Tuvalu is a group of low-lying islands and atolls in the South Pacific that form the fourth smallest country in the world. If you want to visit the most isolated and remote independent country in the South Pacific, Tuvalu is the place to go.
Tuvalu derives from the Tuvaluan language meaning "cluster of eight". In fact, there are nine distinct atolls and islands, but one (Niulakita) was uninhabited until the 20th century.
The atoll with half the country's population and the capital
It is generally believed that the earlier ancestors came mostly from Samoa, possibly by way of Tokelau, while others came from Tonga and Uvea (Wallis Island). These settlers were all Polynesians with the exception of Nui where many people are descendants of Micronesians from Kiribati. There are three distinct linguistic areas in Tuvalu. The first area contains the islands of Nanumea, Niutao and Nanumaga. The second is the island of Nui where the inhabitants speak a language that is fundamentally derived from I-Kiribati. The third linguistic group comprises the islands of Vaitupu, Nukufetau, Funafuti and Nukulaelae. Today, Tuvaluan and English are both spoken throughout the islands. The first European explorer to make contact with Tuvalu was Alvaro de Mendana y Neyra, a Spanish explorer. He sailed westward across the Pacific in 1567-8 to discover, explore and name a substantial part of the eastern half of the Solomon Islands. On 16 January 1568, Mendana, with his ship Capitana, sighted his first island, which turned out to be Nui, and named it the Isle of Jesus.
Australian dollar (AUD)
|Population||11.7 thousand (2020)|
|Electricity||220 volt / 50 hertz (AS/NZS 3112)|
|Time zone||UTC+12:00, Pacific/Funafuti|
|edit on Wikidata|
The islands became part of the British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. However, ethnic differences within the colony caused the Polynesians of the Ellice Islands to vote for separation from the Micronesians of the Gilbert Islands. The Ellice Islands became the separate British colony of Tuvalu, and independence was granted on 01 October 1978. The country has the world's lowest gross national product (GNP), due to its isolation and relatively low population. This should not be confused with GNP per person, which is an indicator of poverty.
In 2000, Tuvalu negotiated a contract leasing its Internet domain name ".tv" for $US50 million in royalties over the next 12 years.
Tuvalu uses the Australia/New Zealand electrical plug with 240 volts and 50 Hz.
The climate is tropical. Easterly trade winds moderate the weather from March to November, while westerly gales bring heavy rain from November to March. Natural phenomena do not occur frequently here, but the low level of the islands makes them sensitive to changes in sea level. Three cyclones were recorded in 1997.
Citizens of Schengen Area countries do not need a visa.
Everyone else is eligible for a one-month visa on arrival. This costs A$100, but some nationalities do not have to pay this fee and can get their visa for free. This applies to citizens of American Samoa, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Fiji, Gambia, Gibraltar, Grenada, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Montserrat, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, South Korea, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, United Kingdom, Vanuatu and Zambia.
There is one international airport in Tuvalu, on the island of Funafuti. Fiji Airways flies from Suva in Fiji to Funafuti on Tuesday and Thursday. A return trip costs around 948 Fijian Dollars including tax (Aug 2011). (June 2019) Air Kiribati now flies from Tarawa to Funafuti. Price unknown. You'd have to go to their office in Tarawa to ask for the ticket.
There are cargo and passenger ferries every month or two from Suva, Fiji to Funafuti, but they do not run to a fixed schedule. Enquire at the Tuvalu High Commission in Fiji. The crossing takes about four days.
There is one main road in Funafuti that does an almost complete loop around the island in addition to the runway, which is used for recreational purposes when landings are not scheduled.
A motorbike is the best way to explore the island, some costing roughly $10 per day, as a car is too wide for the roads in Tuvalu.
The other islands are only accessible by boat from Funafuti.
English is the language of government and of most business on Funafuti, but Tuvaluan predominates on the outer islands. Samoan and Kiribati, although not the official languages, are spoken as well.
Tuvalu is not a destination for those in search of spectacular sightseeing opportunities. The island nation is not only small, it also lacks any city-like destination or architectural heritage. There are no hills or mountain ranges, no rivers or gorges. And yet, it is a delightful Pacific destination, where your time is well spent in the shade of a palm trees on one of the pretty beaches. Traditional local culture remains very much alive, making the people of Tuvalu one of the nation's best assets. Traditional dancing is performed on special occasions, and the local "maneapa" (the town hall) is your best chances of experiencing one.
The Funafuti Conservation Area on the western side of the Funafuti atoll has some of the best natural sights, and includes reefs, the gorgeous lagoon, channel, parts of the ocean and island habitats. Its diversity in marine life makes it an excellent place for scuba diving or snorkelling.
