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Marshall Islands
Preface Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:13 PM

Comprising over a thousand flat coral islands of white sand beaches and turquoise lagoons, the Republic of the Marshall Islands beckons visitors with all the promise of a tropical paradise. There are pristine diving and lush tropical greenery, and the Marshallese people retain many of their pre-colonial crafts and traditions, especially on the outer islands. You can still watch outrigger canoes zipping around the lagoons, though these days you are as likely as not to find a VCR in that little grass shack and Coke replacing coconut juice as the drink of choice of many islanders.

Marshallese society has always been stratified, and despite increasing Westernization and the introduction of a moneyed economy, social status still comes as much from one's kinship as it does from one's own achievements. Chiefs continue to wield a great deal of authority over land ownership and usage.

In travels between the islands, early inhabitants learned to read the patterns of the waves and the positions of the stars, and they made stick charts to record and pass on their observations to less experienced navigators. By tying flat strips of wood together in imitation of the wave patterns and attaching cowry shells to the sticks to represent particular islands and atolls, the experienced navigator could memorize the patterns for when he was out at sea—the charts were not actually taken on the journeys.

The first Micronesian navigators arrived in the Marshall Islands sometime between 500 and 2000 B.C.E. Little is known of their origin or culture.

In 1494 Micronesia was ceded to Spain. The Marshall Islands, however, were off the main trade routes and consequently received little attention from early European explorers. In 1525, Alonso de Salazar of Spain became the first European to sight the islands, but Spain did nothing to colonize them. After another 200 years devoid of Europeans, the islands received a visit from English captain John Marshall (from whom they later took their name) in 1788.

Traders and whalers began to visit the islands en masse in the early 1800s, until encounters with the “friendly” native Marshallese began to turn sour. Ship after ship putting into port at various atolls in the Marshalls quickly weighed anchor after the death of their captain or crew members.

Germany annexed the Marshalls in 1885 but did not place government officials on the islands until 1906, leaving island affairs to a group of powerful German trading companies. Japan took over in 1914 and colonized the Marshalls extensively. Following World War II, the Marshall Islands became part of the U.N. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, administered by the United States.

In 1973 the Marshall Islands withdrew from the Congress of Micronesia, seeking political independence. In 1979, the Marshalls' constitution became effective.

The flipside to the paradise picture is that many of the Marshallese still struggle with the effects of 20th century technology. Two atolls—the Bikini Atoll in particular—served as testing sites for atomic bombs through 1958. And yet, despite these hardships, you will find the Marshallese exceptionally welcoming and their culture and identity alive and well.

The Host Country

Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:15 PM

The Marshall Islands are located in the eastern part of the geographic region known as Micronesia, or “Little Islands,” a myriad of more than 2,100 coral atolls and volcanic islands scattered across 3 million square miles of the western Pacific Ocean.

The Marshall Islands lay between latitude 4-14°N and longitude 160-173°E. The 29 coral atolls and 5 single islands of the Marshall Islands form two parallel groups extending northwest and southeast — the Ratak (“Sunrise”) Chain and Ralik (“Sunset”) chain. Total land area of all of the Marshall Islands is 70 square miles. Marine resources are abundant, but poor soil provides little opportunity for agriculture, except for the harvesting and drying of coconut meat into copra, the major revenue opportunity for outer islanders. Handicraft is another revenue generating source for the outer island people.

Each atoll is a cluster of small, low lying islands, none more than a few meters above sea level, circling a lagoon. The development of a coral atoll begins with coral growth around the edge of a high, often volcanic mountain. Growth continues as the mountain slowly sinks beneath the sea, leaving behind a circular reef that grows into small islands, islets, and open reef surrounding a lagoon.

Most atolls have free flowing water across most of the reef, with one or two openings for boats to enter the lagoon. The islands of most atolls are not contiguous, with stretches of open reef extending for miles between islands. As the distances between islands in an atoll can be many miles, travel from island to island within an atoll can be difficult.

The capital of the Marshall Islands is Majuro, which lies 2,300 miles southwest of Honolulu and nearly 2,000 miles southeast of Guam. Majuro lies west of the international dateline, making it 17 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

Linking the islands of the southern side of Majuro Atoll runs one of the longest paved roads in Micronesia, the islands having been artificially joined over the years by a 32-mile continuous road.

The climate of the Marshall Islands is tropical, with high humidity, and an average year round temperature of 81°F. Trade winds pick up in October or November and blow strongly from January through April, with winds varying from 12 to 22 knots. The trades, often bringing overcast skies, have a cooling effect, although the lagoon can become rough, compared to the placid days of glassy water, so frequent in summer.

Typhoon (tropical hurricane) season is from December through March. Tropical depressions form in the Marshall Islands and increase to typhoon strength as they move further west with the prevailing trade winds, making the Marshall Islands less susceptible to a full strength typhoon than most islands in the Pacific.

In Majuro, January, February, and March are traditionally the driest months, with rainfall averaging 6–8 inches a month. September through December are the wettest months, with 12-14 inches of average monthly rainfall. The temperature remains stable year round, averaging 84°F in the day and 76°F at night.

The Marshall Islands enjoy clean air, clear ocean water, sunshine, and adequate amounts of rainfall, with the exception of the heavily populated areas of Majuro and Ebeye, where city living has taken its toll on the environment. Water shortages occur at any time when rainfall has been below normal, but in Majuro, shortages will occur most toward the end of the dry season in March. The situation on Ebeye is sometimes even worse because of less rainfall and much smaller water storage capacity. The northern islands and atolls of the Marshall Islands receive less rainfall than the southern islands and atolls. The use of water catchment devices is being promoted throughout the Marshall Islands. The outer islands rely more on a subsistence economy, occasionally experiencing food shortages due to seasonal variations.

Population Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:17 PM

An ethnically homogeneous population of Marshallese lives in the Marshall Islands, whose origins, as determined through research of the language, appear to be in the Malayo-Indonesian area. The population shares a single language and culture, with some dialect and sub-cultural differences between the two island chains.

The total population of the Marshall Islands as of the 2004 census was 52,500 people. That was a decrease of 3,450 people since the 2003 census, due to migration. Majuro and Ebeye are the two urban population centers. Over 50% of the Marshallese people live on Majuro Atoll. Out of the total population, 22% live on the island of Ebeye in the Kwajalein Atoll and 3% on the outer islands of the Kwajalein Atoll. With just 0.14 square miles of land area, Ebeye Island is the most densely populated area in the Marshall Islands, with an equivalent population density of 66,750 persons per square mile. The islands of Majuro and Ebeye offer amenities, such as electricity, modern Western lifestyles, and employment opportunities (albeit limited) that continually draw younger Marshallese from the outer islands. On the outer atolls the lifestyle is mostly unchanged and untouched by modern development, although the outer atoll people are increasingly dependent on shipments of rice and other food staples from Majuro.

Fewer than 3% of the populations are foreigners. Countries other than the U.S. are beginning to send diplomatic representatives to the Marshall Islands. Taiwan and Japan have embassies on Majuro.

The Marshall Islands is a young population, where 43% of the population is under 15 years of age and 15% is under 5. The working age group of 15 to 65 years old is 55% of the population. The population has doubled in the last 26 years.

The urban areas of the Marshall Islands, where lifestyles move away from the traditional culture, are experiencing increasingly severe problems with youth suicide, alcoholism, sexually transmitted diseases, juvenile delinquency, a higher degree of criminal activities, teenage pregnancies, and disregard of parental influence.

