Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga 🚢 [2023]©
Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga 🚢 [2023]

Tonga Transport Guide: 15 Ways to Get Around Tonga 🚢 [2024]


How to Travel Around Tonga

169 islands, five island groups and countless attractions, Tonga is a country that you’re going to want to explore! From interisland travel to simply getting between the airport and your resort, there are a few options when it comes to getting around Tonga. Check out your  Tonga transport options, as well as links to more informative guides, in his list of ways to get around Tonga.

Before we dive into this Tonga transport guide, be sure to bookmark The Complete Travel Guide to Tonga and 31 Tips for Travelling in Tonga for even more essential tips for exploring Tonga.

1. International Flights – The Main Way to Get to Tonga

Let’s start with how you get to Tonga. Most travellers get here by international flight. Most international flights arrive at Fua’amotu International Airport (TBU), located approximately 21 km (13 mi) from Nuku’alofa, a small number of international flights also arrive at Lupepau’u International Airport (VAV) in Vava’u. Direct flights are available from New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Samoa and American Samoa. Find out more about which airlines fly to Tonga and from where in our guide, Which Airlines Fly Directly to Tonga?

Note that on arrival, you will be asked questions concerning biosecurity among other things. Find out more about the arrival formalities in our guide, Arriving in Tonga: Airport Customs, Biosecurity & the Arrival Process.

Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga 🚢 [2023]©

2. Accommodation/Airport Transfers – The Easiest Airport Pick-Up Transport

Most accommodations in Tonga, whether they are guesthouses or resorts, offer their own transfers between the nearest ferry wharf or airport. They might be in the form of minivans if just travelling on land or a combination of vans and boats. Accommodation transfers should be arranged with accommodation providers before arrival on the island. You’ll also find that on islands like ‘Eua and Ha’apai, accommodation providers are one of the only ways to get between the airport and your accommodation. Otherwise, taxis are also available for airport transfers in Tongatapu and Vava’u (more on that later).

Compare all of your options for getting to and from the airport in How to Get an Airport Transfer in Tonga.

Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga 🚢 [2023]©

3. Interisland Ferries – How to Get Between Island Groups

With 169 islands and five different island groups to explore, getting around by ferry is one way to do some island-hopping in Tonga. The interisland ferries are the cheapest Tonga transport for getting between island groups. Most ferry journeys are long in Tonga, with the popular Tongatapu to Vava’u route taking up to 24 hours!

Learn about the ferry routes, durations, fares and more in The Guide to Interisland Ferry Travel in Tonga.

Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga 🚢 [2023]©

4. Domestic Flights – The Fastest Way to Get Between Island Groups

Domestic flights are your alternative Tonga transport for getting between the five main island groups. There is one domestic carrier in Tonga, which operates daily flights except for Sundays. Needless to say, flights are significantly more expensive than taking the ferry but are a much faster and more comfortable way of getting between the islands.

There are some quirks to taking a flight in Tonga, such as being weighed (not just your baggage; you!), the booking process and frequent flight cancellations. Find out more about flying in Tonga in The Guide to Domestic Flights in Tonga.

10 Ways to Get Around Tonga(c)

5. Car Rental – The Most Convenient Way to Get Around Tonga

Car rental is available on the islands with the largest road networks: Tongatapu‘Utu Vava’u (Vava’u), Lifuka (Ha’apai) and ‘Eua. Rental cars in Tonga are a mixed bag in terms of age and quality, with plenty of budget options available. Insurance is not usually an option and many rental companies only accept cash. Most visitors can drive on their overseas license but some are required to purchase a Temporary Driving License.

As you can see, car rentals might work a little differently in Tonga than what you might be used to. Learn everything you need to know about car rental in What You Need to Hire a Car in Tonga. Plus, become familiar with the local road rules in How to Drive in Tonga + 10 Road Rules to Know.

Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga 🚢 [2023]©

6. Taxis – The Easy Way to Get Around Tonga

Taxis enthusiastically await arriving flights at the airport on Tongatapu (but may require booking in Vava’u) taking you to where you need to go on the islands. Taxis are identified by the “T” at the front of the vehicle’s registration plate, but most will also have a “taxi” sign on top of the vehicle. Taxi ranks can also be found in the centre of Nuku’alofa and Neiafu or you can call taxis to pick you up.

Check out The Guide to Taxis in Tonga for more information on fares and how taxis work.

10 Ways to Get Around Tonga(c)

7. Bicycle Hire – The Fun Way to Get Around Tonga

Bicycle hire is available on TongatapuLifuka and Foa Islands in Ha’apai, and Vava’u. They provide a good way to explore the immediate area of your resort or the town – or you can make a day of it by cycling across the islands. Most islands with bicycle hire are flat, except for Vava’u which has a few hills. Bicycle hire is affordable and free at some resorts.