The massive stationing of US troops in the Second World War left the island nation with a number of war time remains, including airstrips, bunkers and plane wrecks along the main island of Fongafale and near the village of Nanumea. The tiny island of Motulalo in Nukufetau has an airstrip too, as well as some plane wrecks. If you have any interest in postal stamps, the Philatelic Bureau on Funafuti is a must-see. The Tuvalu Women's Handicraft Centre at the airport is a good place to see and buy local crafts. If you have time however, try catching a boat to one of the outer islands and admire the local people's skills in making ornaments, fans, mats, baskets or woodcarvings there.
The national game is te ano (the ball). Two teams line up facing each other hitting a ball. The objective is to keep the ball in the air as long as possible. It is similar to volleyball.
Exchange rates for Australian dollars
As of 23 February 2023:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
The currency of Tuvalu is the Australian dollar (ISO code: AUD), and the currency symbol is $.
Tuvalu has also issued its own coins which are different from the Australian coins and can only be used on Tuvalu. The most common one is the Tuvalu 50-cent coin. The Tuvaluan dollar has a fixed A$1:T$1 rate. However, even within Tuvalu, the Australian dollar is mostly used.
Costs vary, but the costs in Tuvalu are fairly cheap, and much cheaper than most other Pacific countries, with the exception of Kiribati.
There is a handicraft centre and a philatelic bureau on Funafuti.
There are no credit card terminals or ATMs in Tuvalu: everything must be paid for with cash and you must have it on your person before arriving, or have cash to exchange.
There are many lodges that have restaurants that serve food and beverages. They serve many types of ethnic cuisines such as Chinese, Italian, and Indian. Fish is abundant since the island is surrounded by water.
Bars serve soft drinks and alcohol during meal times.
- 1 Vaiaku Lagi Hotel, Funafuti, ☏ +688 20501, fax: +688 20503, [email protected]. State-owned, country's only hotel. It also has significant nightlife. The hotel has a fully licensed bar, a comfortable lounge and a dance floor. Power supply is 240 V/50 Hz. There are 16 rooms in the new complex facing the lagoon. Every room is air-conditioned and has a warm shower, with a toilet and refrigerator, plus tea and coffee-making facilities. Internet access is available in all the rooms at a small surcharge. A conference room for up to 50 people is available for conferences, meetings and the like. The hotel has its own vehicle to transfer guests to/from the airport. Single: $105; Double: $133 government tax & breakfast included. Children under 12 FOC. No credit cards accepted.
- Fale Tolu Motel, Northern side of the airstrip on Funafuti, ☏ +688 20545, [email protected]. 70 - 150 AS$.
- Vailuatai Lodge, Alapi, Funafuti, ☏ +688 20664, [email protected]. 60 - 80 AS$.
- Militano Lodge, Senala, Funafuti, ☏ +688 20497. Mobile phone: +688-91019 60 - 80 AS$.
- Filamona Moonlight Lodge, Vaiaku, Funafuti, ☏ +688 20833, +688 20983, fax: +688 20951, [email protected]. Contact: Ms Penieli Metia (Manager) 70 - 80 AS$.
- Hideaway Guest House, Lofeagai P.O.Box 59, ☏ +688 20365, fax: +688 20835. HOST: Mr & Ms Koepke 35 - 60 AS$.
Funafuti hosts a University of the South Pacific extension centre. Motufoua, the country's only high school, is a coeducational boarding school on Vaitupu island. The Tuvalu Marine School, on an outer islet of Funafuti, trains Tuvaluan mariners for service on foreign ships.
The non-native work force is mostly comprised of contract employees from Australia and other foreign countries.
A siren signals when to leave the runway for an approaching plane.
Violent crime is rare, and usually involves alcohol and family disputes.
Male homosexuality is illegal in Tuvalu; therefore, the country is not safe for sexually active gay men.
Tap water quality is inconsistent at best; it's often collected from rooftops. Don't drink it without boiling or treating.
The international dialing code is: +688
Local numbers in Tuvalu have 5 digits, with the first 2 representing the islands as follows:
- Funafuti: 20, 21
- Nanumaga: 27
- Nanumea: 26
- Niulakita: 22
- Niutao: 28
- Nui: 23
- Nukufetau: 24
- Nukulaelae: 25
- Vaitupu: 29
There is available a GSM network in 900 MHz, provided by Tuvalu Telecom, with ID: 553-01. (Please review the roaming agreement with your company.)