Preface Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:00 PM
Fiji is a tropical archipelago with all the advantages and
disadvantages associated with island geography. The country offers
beautiful scenery, friendly people, interesting work and excellent
opportunities for outdoor recreation. It also features a full
complement of tropical conditions, including heat, humidity, rain,
mildew, tropical diseases (but not malaria), significant political
issues and a shortage of urban amenities to which Americans are
Fiji is the crossroads of the Pacific, a center for
transportation, trade and regional organizations. The Embassy has
responsibilities in three other independent countries — Tonga,
Tuvalu and Nauru — and three French overseas territories. Officers
with regional responsibilities can expect substantial official
Racial tensions between the indigenous Fijian and Indo-Fijian
communities exist and have been exacerbated by two military coups in
1987 and an attempted coup and unconstitutional change of government
in 2000. Although these problems have led to isolated incidents of
violence, Suva, for the most part, and the rest of the country
continue to retain a friendly atmosphere. A good standard of public
courtesy prevails in spite of the communal differences. Those
willing to make the effort will be able to make friends in all of
Fiji’s assorted racial communities. Moreover, most employees have
excellent access to Fiji officials and counterparts in the
government and private sector.
For the person who appreciates its attractions, Suva can be a
pleasant assignment. Adherents of scuba diving, snorkeling, boating,
golf and tennis will find their leisure hours well occupied-when it
isn’t raining. Suva’s shops are well stocked, so shortages of basic
goods are seldom a problem. But Suva is not Sydney; nor is it a
holiday destination as you might imagine. It is small and urban, and
functions primarily as a commercial and government center. Employees
whose preferences run to theater, television, shopping, concerts or
other forms of city-life entertainment may find Suva somewhat dull.
Employment opportunities for spouses are limited because of the
small size of the post and the local economy. However, the Mission
makes every effort to employ spouses through alternative hiring
The Host Country
Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:03 PM
Tourist literature on Fiji refers to “300 islands in the sun.” Of
the 320 islands and islets that make up the Fiji group, only about
150 are permanently inhabited. The total land area of the country,
18,272 square kilometers (7,055 square miles), is about the size of
the State of Hawaii. The largest island, Viti Levu, 10,386 square
kilometers (4,101 square miles), is about the size of the Big Island
of Hawaii. Viti Levu has a mountainous interior penetrated by few
roads. Most agricultural land and all towns are near the sea or
along the river valleys. The highest point, Mt. Victoria, rises
1,323 meters (4,341 feet). Twenty-eight other peaks exceed 914
meters (3,000 feet). Vegetation on the windward side of the islands
is luxuriously tropical, while grasslands prevail on the leeward
The climate is warm and humid. Suva, on the eastern “wet” side of
Viti Levu, averages 120 inches of rain annually. The western and
northern sides of the island are drier and sunnier. Temperatures in
Suva range from the high 60’s in the winter, to the mid 90’s in the
summer. Most of Fiji’s sugarcane, the nation’s primary crop, is
grown on the western side. Nadi (pronounced Nandi), site of the
international airport, lies on the western side, benefiting from the
better weather and visibility. Many of Fiji’s tourist resorts, some
ranking among the best in the world, are in the West.
The wet summer season lasts from December through March. The
cooler, drier winter season falls between May and October. Although
temperature changes are noticeable, the average number of days of
rainfall in Suva varies little from month to month. Humidity during
summer is usually high, often reaching 90% and above. Fiji is in the
hurricane zone. The last hurricane to hit Suva directly was Cyclone
Kina, in January 1991. In March 1997, Cyclone Gavin swept through
northern Vanua Levu and the northwestern part of Viti Levu,
devastating several outer island-groups. Southeast trade winds blow
steadily from March to October, with variable winds during the
Southern Hemisphere summer. Mildew and corrosion present constant
problems. The use of air conditioning, dehumidifiers and “hot
closets” reduce the danger of mildew damage to clothes, video tapes
and other possessions.
Non-malarial mosquitoes are numerous, particularly in the summer.
An epidemic of mosquito-borne dengue fever, which reoccurs every few
years, occurred in early 1998. Poisonous insects, snakes and sealife
are not common, though scratches and cuts, particularly those
suffered while swimming or diving, need to be treated promptly as
they can easily become infected.
Fiji lies near a major fault line and has suffered major
earthquakes. Although the last severe quake was in 1953, small
tremors are occasionally felt. In November 1998, quakes registering
as high as 4.3 occurred on the island of Kadavu, southeast of Viti
Population Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:05 PM
Fiji’s population was estimated at 776,000 at the end of 1997.
According to official figures, ethnic Fijians now outnumber Indo-Fijans.
The Fijians are descended from Melanesian voyagers who arrived in
the islands hundreds or thousands of years ago. Most of the
Indo-Fijian population is descended from indentured laborers who
arrived in the late 19th century to work on sugar cane plantations
and stayed on when their indentures expired.
Emigration among the Indian population, already an established
trend, accelerated after the 1987 military coups. Many emigrants
were professionals and managers, resulting in serious consequences
for human resources and the economy. As many as half of Fiji’s
doctors and lawyers emigrated in the 18 months following the first
coup. According to the last census, official population estimates
for December 31, 1997 are as follows:
Fijian 51.0% Indian 42.5% Others 6.5%
The “others” category includes part-Europeans (the local term for
persons of mixed Fijian and European ancestry), Rotumans (Rotuma is
an outlying island whose population is Polynesian), other Pacific
islanders, Chinese and Europeans (whites).
Fiji straddles an ethnic line between Melanesia to the west and
Polynesia to the east. As a result, Polynesian influence is
prevalent in Lau, the eastern islands of the Fiji group. Fiji’s
diversity is also reflected in its many religions. The indigenous
Fijian population is mainly Methodist, with strong minorities of
other Protestant groups and Roman Catholics. Fijians, like most
Pacific islanders, are devoted to their religion and maintain a
strict Sabbath. Many Chinese are Roman Catholic. The majority of
Indo-Fijians are Hindu; the remainder are Muslims, Sikhs, or
English, Fijian and Hindi are the three languages of the islands,
with English being the official language of the government and the
media. The older Chinese speak Cantonese as well as English. Despite
the use of English in the country’s schools, it is estimated that
outside of the major urban areas, only 20% of Fiji’s population can
speak English fluently.
Fiji’s several ethnic communities have maintained their unique
cultural patterns, giving the country an attractive, multi-cultural
atmosphere. Although various ethnic groups support separate
churches, many schools are integrated.
Public Institutions Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:07 PM
A decade after two military coups in 1987, Fiji made significant
progress toward the restoration of democracy with the approval of an
amended Constitution in 1997, which encouraged multi-ethnic
government while protecting traditional indigenous Fijian cultural
and land interests. Under the amended Constitution, which included a
strengthened bill of rights, the Prime Minister and the President
could be of any race. For the first time, in addition to
communally-allocated seats, open seats were created that were not
allocated to any racial community in the Lower House.
Democratic elections were held in May 1999, the first under
Fiji’s revised, more democratic Constitution, resulting in a change
in government. The Labor Party-led coalition headed by Mahenda
Chaudhry, was elected with a large parliamentary majority. Chaudhry
was Fiji’s first Indo-Fijian Prime Minister.
However, in May 2000, an armed group of militant ethnic Fijian
nationalists, joined by a few military officers, seized the Prime
Minister and his Cabinet in the Parliamentary complex and held them
hostage for 56 days. Following continued political turmoil, the army
usurped governmental authority, forced the resignation of President
Ratu Mara, abrogated the 1997 constitution and installed an Interim
Prime Minister and Cabinet. A commission to formulate a new
constitution has been established by the Great Council of Chiefs and
elections are promised by August, 2001. Fiji is likely to remain an
undemocratic state for at least two or three years.
Fiji has a wide variety of nongovernmental, fraternal, and
charitable organizations such as Rotary, Lions, Jaycees, YMCA/YWCA,
Red Cross, Girmit Council, Muslim League and women’s groups. Some
such organizations are communally based; others are multiracial.
Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 5/31/2001 6:00 PM
As a small, primarily agricultural country, far removed from any
metropolitan center, Fiji has limited self-generating cultural
activities or major scholarly centers. The Fiji Arts Council, with
government support, sponsors a number of local arts and crafts
clubs. The Fiji Arts Club presents five or six quality productions
each year. Embassy staff who are interested in the theater are
welcomed. Dancing, singing and various Fijian and Indian religious
and secular celebrations and ceremonies are a colorful and authentic
continuation of a long tradition. The French Embassy supports the
Alliance Francaise Center.
The University of the South Pacific (USP), established in 1967 in
Suva, contributes to the intellectual life of the regional
community. Founded as a regional university for the English-speaking
areas of the South Pacific, USP concentrates on educating
professionals and teachers. Institutes of Marine Science, Natural
Resources, and Research; Education and Extension in Agriculture;
Social Sciences Administration; and Pacific Studies are expanding
USP's scope of research and teaching. USP's School of Agriculture is
located in Samoa, and the School of Law is in Vanuatu.
The small, but excellent, Fiji Museum has a good collection of
traditional Fijian artifacts, as well as displays from throughout
the Pacific. Art and other exhibitions by local or visiting artists
provide some cultural diversions.
Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:09 PM
Fiji is primarily an agricultural country, dependent on sugar
and, to a lesser degree, other agricultural commodities for export
income. In recent years, tourism has been the fastest growing
foreign-exchange earner in Fiji and may well become the most
important industry in future years. Gold is mined in the interior of
Viti Levu, although production varies with market price. Timber,
particularly Caribbean pine, is an important export due to a major
forestation project begun by the government in 1972. Major stands of
mahogany, planted 30 or more years ago, are maturing and ready for
harvest. Some light industry, including marine repair facilities, a
brewery, flour mills, several rice mills, a cooperative dairy plant
capable of producing both fresh and ultra-high temperature (UHT)
milk, a steel-rolling mill, and a household paint factory have been
established. Sugar and tourism constitute the mainstays of the
economy, accounting for more than half of the nation’s foreign
Fiji imports from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the U.S. the UK,
and Southeast Asia. It is a member of the International Sugar
Organization and exports sugar to the European Community under the
Land in Fiji is either Crown land (owned by the government, 10%),
freehold land (7%), or native land (83%). As in most of the Pacific,
native land is held in common by extended family groups. Some land
was alienated from these groups before Fiji became a British
possession in 1874 and it is now freehold. Once Fiji became a
colony, native land was protected and no further significant land
sales were allowed. The native land is controlled by the Native
Lands Trust Board, which administers the land for the family groups.
Substantial areas of native land, however, are mountainous with only
forestry as a potential commercial activity. Immigrant groups
(mainly Indians) have had difficulty buying land and, as a result,
have become tenant farmers or have entered commercial fields. Most
agricultural land is currently leased for a period of 30 years,
after which it reverts to the traditional land-owning group unless
negotiations succeed in establishing new lease arrangements. Much of
Fiji’s land remains under-utilized. As leases expire, Fiji faces a
dilemma. Ethnic Fijian landowners are increasingly eager to farm
their own land or are demanding high lease rates. Consequently, many
Indo-Fijian farmers face the prospect of becoming displaced.
Fiji’s largest commercial firms are, for the most part, owned by
expatriates or naturalized European-Fijians. Business methods are
predominantly Australian, New Zealand and British.
The undemocratic change of government in May 2000 had a
devastating effect on the economy. GDP declined by over 10 percent.
Tourism declined nearly 40 percent, resulting in the loss of
thousands of jobs. The garment industry has faltered in the face of
sanctions by Australia and New Zealand, costing many more jobs. In
all, it is estimated that 7,000 jobs were lost in the four months
following the May crisis. The 2000 sugar harvest was not immediately
affected. However, the EU is reassessing its preferential sugar
pricing for Fiji in light of the loss of democracy. Fiji also may
lose preferential markets for its textiles. Such changes in
preferential pricing would have devastating impacts on the sugar and
garment industries. A serious contraction of the economy is expected
in 2000 and beyond.
Automobiles Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:11 PM
You will want a personal vehicle. Travel on the main island of
Viti Levu is mostly by road and moves on the left. The maximum speed
limit is 80 kph (50 mph).
Local regulations allow the importation of left-hand-drive cars
for consular or diplomatic personnel. Some American staff members
import American models. They cannot be sold locally after the
completion of tour, unless to another diplomat. However,
difficulties may occur because local repair shops are not used to
working on American cars, parts are not generally available, Fiji
operates on the metric system and traffic moves on the left. Before
shipping an American car by sea freight, consider the advantage of
buying a right-hand-drive car in Fiji. Vehicles manufactured in
Japan and Australia are available. Any employee opting to ship an
American model car to post should bring along essential spare parts,
or be prepared to order these from the U.S. A workshop manual would
also be useful. All imported cars must be inspected (called a
warrant of fitness in Fiji) if it was previously registered in a
foreign country. Do not attempt to convert a left-hand drive vehicle
to right-hand-drive in Fiji.
Embassy staff and dependents (ages 18 and over) must have a Fiji
driver’s license. A valid US license or a license issued by any
other foreign country may be used for 6 months only. A local
driver’s license can be obtained for Embassy personnel upon
presentation of a valid non-Fijian license. Third-party insurance is
mandatory, but inexpensive. In addition, the Embassy urges that
personally-owned vehicles be fully insured. Such insurance is
available locally. Bring “no-claim” letters for a discount, which
will bring the cost down.
Resale of locally purchased cars at the end of tour is
unrestricted. Applicable customs duty must be paid by the seller,
though diplomatic personnel are exempted from 1/60th of the total
duty value for each month the car has been in Fiji. If you are
shipping a car, consider an air-conditioned model. Although it will
use more gas than a regular car, the comfort derived from the
air-conditioner during the hot and humid summer months will be worth
the price. (Note: R12 gas is banned in car air conditioners in
Fiji.) Although gasoline is expensive in Fiji (approximately F$4.50
a gallon), a gas tax rebate (roughly 50%) is offered to employees on
the diplomatic list. Given that unleaded gas is now readily
available in Fiji, there is no longer any need to remove the
catalytic converter from vehicles imported from the U.S.
The Embassy has 10 official vehicles, including a Ford Crown
Victoria, LAV for the Ambassador’s use and several four-wheel-drive
vehicles. The Defense Attach‚ Office (DAO) has a sedan and a
Local Transportation Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:13 PM
Suva has sufficient paved streets for the number of cars in the
city. A generally good paved road circles most of the main island of
Viti Levu. From Suva to Lautoka, following the southern and western
coasts, the coastal road is called the Queens Road. Many of Fiji’s
tourist hotels are located along this stretch. From Lautoka to Suva,
following the northern and eastern coasts, the road is called the
King’s Road and includes a 30-mile stretch of rough gravel road
along the northeast coast. It takes about 50 minutes to drive to the
Pacific Harbour Beach and Golf Resort to the west of Suva, and about
3 hours to drive from Suva to Nadi and the international airport.
The Embassy recommends that Embassy personnel avoid driving out
of the main cities and towns at night. Stray livestock occasionally
wander in the road and have caused fatal accidents in the past.
Public transportation by bus is frequent and inexpensive, but the
bus fleet is aging. Taxis are plentiful, equipped with meters and
inexpensive. Most, however, are in poor condition and it is common
for taxi drivers to speed and otherwise drive in an unsafe manner.
Motorcycles and bicycles are rare in Suva. Frequent rain and hilly
terrain make them impractical. Personally owned automobiles are the
usual means of transport for Embassy personnel.
Regional Transportation Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:13 PM
Air Pacific, Fiji’s international flag carrier, and other
regional airlines have international flights that connect Fiji with
Los Angeles, Honolulu, Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, American
Samoa, Samoa, Tuvalu, Kiribati (formerly the Gilbert Islands), New
Caledonia, Tahiti, Vanuatu (formerly the New Hebrides), and Japan.
