From underneath masks, you can tell there are wide grins on Fijians’ faces as they welcome tourists back after two years of closed borders.
From the buzz at Nadi airport to children waving from the roadside, the excitement is palpable.
See also: Fiji etiquette: 12 rules to follow when visiting
See also: What it was like on the first Fiji Airways flight to Fiji
Since Fiji Airways returned to the skies on December 1, images of singing locals and beaming tourists have spread around the world, and there are plenty of Aussies wondering how they, too, can get in on the “bula” action. Here’s the truth: it’s easier than you think.
Before you fly
Gone are the days of turning up to an airport an hour before your departure and checking yourself in. Follow the three-hour arrival rule to avoid any anxiety as airline staff sift through the copious documents you need to hand over.
Those documents include your vaccination certificate, a negative RT-PCR test (this is a special travel test) taken within 72 hours of flying, proof of travel insurance that covers COVID-19, confirmation of an airport transfer and a minimum three-night booking at a Care Fiji Commitment (CFC) hotel.
Once you’re through customs, you’ll notice most airport shops and cafes are closed, so pack snacks and be prepared to skip a pre-flight coffee. While you’re waiting to leave, download the careFIJI app, which you will need while travelling.
In the air
Boarding a Fiji Airways plane is as seamless as ever and the only inconvenience is having to wear a face mask the entire flight (mealtimes excluded).
On board, you’ll be seated next to strangers, asked not to walk around the plane or line up for toilets. You will also find a travel pack in the seat pocket with an extra face mask and antibacterial wipes.
At the airport
Nadi airport staff have gone overboard with the hand sanitiser stations, which isn’t a bad thing, and there are social distancing stickers everywhere. The customs lines are no longer than usual, and staff are efficient and friendly.
At your hotel
Enjoy the typical bula welcome of dancing and singing when you arrive at your CFC hotel (where staff are vaccinated). There’s no quarantine in Fiji, so you’re allowed to travel around, however you can only tour with CFC businesses. There are 600 of them, so you won’t feel restricted. Carry proof of vaccination and your phone for QR code check-ins.
After 48 hours, anyone 12 years and older must take a rapid antigen test. In the case of the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa, where I stayed, there is an onsite clinic. Simply pop over to the clinic after breakfast, get your test and then head out for a snorkel.
Other changes include QR codes at resort restaurants in place of hard-copy menus, and check-in codes at separate hotel areas. Your hotel may also have different house-keeping rules related to physical distancing, so don’t be shy about calling them if you need something – and don’t be precious about an unmade bed.
Before you leave
Before returning to Australia, you will need another RT-PCR test within 72 hours of your arrival home. You will also need to show your Australia Travel Declaration, which can be completed via an app or this website . Don’t leave it to the last minute.
Although it sounds like there are a lot of rules, they are minor inconveniences that are far outweighed by the absolute pleasure of returning to Fiji and experiencing another culture. The new tourism slogan is Fiji is “open for happiness” – and that happiness is everywhere.
As Tourism Fiji CEO Brent Hill says: “It’s an amazing spirit that Fijians have. They expect clouds to come and they expect the sun to come behind the clouds.”
The writer travelled as a guest of Tourism Fiji, Fiji Airways and InterContinental Hotel Group.
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