We all know that Tonga is one of the most affordable destinations in the South Pacific.
But how should you manage your money once you get there?
Tongan pa’anga banknotes are available in denominations of one, two, five, 10, 20, and 50. One hundred seniti is equivalent to one TS$1. Seniti coins come in denominations of one, five, 10, 20, and 50.
Tongan banks are generally open between 9 am and 3:30 pm, although these trading hours may be extended in major tourist centers including Nuku’alofa and Neiafu. These cities have automatic teller machines; find them at the ANZ Banks in both cities and the Westpac Bank in Nuku’alofa. However, the machines can be fickle so make sure you don’t wait until your cash is running low to get more.
Few businesses accept foreign currencies, so it’s important to exchange cash from your homeland. Australian, New Zealand, Fijian, and US dollars and pounds sterling are easily exchanged, although you also shouldn’t have any problems trading euros or yen. Foreign monies can be exchanged at the Tongatapu airport and the Treasury offices on the islands of Niuatoputapu and Niuafo’ou.
Credit cards are widely accepted in most tourist centers, but they tend to attract a 5% fee. MasterCard, Visa, and American Express are the most commonly used cards, although JCB is also accepted in many places. EFTPOS, however, is not commonly used in Tonga.
Travelers checks are also a good way for tourists to carry their funds. They fetch 4% to 5% more than cash, and transaction charges are small when compared to credit cards. Tongan businesses commonly accept all brands of travelers checks.
As with any holiday destination, the amount you’ll spend in Tonga each day depends on your vacation style. You can laze about on most Tongan beaches for nothing, but scuba diving trips and surfing safaris will quickly empty your wallet. Frequenting the local bars and fine dining options will also drain your finances quicker than eating at cafes and other small eateries. Visitors staying at average hotels and dining at mid-range restaurants can expect to spend around $125 a day.
When traveling about Tonga it’s important to carry small denominations of money. People operating public transport and eateries often cannot change big bills, so having smaller notes available can avoid a lot of hassle.
Tipping and bargaining are not customs practiced in Tonga as they are in many parts of the world. However some high class establishments will accept tips from tourists who wish to express their gratitude for good service.
If your funds become low it’s good to know that international transfers are easily organized. There are many Western Union offices throughout Tonga, and visitors can also transfer funds using Moneygram through the Bank of Tonga. Funds can be transferred in a matter of minutes, so it need not slow your vacation down.