International airlines serving Fiji from the U.S. are Air Pacific
(in a code-share with American Airlines from Los Angeles) and Air
New Zealand (in a code-share with United Airlines from Honolulu).
U.S. government travelers must travel on one of these code-share
flights. Currently, no American flag carrier serves Fiji directly.
Air Pacific, Fiji Air and Sun Air operate routes within Fiji.
They provide several daily flights between Suva and the
international airport at Nadi, and also service the islands of Vanua
Levu and Taveuni. Air Fiji and Sunflower fly to smaller airports in
the Fiji group and Tuvalu, and Turtle Airways connects various
resort areas by small amphibious aircraft. There is a helicopter
Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:15 PM
Local telephone service is good. Fiji is served domestically by
Telecom Fiji Ltd, while international communications are provided by
Fintel, Ltd. Telephone connections with Australia, Canada, the U.S.,
Europe, and most of the rest of the world are excellent, but do
experience occasional “fade out” and disconnection. Regional
communications to the neighboring and smaller islands is somewhat
less reliable and can vary in quality depending on the time of day
and prevailing climatic conditions. E-mail and Internet
communications are available through Telecom Fiji Internet Services,
but are expensive, slow and subject to disconnection. Telephone
Calling Cards are available as well as mobile (Vodafone) telephone
services and voice mail. International and domestic telegram
services, including Western Union, are available 24 hours and are
reliable. Though Fiji’s communication services are good and
generally keep up with emerging technologies, prices are high by
The Embassy phone number is (679) 314–466. The main fax number is
(679) 300–081. Individual offices have direct telephone and fax
lines. The Embassy E-mail address is: email@example.com. The
Embassy has an IVG line, which enables telephone calls to be made to
the Washington, D.C. local calling area at no expense.
Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:16 PM
International airmail takes up to two weeks to and from the U.S.
Packages sent by international surface mail are transported via sea
and can take up to 3 months to arrive. No censorship exists and
packages pass through customs without delay. However, there have
been complaints, though rare, about packages being stolen from the
Fiji mail system. The pouch may be used to receive personal letters
and packages, but packages must conform to the size, weight, and
contents regulations of 5-FAM. Since Suva is a Class “B” post,
employees may send only letters and VCR tapes out in the pouch.
Exceptions are for items ordered from catalog supply houses, which
are being returned for exchange or refund. U.S. stamps are not sold
locally so you will need to bring a supply to post. The outgoing
pouch dispatch from Suva is on Friday afternoon and it is usually
received at the Sterling, Virginia Mail and Pouch Facility prior to
Tuesday morning East Coast time. Pouches for Suva are dispatched
from the Department’s Pouch and Mail Facility twice a week on
Tuesdays and Thursdays. Delivery times can vary from one week to one
Suva has no APO facility. Mail for Suva should be addressed:
Via International Mail:
(Name) American Embassy 31 Loftus Street P.O. Box 218 Suva, Fiji
(Name) American Embassy Suva 4290 Suva Pl. Department of State
Washington, D.C. 20521–4290
Some Embassy staff members have found that personal
correspondence sent by international airmail is fast and reliable.
Correspondents in the U.S., however, should be cautioned to put
sufficient postage on letters and to clearly mark them “AIRMAIL” to
ensure they are handled as airmail and not as surface mail.
Employees are discouraged from sending packages or important
documents through the local mail because of the possibility of
theft. Catalogs sent through the pouch will be delivered if they are
addressed directly to an individual.
Radio and TV Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:17 PM
Fiji has one commercial TV station, which offers one free channel
and two cable channels: Sky Entertainment and Sky Sports. In
addition, the Chancery and all American staff residences are now
equipped to receive AFRTS programming by satellite.
Two radio stations operate in the country. The government-owned
Island Network Corporation broadcasts nationwide in three languages:
Hindi, Fijian and English. Established in 1954, it is run by the
Fiji Broadcasting Commission and broadcasts 24 hours a day, 7 days a
week. It directly rebroadcasts foreign news from BBC and the
Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). It also uses prerecorded
and packaged music and current affairs programs to supplement local
productions. FM 96 is commercially run and has a 24-hour, all-music
format geared to younger listeners. It also broadcasts in three
languages, and has brief news programs. It derives its world news
output from the BBC, ABC, and VOA. FM 96 has transmitters in Suva
Japanese short wave radios are available locally. Reception from
Australia and New Zealand is good, but the same cannot be said for
VOA or BBC. Additional antennae are needed to boost reception. The
Mission has two multi-band short wave radio.
Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated:
1/15/2004 1:19 PM
Currently, the country has three daily English-language
newspapers, The Fiji Times, The Fiji Sun and the Post. Locally
published monthly magazines include Pacific and The Review. Hindi
and Fijian-language newspapers are published weekly by the Fiji
Times. Up-to-the-minute news on Fiji can be found on the Internet at
www.fijilive.com, a website run by The Review magazine.
Overseas papers are not readily available. Australian and New
Zealand papers usually arrive several days late. The New Zealand
editions of Time and Newsweek are sold locally at newsstands or by
subscription. Some American magazines are available locally (House
and Garden, Vogue, etc.), but arrive late and are expensive.
The Suva City Library has a small, dated selection of fiction and
nonfiction. The University of the South Pacific has a good library
and limited bookstore. A small and expensive selection of paperbacks
is available at bookstores in town. The CLO maintains a fairly good
lending library of fiction and non-fiction paperbacks.
Health and Medicine
Medical Facilities Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:22 PM
The Embassy operates a small Health unit, staffed by one
part-time expatriate nurse. Services are limited to consultation,
health assessment, counseling, referral, treatment of minor
injuries, vaccinations and dispensing of medicine in case of an
emergency. Most medicines are available at the many drugstores
around town. The Regional Medical Officer, based in Jakarta, visits
the post periodically for consultations, as does the Regional
Psychiatrist based in Bangkok.
Local doctors are competent to care for common ailments. There
are a few good local and expatriate doctors who regularly care for
Embassy officials and their families. Most routine laboratory tests
are performed by their staff or are sent to the main laboratory at
the national hospital (Colonial War Memorial (CWM) Hospital) in
Suva. Some tests, previously sent overseas, can now be tested at the
two new private pathology laboratories in Suva. The Health Care
Pacific Hospital (a new private hospital) houses one of the two
private pathology labs. The Plaza Imaging facility provides private
ultrasound and basic X-ray services in Suva. Special X-rays,
ultrasound, CAT scans and echocardiogram services are available at
CWM in Suva.
A 60-bed private hospital (Health Care Pacific), associated with
Colonial Insurance Company, opened in mid-January 2001. It offers
outpatient and inpatient services, operating theater services and a
modern state-of-the-art pathology laboratory staffed by local and
Due to the political crisis in Fiji that began in May 2000,
professional people such as doctors, nurses, accountants, dentists
and medical technicians are leaving the country. According to the
president of the Fiji Medical Association, it is estimated that by
January 2001 there will be a manpower loss of up to 30% not only
among private practitioners, but also local and expatriate doctors
currently staffing the main government hospital in Suva.
A cut in salaries in 2000 due to the political crisis has
prompted even more nurses to resign and emigrate. As a result there
is a move to hire ward assistants (nurses aides) to look after the
basic nursing care of patients in the hospitals. In addition, many
of the most qualified local nurses have been recruited from the
Ministry of Health to staff the new private hospital (Health Care
Pacific). This nursing shortage is likely to greatly affect the
quality of care for patients in the government hospitals and
community health centers in the country.
The Suva Colonial War Memorial Hospital is not recommended for
treatment of Embassy personnel, except in an emergency for the
stabilization of a patient either in the coronary or intensive care
units prior to an evacuation. The original hospital buildings are
old and have only slowly been renovated and painted. The newer
extension houses the Accident and Emergency Units, all specialty
clinics, operating theatres, acute care wards, critical care units,
the main laboratory, the pharmacy and lecture theatres for the
medical students. The hospital does not meet sanitation standards of
American facilities. It is understaffed and the local training of
medical and nursing personnel is not comparable to that found in the
U.S. Nonetheless, the hospital is the best facility to cope with
immediate treatment of serious medical emergencies until medical
evacuation can be arranged. Most cases of serious illness or
pregnancy are evacuated to Honolulu.