Learn more about renting bikes as a mode of Tonga transport in our guide, The Guide to Cycling in Tonga.

Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga 🚢 [2023]©

8. Guided Tours – The Stress-Free Way to Get Around Tonga

Another way to get around both on the land and the water in Tonga is on a guided tour. Guided land tours or sightseeing tours transport you around the islands in minivans or 4WD trucks, stopping at multiple attractions and highlights of the island. These types of tours are particularly popular in Tongatapu, Vava’u and ‘Eua. Get the gist of Tonga’s land tours in the 10 Best Sightseeing Tours in Tonga.

Guided tours can also be on the water by boat transport, which is particularly popular to see the sights of Vava’u, but a little less so in Tongatapu and Ha’apai to visit uninhabited islands and coral reefs. Get an idea of some of The Kingdom’s best guided tours on the water in the 10 Best Boat Tours & Day Cruises in Tonga.

Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga 🚢 [2023]©

9. Local Buses – The Cheapest Way to Get Around Tonga

Local buses are by far the cheapest way to get around the island of Tongatapu, with fares never going higher than TOP$3.50. The bus network in Tongatapu is rather extensive, with routes on the east side of the island, the west side and around Nuku’alofa. However, the frequency of trips has reduced over recent years, making bus travel only suitable for a day or overnight trip, rather than visiting multiple destinations throughout the day.

Nevertheless, get more information on buses in the How to Travel Around Tonga By Bus.

Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga 🚢 [2023]©

10. Sailing Charters – The Luxurious Way to Get Around Tonga

For those who want to travel Tonga in style, sailing charters are available in Vava’u, as well as between Tongatapu and Ha’apai. Sailing charters are available on a private or shared basis, while some companies specialise in kite sports and whale swimming during the whale season. Find out more about these multi-day experiences in The Best Sailing Charters in Tonga.

Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga 🚢 [2023]©

11. Boat Transfers – How to Get to Tonga’s Lesser Visited Islands

Although we’ve touched on island resorts offering their own boat transport to transfer guests between their islands and the local airport, there are also a few instances in Tonga where you can charter boats or take scheduled boats to some of the outer islands. Boats depart Faua Wharf in Nuku’alofa several times on a Sunday for visitors to experience Tongatapu’s outer islands, while boat charters await in Ha’apai and Vava’u for some island-hopping.

Learn more about getting to Tonga’s lesser-visited islands in A Guide to Boat Transfers & Water Taxis in Tonga.

Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga 🚢 [2023]©

12. Scooter Rental – The Fun Way to Get Around Vava’u

At the time of writing, scooter rental is only available in the island group of Vava’u, providing a fun and independent way to explore its main island and causeway-connected islands. Scooter rentals are very affordable and, of course, come complete with helmets.

Find out everything you need to know about renting a scooter starting with Scooter Hire in Tonga: Where to Rent, Cost & More.

Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga 🚢 [2023]©

13. Hitchhiking – The Adventurous Way to Get Around Tonga

Hitchhiking is legal in Tonga. Although one of the least reliable forms of transport, it might be your only option if you find yourself stranded in one of Tonga’s less-populated islands with no public transport. Nevertheless, it’s quite an adventure if you can make it work!

Learn more about hitchhiking in the islands, as well as safety tips, in A Travellers’ Guide to Hitchhiking in Tonga.

Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga 🚢 [2023]©

14. Tonga by Cruise Ship – How to Get to Tonga for the Day

Tonga is on the itinerary of several South Pacific cruises from New Zealand and French Polynesia, as well as Transpacific cruises from the US and South America. There are two main ports of call in Tonga, one in Nuku’alofa on Tongatapu and the other in Neiafu in Vava’u.

Learn more about cruise companies that have Tonga on the itinerary in the 10 Cruises That Visit Tonga and learn more about the ports visited in The Complete Guide to the Ports of Call in Tonga.

Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga 🚢 [2023]© Tonga Ministry of Tourism

15. Tonga by Yacht – How to Get to Tonga Privately

Outside of the cyclone season, Tonga has five ports of entry for yachties. Vava’u is considered one of the best sailing grounds in the South Pacific, which is where you can find most yacht traffic, but the islands of Ha’apai and the lesser-visited Niuas are also a joy to discover by yacht.

Find out more about visiting Tonga via yacht and the protocols involved in our Sailing Guide to Tonga: Tips for Yachting in Tonga.

Tonga Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get Around Tonga 🚢 [2023]©


Laura (Lola) S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of Tonga Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in the South Pacific over 10 years ago with nothing but a backpack and a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to explore a paradise such as Tonga. She knows the islands inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience Tonga’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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