The social structure in the Marshall Islands is based on membership in a “bwij,” a system of extended families or small clans. All members of the bwij work together for the common good, sharing food, housing, property, and resources. The leader of a bwij is the “alap,”who acts as manager. Each bwij forms part of a larger group, led by an “iroij,” or chief. It is traditionally the chief's responsibility to allocate resources among all his people and to resolve disputes.

Land is a scarce resource in the Marshall Islands and forms an important base for the establishment of social structure. Marshallese own all land; none may be sold to foreigners, although it may be leased to foreigners if all those holding an interest in the land agree. The RMI Government does not own any land but leases what it needs from various landowners. Ownership of land defines social status and family identity. Land rights are inherited through membership in a bwij, which is determined through the female line. Inheritance of titles is also matrilineal.

The traditional Marshallese method of dividing property, crops or catch, and income is one third for the iroij, one third for the alap, and one-third for “dri jerbal,”or common people who make up the bwij. This customary method of allocation is now creating social, economic, and legal difficulties within Marshallese society, as the country becomes increasingly Westernized and moves from a subsistence economy to a money economy. Major disputes arise over land ownership titles as they command not only great prestige, but, with the advent of U.S. aid and lease payments, great wealth as well.

The Marshallese has a relaxed and casual attitude to life and informal dress is normal. Marshallese have strong family relationships, and thus, family needs and desires take precedence over non family matters. Most Marshallese can expect family or extended family support at any time. This social network allows relatives from the outer islands, whether invited or not, to join family members on Ebeye or Majuro, and be assured of a home and food, even if the newcomer does not plan to work or make a contribution to the host family. Many young people prefer the U.S.-influenced lifestyles of Majuro and Ebeye to the remote and quiet living of an outer island. As the population density of both centers increases, there are no indications that this trend will change in the future. It is estimated that there are approximately 15,000 Marshallese living in the United States and more leave for the U.S. every day. Under the Compact of Free Association between the U.S. and the RMI, native Marshallese citizens are allowed to live and work in the U.S. at will.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:23 PM

The Marshall Islands were claimed by Spain in 1592, but were left undisturbed by the Spanish Empire for 300 years. In 1885, Germany took over the administration of the Marshall Islands and located trading stations on the islands of Jaluit and Ebon to pursue the flourishing copra (dried coconut meat) trade. Marshallese High Chiefs continued to rule under indirect colonial German administration.

At the beginning of World War I, Japan assumed control of the Marshall Islands, first under civil and later naval administration. Their headquarters remained on Jaluit.

In early 1944, U.S. Marines and Army troops with naval air support took control from the Japanese following intense fighting on Kwajalein and Enewetak Atolls. In 1947, the U.S. as the occupying power entered into an agreement with the U.N. Security Council to administer the Micronesia area as the “Strategic Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.” The area included what is now the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas. During the lengthy negotiations leading to the present political entities, the various peoples voted to pursue their separate courses rather than join as one country.

On May 1, 1979, the U.S. extended recognition both to the Constitution of the Marshall Islands, a document that incorporates both American and British constitutional concepts, and to the establishment of the Government of the Marshall Islands.

After 13 years of negotiation, on June 25, 1983, the Government of the Marshall Islands and the Government of the U.S. signed the Compact of Free Association. The people of the Marshall Islands approved the Compact in a U.S.-observed plebiscite on September 7, 1983. The U.S. Congress subsequently reviewed the Compact and included several amendments that were accepted by the Government of the Marshall Islands. President Reagan signed the compact into law on January 14, 1986. The Compact entered into force in the Marshall Islands on October 21, 1986. The UN voted to terminate the trusteeship with respect to the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia in December 1990.

The status of free association recognized the Republic of the Marshall Islands as a self-governing state with the capacity to conduct foreign affairs consistent with the terms of the Compact.

The Compact places full responsibility for defense of the Marshall Islands with the U.S. The basic relationship of free association continues indefinitely, while the economic and defense provisions of the Compact are subject to renegotiating at the end of 15 years. Congress provides most of the Compact funding through the U.S. Department of the Interior.

A major subsidiary agreement of the Compact allows the U.S. continued use of the U.S. Army installation at Kwajalein, an atoll consisting of 90 islets around the largest lagoon in the world. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) uses the facility on a lease agreement with the Government of the Marshall Islands. DOD controls 11 islands within the Kwajalein Atoll.

Another major agreement of the Compact provides for settlement of all claims arising out of the nuclear testing programs that the U.S. conducted at Bikini and Enewetak Atolls from 1946 to 1958.

The legislative branch of the government is made up of the Nitijela (Parliament) with an advisory Council of Iroij (high chiefs). The Nitijela has 33 members from 25 districts that are elected for concurrent 4 year terms. Members of the Nitijela hold the title of Senator.

The executive branch is under the leadership of the President, who is elected by the Nitijela from among its membership. The President selects the members of his cabinet from the Nitijela membership. The first president of the republic was elected in 1979.

The Marshall Islands has four court systems: the Supreme Court, High Court, District and Community Courts, and the Traditional Rights Court. Most trial cases are heard before a judge. Jury trial is used only in unusual circumstances because of the difficulty in finding unbiased jurors within such a small population. Jurisdiction of the Traditional Rights Court is limited to cases involving titles, land rights, or other disputes arising from customary law and traditional practices. The Council of Iroij, representing traditional authority, advises the Cabinet on matters concerning customary law.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:23 PM

The Marshall Islands has 77 public elementary schools and five public secondary schools. There are 26 private elementary schools and 13 private secondary schools. In 2004, 73.2% of elementary school age children and 43.8% of the secondary school age children attended classes.

Test scores reveal that the education system needs to be improved. Though there is a 19 to 1 ratio of students to teachers, the quality of education is of great concern. Nearly half of the teachers in the Marshall Islands have only a secondary school diploma as their highest qualification. Scores on the entrance tests to the College of the Marshall Islands (CMI) in February 2000 required 73% of those applying to take remedial training of up to 2 years before being allowed to enroll in traditional college credit courses. CMI provides 2-year degree programs in liberal arts and sciences, teacher education, nursing and allied health, business and computer science, and vocational and occupational education and training. Remedial programs are available to prepare students to enter CMI's degree programs, and it has an adult education program to provide an opportunity for obtaining a high school diploma. The University of the South Pacific (USP) provides post-secondary education through extension programs in Majuro. Students are able to complete full majors and degrees without having to attend classes on USP campuses.

The Marshall Islands women are respected throughout Micronesia for the quality of the woven handicrafts they produce from coconut and pandanus fibers. Intricate and delicate baskets are decorated with many small shells; fans, mats, belts, handbags, and hats are woven to be decorative as well as practical. Most of the weaving is done by women on the outer islands who ship their goods to Majuro for sale at local handicraft stores. Men carve and assemble small replicas of the wooden sailing canoes that were once the only means of travel in the Marshall Islands. They also make modern stick charts, illustrating the principles of wave shape and change, which were used by Marshallese navigators to travel throughout the island chains.

The Marshallese have an oral tradition of song and legend, which is closely held and not shared with foreigners. With the increasing move toward a Western society, many fear that much of this tradition will soon be lost.

The Alele Museum is a private, nonprofit corporation that operates a small museum with photos and objects of traditional Marshallese culture and history. It has an extensive microfilm inventory of documents relating to the history of the Marshall Islands and the Trust Territories. It actively encourages preservation and documentation of the Marshallese cultural heritage.