A new Children’s Hospital (a new addition to CWM), which opened
in April 2000, is a very clean and spacious facility and includes a
neonatal unit, outpatient and inpatient services for children, a
pharmacy and neonatal training facilities. However, this new
children’s hospital is not recommended for treatment of Embassy
personnel except for stabilization to prepare for evacuation to New
Zealand, Australia or Honolulu.
There are several American doctors currently working on contracts
for the Fiji School of Medicine in Suva. They specialize in
pediatrics, general surgery and research. These doctors are
occasionally consulted by the health unit nurse for a second opinion
to assist the Regional Medical Officer in Jakarta when a decision to
evacuate a staff member or a dependent is needed.
Dental care and orthodontic services are available in Fiji. There
is only one qualified orthodontist in Fiji who is based in Lautoka
on the western side of the island, 220 km. from Suva. He is good and
inexpensive. Although several private dentists can provide routine
care and are comparatively inexpensive, sanitation may not be up to
the U.S. standards. The Embassy recommends that any needed dental
work be completed before arrival in Fiji. Cases requiring emergency
dental treatment are medically evacuated.
Replacement eyeglasses are available in Fiji, and there are a few
qualified ophthalmologists who offer limited eye diagnostic
services. However, it is recommended that eye problems be taken care
of before arriving in Fiji. Contact lens users should bring a supply
of solutions with them, as supply and selection are limited.
If you require regular prescription medicine, make arrangements
for refills to be sent to you from an American pharmacy through the
diplomatic pouch. Pharmaceuticals in Fiji are imported mainly from
Australia and New Zealand, with a few imported from the U.S., Canada
and India. Intravenous fluids are imported from Baxter Company in
Australia. Insulin is imported from Lilly Company. Most antibiotics
are imported from Alpha Med in Australia. Vaccines are imported from
New Zealand and Australia. Fiji has no capacity to test the quality
of these imported drugs, other than screening drugs for expiration
dates and any unusual characteristics such as color or shape.
Questionable drugs are sent overseas for testing. American
over-the-counter medicines are generally not available. Bring a
supply of anything you regularly use, or arrange for it to be sent
Community Health Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:23 PM
Sanitation in Suva is good by developing world standards. The
general health of the population is also good. Filariasis and dengue
fever exist in the islands. Infectious hepatitis is common but
infectious disease rates are generally low. Leptospirosis has been
the cause of several deaths in Fiji lately and preventive measures
have been taken to educate the public on how to prevent contracting
this disease. Tap water in Suva is usually potable, but not always.
Boiling drinking water is recommended, especially during periods of
heavy rainfall. The post provides water distillers at all
residences. Most restaurants are safe. Homes in several residential
areas use septic tanks rather than the sewer system. Garbage
disposal is adequate. Vermin and insect pests, which thrive in this
hot, wet climate, are always a problem that requires vigilance. The
Embassy provides instructions for self-help pest control measures
and can provide pest control services in extreme cases.
Lizards, lawn toads and mosquitoes are numerous but harmless,
except in the case of the mosquitoes during dengue fever outbreaks.
Employees should bring a supply of insect repellent for use
outdoors. Take care in choosing an appropriate repellent for
children. Malaria does not exist in Fiji or in the island countries
to the east of Fiji. Typhoid outbreaks can occur, but are quickly
contained and rarely seen in Suva. Sexually transmitted diseases are
on the rise, as are the number of HIV positive cases, especially
among young people.
Preventive Measures Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:24 PM
Only the usual State Department immunization requirements are
necessary in Fiji, and everyone is requested to get their
vaccinations before arrival at post. Booster and immunization
vaccines are available, as are most ordinary types of drugs and
medicines. Gamma globulin shots are recommended before you come.
Prior to arrival at post, employees anticipating regional travel may
wish to have recommended immunizations for other countries they will
visit, as these vaccines may not be routinely stocked at the Embassy
Health Unit. Yellow fever and typhoid vaccines are available in Fiji
for preventive measures if needed for regional travel. There is no
malaria or yellow fever in Fiji.
Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 1/15/2004
Employment opportunities in the local economy are limited, as
Fiji suffers a serious unemployment problem and is reluctant to
grant labor permits to foreigners. Work permit applications are
possible on a case-by-case basis and are made jointly by both the
employer and potential employee. Though employers will consider
hiring non-Fiji citizens with unique skills, the procedure involved
makes them hesitant. Wages are low, making work on the local economy
unattractive to many Americans. The Mission’s small size
notwithstanding, it has been able to offer adequate employment
opportunities to spouses through a variety of alternative hiring
methods. Currently, the post has a part-time CLO coordinator
position, a full time PIT secretarial position in the front office,
a PIT position in the consular section.
A spouse or dependent interested in investing in Fiji or opening
a business here will be considered for such activity in accordance
with established USG Standards of Conduct and other regulations.
American Embassy - Suva
Post City Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:29 PM
The capital, Suva, is the chief port and only sizable city in
Fiji (population approximately 107,000, metropolitan area approx.
300,000). It boasts a natural harbor and lies on a peninsula on the
southeastern coast of the main island of Viti Levu (“Great Fiji”).
Suva’s business center is adjacent to the wharf and harbor frontage;
a light industrial park is on the north along the shore; and a
complex of government buildings and government housing extends
south. On the surrounding low hills are scattered residential areas,
including the better sections of Tamavua, Domain and Muanikau.
Another popular residential area, Lami, lies along the coast to the
west. Across the harbor from the city rises an amphitheater of
rugged mountains. Suva’s airport is 26 kilometers (15.6 miles) to
the east on the Rewa River, just past the small, outlying town of
Newer residential housing consists of concrete, ranch-style or
two-story houses with surrounding gardens. Some older houses have
verandas, often identified with tropical colonial outposts. Most
houses have corrugated tin roofs. Throughout the city, lush tropical
growth is supplemented by municipal and private plantings of
hibiscus, poinsettias, orchids, gardenias and varieties of tropical
trees such as bananas, papayas, coconuts, palms, mangoes and
breadfruit. Islands in Suva Harbor provide small swimming beaches,
but the nearest sand beach frontage is 56 kilometers (35 miles) away
at Pacific Harbour.
The city’s shops are generally small and owned mostly by
Indo-Fijians. Most greengrocers are Chinese. The Suva Central Market
is the largest public market in the South Pacific and offers a large
quantity and variety of fruits and vegetables in season. Suva has a
number of large department-type stores and associated supermarkets,
including the American company, Cost-U-Less, a warehouse-type store
that opened in Nadi and Suva in 1998. A small number of business
people, a few missionaries, some teachers and a few Americans
married to Fijians comprise the small American community. The
Europeans of Suva are divided among a small group of old families
dating from Fiji's earliest colonial days and a more transient
population of expatriates (Australians, British, and New Zealanders)
in the civil service, business, and education.
The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:34 PM
The Chancery occupies a five-story leased building on Loftus
Street near the main government buildings. The DATT has offices
there. The Chancery is currently undergoing major renovations, which
will result in a larger, more modern and more secure building.
However, some disruption of operations will occur through 2001. The
Embassy telephone number is (679) 314–466.
The Suva consular district, one of the largest in the U.S.
Foreign Service, covers four states and three French territories and
about 4 million square miles of mostly ocean. Slightly over a
million people reside in the district. In addition to Fiji, the
Embassy handles consular diplomatic and/or consular relations with
Tuvalu, Nauru, the Kingdom of Tonga and the French territories of
French Polynesia, New Caledonia, and Wallis and Futuna.
The Embassy is staffed by 12 Americans assigned from Washington.
