French Polynesia is an expensive destination and it can seem difficult to fully enjoy it on a small budget. It is probably a reason why archipelagos like Hawaii or Fiji are more popular. This destination was however our world tour favourite. We really felt like we had found paradise on earth.
First of all, plane tickets are very pricey. Though, we were fortunate to be able to include this destination cheaply in our world tour with our multi-stop ticket. If you have time we strongly recommend you make a few stops along the way to reduce your plane ticket cost and make the most out of your trip. More information on multi-stop tickets in our article World tour: itinerary and flights.
To begin with, plan your holiday during low or shoulder season. We took the bet to go during the rainy and hot season (November to March) and were very lucky with nice weather almost every day. The low season runs from October to June and the very high season from August to September. Consequently, the months between high season (very touristy) and low season (rainy) offer the best equation between saving and weather risk taking.
We do not have any advice on accommodation and inter-island airline tickets as we booked those through the local travel agency Easy Tahiti. We have seen offers on Airbnb (get a discount on your first stay) however check if the host offers a transfer from the airport to make your life easier. We also came across gorgeous campsites, which can be an amazing option at the right season. Our advice is to request quotes from local agencies before booking on your own as it could be more profitable.
Here are our tips for getting the most out of French Polynesia once you are there:
Getting around the islands
By hitchhiking ! Indeed, public transport is unreliable or non-existent. Locals and other tourists, who are aware of this problem, do not hesitate to stop and make a small detour to help you out. On some islands, the main road go around the entire island. Consequently you can be sure cars going in your direction will pass by your destination. No need to spend a fortune renting a scooter, a bike or a car. We have never waited more than 5 minutes with our thumb up.
We also tried the public bus in Papeete but we waited for over an hour after moving to three different bus stops.
Eating on a budget in French Polynesia
Polynesian cuisine was one of the best discovery of our world tour. Unfortunately, the restaurants are very expensive. It is however possible to eat for a reasonable budget in the many ‘roulottes’. This is where you will get the best prices. It is sometimes cheaper than buying products at the supermarket to cook. The ‘roulottes’ are well known by locals but not easy, even impossible in some cases, to find online. But not to worry, you will find some on your way. If not, the easiest is to ask for the nearest ‘roulotte’ to a local and walk or hitchhiked there. In Papeete, on the island of Tahiti, the ‘roulottes’ of the Vai’ete place are an amazing food stop.
We also had the pleasure of finding French products in supermarkets. It is easy to stock up and eat snacks and sandwiches. All of our accommodations had a fridge accessible in the room or in the common areas. Try to book accommodations with access to a shared kitchen or with kitchenette in your room. Finally, you can also try to make your sandwiches from the hotel breakfast buffet (who has never done it?).
Enjoy and experience the luxury lifestyle
We hope we won’t get in trouble by revealing this secret … It is actually possible to squat the beaches and pools from luxury hotels. We do not guarantee it will work for you but it did always worked for us. The few people due to the low season may have played in our favor. You just have to walk in with confidence and act as if you knew your way.
Also, it is good to know if you want to attend one of the shows that there is no need to pay for dinner (despite what is suggested on the hotels websites). You can simply enjoy a drink at the bar and as long as you arrive early you will have a good view. The drinks are expensive in those hotels but you can get away with a soft drink and a plate of french fries.
The best activities are free!
Each island of French Polynesia has delightful public beaches. If you bring your mask and snorkel in your suitcases you can easily enjoy the fish and coral lagoons just swimming from the beach. Otherwise, do not worry because most accommodations offer snorkel gears. The sun and the gorgeous flowers are also free! Finally, the islands are full of coconut and exotic fruits. Just bend down to pick them up. If you fish you will also have access to real treats. French Polynesia has treasure to offer for all budgets.
A trip that we recommend 100%, more information on our long article reporting all our experience.
Do you have other tips to share or questions? Do not hesitate to leave us a comment.
Paolo & Caroline
March 30, 2019 @ 08:35
Cool tips, thanks! After reading this the only problem seems to be the cost of the plane tickets 🙁
How about moving from island to island? Is it expensive? Is there a way to save money there as well?
Voyage de miel
March 31, 2019 @ 07:38
Many thanks for the excellent question Paolo & Caroline! If you book all your tickets together and comply to the conditions you can benefit from a bundle ticket or passes with Air Tahiti. The travel agency organised it for us, but Lonely Planet wrote a good article on this subject: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/tahiti-and-french-polynesia/transport/getting-around/flights. From Tahiti to Moorea the ferry is really cheap and a lovely experience. You could also look into the amazing catamaran cruise to travel in between a few of the islands in a same archipelagos, sailing is one of our favorite way of travelling!