A Marshallese festive occasion always includes a song or two, sung by men and women in harmony, sometimes a cappella, sometimes with a ukulele. As individuals, the Marshallese people are quiet and somewhat reticent, but they will spontaneously form a group and give an enthusiastic vocal performance at almost any event.

The “jepta” dancing performed by groups of youth and adults at their respective churches highlights the Christmas celebration. A month of late night practices culminates in Christmas night dancing, each group in their own costume, and performing variations of traditional dances.

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:25 PM

The government is the largest employer in the country, employing about one third of the workforce. The gross domestic product is derived mainly from U.S. funded expenditures. Direct U.S. aid under the Compact of Free Association accounts for two-thirds of the Marshall Islands' 2006 budget of US$ 146 million.

Per capita gross domestic product during 2004 was about US$1,957, a figure that helps us to understand the standard of living. The economy is a mixture of a small subsistence sector and a modern urban sector. The modern sector is largely a service oriented economy located on Majuro and Ebeye, primarily sustained by expenditures of the Marshall Islands Government and the U.S. Army installation at Kwajalein Atoll (USAKA). Wages, salaries, and other benefits to employees from these two sectors accounted for more than half of the gross domestic product in 2004.

The modern private sector consists of wholesale and retail trade, restaurants, banking and insurance, construction and repair services, professional services, and a small amount of copra processing. Despite its small size, however, copra cake, soap and copra oil are by far the largest exports, standing at US$1 million in 2004. The Marshall Islands have 22,000 acres of coconut plantations, and copra production has been the most important single commercial economic activity for the past hundred years. Unfortunately, the world market for coconut oil is currently in decline and diminishes the value of the Marshall Islands' largest export commodity.

The minimum wage is US$2 an hour, which places the Marshall Islands at a competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis its potential Pacific and East Asian competitors. Skilled workers are few. The U.S. dollar is the official currency.

Outer islanders in an otherwise subsistence economy make copra and weave handicrafts as their sole source of income. These limited revenues fund what few items they can afford, such as food, soap, lantern fuel, and clothing. Most imports are consumed on Majuro and Ebeye.

Agriculture, marine resources, and tourism are top government development priorities. The Marshall Islands has no large-scale fishing operations. Sale of fishing rights to the Japanese, Taiwanese, and Koreans is a source of income, and the Marshall Islands is the recipient of aid, particularly from Japan to ensure the continuation of these rights. The U.S. and Japan are the Marshall Islands' major trading partners; retail trade with Australia and New Zealand is increasing. The Marshall Islands receives additional aid from the Governments of Australia and Taiwan.


Automobiles Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:26 PM

Majuro enjoys one of the longest paved road systems in all of Micronesia: from Rita, at the eastern end of Majuro Atoll, to Laura, the village on the far western end, a distance of about 30 miles. The island is so narrow that when driving the length of the island there are very few places where you are unable to see the lagoon and ocean at the same time. There are no street names and no addresses. As is typical in small towns all over the world, locations are identified by their occupant, their former occupant, or the nearest landmark. There are very few traffic signs, and there are no stoplights. Local police are working hard to enforce good driving habits but almost anyone who pays the fee required can acquire a driver’s license. Drivers must be extra cautious as children and animals dart into the street day and night. There are no sidewalks, so the narrow roads are shared with pedestrians, and one must be alert as people and cars seem to come out of nowhere. Because there are so many vehicles, traffic is becoming a problem especially in the mornings, at noon, and at 5 o'clock. The speed limit in most areas is 25 mph, but at times it's impossible to maintain even that rate of speed.

Gasoline costs about twice as much as in the U.S. The Embassy has a special duty-free gasoline charge account with a downtown station that removes the import tax before billing so Embassy personnel get a little break.

Taxis are the main means of transportation for the Marshallese people. A person can ride in one direction anywhere from the end of Rita to the bridge (approximately 7 miles) for $1.00. If a person were to travel from Rita to Long Island (at the other side of the bridge) the charge would be $1.50. It becomes more costly to travel from town to the airport and beyond.

Taxis are not always convenient, especially on Long Island where the Embassy and Embassy housing are located. At night it is very difficult and possibly dangerous to get a taxi into town from Long Island. What makes it dangerous is that there are few streetlights and people waiting on the side of the road to hail a taxi are not clearly visible. Drunk drivers are more likely to be driving at night so standing by the side of the narrow roads after dark is not a good idea. When using the taxi service you must share the car with as many people as the driver chooses to pick up. That means that there are many stops made from when one gets in, to the final destination.

The convenience of having a personal car is immeasurable. Most people at the Embassy choose to ship a vehicle. An inexpensive simple car would be the best to send. After a vehicle is used for two years in Majuro it may not be in good enough condition to make it worth while to ship it back to the U.S. and can be sold locally quite easily. Qualified mechanics are rare so maintenance is a challenge. Parts when needed are usually not in stock so they must be ordered from off island which takes time and can become expensive very quickly. Only the Ambassador's and OMS residence have a garage so all other vehicles are exposed to the sun and salt air. Buying a new car locally is a possibility; buying a used car in Majuro, as in the U.S., can be a gamble.

It is a requirement of the Marshall Islands that vehicles be licensed. The weight of the vehicle determines the charge, but for the average car, the fee is $35. Law requires that vehicles be inspected yearly. Inspection stickers are issued when the car is licensed, although this law is not strictly enforced. The licensing fee includes the fee for the inspection sticker. Liability insurance is required and must be obtained before the vehicle is licensed. The cost for minimum coverage locally is less then US$200. Persons planning to drive in Majuro should have a current Marshall Islands drivers license. This drivers license will be issued for $20. No test is required but you will probably be asked to present your U.S. drivers license when applying.

Local Transportation Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:28 PM

Those who don't have their own vehicles move about town using the local taxi service. Individuals can license cars or vans of all descriptions as taxis. Taxis cruise the road picking up passengers who hail them from the roadside. Riders are picked up until the car is full and then dropped at their various destinations. The fare schedule is simple, with downtown transfers costing 50 cents and longer rides out to the Embassy area costing $l.50. Students and children pay only 25 cents, but, as a result, may be ignored as they wait for a ride. The ride may be hot and the car rickety and you may have to wait for a taxi to drive by, but the operators are honest, and the service proves to be convenient.

To find a nice public sandy beach where you can spend the day swimming and snorkeling, you must drive to Laura. The road is paved and the drive is a pleasant one. It can take as much as an hour to drive the approximately 20 miles from the Embassy to Laura but there is much to see along the way, as the scenery is beautiful. Laura is a small village, different from downtown Majuro, with more land and fewer inhabitants.

Chartered boat trips can be arranged and are a wonderful way to get away from the city. Just a few islands up the reef from Majuro you will find islands that are almost completely uninhabited. Perfectly clear warm water and beautiful sandy beaches are there to explore. Most island inhabitants welcome guests but you must ask first.

Travel to the other atolls in the Marshall Islands is by boat or plane. Air Marshall Islands (AMI) provides service to the 26 grass airstrips located on various other atolls. Travel within an atoll is by small, outboard boats, as the islands on an atoll are connected only by long sections of open reef. Arno, 12 miles away and the atoll closest to Majuro, is the only outer island accessible from Majuro by small boat in a single day. Obtain permission to visit the outer islands from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Because of the travel impediments and lack of any guest facilities on most of the outer atolls, the most frequent foreign visitors to the outer islands are those on occasional sailboats passing through on cruises of the Pacific. There are guest facilities on a few islands within the Majuro Atoll and also on Likiep Atoll, Arno Atoll, Mili Atoll and Jaluit Atoll.