These include the Ambassador, DCM, Defense Attach‚, DAO operations
officer, political/economic officer, commercial/consular officer,
administrative officer, regional security officer, general services
officer, consul, vice consul and a temporary FBO officer who
oversees the construction of the addition to the Chancery. The GSO
is responsible for all ISO duties. Spouses and local-hire Americans
serve as PIT secretary, consular PIT, IMS specialist, CLO and
The Embassy has 30 Foreign Service national employees. The R&R
point for Suva is Sydney, Australia, although employees can opt to
travel to the U.S. west coast.
Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:34 PM
New arrivals not able to move directly into permanent quarters
are booked into a hotel near the Embassy. However, every effort is
made to move newly arrived staff directly into their permanent
Permanent Housing Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:35 PM
The Ambassador’s residence is Government-owned and located in the
Muanikau area on Ratu Sukuna Road. The house is an attractive
one-level home with a beautifully landscaped lawn and garden. It is
entirely furnished with government-owned furniture.
The Embassy maintains short-term leases on houses for all other
American personnel. Houses, scattered throughout the city and nearby
suburbs, tend to be new with three to four bedrooms and two to three
baths. Separate quarters for servants are almost always available.
Some of the houses have in-ground swimming pools.
Furnishings Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:38 PM
All leased quarters have basic furnishings: furniture, stove,
refrigerator, washer and dryer, microwave, water filter, vacuum
cleaner, deep freezer and lawn mowers. Window or split-unit
air-conditioners for occupied bedrooms and living rooms are provided
as available, as are dehumidifiers.
As at most posts, individuals assigned to Suva should bring
decorative objects to personalize their houses. Care should be taken
in bringing any personal possessions that may be affected by high
humidity. Curtains are provided. Most residences have area carpets.
Personnel assigned to Suva can anticipate a 2- to 4-month wait
for sea-freight shipments. Air freight generally arrives quickly.
Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:39 PM
Water quality is generally good but may decline with excessive
rain, breaks in the water main or disruption in treatment schedules.
Therefore, one water-distilling system is provided to each staff
residence. Some quarters have central hot-water heaters; others have
separate heaters in the kitchen and bathrooms. In either case, hot
water is adequate. Electricity is relatively reliable, though
current can fluctuate, and outages do occur. Current is 220v-240v,
50 Hz, AC. Electrical outlets are three-pronged, and adapters are
available locally. The post provides 2 or 3 transformers to each
residence. Transformers are available locally but are expensive.
Bring small appliances that will run on 50 Hz current
Food Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:40 PM
Embassy Suva has no commissary and is not a consumables post.
Frozen, fresh and canned foods from Australia and New Zealand are
available in a reasonable variety and regular supply. The American
store Cost-U-Less provides a limited selection of American products.
Food supplies are not as varied or of the quality found in the U.S.
The cost of living, including food prices, is higher than in
Seasonal tropical fresh vegetables and fruits are plentiful and
excellent. Temperate-zone fruits such as apples, pears and oranges,
and vegetables such as broccoli, celery, beets and leeks are
imported and usually available, though expensive.
Baby food is available, but of poor quality. Bring a blender or
food grinder to provide for your baby’s needs. Australian, but not
U.S., formulas are available. Sterilized and pasteurized milk is
available, as is powdered milk. Butter and cream are also available.
Locally produced sour cream, cottage cheese, and yogurt are
available. Eggs are plentiful. American coffee is readily available,
either ground or instant, but expensive. Australian coffee in
instant form is readily available and is comparable in price to U.S.
Most beef and all pork sold in Fiji are locally produced and are
acceptable. Imported beef, lamb and veal are also available, but are
expensive. Fresh fish, sweet-water crabs, clams and smoked fish are
sold in the central market and specialized stores. Local frozen
poultry is available and reasonably priced. Frozen turkeys and fresh
and frozen local fish are available.
Embassy personnel on the diplomatic list can buy liquor in
case-lots duty-free from bonded stocks. Most types of liquor, as
well as imported wines and beer, are available. Many people buy the
locally produced beer, which is excellent. Locally bottled (under
franchise arrangements) soft drinks and mixers are good. Australian-
and U.S.-produced diet beverages are available in limited quantity
and are expensive.
The traditional Fijian diet — different from what most Americans
are used to — consists mainly of starchy root crops, green leafy
vegetables, seafood and coconut products. Fresh ingredients for
Chinese and Indian dishes are available.
Clothing Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:43 PM
Clothing in Fiji is more expensive and generally of poorer
quality than clothing bought in the U.S. Plan to bring most of what
you will need. Dress is casual. At work women wear lightweight
dresses or blouses and skirts. Men wear long trousers and short or
long-sleeved shirts. Official functions are usually designated
“Bula” (the Fijian word for hello) at which men wear long trousers
and a colorful short-sleeved island shirt (readily available
locally). Women dress smartly, but casually, and seldom wear pants.
At more formal functions, men wear a shirt and tie while women wear
simple evening or cocktail dresses. Periodically, the Ambassador or
other officers will be invited to attend a function for which lounge
suits are specified. Perhaps two events a year, usually only
involving the Ambassador, require formal wear. Hats are rarely worn
and are never required, since neither Fijian nor Indian women wear
hats as part of their dress. (Traditionally, Fijians regard the head
as sacred and refrain from touching the head of another person or
putting anything on their own.) Women, however, are expected to wear
hat and gloves when calling on the King of Tonga. Ambassadors wear a
morning suit to meet the King, which they usually rent from New
Dressmakers are inexpensive by U.S. standards and have a good
selection of fabrics, but the quality of the work is variable. If
you sew, bring your sewing machine. The climate necessitates
frequent changes of clothing. Therefore, the most suitable type of
clothing for both men and women is that which is cool, e.g., cotton,
and easily washable. Drycleaning facilities and adequate laundry
facilities are available, but quality varies. Cardigan sweaters are
useful in the evening during cooler months, or when attending
air-conditioned movie theaters and restaurants.
Infants’ clothing is available, but is of limited variety. A
dressmaker can sew satisfactory children’s clothing, which can be
supplemented by clothes ordered from the U.S. Schoolchildren wear
uniforms made locally.
Bring an adequate supply of shoes for your tour. Shoes available
locally are of poor quality and often do not fit well. This is
especially true of sport shoes. In deciding on quantity, bear in
mind that with frequent rainy days, shoes will wear out more rapidly
than they would in a drier climate. Fair-quality children’s sandals
are available locally; the International School uniform specifies
Also bring non-tropical clothing for travel to New Zealand,
Australia or back to the U.S. on R&R or business. Heavy winter
clothing will not be used here and, if possible, should be left in
storage in a drier area, where there will be less chance of damage
by climate or insects.
Most personnel acclimatize quickly to Fiji’s relatively warm
winters. The first year, particularly for those who arrive during
June, July, and August, winter seems balmy. By the second year,
after a tropical summer, one actually feels cool in the evenings and
a sweater or windbreaker-type jacket and a blanket on the bed can be
Supplies and Services
Supplies Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:44 PM
The larger local stores stock adequate supplies and varieties of
toiletries and cosmetics, but prices are higher than in the U.S. and
American products are usually not available. Bring a supply of your
favorite toothpaste, shampoo and cosmetics, as they may not be
available locally. Several drug stores in the Washington, D.C. area
will ship such items via pouch.
Most household items are sold locally at much higher prices than
in the U.S. Dishes, glassware, cookware, and plastic and paper
products are expensive and of poor quality by U.S. standards. Many
people include such items in their sea freight shipment. If you have
children, bring a supply of toys, including some gifts, since those
available locally are expensive and of limited supply and variety.
Many people use mail-order catalogs to purchase such items. Gift
wrap paper and cards are also in short supply and very expensive.
Baby bottles, disposable diapers and other infant supplies are
stocked, but cost much more than American equivalents. American-made
bottles and nipples are not sold in Fiji.
A large range of Japanese and some European electronic and
photographic equipment is available locally. American TVs and VCRs,
which are formatted in the NTSC system, will not receive local TV
broadcasts or play local videotapes, which are formatted in the PAL
system. Some people overcome this problem by purchasing multi-system
TVs and VCRs, but they are expensive. Video cassettes (in the PAL
system) can be rented at local shops. However, such tapes are often
of very poor quality, which may damage or reduce the life span of
your VCR. Generally, VHS tapes are more widely used than Beta. Many
240v household appliances, ranging from mixers and food processors
to washing machines and microwave ovens, are available in Suva but
are more expensive than those available in the U.S. The CLO
maintains a small videotape library in the NTSC format.
