- Fiji consists of 332 islands, where 106 of these islands are inhabited, and 522 smaller islets.
- The capital city is Suva (Lautoka is the next largest centre).
- Official languages are English, iTaukei, and Hindi.
- The two largest islands are Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. These two islands are mountainous, and covered with thick tropical forests.
- The region’s highest point, Mt Tomanivi, is an extinct volcano on Vanua Levu.
- Fijians have a patrilineal system of descent and status which derives from the father’s side.
- The population of Fiji is made up of native Fijians, who are Melanesians (54.3%), although many also have Polynesian ancestry, and Indo-Fijians (38.1%).
- Fiji is 91 on the Human Development Index out of 188 countries.
(Source: The World Factbook, CIA, and UN Development Programme International human development indicators)
Banking and finances
There are many familiar banks in Fiji, including Westpac and ANZ. Long term volunteers who chose to open a bank account, generally use ANZ Suva. VSA will deposit volunteer’s monthly living allowance into their bank account as well as reimbursement for utilities. If your NZ ATM card is linked to the PLUS or Cirrus networks, you can use it in Fiji to obtain cash. It can take quite a while to get a bank account so it is best to plan to have a month’s resources available from other sources.
Fiji is generally a cash based society, so it is recommended to keep a good amount of cash on you as you may come across a number of restaurants, shops, etc that do not accept card. Visit XE.com for current exchange rates.
Cell phones and email
Fiji has three main cell phone companies – Vodafone, Digicel and INKK. Coverage is generally good within urban areas but fades quickly as you move to rural locations. Internet connection is good in Suva. Most volunteer workplaces will have some sort of access to the internet and email. Computer, internet and e-mail services are also available at local Internet cafés in Suva town. To use internet at home the best thing is to buy a dongle for around FJD $40 which volunteers can then top up.
"Business casual" clothes in New Zealand and in Fiji are slightly different. Lightweight business casual clothes and nice sandals can be useful to volunteers assigned to offices and for other functions until you have a few Fijian outfits made. You won’t really get the opportunity to wear ‘corporate’ wear as the dress code is pretty relaxed and appropriate for the climate and environment. Loose-fitting, light, cotton clothing is best. For men, choose long pants, and short-sleeved shirts. For women, comfortable knee length dresses or skirts for work, cap sleeved tops. Women should wear shorts and a t-shirt while swimming outside of tourist resorts.
Language and culture
VSA assignments usually last two years, so local language training is important. We encourage basic language training (iTaukei and Hindi) at the start of assignments with follow-ups if necessary during assignment. Understanding local customs is vital to a successful assignment. Fijians are very friendly. Volunteers respect for their customs and traditions will not only make you a welcome guest in their villages and homes, but add another dimension to your experience. Volunteers will learn more about the diversity of Fijian culture in the in-country orientation.
Mosquitoes can be a problem and precautionary measures are recommended such as insect-repellent containing DEET and long sleeves/trousers in the evening if outside. Skin infections can develop quickly so have a good supply of plasters, antibiotic cream and antibiotics. There are two public hospitals in Suva, with smaller medical clinics scattered around the islands.
Housing and living conditions
We provide volunteers with safe and securing house. The house will be fully furnished and you will be given a list of items in the house to assist you when packing. Volunteers will have access to telephones, internet, power, and gas for cooking. Accommodation and utilities costs will be covered by VSA.
Some important social activities for Fijians include preparing for a wedding or funeral; opening a church or school; volleyball, soccer, or rugby (Fiji has a strong rugby culture and the country is very supportive of the All Blacks); hosting visiting village members or dignitaries; learning traditional songs and dances for festivals and celebrations; and playing bingo for leisure and/or fundraising for the church. Social activities such as swimming, canoeing, fishing, snorkelling and trekking are popular among volunteers.
We contract an experienced organisation to provide all selected volunteers with a thorough security briefing on specific local issues during your in-country orientation. Take care when walking alone at night.