How do I get there?
We have found it very important to shop around for airfare! I was just looking at travel rates for July and found roundtrip rates from $583USD – $2000 for exact same flights!
A good places to start is Air New Zealand.
Most visitors to the Cook Islands come in through the Rarotonga International Airport. (Your other option is via private yacht.) Many flights arrive late at night, and travel can be tiring and stressful, but we can promise to make this part easy for you.
The airport is primarily serviced by Air New Zealand and Pacific Blue. Most flights come through New Zealand, and you can get direct flights from either Auckland or Christchurch. Air New Zealand also offers a direct flight from Los Angeles. Most Australians will fly on Pacific Blue, with departures from Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. Air Tahiti and Air Rarotonga cooperate to provide direct flights between Rarotonga and Papeete, Tahiti.
For travel within the Cook Islands, Air Rarotonga has several options, including tour packages. Please visit http://www.airraro.com/ for more information.
Once there, how do I get around?
If you wish to drive on the island, you must go to the local police station and get a Cook Islands license. This only requires a small fee and showing a current license from your home country. Drivers must be twenty-one or over.
If you wish to use a moped or scooter, and your own license does not have a motorcycle endorsement, you will have to take a short test.
Remember that driving is on the left side of the road.
If you do not wish to drive, you still have plenty of options. There are local taxis, and many tours and destinations offer pick-up. In addition, the local bus service is excellent, with buses circling the island clockwise and counter-clockwise hourly, from morning until late evening six days a week. (On Sundays there is no evening service.)
Walking and biking can also be good options, but bear in mind that it does get hot during the day, so plan accordingly.
What documents do I need?
For stays of 31 days or less, all you need is a passport. You can stay longer, but you will need to extend your entry permit for each additional month, and that can go no longer than five months or a Visa will be required.
Along with your passport, they will want to see that you can support yourself here, that you are a visitor, and suitable accommodations. This generally means that you have booked and paid for a return flight, have booked a hotel, and are able to feed yourself.
For more information, see http://www.cook-islands.gov.ck/faq.php.
What is the weather like?
At 21 degrees 14 South, the Cook Islands are tropical, and are sunny and warm most of the year. They can get a bit chilly at night, however, and from December to March the heat and humidity increase. There will sometimes be heavy rain, though it tends to be warm rain.
What should I bring?
Based on the weather, you should bring light clothing, but possibly include a light jacket for nights, or an umbrella, especially if you are going between December and March. If you will be attending church services, it is traditional for men to wear shirts and ties, and women to wear dresses, but otherwise the dress is very casual.
Sunscreen and insect repellent will be very important, but can be purchased locally. That is true of most items that you’ll need. However, if you are a coffee drinker, you should strongly consider packing your own, as it is very expensive locally. The coffee should be canned or vacuum-sealed or it will be seized in customs.
What should I get there?
Some of the most popular souvenirs include black pearls, wood carvings, and carved abalone. The stamps and coins are distinctive, so collectors will appreciate receiving some samples, while those interested in natural healing will be thrilled with a bottle of Noni juice.
It is easy to find beach clothing like flip-flops and t-shirts, as well as the local pare’u, which are brightly colored tropical dresses similar to sarongs, so you could consider packing light and picking part of your wardrobe there.
Customs, Duties, Taxes
You may not bring fruits or plants into the country. You can bring food, but it must be frozen, canned, or vacuum-packed, and must be declared to customs upon arrival.
When you are entering the country, no duty is levied on clothing or personal belongings, including sports equipment. However, there can be duty levied on tobacco products and alcohol. The specific limits are as follows:
* 200 cigarettes
* 1 half pound (or 250 grams) of tobacco
* 50 cigars
* 2 liters of spirits or wine
* 4 and ½ liters of beer.
Obviously for the souvenirs that you buy, you will need to look at your country of origin’s policies on limits and taxes.
There is also a departure tax of about $55 NZD per person over 12, that you must pay when you leave. Remember to keep some cash on hand for this fee.
What currency do they use?
The Cook Islands use the New Zealand dollar, and our Kiwi friends say that prices are comparable to home. The exchange rate can vary quite a bit, so you should check current data, but it is generally favorable for US visitors.
Please note that there is currency unique to the Cook Islands as well. In country, it is equivalent to the New Zealand currency, but it has no value outside of the country—something to remember when deciding on when to change currency.
There is a bank at the airport, as well as two banks in Avarua, where currency can be exchanged. There are also ATMs in Avarua, where local currency can be withdrawn.
Most shops in Rarotonga take credit cards, and some take travelers checks.
What country is it?
The Cook Islands are an independent nation in free association with New Zealand. They share currency, and it would be the New Zealand army that would defend the Cook Islands if necessary, but the Cook Islands have full executive powers. Residents of the Cook Islands can maintain New Zealand citizenship.
What language do they speak?
English and Cook Islands Maori are the official languages. You will hear Maori spoken, but most of the speakers do speak English as well. Radio programs are in both Maori and English.
What about personal safety and law enforcement?
Rarotonga is a very safe environment. On the nature side, there are no dangerous animals or poisonous insects, and no lethal viruses (like malaria) that you might find in other tropical areas. On the human side, people look out for each other, and the crime rate is very low.
Endangering others is taken very seriously. Laws about drunk driving and speeding are very strict.
Can I use my cell phone?
Yes, if your service provider has a roaming arrangement with Telecom Cook Islands (TCI), or your phone is not locked to a provider, and your phone will work on a GSM 900 or 1700 network. In other words, probably not. Pay as you go phones will not work either, but you can rent a local mobile from the Rarotonga Telecom office. You should also know that Mama Ru’s provides free local calling, so you can arrange tours and transportation right from your room.
Rarotonga Average Temperatures
Rarotonga is the second furthest south of the Cook Islands group. Temperature ranges between 64ºF (18ºC) and 82ºF (28ºC) during the southern winter; May to October. During the Summer which is November to April ranges between 70ºF (21ºC) and 84ºF (29ºC). The rainy season is usually January to early May. Severe weather is rare. However, February is the most susceptible time for cyclones.