Basic Services Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:45 PM
In addition to garbage collection, the Suva City Council provides
grass-mowing services, garden debris removal and drain cleaning
services along the roads. Drycleaning and shoe repair services are
available. Routine electrical, plumbing and mechanical repairs are
adequate. With auto repairs, some patience is required. Barbers and
beauticians are inexpensive and adequate.
Domestic Help Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:46 PM
Well-trained domestics are hard to find. Most Embassy households
have one maid, though families with several small children may find
an additional one useful. Many hire a local gardener two to four
times a month to mow the lawn and maintain the yard, which can get
overgrown quickly in the tropical climate. Cooks are difficult to
find, but most servants can prepare breakfast and lunch if they are
sufficiently trained. Most live-in maids prefer to cook their own
meals and will often ask to install a small stove in their quarters.
As a fire prevention measure, the Embassy recommends (and many
leases require) an electric rather than a gas appliance. You may
wish to ship a 220V hot plate for this purpose, or purchase one
Most servants are paid about F$60–$90 per week (current rate of
exchange is about F$2.10 = US$1.00), plus quarters. They work a 5,
5½, or 6-day week, with 2–4 hours off in the middle of the day.
Domestics need at least some training to ensure that they
understand what you want them to do. Most local maids are happy to
take care of children, but training is required in this area as
well. Servants are often “inherited” from previous Embassy staff
members, which may solve the question of trustworthiness and save
the trouble and effort of training a new employee.
Religious Activities Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:46 PM
English-language services are held in many Suva churches,
including Anglican (Episcopal), Wesleyan, Seventh-Day Adventist,
Presbyterian, Methodist, Latter-Day Saints, Pentecostal, Roman
Catholic and the Assembly of God. Most churches have charitable
organizations affiliated with them. Hinduism, Islam, and other world
religions are also represented in Fiji. Suva has a small Jewish
community. However, no synagogue exists.
At Post Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:48 PM Suva has several
pre-schools or kindergartens that take children from age 3 for 3 to
5 days a week, 4–6 hours per day. Fees are reasonable and the
preschool training appears to be adequate.
Most Mission children attend the International School of Suva
(ISS), which encompasses both elementary and secondary levels.
Preschool classes opened in 1996–97. The school offers the
International Baccalaureate Program. ISS is accredited by ECIS, the
European Council of International Schools. It is not accredited by
any American association.
Other Suva schools that might be considered minimally adequate at
the elementary level include Yatsen School (run by the Chinese
community), the Catholic Stella Maris and Marist Brothers Schools,
the government-operated Suva Grammar School (grade 4 through high
school), and the Holy Trinity Anglican Primary School.
Schools in Fiji other than the ISS are very crowded. All schools
maintain strict teacher-pupil ratios and cannot guarantee places.
Personnel should advise the Embassy as early as possible of their
educational preferences so that their children’s names may be
submitted for placement.
Schools in Fiji, like those in many other southern hemisphere
countries, begin their school year at the end of January and end in
November. ISS divides terms into quarters. For others, the school
year is divided into three terms. Summer vacation occurs from the
end of November through the end of January.
Away From Post Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:48 PM The Department has
declared local education in grades 9 to 12 inadequate and has
established a scale of allowances for education away from post.
Honolulu has adequate boarding schools that are only a few hours’
flying time from Suva. Also, employees may consider boarding schools
in Australia, which is even closer to Fiji. Several Embassy families
currently send their children to ISS for grades 9 to 12. Personnel
assigned here may wish to seek further details regarding the pros
and cons of opting for local education.
The Embassy has a resource library with college catalogs and
information on standardized tests. It also has access to the
Internet. In 1999 a PIT staff position, currently unfilled, was
established to provide educational consulting and college
Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:51 PM
The University of the South Pacific (USP) began offering
undergraduate degree courses in 1969. In the mid-1970s, it
established master’s and doctoral programs. These programs are
available to the 11 member countries and have recently become
available to overseas graduate students, including Fulbright
grantees from the U.S. From an academic point of view, families with
college-age children would be wise to have them study outside Fiji,
since USP’s methods and standards of instructions differ
significantly from those of U.S. colleges and USP degrees are not
easily recognized in the U.S.
The University’s Extension Service offers a variety of academic,
cultural and practical courses for those working full-time, as well
as students who cannot enroll for residential or part-time studies.
Employees and adult dependents may participate in day or evening
classes in Pacific cultures and languages. The USP Extension
Service, with French and Japanese Government sponsorship, offers
language-training programs. The Fiji Institute of Technology (FIT)
offers some evening courses.
Recreation and Social Life
Sports Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:53 PM
The people of Fiji are keen sportsmen and women, and there are
many sporting activities available. However, sporting goods, clothes
and shoes are expensive and sometimes unavailable. Bring them with
you or plan to purchase them from the States through mail-order
Boating and water sports enthusiast will find Suva’s waters and
boating facilities quite good, weather permitting. The lack of
beaches in the Suva area makes ownership of a small boat attractive.
Small sailboats and motorboats made locally are available at prices
higher than those in the U.S. The local purchase of an imported boat
is expensive because of high customs duties. Motors, fishing tackle,
and snorkeling, scuba, and water-skiing equipment are available in
limited range and at high prices. Motorboats and snorkeling gear can
be rented. Deep-sea fishing is available, but expensive. Fresh water
fishing is possible along the interior rivers, but you will need a
Scuba diving is popular in Fiji with two active dive clubs
organizing day and weekend trips. Commercial dive operators offer
trips near Suva, at several island resorts and on live-aboard and
charter dive vessels. U.S.-recognized instruction is offered in Suva
and at some resorts. Fiji’s coral reefs are among the world’s most
beautiful. Dive sites range from shallow coral gardens suitable for
beginners to challenging open water diving that will satisfy the
most experienced hard-core fanatic. The omnipresent sharks are
well-fed and generally non-aggressive; most divers quickly get used
to their presence. A limited selection of equipment is stocked
locally, but prices are higher than U.S. levels. It is best to bring
all equipment, including at least two tanks per diver. Underwater
photographers should bring all their own gear. Diving safety
standards in Fiji are reasonable, but the generally low standard of
medical care and transport renders any accident more serious than in
the U.S. or the Caribbean. There is only one decompression chamber
in the country, located in the city of Suva.
Golf is a popular sport in both the expatriate and local
communities. Suva has an 18-hole golf course at the Fiji Golf Club,
which is only 10 minutes from the Embassy. The course condition is
poor, especially due to frequent rain, but playable and very
convenient. Membership is relatively inexpensive; as of September
2000 it was US$150 per year. A Robert Trent-Jones designed
championship course (that is also frequently wet) is available at
Pacific Harbour, about 30 miles west of Suva. Annual fees there are
US$140 per couple and US$93 per individual member. The best course
in Fiji of international standard is located at the Sheraton Denarau
Resort near Nadi, about 3 hours by car from Suva. Membership there
is more expensive, at about US$925 per year, which allows a maximum
of 60 games annually. Carts are not available at the Suva course.
Golf equipment is sold locally, but selection is limited and
expensive so bring your own. Membership is not required to play at
any of Fiji’s courses. Green fees are reasonable by American
standards, as are caddie fees.
Other popular sports are squash, tennis and lawn bowling. Tennis
is very accessible and popular. Both lawn and synthetic courts are
available. Local selection of tennis and squash equipment is
limited, so bring your own. Two health/exercise clubs are available:
Polaris and the Rabuka Gym. Employees are eligible to join local
clubs at reasonable annual fees. Suva has an Olympic-sized pool,
though water quality can be a problem. An organized swimming club
for children meets at the pool and swimming lessons for both
children and adults are offered periodically.
