As an ex-flights attendant for 25 years, Bonnie is well traveled. Today, we both enjoy tying work and leisure working in the U.S, where I am from and Hong Kong, where we have been visiting Bonnie’s family and friends several times a year, pre-Covid.
Over the years operating here, we have met couples and people from all all over the world – As far as Siberia! We have met client’s who were not given the best information and their trip could have been better. For those of you wishing or planning to travel and visit French Polynesia including Bora Bora and Tahiti, we hope this information will be helpful to some of you.
Several Key Points About French Polynesia
- French Polynesia is an overseas French territory (largely independent from France) as large as Europe (1,609 sq mi) and comprises 118 islands and with its own government, money, postal system, etc.
- The capital is Papeete, located in Tahiti – this is where your flight will arrive, at Faa Airport.
- French Polynesia is divided into five archipelagos: the Society Islands, the Windward Islands (Tahiti and Moorea), the Leeward Islands (Bora Bora); the Tuamotu; the Gambier; the Marquesas, and the Austral.
- Bora Bora’s sister islands are Raiatea, Maupiti, Tahaa, and Huahine.
- The currency is the French Pacific Franc (XPF) USD; eurose are accepted most everywhere, but you are usually better off paying in local currency.There are three ATMs in Bora Bora, it is usually your best bet to get local money (fewer fees).
- The primary language is Tahitian, but everyone also speaks French, and English is also widely spoken.
Flying to Papeete (Tahiti; PPT)
In pre Covid times flights were available from the following cities – As of today, some routes are closed and flight schedule and departing cities can change frequently
From the USA
Los Angeles (LAX) – Air France and Air Tahiti Nuii
San Francisco (SFO) – Frenchbee and United
Depending on the airline, there are both night and day flights. Being on a night flight out of SFO or LAX will allow you to arrive early morning in PPT and thus transfer to Bora Bora (BOB) the morning you arrive.
The day flight out of SFO or LAX means you will arrive in PPT later in the afternoon and you will have to spend a night in Tahiti. Many travelers will choose to stay at the Tahiti Airport Hotel, conveniently located across the airport – Although you can walk there, we would suggest getting a cab. We've stayed there many times but now opt to stay at a wonderful AirBnb near the airport; ask us as Paola is not always open!
Note: Buying one-way fares with either Frenchbee and United is not any more costly than buying a round-trip ticket. You might sometime be able to play with this fact and use one airline coming to PPT and the other to return to opt for a night flight and avoid having to spend a night in Tahiti.
For the return to the US, most visitors will leave their resort sometime in the afternoon to arrive in PPT early evening to catch the night flight to the US. The resorts will get you on time to the Bora Bora airport based on your scheduled flight back out of Papeete. No worries!
From Japan (Currently Suspended)
Tokyo Narita (NRT) – Air Tahiti Nui, with a frequenncy that used to be twice a week, with a morning arrival in PPT.
From New Zealand (Currently Suspende)
Auckland (AKL) – Air New Zealand
From South America
Complex trip from Chile via Easter Island - not many flights and most travelers from South America will transit via the USA.
A Few Key Points About Bora Bora
- Bora Bora around 15 miles around.
- It is composed of many motus (small Islets) and surrounded by a reef system which protects its lagoon. This means the lagoon is mostly calm water, but there can be strong currents in some areas; exercise caution if you plan on swimming solo.
- The Bora Bora airport was built by US troops during World War II as they used the island as a supply base. Several cannons are still visible on the Island, they were never used and no combat ever took place on the island.
- There are many US descendants on the Island.
- Water is safe to drink, avoid using plastic if you can. We unfortunately do not have a public water fountain on Bora Bora as some other island do. Some of the water comes from wells and some is desalinated, so again it is safe to drink.
- One key activity not to be missed is to do a lagoon Tours, both individual and group, with full-day tours usually including lunch on a motu. (we do offer our own tour specifically designed aquatic photography tour if you wish to check it out).
- There are some cool spots on the main sland worth hiking to, however trails are not marked, many cross private land and thus you should hire a guide.
- Sharks – We have several species in Bora Bora, you will without a doubt see some up close during a tour. Predominantly black tip sharks, easy to observe during a lagoon / snorkeling tour. Easier to spot while diving: Lemon sharks (usually outside the outer reef), some greys outside the lagoon, white tip reef sharks, nurse sharks and occasionally and more so during the whale season – whale sharks.
- Other marine life (asides from tropical fishes) you should be able to spot during a tour are: eagle rays, sting rays & manta rays.
- Most resorts are located on motus, such as the IC Thalasso, the Four Seasons, the St. Regis, the Conrad, and the Le Bora Bora (the Sofitel private island and Meridien being closed at time of this writing). This means you have no shopping stores other than the hotel boutique near by – To shop on the main mean you will have to get on a shuttle boat organized by your resort or hire a private boat.
- No, the volcano is not active - in fact there are no active volcanoes in French Polynesia.
- Yes, we have mosquitoes; they are however not so present near the OWB.
Planning Your Trip to Bora Bora
If you have never traveled to French Polynesia, you might want to consider working with a travel agent. We personally collaborate with USA-based Lois, owner of Tahiti Adventure. Not only is Lois is certified agent for the destination, but she is also from French Polynesia. And don't be fooled by the myth that it costs more to work with a travel agent - depending on their buying power, they will often get you perks you would not have got by booking by yourself.
For more information, you may also find this free guide produced by Tahiti Tourism useful. Regarding entry trequirements, we find the entry information on Tahiti's official tourism site is slow being updated, while that of that of Air Tahiti Nui seems to do a better job at updating, and the information also seems clearer.
Enjoy your stay!