Regional Transportation Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:29 PM

Both Majuro and Kwajalein Atolls have airports that accommodate large jet aircraft. Continental Micronesia provides jet service between Honolulu and Guam, via Majuro and Kwajalein. Air Nauru provides jet service between Majuro, Fiji, and Brisbane, Australia.

Majuro has shipping links to the West Coast of the U.S., Hawaii, Australia, Japan, the South Pacific, and to other parts of Micronesia. Regular shipping service is provided by Matson Navigation Company, NYK, and Forum Lines. Tiger Lines and Saipan Shipping provide transshipment facilities out of Guam and Saipan. The ports in Majuro and Ebeye provide containerized cargo handling, warehousing, and transshipment operations.


Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:31 PM

The Marshall Islands National Telecommunications Authority (NTA) provides telecommunications services for the Marshall Islands. NTA provides access to domestic and international telephone service, local cellular telephone service, and Internet services. Residential, one-party-line charge is $12 per month with a one time $35 connection fee. As in the U.S. you can subscribe to enhanced services such as Call Waiting, Call Forwarding, etc. Charges for these enhanced services are nominal. Caller ID is provided free of charge.

There is no service charge for the cellular telephone. However, there is a $15 charge for installation fee of the sim card (new GSM system) there is a charge of $0.10 per minute for outgoing call only. There are calling cards to purchase to use for domestic and international calls. The prices range from $10, $20 and $50. Cellular phones are usually available for purchase on the island and must be compatible with new GSM system.

Internet service is costly compared to the U.S. NTA charges $10 a month plus $.06 per minute of use. There is an initial $15 installation fee. Dedicated leased Internet lines of 128 kbps and 256 kbps with unlimited use are also available for a monthly fee. The Embassy is connected to the Internet and employees of the Embassy may use the Internet in accordance with Department regulations free of charge if they wish. In addition to the NTA Internet connection, the Embassy also has Internet connection via its own VSAT satellite dish.

The country code for Majuro is 692. The Embassy numbers are Telephone 247-4011 and Fax 247-4012.

Wireless Service Last Updated: 11/23/2005 0:32 AM Various Private businesses are utilizing the Peer-to-Peer or in-house WireLess services.

Internet Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:32 PM

Marshall Islands Visitors Authority e-mail:

RMI Country Homepage:

Bikini Atoll Homepage:

Yokwe-Eok Marshallese Web site:

Alele Museum:

PATA Micronesia:

Robert Reimers Ent./Marshalls Dive Adventure:

Continental Micronesia:

Destination Micronesia Homepage:

Marshall Islands Stamp Center:

Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:32 PM

The Marshall Islands is a U.S. domestic mail zone and receives international mail service through the U.S. Postal Service. Because of the close ties with the U.S. system Majuro has been assigned a two digit state abbreviation which is MH. The ZIP Code for Majuro is 96960. However, in January 2006, the U.S Postal Service will end, and the Marshall Islands will use the international postal rate.

(Name of Individual) U.S. Embassy P.O. Box 1379 Majuro, MH 96960-1379

U.S. domestic rates apply to and from the U.S. Although the Marshall Islands issues its own stamps, the postal system in Majuro has accepted U.S. postage stamps on single pieces mailed to the U.S. However, the service will end January 2006 and the Marshall Islands will use the international rate service.

First class letter mail arrives by air 6-10 days from the East Coast. Packages sent Priority Mail also arrive about the same time, or slightly longer. Non first-class mail, including parcel post and magazines sent second class, arrive by ship within 2–4 months.

For nonfirst class mail, post personnel have found that using the Embassy's pouch address speeds receipt.

(Name of Individual) 4380 Majuro PL Dulles, Virginia 20189-4380

Although APO facilities at Kwajalein could be made available to Embassy personnel, the distance and expense of shipment to Majuro make it impractical. The only transportation link between Kwajalein and Majuro is via commercial airline.

Embassy personnel have found it best to avoid the use of “Republic of the Marshall Islands”on catalog orders as firms will sometimes incorrectly apply higher international mail rates to such shipments.

In Majuro mail is delivered only to a post office box. Outer island mail requires a first class stamp; parcels are charged as freight and delivered by local plane or ship.

The Embassy sends and receives a pouch once a week from Manila. Although post rarely sends a pouch to Washington, DC, pouches arrive from Washington, DC, every 1–2 weeks.

Radio and TV Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:33 PM

The Marshall Islands has several radio stations. V7AB, AM 1098, is run by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, broadcasting news, announcements, the Nitijela meetings when the Nitijela is in session, and popular and Marshallese music. Some news and announcements are in both Marshallese and English. V7AA, FM 104, is run by the Baptist Church and broadcasts religious music and programs. Real time news can be heard on the hour on V7AA FM 104, V7AB, V7Eman and from the BBC; however, the reception for the BBC is poor. Other private radios are V7Eman, V7DJ and V7Eagle.

Cable TV is available in Majuro through Marshalls Broadcasting Company. Initial installation is $30 with a monthly charge of $36. for one TV and $3 a month extra for each additional TV that is hooked up. For an additional $10 a month a Philippine station can be accessed. There are about 11 stations in all. Real time news can be received on CNN, CNBC and BBC. A TV schedule is not published but many shows are broadcast with some regularity so one is able to predict when some shows will be aired. Movies are shown both day and night and most are suitable for all audiences. There are many video stores on the island and the selections available are quite good.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:34 PM

The Embassy subscribes to two newspapers, the Marshall Islands Journal and The Pacific Daily News (Guam). The Marshall Islands Journal is an independently published weekly newspaper and the only printed source of local news. It is issued every Thursday at a cost of 1.00 and provides coverage of local events in both Marshallese and English.

The Embassy subscribes to the following publications: Far Eastern Economic Review, Pacific Islands Monthly, PC Magazine, The Contemporary Pacific, Time, Washington Pacific Report, News Week and Fast Company.

A few magazines and paperback books are available at local stores but the selection is poor, usually out of date, and the price is high.

The Majuro public library located in the Alele Museum building is small and limited. The College of the Marshall Islands makes its library available to anyone who would want to use it.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:35 PM

Medical care in Majuro is not up to U.S. standards. The Majuro Hospital is staffed with doctors from many countries around the Pacific. There are no American doctors at this time at the Majuro Hospital. There is one private clinic operated by a doctor from the Philippines that the Embassy staff visits when necessary. There is another private clinic operated by an American doctor. The 177 Clinic is the medical facility serving those affected by the nuclear testing. Currently, there is a doctor from the Philippines, Dr. Lavina Gael, manning this facility. Although the 177 Clinic is there to serve this exclusive group of people, we have been told that if scheduling permits we can request an appointment with this doctor. The Youth to Youth in Health has a clinic in Majuro catering to the young community.

Obtaining medicine is often a problem. Many times the hospital is not able to stock an adequate supply, so they are frequently out of some of the most basic medicines. You cannot depend on being able to have a prescription filled here so bring regularly needed medications with you or make arrangements to have them sent from the U.S.

Routine laboratory work is available. More complicated tests are sent to Honolulu for evaluation.

Dental care is available for simple dental work, checkups, cleaning, and x ray but again, not up to U.S. standards. Majuro has one optical care facility. One should bring spare eyeglasses, and sunglasses. Selections of contact lens solutions are limited. Bring needed supplies to post and reorder from the U.S.

