Turning dreams into reality: how to visit French Polynesia on a budget?

White sand beaches, coconut trees, clear blue lagoons and tropical fishes… You have probably dreamed about this. The tough reality is that these tropical paradises tend to be expensive and therefore out of reach to many. This especially holds for the tropical paradises in the Pacific Ocean, like French Polynesia.

On our world trip we experienced that there are possibilities to visit French Polynesia on a budget. Ok, we admit, it will never be as low cost as a visit to Southeast Asia, but you don’t need to spend a couple of hundred euros a day. Curious how to do this? Read our 10 tips to visit French Polynesia on a budget.

1.     Be smart in how to get there

Getting to French Polynesia is probably the biggest challenge. Especially coming from Europe the very long flight and the ridiculous high costs are showstoppers for many people. On a trip around the world, however, it can perfectly be included for no or limited additional costs.

Here is our trick: we booked a flight from Santiago de Chile to Auckland in New Zealand. We added Easter Island and French Polynesia as stopovers. The result: 2 exotic destinations included for free!

2.     Choose your islands

French Polynesia consists of many islands with exotics names, like Tahiti, Bora Bora, Maupiti and Tikehau. There are different island groups with their own characteristics and these also offer different types of activities. We recommend to do some research before setting out to determine which islands to visit. Depending on your budget and preferences you can for instance opt for the following.

1. Lowest cost

From Tahiti take the boat to Moore’a. Spend most of your time on this island, which has a lot to offer in terms of diving, hiking and snorkeling with sharks, rays and even humpback whales.

2. Low cost

If you have a lot of time you can opt for island hopping by boat. We met travelers who arranged boats on the spot and were even able to make it to the remote Marquesas islands.

3. Higher cost

Go island hopping with Air Tahiti. On their website you can buy an airpass, which allows you to create a journey visiting different islands. The cheapest airpass will combine the islands close to the main island, Tahiti, the so-called Society Islands. But Air Tahiti has other airpasses available, in case you want to visit other group of islands.

4. High cost

If you have the money and want to be completely flexible you can arrange separate flights to create your own island hopping adventure.

Because we wanted to include a visit to an atoll into our world trip and didn’t want to get sea sick, we opted for option 3. We booked an airpass in which we included several of the Society islands and a visit to 2 atolls in the Tuamotus. Our tips if you want to use an airpass: book it in advance as flights have limited availability and take some time for puzzling and finding your perfect journey.

3.     Go camping to do French Polynesia on a budget

On all the islands we have visited, except for Tahiti, there are campsites. If you are with 2 or more this definitely reduces your expenses for accommodation. In case you travel alone, staying in a dorm can sometimes be more economically efficient, as some campsites charge a fee per tent.

Our experience is that most of the campsites have beautiful locations. On Rangiroa and Tikehau we were literally camping on the beach. No need to pre-book. However, if you call a day before, some owners will pick you up at the airport for free. So bring a tent and mattress and find a nice spot! In case you are on a world trip, our experience is that it is easy to buy cheap tents in supermarkets. We bought ours in a big supermarket in Chili, but also on Tahiti you can find tents in the Carrefour.

4.     Go coachsurfing

On some of the islands, there are opportunities for coachsurfing. This is a nice way to get to know more about the life on the islands. Coachsurfing is very popular, so you need to be lucky and make arrangements timely. We did couchsurfing on Tahiti, and we were very happy to end up at the home of a friendly French family.

5.     Learn how to cook easy and delicious food

The good thing about camping on the islands of French Polynesia is that there are well-equipped kitchens. So there is no need to carry a stove and kitchen utensils. Be aware though that the supermarkets are not always as well-stocked as you are used to. Especially on the atolls we needed to be creative with canned food. Easy to cook meals can be very delicious. Our favorites? Pancakes with pineapple and pasta with carrots, onion and canned tuna.

6.     Shop conscious for your groceries

Because most of the food needs to be imported, you can imagine that the prices in the supermarkets are sky high. Don’t be surprised if you see tomatoes costing €12 per kilo or muesli for €8. This means you will need to be creative and maybe adjust your eating habits a bit. Buy locally produced vegetables (if fresh produce is available at all), switch to baguettes and limit the amount of alcohol. It’s good for your diet as well :). Finally, fresh and delicious coconuts are available for free almost everywhere. Ask a friendly local to assist you with opening them.  Although, trying to do it yourself is a good test of both your strength and patience.

7.     Treat yourself for diner at “snacks”

Of course we understand that it is also important to enjoy your holidays and that you don’t want to limit yourself to eating coconuts, baguettes and carrots. On the islands you will find so-called “snacks”, which are little eateries run by locals. On Tahiti you have a nice street food market, called “roulotte”. These often offer delicious dishes (try poisson cru!) for reasonable prices.

8.     Discover hitchhiking to do French Polynesia on a budget

We discovered that hitchhiking on the different islands is a very efficient and nice mode of transportation. Besides that you can save costs, it offers you the opportunity to interact with the friendly locals. Our experience is that it only takes a couple of minutes to find someone who can take you in the direction of your destination. And often they would even drop you at your destination. Although it sometimes was a challenge for us to communicate in French, we found it great to talk with locals and to get some tips of must-see places. Hitchhiking is a must if you want to keep costs low, because there is no or limited public transportation and renting a car or motorcycle can be quite expensive.

9.     Prioritize your activities

On every island you can do many activities. Diving, snorkeling, lagoon cruises, swimming with humpback whales, quad tours, cultural tours… just to name a few. Determining what you really want to do, helps in setting your budget. No need to have a full schedule every day, because it is also very relaxing to just walk along the beach or snorkel in the lagoon in front of your tent.

10.  Take a dive pass

If diving is your passion, it is worthwhile to check out the dive pass which allows you to do 10 dives with diving operators on different islands at a discounted price. You can even share a dive pass with another person!

If you are planning to take a diving course, it pays off to check the prices of different operators before. We experienced that the differences for the PADI Open Water course are quite huge.


So there are ways to visit French Polynesia on a budget, while you can still enjoy the beauty the island has to offer. We hope with these tips in mind, one day you will be able to turn your dreams into reality!




One Response to “Turning dreams into reality: how to visit French Polynesia on a budget?”

  1. Reisgidswaardig! Straks worden jullie nog ingelijfd door Lonely Planet…

    Posted by Tim | 13 May 2017, 5:32 PM

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