What happens when you leave your life and decide to move to a tropical country? Is living in Fiji really as idyllic as it seems? Though spending time on an island might not be exactly how you might imagine, it certainly is an adventure in itself. In this guide, I’ll cover the most common questions I get asked about living in the capital, Suva, Fiji.
Note: I can only write about my experiences and speculate what it may be like for others based on my observations. I am here to help you, but I am not here to do your research. These are the tips I would tell a friend.
Table of Contents
Prefer to watch or listen? Check out my interview with Expats Everywhere on what it’s like to live in Fiij
Finding a place to live in Fiji
Oh ye newcomer, prepare for a wild ride when it comes to finding housing in Fiji. If you want something spacious, safe, modern, and in a good location, prepare to pay a premium. Because of the influx of UN, NGO, and GO budgets, housing in Fiji’s major city is sky-high. The price of my two-bedroom apartment in Suva is higher than the three-bedroom condominium I stayed in during my stint in Perth, Western Australia.
Should I live in Suva or Nadi or on a remote island?
Quick overview of living in Suva: The economic and governmental hub of Fiji where you’ll have a nice mix of urban and tropical life. It’s very easy to meet fellow expats and befriend locals. It has the highest concentration of restaurants, shops, and things to do in Fiji. Suva tends to skew less conservative than the rest of the country. The biggest downside to Suva is that it rains a lot and you are at least 20 to 40 minutes from a decent beach.
Quick overview of living in Nadi: Nadi is the tourism hub of Fiji — where most people start and end their journey. It’s a great way to reach the Yasawa and Mamanuca Islands, has nice beaches, and great weather. There are still plenty of things to do — though it holds onto a small town feel. It hosts the Nadi International Airport, making it a convenient base if you plan to travel internationally. However, you will likely always be treated more like a tourist rather than an expat. Lautoka, nearby Nadi, is a less touristic town where you may be able to integrate.
Quick overview of living outside of Viti Levu (the main island): You’ll experience true island life and probably get very close to your neighbors. Here, you’re more likely to be embedded into traditional Fijian culture as part of your daily life. You can enjoy nice beaches, snorkeling, and experiencing a disconnect from a more-rushed society. However, it may be expensive to travel to and from, challenging to get goods, and limiting when it comes to things to do.
Making friends while living in Fiji
After traveling to tens of countries and living as an expat in Australia for five years, I have to say that Fiji is one of the best destinations for making friends. If you join any community, you’ll likely be welcomed in. Events, clubs, fitness classes, etc are all centered around socializing. For example, at the boxing and weightlifting classes I attend, there are people of all shapes, abilities, ages, and ethnic backgrounds working out together to have fun. If it’s your first time attending something, regulars usually go out of their way to make you feel welcome.
There are so many expats here in a similar position, it’s accepted that everyone is constantly looking for new friends and activity buddies. There tends to be one large expat group that splits into different ages, life stages, and interests (families stick with families, surfers stick with surfers, etc). If you make an effort to get to know people, you’ll have a set group of friends in no time. It’s not uncommon for Fijians to invite you for kava and food once you get to know them. Of course, every experience is different.
On the flip side, since the expat scene in Suva (well, all of Fiji) is fairly small, don’t expect to get away with bad behavior. There are no secrets in small towns. Try not to get involved in or start drama if you’re not willing to have it follow you around. Choose wisely if you’re single and hopping into the dating scene. You’ll be seeing former lovers on a regular basis.
While it’s easy to make expat friends, it might be a challenge to find a solid group of local friends–especially if you don’t work alongside many locals. Expats tend to come and go on short contracts. Would you want to invest in a friendship that has an expiration date when you already have a solid crew who you’ve known for years? It’s not personal. The best way to find local friends is by joining a sport or hobby.
Is Fiji safe for women?
Is Fiji safe for women?
You should take the same precautions you would take in any unknown environment while living in Fiji. Avoid staying out late and walking alone at night. Don’t reveal any expensive items–and be wary of anyone who seems overly helpful. If you live alone, tell taxi drivers that your husband is waiting for you at home if they get too inquisitive about your personal life.
The rate of violence or sexual assault against unknown women is very low in Fiji, and usually happens in secluded areas. However, the rate of domestic violence and sexual assault is high. Most crimes against women happen within the home or family unit.
Overall, I feel that living in Fiji is safe for women and in many ways I feel much safer here than other places.
Is the catcalling really bad?
Catcalling is not bad in Fiji compared to most major cities. In my experience, catcalling is somewhat rare. If you go for a run or walk, stick to the areas you know and keep your shoulders and knees covered if you venture outside of the city center. Some men may try to make small talk, though most will simply smile and say “Bula!” If you hear a honk, it’s often an empty cab trying to get your attention. Sometimes, cars full of men will call out at you. I simply ignore them and keep walking.
Fijians often make loud kissing noises. This does not mean that they are blowing kisses at you. They are usually trying to get the attention from someone across the street/someone who they know, similar to how you might whistle or shout at someone. Two years in, it still catches me off guard to see two construction workers blowing smooches at one another from across the road.