Bring with you any medicine or medical supplies you anticipate needing on a regular basis. Simple things like bandages and antibiotic cream, aspirin, Motrin, Tylenol and cold medicines are usually obtainable from the two largest stores on the island. You cannot always count on finding your favorite brands so it would be a good idea to bring a small supply of your favorites to use until you find out if they are available here.

Community Health Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:53 PM

Ebeye Island in Kwajalein Atoll, the second-largest population center in the Marshall Islands, has an expanding health center for its large population. All other outer island communities are served by 64 health centers staffed with modestly trained health assistants who utilize small dispensaries and are connected by marine high frequency radio to the main center in Majuro. Boats or planes evacuate medical emergencies from the outer islands to Majuro. In Majuro there is also a church based health clinic in Laura, a nongovernment operated clinic run by the Baptist Church and one run by Mission Pacific.

Common infectious and communicable diseases in the Marshall Islands include amoebiasis, conjunctivitis, diarrhea, gastroenteritis, gonorrhea, influenza, leprosy, scabies, syphilis, and tuberculosis. Water supply, sanitation, personal hygiene and overcrowding are among factors related to the infectious and communicable diseases. Tests for HIV/AIDS in 2004 found no positive cases. However, tests in 2004 detected one positive HIV case. With the increasing level of prostitution and the large number of foreign fishing boats calling at Majuro, the risk of HIV and AIDS being introduced to this area becomes more of a possibility each day.

The most prevalent noncommunicable disease in the Marshall Islands is diabetes, which is now a major health problem. Hypertension and heart disease are also on the increase. Poor eating habits, the consumption of large amounts of alcohol and tobacco, and the lack of exercise contribute heavily to these major health problems.

Preventive Measures Last Updated: 11/23/2005 1:02 AM

All personnel and dependents should follow standard State Department immunization guidelines, including inoculation for Hepatitis A and B. Vaccine is not available in Majuro but can be shipped to the Embassy and administered locally. If at all possible begin the series of immunizations before arrival at post.

Sunburn is a problem year round. Everyone is urged to use sunscreen and wear sunglasses and protective clothing. Coral cuts are a common occurrence and no matter how small are slow to heal and susceptible to infection. Wounds should be cleaned, treated with antibiotic cream and kept bandaged until completely healed. Prevent cuts to feet by wearing shoes while in the water and out. Everyone is urged to drink plenty of fluid in order to stay hydrated.

Eating in major restaurants is safe. Be careful when eating at private or public events, because food is commonly not refrigerated properly and could be prepared in less than sanitary conditions. Most meats, fruits and vegetables are imported from the U.S., Australia and New Zealand and are safe. Local vegetables, pork, chicken and fish are also safe. Some reef fish contain toxins, and the varieties that are safe to eat vary from atoll to atoll. If you catch your own fish, check with a local fisherman to see if it is safe to eat. When purchasing products at any store be sure to check the expiration dates on the packages as it is common to find many that are still on the shelf long beyond their shelf life.

The normal tropical rodents and small lizards are present, but not in excess. Cockroaches and ants can become a problem. The island's professional exterminator visits the Embassy and residential housing as needed. Flies and a few mosquitoes are a nuisance, but often the trade winds keep them away.

The Majuro Water and Sewer Company, which is government owned, provides the water and sewer system in Majuro. The public water system relies primarily on a rainwater catchment system, which is located at the airport runway and in the wells in Laura. Public water is normally available (depends if it’s a dry season) three days a week for 14 hours per day. Individual homes must have their own catchment and storage tanks to provide round the clock water. Because of the short distance between the Embassy area and the water treatment plant, the water is up to Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) standards when it reaches the Chancery and Embassy housing. The individual catchment units at each place can become contaminated and mix with the public water so the Embassy houses and the Chancery have distillation units for drinking water.

A 1999 census reported that 61% of all households in the Marshall Islands used flush toilets and 25% used pit latrines or no toilet facilities at all. A great part of the population continues traditional customs, using the ocean and lagoon reefs for elimination and personal hygiene, contributing significantly to local pollution. Public garbage collection exists but unfortunately, vast amounts of trash are dumped oceanside or lagoonside by residents, creating, among other problems, unsightly pollution in many areas. The Embassy housing area is located away from the most populated area of Majuro but some trash does float by and may wash up on the beach. Swimming, snorkeling and water activities are safe in these locations.

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:36 PM

Under the Compact of Free Association, American citizens are permitted to work in the Marshall Islands. Employment opportunities for spouses in Majuro are limited by the small size of the community and the tiny commercial sector.

Teachers either accredited or with a college degree, are in demand at all schools. The College of the Marshall Islands, which offers 2-year programs in nursing and teaching, may have a need depending on current staffing, for part time teachers of ESL, typing, shorthand, French, etc. The hospital may offer employment opportunities for skilled medical personnel. Majuro businesses frequently need accountants and bookkeepers. Local jobs pay below American pay scales. Employed dependents retain their diplomatic immunities and do not pay local income tax.

Spouses interested in local employment should alert post of their professional interest early, in case appropriate positions are advertised before arrival at post.

An important factor for spouses or dependents considering local employment in Majuro is the small size of the community and the network of relationships—social, business, and familial—that exists. Some local positions might prove difficult for the spouse or dependent of an Embassy employee to hold. On the other hand, this is not true of all opportunities; flexibility is the key.

American Embassy - Majuro

Post City Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:36 PM

Majuro is the political and economic center of the Marshall Islands. The inhabited islands along the southern side of Majuro Atoll have been joined over time by landfill and a bridge to form a 30‑mile road from Rita, on the extreme eastern end, to Laura, at the western end. Both villages were so code‑named by U.S. forces in World War II after favorite pinups Rita Hayworth and Lauren Bacall.

The main downtown business and shopping area is located in Rita and extends 4 miles to the southeast corner of the atoll, home of a second shopping center, the Capitol building, and government offices. The downtown area includes the islands of Djarrit, Uliga, and Delap (DUD). Newcomers cannot identify where one area ends and another begins, but it is not necessary for finding one's way. A single paved main street parallels the lagoon, and a smaller unimproved road follows the oceanside as far as the government office area. Schools, offices, shops, restaurants, hotels, and the hospital are along the street. No longer a village, Majuro is a small town—compact, offering far more Western amenities than one might expect in the middle of the Pacific, a place where people know one another and you cannot get lost.

The DUD area contains approximately 12,000 to 15,000 people living in mostly crowded housing, many without water and sewer facilities. Since land is in short supply and controlled by each clan, graves of family members occupy a central place in front of many dwellings. Marshallese homes typically have no furniture, only pandanus sleeping mats, which are rolled out at night. Cooking facilities, kerosene cookers, or pit fires are often outside and may be shared by more than one family. The lagoon and ocean have traditionally been used as toilet facilities. Such use continues, despite the population increase, and causes health problems at the Rita end of the lagoon.

The population density lessens as you drive westward, and the environment becomes more suburban. The housing standard improves; green grass, coconut, and breadfruit trees are abundant. The area has a few neighborhood shops, selling individual cigarettes, some canned foods, soft drinks, and snack food.

The Embassy and Embassy housing are located on Long Island some 7 miles out of town. The Chancery is set on a lawn backing up to the ocean, with an oceanside tennis court, a small gym, and views of both the lagoon and ocean. The Ambassador’s residence is across the street from the Embassy, with lagoon waters lapping at its foundation. Staff houses are within walking distance. Located also on the lagoon side, they are on the water and have spectacular sunsets.