Spectator sports include soccer, cricket, rugby, volleyball and
basketball. The Royal Suva Yacht Club, for which membership is open
to the Embassy staff, hosts powerboat and sailing races in season.
No hunting is done in Fiji. See Firearms and Ammunition.
Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:55 PM
Suva’s small Fiji Museum, located in Thurston Gardens (the local
botanical garden) has good Fiji and South Pacific ethnographic
collections. Orchid Island, west of Suva, and the Fiji Cultural
Center at Pacific Harbour also offer interesting glimpses of
traditional Fijian village life, handicraft making and traditional
ceremonies. Fijians make decorative woodbark cloth with geometric
designs called “Masi” (Tapa). They also are accomplished at wood
carving and mat weaving.
Fiji has a very well developed tourism sector. Information on
services and facilities is readily available. Cruises to the outer
island of the Fiji group can be arranged at reasonable cost on small
inter-island vessels that service the country. These trips can take
from several days to one or several weeks, with stops at many small
copra loading points. Long weekend or holiday trips to the beaches
and hotels on the southwest coast of Viti Levu can provide a
pleasant break from Suva’s more urban atmosphere. Hiking is possible
along a nature trail, with waterfalls at Colo-i-Suva just 7
kilometers from the city, though crime has been a problem at times.
“Blue Lagoon” cruises to the Yasawa Islands northwest of Viti Levu,
a stay at the off-island resorts in the Yasawas, or a weekend at
Toberua Island near Suva can give comfortable exposure to the
traditional idyllic South Pacific island image. Rivers Fiji offers
river rafting and kayaking as well as sea kayaking. There are a
number of eco-tourism opportunities. Embassy staff members are
generally offered the “local” rate for many tourist activities,
which can reduce the price considerably.
Entertainment Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:57 PM
For many, the great drawback to living in Suva, aside from the
frequent rain and the isolation of island life, is the relative lack
of cultural, social, intellectual or simply diverting activities for
a person who is not sports-minded. The Fiji Arts Council sponsors
performances by touring artists, usually under the auspices of other
governments, but they are very infrequent. The drama group of the
Fiji Arts Club puts on several productions each year utilizing local
dramatic talent. Other sections of the club offer arts and crafts,
photography, music and dance. The fine arts group organizes shows of
The American Women’s Association holds monthly luncheons for its
members, frequent social events for couples and holiday parties for
children. In addition the International Women’s Association has a
monthly morning tea with a speaker; the Corona Society does many
good works; and the Rucksack Club sponsors several trips each month
to explore Fiji’s interior, coastline and islands.
One six-screen, very modern multiplex cinema theater and three
other movie theaters in Suva show European, American, and Hindi
films. Movies often reach Suva within a couple of weeks of release
in the U.S., especially if they are action flicks. Movie prices are
low (about US$2.25).
Dining in Suva is improving, but is limited by its population.
There are several good Chinese restaurants, an excellent Indian
restaurant and a very good Japanese restaurant. There are also
several restaurants offering good Continental cuisine. Several
establishments offer good seafood and a number of small pizza
restaurants and snack bars exist. The pizza is very mediocre. Those
who travel to Tahiti or New Caledonia can enjoy good French cuisine.
Rock and reggae music are popular in Suva, with a number of good
local bands. Two of the town’s several discos are upscale enough to
be widely patronized by government officials and expatriates. Hotels
occasionally hold “island night” dances with live bands. Urban
Fijians have carried their traditional love of music and dancing
into the city with them, making the nightclub scene surprisingly
Fijian rituals are often colorful. The best known is the
fire-walking ceremony of the islanders of Beqa (pronounced Bengga).
The “Meke” (traditional dancing and singing) is performed
occasionally at Suva hotels and regularly at the larger coastal
resorts. Indians also perform ritual fire walking, but this is more
religious in nature.
Photography is a popular hobby in Suva and several well-stocked
photography stores exist. Film is expensive to purchase and develop
here. Black-and-white film and color prints can be processed in Suva
at costs much higher than the U.S. Bird-watching is also a popular
hobby in Fiji because of the many varieties of birds that flourish
in the islands.
The larger towns in Fiji celebrate various festivals. Suva hosts
the week-long Hibiscus Festival in August, which includes parades
and native dances. Similar events on a smaller scale are held in
Lautoka, Nadi, and Sigatoka.
Using a camera at Fijian events is permitted but requires some
care. Fijians can become upset if amateur photographers disrupt the
dignity of their traditional ceremonies. Standing up, even in front
of your seat, is particularly frowned upon. You may take as many
pictures as you wish from a seated position.
Among Americans Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:58 PM Since the
American community is small, few social activities are planned
exclusively for Americans. The American Women’s Association sponsors
some activities and a fair amount of non-representational
entertaining is done by individuals.
International Contacts Last Updated: 1/15/2004 1:59 PM Clubs play
an important part in the social life of many local residents. A few
clubs are for men only, with an occasional day when women are
permitted. Others are essentially private drinking clubs. Except for
a few hotel cocktail lounges and some squalid public bars, the bars
of the various clubs are the center of much of the local social
life, especially for men. Most of the sporting clubs (open to women)
have a yearly formal or semi-formal dance and occasional “island
night” dances. Hobby-oriented clubs, such as the shell collectors
club, hiking clubs, diving clubs, etc., offer opportunities for
social contacts outside the Embassy community.
The Fiji Women’s Club offers a wide selection of social and
volunteer activities and international contacts for women. Singles
mix with colleagues from other missions and USP.
Nature of Functions Last Updated: 1/15/2004 2:00 PM
Official social life consists mostly of cocktail parties and
dinners given by government officials, the diplomatic community and
local business people. Size of cocktail parties can run from 20 to
600 guests at functions such as national day receptions, Christmas
receptions, etc. Some social functions also involve traditional
Fijian ceremonies. Official functions are often held on weeknights;
cocktail parties are usually scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30. Little
entertaining takes place on Sundays.
Fifteen countries maintain embassies in Suva, including the U.K.,
Australia, New Zealand, France, Japan, India, China, Malaysia, Korea
and a number of island states. The EU also has a delegation. Another
30 or so countries, including Canada and Russia, maintain diplomatic
relations with Fiji through nonresident Ambassadors. Most of these
are accredited from Canberra or Wellington.
Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 1/15/2004 2:01 PM
Officers are expected to accept all official engagements that do
not conflict with prior engagements. The usual customs prevail with
respect to attendance and helping out at official functions at the
residence. Officers assigned to Suva do a fair amount of official
and semi-official entertaining.
Dress for most social functions is informal or “bula,” meaning
cotton slacks and sports shirt for men, and dresses for women.
Flowered tropical prints are commonly worn by both men and women.
Women do not usually wear slacks or skirts above the knee at social
functions in Suva. A few events require coat and tie for men,
notably the annual Queen’s Birthday party at the British Embassy and
most functions hosted by the President of the Republic. Tuxedos are
worn only on rare occasions. “Red Sea Rig” (black trousers, formal
shirt, and red bow tie and cummerbund) is worn for formal events at
some clubs, notably the Royal Suva Yacht Club. The red tie and
cummerbund can be obtained locally.
The Ambassador makes initial calls on the President, Prime
Minister, Cabinet Ministers and heads of diplomatic missions and
international organizations. The DCM and other officers make initial
calls as appropriate to the position; no fixed protocol exists.
Officers should have their business cards made up in the U.S. if
possible, as local printing is expensive. The spouse of the
Ambassador may call on the spouses of other chiefs of mission, but
other spouses have no official call responsibilities.
Special Information Last Updated: 1/15/2004 2:01 PM
Post Orientation Program
Orientation is handled by the CLO, with staff members and their
families serving as sponsors for new arrivals. English is the
working language of Fiji, but officers and spouses will find a basic
working knowledge of Fijian or Hindi helpful in non-official and
household situations. Although the post has no language program,
private lessons with native-speaking instructors can be arranged at
Notes For Travelers
Getting to the Post Last Updated: 1/15/2004 2:05 PM
Embassy staff assigned to post do not need visas to enter Fiji.