Do I need to dress conservatively?
Fiji as a whole is a conservative culture that’s tied closely to its religions (primarily Christianity and Hinduism). In the villages, you should cover your shoulders, knees, and avoid wearing hats/sunglasses. The resort areas are used to tourists dressing as they would back home, though topless sunbathing is unacceptable.
In the city, you can show a bit more skin. I would personally not feel comfortable walking around in shorts and a sports bra or anything too revealing — though I might wear shorts and a T-shirt during the day. At night, I try to cover a bit more if I’m going to be walking around in public. It depends on what you feel best in, though. In Suva, you’ll see a mix of international clothing styles.
Crime in Fiji
The most common forms of crime against expats are robbery and petty theft. Home break-ins are common and many residents employ a security guard or live somewhere with a high fence. Take this into consideration when choosing a place to live. I would not suggest getting a standalone house without a fence that’s out in the boonies.
Petty theft in the city is somewhat common, and thieves tend to go after easy targets. If you plan to drink or stay out late, take your card or just as much cash as you need for the night and don’t put your phone anywhere that’s easily accessible.
Bringing my kids to Fiji
Fiji is a wonderful destination for kids! There are plenty of things for them to do here and places to explore. Most resorts are kid friendly and tend to run activities from sun up to sun down, giving parents some time to themselves. At Yatule Resort, the security guard led a game of tag with some of the kids while the parents ate dinner. This is one of the things I love most about Fiji–people aren’t afraid to play!
The expat community is also very kid-friendly. Since most spouses of working expats cannot work themselves, there are many stay-at-home mothers and fathers. You can always find someone to have a coffee with, kids in tow.
You can find their policies when it comes to working in Fiji over on Fiji Immigration’s Working in Fiji FAQ.
What type of jobs can I get in Fiji
It’s a common misconception that hospitality/tourism jobs are easy to come by in Fiji, as locals tend to be naturally friendly and excel in these positions. You may have luck as a scuba diving guide or instructor. Otherwise, consider looking a jobs in international development, diplomacy, marine science, or conservation.
Can I purchase land in Fiji?
Land ownership is ranked into three categories:
Freehold land: This is land you can purchase and hold ownership over. This land is not available for non-citizens inside Suva. It may be remote.
Native lease: Land owned by communities that is not for sale. You can rent property on native lease.
Crown lease: Similar to native lease, crown lease is owned by the government and is solely available for rent.
Getting around Fiji
Do you need a car to get around Fiji?
As a general rule, you can take a bus or taxi around Viti Levu and do not need a car. A car is the most convenient form of transportation, though.
It depends on where you are. In Suva, I advise not to. Expect potholes, stray dogs, crazy drivers, and heavy rain. While I rode my bike and motorbike in Australia, I do not feel comfortable riding them in Fiji. My bicycle has been used as a clothes drying rack instead.
How do I get to the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands? Grab onto a dolphin and hold on?
(Yes this was a question I got, thanks Adam!)
If you are going to stay at just one or two resorts during your trip to the Mamanuca/Yasawa Islands, it might be best to book directly with the resort you are staying at. Oftentimes, they have their own boat.
If you want to do a bit of island hopping, you will book with Awesome Fiji or South Sea Cruises. Since they have a monopoly on boats running around the Yasawas, prepare to hand over some serious cash.
What car rental company do you recommend in Fiji?
I’ve had a good experience with Central Car Rentals in Suva. Always take pictures of your car before you drive off the lot. Renting a small car costs around $160 FJD per day.
Eating in Fiji
Grocery shopping in Fiji usually means that you’ll have to visit more than one or two places. You can find seasonal fresh fruit and produce at the market and products with a long shelf-life at the grocery stores. Soon, grocery shopping becomes a treasure hunt for your favorite goods–and they won’t be on the shelves every time you go! If you love something, stock up. Low-key hoarding is an acquired skill here.
Being a vegetarian in Suva is easy thanks to the plethora of Indian food we have here. Each major restaurant usually has a vegetarian option, though finding vegan meals can be a challenge.
At the resorts, you may need to alert them in advance if you have any dietary restrictions so that they can prepare. The outer islands need time and planning to bring in goods from the larger islands and carefully calculate how much of each ingredient they’ll need for their guests.
What is the internet connection like in Fiji? Is it reliable?
There is an okay internet connection in Fiji. Oftentimes, it’s slow. You can video call–but don’t always expect the best connection. I’ve purchased internet plans with the two major internet and phone providers: Digicel and Vodafone. Both are about the same when it comes to reliability, though Digicel is often cheaper. Most people do not have a fixed wifi connection at home. Rather, they have a hotspot that can be used all throughout the country.
Is the internet censored in Fiji?
The internet is not censored in Fiji, though some think that it is monitored by the government. You won’t need a VPN to access most things except for country-restricted content.