The airport is 2‑1/2 miles further west from the Embassy. Beyond that, the road becomes increasingly rural on the way to Laura.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:37 PM

The U.S. Mission at this Special Embassy Post (SEP) consists of an Ambassador, Deputy Chief of Mission who handles political, economic, commercial and consular duties, an Office Management Specialist, an General Services/Information Program Officer and a Regional Administrative Officer (RAO). The RAO is based in Majuro but also serves the U.S. Embassy in Kolonia, Federated States of Micronesia. The Mission has a local guard workforce and employs eight Foreign Service Nationals.

The Embassy, one of the finest buildings in all of Micronesia, was originally built as a large, private residence. It has two floors of spacious offices with views of the lagoon and ocean. The large kitchen and public areas, as well as a back deck, are suitable for entertaining large groups. A tennis court on the grounds is available for Embassy officers and dependents.

Embassy hours are 8–noon and 1–5, Monday through Friday. The Embassy phone number and country code is 692, 247–4011. Embassy personnel will meet and assist new arrivals. Arriving visitors should double‑check their arrival date. Flights depart Honolulu one date and arrive in Majuro the following date, crossing the international dateline on the way. Inform the post in advance of your travel plans.


Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:37 PM

Majuro has two hotels suitable for TDY personnel. Robert Reimers Hotel, in the central downtown location is a small, American‑style hotel on the lagoon with dining facilities at the Tide Table Restaurant, Majuro's best restaurant. The Outrigger Hotel is located slightly closer to the Embassy but is still considered in the downtown area. The Enra restaurant is also excellent.

Mission personnel are usually able to occupy their permanent quarters on arrival or shortly thereafter. Standard Welcome Kits are available until personal effects arrive.

Permanent Housing Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:38 PM

The Ambassador’s residence is a two‑story building on one‑quarter acre near the Embassy. The lower level, with a concrete deck on three sides, contains a guest apartment, servants quarters, a two‑car garage, and a large room used for Embassy warehouse space. The top floor has three bedrooms with a master bath and a guest bath; the master bedroom has a private “lani” (deck). The large living room and dining room have sliding glass doors that overlook a large deck, with wonderful sunset views. Large deck lights illuminate a variety of tropical fish swimming in the aquatic front yard. The kitchen is designed for efficient entertaining.

Officer housing consists of two similar houses, both about 2,000 square feet, side by side over the lagoon. Within a small walled compound, they were built in 1987 on concrete pilings over the lagoon and are connected to land by small, bridge‑type walkways. Both houses were built to U.S. design, with surrounding decks and numerous sliding glass doors, allowing views of the lagoon in all directions. Each deck has a private stairway to the water. The houses are separated by a small, sandy, coral beach, perfect for swimming, snorkeling, windsurfing, and for small and large boat sailing. A past Embassy officer moored a large sailboat in 30 feet of water 100 yards in front of his house.

The DCM’s house has three bedrooms, two baths, a large kitchen, and a large combination living and dining room. The Administrative Officer's house has three bedrooms, three baths (one off the kitchen), a den, which may be used for a fourth bedroom; a smaller living/dining room, a small kitchen; and two outdoor storage closets. Neither house has garage space, and each has little storage other than bedroom closets.

The OM’s house is an attractive octagonal place positioned over the water like the two houses described above. There are two bedrooms and two baths, a small kitchen, dining room and living room. This house has an attached garage. There is a small deck with connections off the bedroom, living room and dining room. A high stucco wall fences in all three of these houses.

The townhouse assigned to the GSO has two bedrooms and 2‑1/2 baths. Large windows overlooking the lagoon surround the living room and dining room on the first level. A small yard and access to the water is just outside a sliding glass door off the living room area.

Furnishings Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:38 PM

Basic furnishings include electric stove, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer, washer, dryer, water distiller, water heater, vacuum cleaner, and patio furniture. Houses are fully furnished, carpeted and fitted with blinds on all windows. Although the central air-conditioning combats moisture and mildew problems inside, the salt air and coral dust take a toll on any equipment outside.

Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:38 PM

All houses have water storage tanks that fill with both rainwater and city water, providing a 24‑hour water supply. Electrical current is 110 v, 60 cycles. The power is stable, although fluctuations are frequent and surge protectors are a good idea for any sensitive electronic equipment. Announced outages of a few hours each are necessary at times to complete system maintenance. The Chancery and the residence have backup generators but the other Embassy housing does not.

Food Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:39 PM

Majuro retail stores offer a surprising variety of consumer goods despite the country's remote location. The two largest grocery stores in Majuro are Robert Reimers Enterprises and Gibson's. Both stock a large variety of American grocery products, including packaged and canned goods, frozen meats, vegetables, ice cream, bread, fresh vegetables, and a good supply of dairy products. These two stores have a good selection of household items as well as clothing, sewing notions, cards, toys, nonprescription drugstore items, and office supplies. A limited supply of baby food and formula is available, as are disposable diapers.

Most goods are imported from California, New Zealand and Australia. Food products look a little different, for example, the cuts of meat available are not what we are accustomed to but most people agree that you can find almost anything you need. You have to plan ahead and buy when you see something that you think you may want to use in the future and freeze it if it's perishable. Depending on the item, most food is priced higher than in the U.S. Fresh vegetables are very expensive and not always of good quality.

Imported rice is a staple in the Marshallese diet. Imported chicken is the major meat; some fish is available, but most local families who catch fish only take enough to feed their own families. Until recently the only locally grown fruits and vegetables were coconut, pandanus, papaya, bananas, and breadfruit. Recently the Taiwan government started a farm in Laura, which has produced wonderful vegetables such as tomatoes, corn, and peppers, which can be purchased in the local grocery stores.

Majuro is currently an authorized consumable post. Employees assigned to a 2‑year tour are authorized 2,500 pounds regardless of family status. Although a significant saving over local purchase is possible, only limited storage is available in the houses.

Clothing Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:39 PM

Majuro's tropical climate is best appreciated while wearing cotton. Synthetics may be comfortable in air‑conditioning, but outside the office, they are uncomfortable in the heat and humidity.

Local stores offer few cotton garments and little of U.S. style and quality, except for a vast array of Majuro T‑shirts, which are popular with local and visitors alike. Most personnel bring adequate clothing with them and supplement these with catalog orders. Employees and dependents who sew should bring a good supply of fabric, patterns, and specialty notions, as well as mail order sources.

Men Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:39 PM

The local dress code is basic. Around town, men wear T‑shirts or Hawaiian aloha shirts (open‑neck sport shirts usually worn untucked), long pants (shorts are acceptable in certain situations) and sandals, athletic shoes or, occasionally, conventional shoes. Embassy attire is aloha shirts or open‑necked shirts, long trousers, sandals or conventional shoes depending on the occasion. Officers wear ties for a limited number of official events during the year, and jackets are worn less often. Ties are required when entering the Nitijela (Parliament) chambers, and shorts are prohibited in the Cabinet building. Outside the office, casual wear is the same as summertime in the U.S. Formal wear is not necessary.

Women Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:39 PM

Missionaries to the Marshall Islands in the late 1800s introduced a dress code that remains today. Local women wear long muumuus with short sleeves and rubber sandals. Few women wear American‑style clothes; pants and shorts are not usually worn. Women's thighs and shoulders should be covered. Marshallese women swim in their muumuus, which are made of silky polyester that dries quickly.

