visitors to check email. The school is accredited through the Western Association of Colleges.

Stay safe


Palau is quite a safe country to visit. Walking in downtown Koror at night, even past midnight is quite safe. But as with any place in the world today, common sense prevails. Pedestrians should be careful, as sidewalks are limited even in downtown Koror.

The remote atoll of Helen Reef

Saltwater Crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) still exist in Palau's mangroves and in the beautiful Rock Islands and can potentially be found anywhere on the island. Despite their fearsome and, in some areas, very justified reputation, here they rarely grow to the immense size that they do in Australia and New Guinea. There was only one fatal attack by a crocodile in Palau within recorded history and that occurred in 1965. The biggest crocodile in Palau's history was 15 feet in length- large, but this is an average size for saltwater crocodiles in most other countries. The rarity of attacks probably stems from the fact that there are no more than 150 adult individuals on the island. Snorkeling and scuba diving are very popular in Palau. A 2012 attack on a tourist was the first since the 1960s. According to one survey, it appears crocodiles are quite unjustly hated by the locals, in harsh contrast to the worship they are given by the indigenous peoples of Australia, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. The reasons for this are unclear.

Bull Sharks are common in the coastal waters and estuaries, so caution must always be taken while scuba diving or snorkeling.

Stay healthy


According to the CDC, tap water in Palau is generally safe to drink. Drinking from private wells is not recommended.



Palauans have been known throughout history for their hospitality. Many Palauans are very understanding, realize cultural differences, and easily give respect for foreign visitors. Be sure, however, to always pay respect to the local culture. As with any other ethnic group, rude remarks or any form of prejudice against the local culture is not taken kindly. Palauans can be just as angry and rude as they are kind. As long as you do not disrespect the culture, violate historic areas, pollute, or harm the ocean in any way, you will find the local atmosphere very laid back and easy going.

Palau is a matrilineal society with very strict roles for men and women. Ideas such as feminism are not standard to the Palauan population, and an overly zealous attempt at instilling such ideas is taken as annoying, ignorant, and obnoxious. Most Palauans, however, gladly engage in such debates and find intellectual conversations interesting. Locals do not expect foreigners to understand the national identity and local culture, so a quick apology for any wrongdoing is more than enough to satisfy a little friction.

Dress respectfully. The Palau Visitors Authority[dead link] requests that travelers do not wear swimming suits or short shorts/skirts in towns or villages.



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