Upon receipt of arrival information, the Embassy will notify the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) so that a tourist visa will be
issued to the arriving employee at the airport. An official resident
permit will be procured by the Administrative Section from MFA
shortly after arrival. Keep a copy of your orders handy and inform
the post in a timely manner of your date of arrival. Immigration
officers in Fiji are familiar with this exemption, but airline
representatives outside Fiji are not. In the unlikely event that you
experience any difficulties with passenger agents outside Fiji, an
airline telex message to Nadi International Airport should clear up
the problem. U.S. tourists do not need visas for stays of less than
4 months, but need onward tickets and sufficient funds for their
Personnel normally arrive in Fiji by air from Los Angeles or
Hawaii, go through immigration and customs at Nadi and take a
domestic Air Fiji or Sun Air flight to Suva’s Nausori Airport.
Please note that there is no inter-airline baggage transfer at the
international arrivals hall. You will need to push your baggage to
the departure hall to check in for your domestic flight, a distance
of perhaps 200 yards. Carts are readily available. (When you exit
the international arrivals hall, ask how to get to the departure
area.) Be prepared to pay for excess baggage on the domestic flight,
since local airlines limit free checked luggage to 20 kg. (44 lbs.).
The charge in September 2000 was F$1.40 per kg. (US$.32 per lb.) and
is a reimbursable expense. Some may opt to travel via taxi or van
from Nadi to Suva. The scenic trip along the coast usually takes
about 3 hours, but employees are strongly discouraged from traveling
at night on this road because of the danger of wandering livestock.
New arrivals are met at Nausori.
No special currency regulations affect Foreign Service personnel.
U.S. currency is freely accepted in Fiji banks.
Since it may take some time before you receive your salary
payments from Bangkok, bring enough funds to last for the first
month or two at post. Employees whose salaries are deposited
directly into their accounts in the U.S. normally do not have any
Officers coming through Hawaii should inform the Embassy in
advance so that arrangements can be made for consultations at INS
Honolulu, CINCPAC, the East-West Center and/or other appropriate
offices in Honolulu. The East-West Center is involved in cultural
exchange programs in the area and certain Embassy officers may have
considerable contact with programs and personnel of the Center. In
Hawaii, you may wish to visit the Polynesian Cultural Center at Laie
and the Bishop Museum, which have excellent displays and programs on
Pacific Island cultures.
All shipments, whether freight or mail, should be addressed to
employees and not to dependents.
It is relatively easy to import pets from Australia, New Zealand
or England. For pets originating from other countries, the
procedures can be extremely cumbersome and expensive, e.g. long-term
quarantine in England and Australia, or 6 months of quarantine in
Hawaii, to be followed by 3-month quarantine in Fiji. However, a
recent arrival’s positive dealing with the Quarantine Department
indicated that there has been a change in policy, resulting in less
restrictive procedures. Post has recently obtained confirmation of
these new procedures from the Quarantine Department. Depending on
the type of pets, quarantine restrictions differ. Generally,
however, importation requirements of dogs and cats originating from
the mainland U.S. are:
Directly from mainland U.S.: 3 months of quarantine in Fiji.
Via Hawaii: one month of quarantine in Hawaii, followed by 1
month of quarantine in Fiji. Nonetheless, the process remains
protracted and complicated, therefore, newly-assigned employees are
advised to contact the Administrative Office early so that the
application/approval/certification process may be completed in time
for the employee’s travel to post. The following breeds of dogs are
prohibited from importation into Fiji: Dogo argentino, fila
brazileiro, Japanese tosa, pit bull terriers (including American pit
bull terriers), rottweilers, staffordshire terriers or crosses of
any of the above.
Please contact the Admin or CLO Office for information on other
restrictions and prohibitions.
Customs, Duties, and Passage Last Updated: 1/15/2004 2:06 PM
Free-entry privileges are granted to all Embassy staff members
for items imported at time of arrival and also for later shipments
designated specifically for personal use by employees on the
diplomatic list. Cars of Embassy staff may also be imported duty
free. Care must be taken in the selection of dry/canned food to be
shipped to post, as all HHE/UAB shipments are inspected by
Quarantine agents during unpacking at employee residences. In
general, non-meat foodstuffs from the U.S., Australia, and New
Zealand are allowed. However, meat and dairy products (canned or
otherwise) from the U.S. may be prohibited entry into Fiji and
seized. It is recommended that you avoid packing such items.
Unpolished, unpainted, untreated or unvarnished cane/rattan items
also may be prohibited entry.
Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 1/15/2004 2:06 PM
The importation of firearms is prohibited. No exceptions are
Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated:
1/15/2004 2:13 PM
The official unit of currency in Fiji is the Fiji dollar. One
U.S. dollar in September 2000 equaled Fiji dollar 2.10. The rate is
determined daily and fluctuates slightly. Fiji currency is divided
into cents, with 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 cent and 1 dollar coins; and 2,
5, 10, 20 and 50 dollar notes.
Many commercial banks in Suva maintain exchange facilities.
Personal Fiji dollar checks may be cashed at any of these banks and
will be accepted at most Fiji hotels and shops. U.S. dollar
traveler’s checks and greenbacks may be used to purchase Fiji
dollars at any of the exchange facilities. Some Embassy personnel
maintain local currency checking accounts. The ANZ Bank, which
maintains the Embassy account, will accept personal U.S. dollar
checks for Embassy personnel. The Embassy Cashier provides an
accommodation exchange service to U.S. employees and their spouses.
Fiji uses the metric system of weights and measures. Gasoline is
bought by the liter, and the temperature is measured in Celsius.
Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 1/15/2004
All purchases in Fiji, including those of diplomatic personnel,
are subject to a 10% value added tax (VAT) placed on all goods and
services. Spouses and dependents working in the local economy must
pay highly graduated income taxes. Embassy staff pay a small fee for
a driving learners’ permit (if one is required). Staff on the
diplomatic list do not pay auto registration fees, but
non-diplomatic staff pay this fee (about F$35).
Taxes are not imposed on resale of personal property, including
cars, though customs duties on the current value at the time of
resale must be paid.
Recommended Reading Last Updated: 1/15/2004 2:15 PM
These titles are provided as a general indication of the material
published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse
Adrian. Peasants in the Pacific: A Study of Fiji Indian Rural
Brown, Stanley. Men From Under the Sky.
Derric, R. A. A History of Fiji.
—Suva: Colony of Fiji.
Lonely Planet Publication. Fiji, Travel Survival Kit.
Oliver, D. The Pacific Islands. Honolulu: University of Hawaii.
Nayacakalou, R. R. Leadership in Fiji. Oxford: Oxford Press.
—“Tradition and Change in the Fijian Village Suva.” Fiji Times.
Pacific Islands Year Book.
Ratu, Sir Rabuka, Sitiveni, Autobiography—No Other Way.
Ratu, Sir Kamisese Mara. The Pacific Way. Honolulu: University of
Siers, James. Fiji in Color.
—Fiji Celebration. London: Collins.
Shapham (editor). Rabuka of Fiji. Central Queensland University.
Tarte, Daryl. Island of the Frigate Birds (Mostly about Banaba
Tompson, Peter. Kava in the Blood.
Trumbul, R. Tin Roofs and Palm Trees. Seattle: University of
Williams, Thomas. Fiji and the Fijian. Fiji Museum, Suva.
Local Holidays Last Updated: 1/15/2004 2:16 PM
Except for New Year’s, Christmas, Boxing Day and Diwali, Fiji’s
holidays are observed on Mondays or Fridays with a change in dates
annually. Local holidays are as follows:
New Year’s Day January 1 National Youth Day Feb/March (Varies)
Good Friday April (Varies) Easter Monday April (Varies) Ratu Sir
Lala Sukuna Day 4th Monday in May Queen’s Birthday 2nd Monday in
June Constitution Day 4th Monday in July Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday
June/July (Varies) Fiji Day 2nd Monday in October Diwali Oct/Nov
(Varies) Christmas Day December 25 Boxing Day December 26