A woman officer’s standard working attire will suffice, although suits with jackets are too hot. Most women wear skirts and blouses or dresses. Either is also suitable for evening wear. Because of the climate, stockings are not worn and sandals, casual and dressy, are the norm. Fancy or revealing cocktail dresses are out of place in Majuro. Long skirts and dresses are fine for evening wear, but no formal wear is needed.

Foreign women normally wear clothing similar to what they wear at home during hot weather, with the exception that women do not wear shorts, except those at least kneelength, in public. Foreign women may wear pants to go to town or to an evening function. Women may wear a bathing suit into the water, but should wear a skirt or a wrap around their lower torso while on the beach.

Children Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:40 PM

Several of the private schools in Majuro require uniforms, which are locally made and available at a modest cost. Otherwise, children wear T‑shirts, shorts, rubber sandals (known as “zorries”), and bathing suits. Athletic shoes are occasionally worn and are best ordered from the U.S. Boys wear long pants to church and girls wear dresses. Dress clothes are not needed. Climbing coconut trees, playing on coral sand and rocks, swimming, clothed Marshallese style, and banana and coconut stains take their toll on children’s clothes.

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:40 PM

Majuro has two hardware stores, Ace and True Value, which have lately been well supplied with basic items. Fishing tackles and rods are expensive; fishermen should bring their own and buy lures here. Most items will be more expensive, so if you anticipate needing something and have the room to ship it, then do so; you will save money in the long run. The NAPA auto parts store has an uneven inventory but may have what you need or will order it. Tires may be ordered and shipped in.

Basic Services Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:40 PM

A few basic services are available in Majuro. There are a few beauty shops providing haircuts and simple styling. Repair services for appliances and electronics are limited. There is one drycleaner. Majuro has only a few reputable car repair shops, so be sure to ask for recommendations when you arrive as to where the best service can be obtained.

Domestic Help Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:40 PM

Domestic help is not available in Majuro, although part‑time untrained help may be found within the Filipino community. Embassy officers do not hire domestic help. For childcare, maid, or cooking services, servants must be brought in at the employee's expense. The Philippines is a good source of domestic help. Relatives of the Filipino community in Majuro may be willing to be hired directly from the Philippines to take a domestic position for Embassy personnel. Embassy staff housing does not have separate live-in quarters for servants. Living with local relatives is an alternative.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:45 PM

The first Christian missionaries arrived in the Marshall Islands in 1857, and Christian religions continue to play an important part in Marshallese life. Churches provide a particularly important social setting, with gatherings throughout the week. A single village may have competing churches that create tension within the community over membership and status. The Bible, translated into Marshallese, is used as a reading textbook, and many children have Old Testament names.

Many religious denominations still support missionaries in Majuro, Ebeye, and the outer islands. Several small, private religious elementary and high schools exist throughout the Marshall Islands. Denominations represented include Unified Church of Christ (Protestant), Roman Catholic, Assembly of God, Seventh‑Day Adventist, Independent Baptist, Mormon, Jehovah's Witnesses, Baha'i, and the Salvation Army program. The Unified Church of Christ and the Assembly of God churches have a theological college in Majuro.

In Majuro, Assumption Roman Catholic Church and the Assembly of God Church offer weekly services in English. Other services are in Marshallese, although most of the missionaries in every denomination are English speaking.


Dependent Education

At Post Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:48 PM The Office of Overseas Schools (OOC) has rated the schooling available in Majuro inadequate for all grade levels. Boarding school allowances are available for all school-age children. The nearest location for boarding school is Hawaii. Most of the wealthy Marshallese and Marshallese/American families send their high-school children to private or parochial schools in Honolulu. A Jesuit-run boarding school for boys is located in Chuuk (Truk), farther west in Micronesia.

The two private schools in Majuro most used by foreigners are the Majuro Cooperative School and Assumption Catholic School. Both schools use American textbooks and follow an American curriculum. Home schooling is always an option and is used by many Americans living in Majuro. The situation changes all the time so it is best to contact OOC for more information on dependent education in Majuro or home schooling if you are considering bringing school‑age children to this post.

Recreation and Social Life Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:29 PM

Recreation in Majuro is almost entirely of an aquatic nature. Fishing is popular with Marshallese and foreigners alike. Small boat reef fishing, throw netting, and surf casting are popular. Larger outboard boats are available for deep‑sea fishing for marlin, tuna, and other gamefish that abound in the Marshall Islands. Although no commercial charter boats are available, you can arrange for private charter or to be included in a day's fishing trip on a small boat.

The warm, clear waters are home to vast communities of fish, coral formations, and abundant tropical marine life, all easily accessible to snorkelers and divers. Sailing, windsurfing, swimming, boogie boarding, occasionally surfing, and picnicking at the beach are popular activities. The local dive shops fill air tanks, rent equipment, and offer scuba lessons, and have a small inventory of diving gear for sale.

Chartered boat trips can be arranged and are a wonderful way to get away from the city. Just a few islands up the reef from Majuro you will find islands that are almost completely uninhabited. Perfectly clear warm water and beautiful sandy beaches are there to explore. Most island inhabitants welcome guests but you must ask first.

Travel to the other atolls in the Marshall Islands is by boat or plane. Air Marshall Islands (AMI) provides service to the 26 grass airstrips located on various other atolls. Travel within an atoll is by small, outboard boats, as the islands on an atoll are connected only by long sections of open reef. Arno, 12 miles away and the atoll closest to Majuro, is the only outer island accessible from Majuro by small boat in a single day. Obtain permission to visit the outer islands from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Because of the travel impediments and lack of any guest facilities on most of the outer atolls, the most frequent foreign visitors to the outer islands are those on occasional sailboats passing through on cruises of the Pacific. There are guest facilities on a few islands within the Majuro Atoll and also on Likiep Atoll, Arno Atoll, Mili Atoll and Jaluit Atoll.

Sports Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:49 PM

Majuro has one large indoor athletic facility, which is used for sporting events and large assemblies. There are many outdoor basketball courts, two public tennis courts, a baseball field, and one bowling alley. Foreigners enjoy walking, bike riding, and jogging, but because of the narrow roads this can be dangerous. Rust is a problem with bicycles, and you should bring locks and patch kits for making repairs. The Embassy tennis court is available for U.S. Government personnel and it is lit for evening play. A small gym is available at the Embassy for use by the staff.

Entertainment Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:49 PM

Evening entertainment in Majuro is limited. There are several good restaurants to go for dinner, several bars that offer live music are open at night, and there is one movie theater with three screens.

Marshallese live simply and entertain rarely, except for singular events, the most common being a “kemem,” or child's first birthday celebration. These are socially important events to which large numbers of people are invited. Food preparation for a kemem takes several days. Marshallese women usually do not accompany their husbands to events, public or private, but that situation is changing slowly. It is awkward for a Marshallese to decline an invitation, so you never can be sure if an invited guest will attend. An RSVP is not usually understood.

Social Activities

Among Americans Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:49 PM Most of the foreign social activity consists of friends meeting at homes or at a restaurant. Many foreigners live in modest housing and have limited ability to entertain the way they are accustomed. The tiny diplomatic community, the retiring nature of the Marshallese, the small number of foreigners, and the lack of social events, public or private, are all factors that at times emphasize the sense of isolation in Majuro. Be creative, entertain yourself, and be willing to meet others. The community is so small that friction and disagreements of an official nature may carry over into informal social activities and can be awkward.

