Quick Facts

  • Kiribati used to lie either side of the International Date Line, but the government moved the line eastwards in 1995 to ensure the date was the same in the whole country.
  • Kiribati is home to the South Pacific's largest marine reserve.
  • Kiribati is highly vulnerable to rising sea levels and global warming, and frequently lends its voice to calls for action on climate change.
  • Kiribati's major exports are copra, fish and seaweed. Previously, phosphate mines were a source of income, but have been depleted since the 1980s.
  • The main currency is the Australian dollar, though the US dollar is sometimes also accepted. 
  • Kiritimati is the world’s biggest coral atoll.
  • The Republic of Kiribati encompasses the Gilbert, Phoenix and Line Islands. It comprises just 810 square kilometres of land, but its 33 atolls span 3.5 million square kilometres of the Pacific. 
  • Kiribati has a Human Development Index rating of 133, according to the 2014 UN Human Development Report. (Source: UN Development Programme International human development indicators)

Language and culture

English is sometimes spoken in Tarawa (less often in Kiritimati) and the language can be challenging. Learning some local words is important and is appreciated by the local community. On long-term assignments, we provide basic language training at the start of assignments with follow-ups if necessary during the assignment.

Kiribati has a strong oral history and culture and on every island you'll come across some families known for their story-telling skills. Most i-Kiribati believe their ancestors were spirits, some created in Samoa and others in Kiribati.

Housing and living conditions

We provide volunteers with basic, furnished accommodation. Kiribati has 24-hour power (through a diesel generator) although power outages are a regular occurrence. Volunteer housing has gas facilities for cooking. Kiribati has the same electrical plug socket and voltage as New Zealand. All water should be boiled or purified for consumption and volunteers are advised not to drink well water. Water bottles can be purchased for general consumption from stores in town.

There are many stray dogs in Kiribati, so if you do decide to walk on the streets do so during the day and walk with a stick to keep the dogs from attacking you. Bending down pretending to pick up a rock to throw is also a deterrent. Volunteers are not advised to walk around in the evenings alone.

Dress standards

We encourage our volunteers to dress conservatively.  Loose fitting, light, cotton clothing is best. Dresses, skirts and t-shirts are commonly worn (sleeveless is acceptable) but don't  expose skin above the knee, especially when attending traditional events. For men, choose long pants, knee-length shorts and short-sleeved shirts.

Safety

We provide all volunteers with a thorough security briefing prior to departure and specific local issues are covered during your in-country orientation.

Health

Precautionary measures are recommended, such as insect repellent and long sleeves/ trousers in the evening if outside and a mosquito net if you are staying in villages. Skin infections can develop quickly so keep a good supply of plasters, antibiotic cream and antibiotics. There is one main hospital on Tarawa and a private hospital with a general practitioner (GP) at The Marine Training Centre (MTC) in Betio. Volunteers are advised to use this GP. You are responsible for managing your own health while on assignment.

Banking and finances

Kiribati uses the Australian dollar (AUD). The ANZ Bank is the only international banking company in Kiribati with operating branches on South Tarawa and Kiritimati Island. On South Tarawa, ATMs are accessible at Betio, Bairiki, Bikenibeu ANZ bank branches and at the gate of Tungaru Central Hospital in Nawerewere. A visitor may carry up to $5000 cash when traveling to Kiribati. Major foreign currencies can be exchanged at the ANZ Bank. VISA & Master Cards are currently the only major credit cards accepted in Kiribati but you won't be able to use credit cards on outer islands. Western Union Money Transfer Agency has an international branch located in Betio, Bairiki, Abarao and Nawerewere on South Tarawa providing the quickest way to send and receive money.

Cell phones and email

There is only one cellular provider in Kiribati. Coverage is generally good within urban areas but fades quickly as you move to rural locations. Volunteers can purchase SIM cards and use a pre-paid package. Mobile phones in Kiribati can only contact mobile phones abroad that have SIM card accessibility. Phones cannot text internationally. Internet cafes are available in town but the connection can be slow.