But all of this extravagance comes at a price. A pretty hefty price tag if you ask me. The average trip to Tahiti costs approximately 10-12k, and can run way over quite easily.
Being one of the most remote group of islands in the entire world, it's understandable why prices are astronomical. Still doesn't make it right though! AHHHH - that's me screaming at the top of my lungs when I found out just how much a 2-week vacation in paradise would cost...
Thankfully, there are numerous ways to cut costs (I compiled a list of 22), which will hopefully make that dream trip a little more attainable. You'll be thanking me in a few when you realize French Polynesia might actually be in your reach.
1) Use points. It goes without saying and really is quite obvious, but points can save you thousands and thousands of dollars. Points can be used for both airfare and hotel in French Polynesia, although you'll most definitely need a lot. We racked up over 200,000 Delta Amex miles (a combination of flying A LOT and their $1 a mile program), and used all of those towards two roundtrip coach flights from NYC to Tahiti. Sure, we took 4 flights to get there, but we got there for free (plus $900 in taxes).
My husband had a few (well, more than a few) IHG points which he accrued over years of business trips, and we put those towards over water bungalows (!!!!!!!!!!) on both Moorea and Bora Bora.
Even if you don't travel a lot, you can still come up with ways to earn points. Look out for credit card offers that have a high sign-on bonus, usually in the form of miles. Just make sure to pick one that you'll actually be able to put to good use.
Just know (and come to terms with) that there is no way to use points for interisland flights. And if you found a way, please enlighten me! :) That will help me during my next trip to Bora Bora... when? I'm not entirely sure.. but I'll get back there eventually!
2) Buy alcohol at local markets or beforehand in the LAX airport duty-free. This will really help offset the cost of any alcoholic drinks you may wish to consume. And how could you resist those fresh pineapple and mango mixers?!
3) Bring along snacks from home. Oatmeal packets, small non-perishable snacks (such as pretzels, granola bars, nuts, etc) and anything else you can shove in your bag are all good items to have on hand in case hunger strikes. You'll be happy you saved those precious dollars ($30 to be exact) to use on something other than a burger and fries. Plus, who wants to get up once you find a comfy spot on your chaise lounge? Not I!
4) When dining at your hotel, split meals, and avoid buffets if at all possible (unless you decide to stuff your face at breakfast and skip lunch altogether). Unless a meal plan is included in your hotel rate, expect to pay ridiculous amounts (think $50pp per day for breakfast alone!) If you're staying at the Intercontinental, share the continental american breakfast one morning, which is brought directly to your bungalow and much more romantic in my opinion. Plus, you'll have more money for fun activities, like ATVing in Moorea!
5) Understand the local tipping practices, or lack there of. In all of Tahiti and her islands, tipping is NOT customary. Some tourist spots on the larger islands are beginning to request tips, but in general, Tahitians do not expect a tip since it is already included in the final price. You may offer a monetary tip if you encounter exceptional service, but note that it may not be accepted. We were confused about the tipping customs the beginning of our trip, and shelled out some unnecessary extra dough that we could have put towards cocktails at the pool! Oh well- ya live and ya learn. :)
6) Book activities and tours in ADVANCE and through the company directly. I did a ton of research on Trip Advisor beforehand, and was able to contact all companies via email to ask questions and make reservations. If you wait to book through the hotel, you'll pay more and take the risk that the tour is sold out. Not something you want to do on a once-in-lifetime trip.
7) Stay in a garden bungalow in Moorea- theres really no need for an overwater bungalow here. Save the splurging for Bora Bora - it really is "that" much more luxurious there. On our trip, we decided to upgrade the standard garden bungalow for about $200 bucks a night to a premier OWB. While we enjoyed our experience and the never ending ocean views (!!!), the water wasn't ideal for swimming and our suite was exceptionally far from the pool and beach area. I'm not one to complain about exercise, but when you want to run to your room to grab a few things, it takes longer than needed.
8) Head to the local markets and stock up on fresh juice, water, and Hinano beer. Mango juice was my absolute fave- had it every day! You can also get some snacks here, which are great to munch on between meals if you don't want to order a $12 plate of fries.
9) If you run out of water, refill at the gym. The water is free here (and it's about the only free thing you'll find at the resorts)! Trust me, those $10 water bottles at the hotel add up pretty quicky.
10) Take advantage of happy hour. You can't beat 2-for-1 drinks when each one alone is normally $20! Note that this deal is per person, meaning that you technically can't share a happy hour deal. They kind of get you this way but it's still a better deal than paying full price. Drink your cocktails in the pool (on stools at the bar) or on chaise lounges on the beach watching the sunset. Can't go wrong with either choice!
11) Consider Air Tahiti Nui's Island Hopper pass, if you plan on heading to a few islands, which starts at around $380 per person. Definitely seems like a lot, but considering we spent over $1,000 flying from Tahiti to Moorea to Bora Bora and back to Tahiti, we could have saved a pretty penny if we knew about this package beforehand. Also, taking the ferry from Papeete (Tahiti) to Moorea instead of flying can save you about $45 per person as well.
12) Don't be afraid to eat at local restaurants. After a few days of getting super annoyed by the ridiculously high prices of food at our resort (I was so mad I didn't want to eat), we ventured off the hotels' property and found prices to be much more reasonable. Many restaurants will even pick you up from your hotel for free! However, do note that some resorts on the motu (in Bora Bora) charge a fee to use the shuttle to the mainland (where most if not all restaurants are located) after certain hours. Be sure to check the schedule beforehand to avoid any hidden fees!
14) Go during the low season. Willing to take a chance on the weather? Travel between December-March (Bora Bora's rainy season), and you'll find lower rates on those ridiculously-priced over water bungalows (normally close to a whopping $1,000 a night!) April and November are also slightly less expensive than during high season, with a lower percentage of rain.
16) Do not overpack! You'll only need about half the clothing as you think you do (c'mon, you'll be in bathing suits all day)! Air Tahiti Nui (the only airline that flies inter island) charges a hefty fee for any bags weighing over 44lbs, which is less than the standard 50lbs on most US airlines.
18) Get some local currency (XPF) at a bank before your trip, or at an ATM in the airport. Don't wait until you get to your hotel- they usually have the worst conversion rate.
19) Take advantage of free activities at your resort! Our hotel, the Intercontinental Thalasso, provided guests with kayaks, stand up paddle boards, snorkeling equipment, and paddle boats free of charge. Can't get cheaper than that! You could easily spend a few days entertaining yourself on the water.
21) Forgo planned tours and activities and explore on your own. French Polynesia has some of the best snorkeling in the world, so bring your own snorkel gear (or pick some up free of charge at your hotel) and view the diverse underwater world. Other ideas include to rent bicycles and ride around the island, go hiking, and sunbathe on Matira Beach in Bora Bora, which has no entry fee and is the best public beach on the island.
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