travel guide

How to experience Fiji on a budget?

The answer is simple, stay in the tribal village!
Every single time Sam or I say we’ve been to Fiji people think we’re made of money. If only!
Yes, Fiji is expensive, but its also terribly divided between premium resorts and local Fijian communities living very simple but happy life.
It’s not a secret, you’re making a choice between booking a posh resort or staying with locals. 

How to book a village stay?

Personally, I stayed in two villages. Abaca in Koroyanitu National Park on the main land and Nakaunakoro on Kadavu island. Both will give you completely different experiences and both can recommend with my whole heart.

Abaca, apart from being hidden in the middle on the National Park, is fairly accessible and quick to get to, Only half an hour 4×4 drive from Latouka.  To get to smaller islands (like Kadavu) you either have to take a ferry or a plane (depends on the island).

Abaca (Viti Levu)

If you like hiking, this is a place for you. The park has two gorgeous hiking options, a more challenging mountain top route, and a waterfall trail. If you can avoid going there in the rainy season (between November and May), you will get a much better, less muddy, and safer experience.

You can probably book your village stay in advance but I strongly recommend going to the Latouka veg market and asking to speak to veg sellers from Abaca. Friendly and helpful ladies will help you with arranging transport and staying in the village ON THE SPOT (just make sure you have a Fijian SIM card and fully charged phone). Alternatively, call Kalesi (the village tourist contact) via +679 713 7282.  In May 2022 the rate was around 50 FJD per person per night (food included). Villagers are super friendly and will invite you to their houses for snacks and tea.

If you are on the schedule, Abaca is the easiest and most convenient way to experience true Fiji but if you have a few more days to spare I would strongly recommend going to more remote islands.

Nakaunakoro (Kadavu)

There are two ways of going to Kadavu, either taking an overnight ferry (every Tuesday and Saturday from Suva, around 50FJD) or taking a much more expensive flight from Suva or Nadi. To save time we decided to fly and it was such a good decision. Seaviews were superb so if it won’t break your budget I would go for it.

Kadavu is the closest we experienced to the traditional, tribal life in both beautiful and spine-chilling way. After carefully studying our trusty Fiji Rough Guide, I knew that’s the place to go. As it happens, we totally underestimated how big the island is and how difficult is to travel within its coastline. The only, realistic way of transportation was a boat, but luckily the island is full of them. Make sure you take plenty of cash if you want to move around, 1h boat transfer will cost you a minimum of 120 FJD and there are no ATMs in Kadavu.

Now, Sam and I are a bit spontaneous so we didn’t book any accommodation in advance,  BUT I strongly recommend going to Kadavu Village Homestay Facebook Page and arranging a stay this way (otherwise, you may be taken to towns only b&b..).  Friendly villagers from Nakanakoro are not charging a set price for a night and will accept any donation, but make sure you will bring a Sevusevu gift (kava and perhaps a sulu, VERY IMPORTANT) plus chocolates for kids (it’s not easy to buy them on the island).  In 2022, a fair price was around 100 FJD for a 3-night stay for 2 people.

Our guide through Koronakoro was Lily and she made us feel so homely and welcomed. From sorting out accommodation to food (we’re vegetarian!), hiking, snorkeling, and an official introduction. Villagers went hiking with us, snorkeling with us, hung out on the beach with us, and even gave us a boat ride to Matava resort where we booked 2 nights to finish our holiday.  Bear in mind that land around the village (including plantations, forests, mountains, reefs, and white sandy beaches) belongs to the clans so you can ONLY  see it after a long welcome ceremony and lots of kava. Pretty special, huh?

The village itself is really clean and well organised. Each month seems to be divided between time dedicated to farming, time dedicated to the church, and time dedicated to maintaining the village grounds. Each person has their place in the clan hierarchy and follows a set of rules but I couldn’t help myself thinking, that their daily routine was the most relaxed I’ve ever seen, anywhere.  Forget hours of farming and harvesting fruits, most of the Fijian women seem to enjoy sleeping under the tree rather than picking buckets of cassava. What a life!

Indigenous religion lives in Kadavu alongside Christianity so you will see churches but you will also hear stories about the Octopus God, sunken island, turtle calling, fire-walkers, and maybe even old, cannibalistic times. Perhaps they will even tease you about unwelcomed tourists occasionally “disappearing”, haha!  Cannibalism is still a sensitive subject in Fiji and quite often best to be avoided so make sure you feel the ground before asking any questions.

Read more about Fijian myths and legends here.

Final advice? The dress code is very important in any Fijian village, so don’t forget to bring your sulu as it’s obligatory to wear one in any village. 

Whatever activities local villagers offer, make sure you get involved and learn the culture firsthand. Fijians are so friendly it’s hard to describe the feeling of genuine welcome you receive. You will have plenty of fun exploring, that I can promise!