Occasional trips off island are useful, although probably prohibitively expensive for a family, which should plan on an extended R&R. Bring mail‑order sources for all your hobbies, reading, and audio needs. Many people find they have time they've never had before to pursue new interests or delve further into old ones.

Official Functions Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:50 PM

Majuro is a casual town, where people know one another and first names are used immediately. Matters of protocol and diplomatic and business customs, common throughout the world, are unfamiliar here. Marshallese custom places no importance on punctuality. The concepts of planning and preparation are unfamiliar. However, rank and perceived rank still is an important part in society. Delivery of an official invitation 3 hours before the event begins is not unusual. American personnel avoid following local custom too completely and follow American rules of social etiquette. Calling cards are not customarily used in the Marshall Islands. Officers will need about 500 business cards for a 2‑year tour. The Chief of Mission should have about the same number of cards. Cards can be printed locally at reasonable cost, although they will not be up to Washington, D.C. standards.

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:50 PM

Travel to Majuro is via jet from Honolulu or Guam. Continental Micronesia arrives in Majuro from Honolulu on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. From Majuro the plane goes on to Kwajalein and then Guam with stops in Kosrae, Pohnpei, and Chuuk. The plane returns to Honolulu from Guam on Monday, Wednesday and Friday with stops in Kwajalein and Majuro. Aloha Airlines flies from Honolulu to Majuro arriving in Majuro on Friday evenings. Aloha then flies on to Kwajalein and returns through Majuro on Saturday morning back to Honolulu.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Customs and Duties Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:50 PM

Unaccompanied baggage takes about 3-4 weeks by air from the U.S. During peak passenger seasons, lack of freight space on incoming flights can cause delays. Surface shipments arrive in 2-3 months from the East Coast. Shipments are through Los Angeles or Honolulu from points east of the Marshall Islands. West of the Marshall Islands there are also good connections, with vessels coming from Guam, Manila, and Hong Kong. Welcome Kits are available at post. Airfreight should include the usual items as recommended in the Foreign Service Assignment Notebook.

Passage Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:50 PM

Official personnel require a valid passport or proof of U.S. citizenship for entry. No vaccinations are required.

Pets Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:51 PM

Importation of dogs and cats is allowed. However, there is a quarantine period for a minimum of 120 days (please see requirements below). Animals are also required to have a health and rabies certificate, both for transiting Honolulu and to enter the Marshall Islands. Rabies is not present in RMI. Therefore, strict regulations must be followed. If pets are being sent unaccompanied, all airlines are obliged to deliver arriving dogs and cats to the Airport Animal Quarantine Holding Facility until their onward flight to the Marshall Islands. However, if the flight delay is over 24 hours (approximately), the pet(s) will be transported to the Animal Quarantine Branch facility in Aiea, Hawaii, where they will remain until their scheduled flight. (If the animal must be transported to the Aiea facility, there will be charges for this service to include a $35 registration fee per animal. Additionally, one cannot pay by credit card or cash; a certified check must be sent to the facility prior to any boarding arrangements. If your pets will be detained in Hawaii, it is best to call the Animal Quarantine Branch for details: Tel: (808) 483‑7145; Fax: (808) 483‑7161. The Marshall Islands have no kennels or veterinary services, so one must be prepared for any illnesses that their pet(s) may come down with.

The following requirements must be followed in importing pets into the country:

1. A permit must be obtained from the Department of Agriculture, Quarantine Section, which costs $10. The permit is valid for one shipment only. A copy must accompany the shipment and be surrendered to a Quarantine Officer on duty upon arrival of shipment into the RMI.

2. The importation of animals into the RMI requires presentation of an international animal health certificate, attesting that the animal(s):

a) were examined within 48 hours of shipment, found to be in good health, and showed no sign of any infectious disease;

b) have been effectively vaccinated against distemper, hepatitis, and canine Parvovirus at least 1 month and not more than 3 months before shipment;

c) have been effectively treated against echinococcosis‑hydatidosis, round, hook, and whipworms within 3 days of shipment;

d) have been effectively treated against, and found on examination to be visibly free of, Ectoparasites within 3 days of shipment;

e) showed no clinical sign of rabies on the day of shipment, and were kept from birth or for 6 months prior to shipment in the exporting country where no case of rabies was officially reported during the 2 years immediately preceding the importation of the animals concerned;

f) have been vaccinated with an inactivated rabies virus more than 30 days prior to entry into the RMI; and

g) for animals originating from a country where rabies occurs or is reported to occur or where rabies vaccination is routinely practiced, such animals must be confined for a period of not less than 120 days in an approved quarantine facility in a rabies‑free area prior to entry to the RMI; or

h) should meet the requirements of the State of Hawaii or the Territory of Guam.

3. Upon arrival in the RMI, imported animals shall immediately be taken under the control of a Quarantine Officer to the quarantine premises previously approved by the Chief of Agriculture where the animals shall remain until they are released by a Quarantine Officer.

4. Animals imported not in compliance with the permit requirements may be re-exported or destroyed upon arrival.

5. The quarantine Section of the Department of Agriculture can be contacted through the following: Tel: (692) 625-3206; Fax: (692) 625‑3821; E-mail:

Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:51 PM

Importation of firearms is officially prohibited. No opportunities for recreational firearm use exist in the Marshall Islands.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:51 PM

The U.S. dollar is the official currency of the Marshall Islands. Credit cards are accepted at a few establishments. Travelers checks are acceptable, but ask before making purchases. Non‑diplomatic passengers pay a US$20 departure tax at the airport.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:51 PM

Currently, the Government of the Marshall Islands places no restriction on sale of a personally owned vehicle by departing diplomatic personnel.

The Embassy payroll is processed through Charleston, SC. Make arrangements to have paychecks deposited directly to a U.S. bank. Most Embassy personnel have a local checking account with the Bank of Hawaii. Personal checks are accepted in Majuro; although merchants prefer checks written on a local account, Embassy employees have no difficulty using checks written on Washington, D.C., area banks.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:52 PM

These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Carucci, Lawrence. Nuclear Nativity: Rituals of Renewal and Empowerment. Northern Illinois University, 1997.

Feeney, Thomas J. Letters from Likiep. S.J., D.D. Pandick Press: New York, 1952.

Hempensatall, Peter J. Pacific Islanders Under German Rule. Australian National University Press, 1978.

Hezel, Francis X. S.J. The First Taint of Civilization. University of Hawaii Press: Honolulu, 1983.

Hezel, Francis X. S.J. Strangers in Their Own Land, Century of Colonial Rule. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1995.

Kluge, P.F. The Edge of Paradise. America in Micronesia. Random House: New York, 1991.

William Lay and Cyrus M. Hussey. Mutiny on Board the Whaleship Globe. Corinth Books: New York, 1963.

Micronesia: A Travel Survival Kit. Lonely Planet Publications: California, 1995.

Niedenthal, Jack. For the Good of Mankind. Micronitor Publshing 2001.

Oliver, Douglas. The Pacific Islands. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1989.

Trumbull, Robert. Tin Roofs and Palmtrees. University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1977.

Weisgall, Jonathan M. Operations Crossroads, Naval Institute Press, 1994.

Local Holidays Last Updated: 11/29/2005 2:52 PM

The U.S. Embassy observes the following Marshallese holidays, in addition to authorized American holidays:

New Year’s Day January 1 Memorial Day March 1 Good Friday April 20 Constitution Day May 1 Fisherman’s Day July 6 Dri-Jerbal Day September 7 Manit Day September 7 President’s Day November 16 Kamolol Day December 7 Christmas Day December 25

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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