Quick Facts

  • Population: 1,384 (July 2011 est.)
  • HDI rating: No HDI rating
  • Capital city: None - each atoll has its own administrative centre
  • Official languages: Tokelauan, English
  • Life expectancy: No data
  • Literacy rate: No data
  • GDP per capita: US$1,000 (1993 est)
  • VSA volunteers: 43 since 1987

Language and culture

VSA assignments usually last two years, so local language training is important.  We provide basic Tokelauan language materials prior to volunteers going on assignment and encourage you to learn the language from the local people while in Tokelau.

Understanding and respecting local customs is vital to a successful assignment. Tokelau is a small, isolated community and volunteers need to be aware of how this will impact on day-to-day life. Tokelauans are strongly religious and church-based activities will take precedence over all other activities in the village, including school and work. 

Housing and living conditions

Partner organisations provide volunteers with basic, furnished accommodation. All power is generator-based and the supply varies between the atolls.  All our volunteer housing will have gas facilities for cooking.  Water is collected through rainwater tanks and volunteers need to conserve water during dry periods.

Dress standards

Tokelau is a conservative country and some Western style clothing is not appropriate. Loose-fitting, light, cotton clothing is best.  For men choose long pants, knee-length shorts and short-sleeved shirts.  For women, dresses, skirts and t-shirts are commonly worn – sleeveless shirts are also acceptable.  Don’t expose skin above the knee though, especially when attending traditional or religious events.

Health

Skin infections can develop quickly in the tropical climate so have a good supply of plasters, antibiotic cream and antibiotics. There are health clinics staffed by nurses on each of the atolls and there is a generally a doctor on at least one atoll. However, health care is basic and you’ll need to be responsible for managing your own health while on assignment.  

Safety

We provide all selected volunteers with a thorough security briefing and specific local issues are covered during your in-country orientation. In general, there are few security issues, although be aware that you will be living in a small, isolated community where everyone knows everything about each other.

Banking and finances

Volunteers set up a bank account at the Tokelau Apia Liaison Office (TALO) in Samoa on the way to Tokelau. Tokelau is a cash society and volunteers are able to withdraw cash from the TALO agent on each atoll. The NZ dollar is the currency in Tokelau.

Cell phones and email

Tokelau does not have a cell phone network at present.  Internet is via ’broadband‘ but this is still slow and limited compared to New Zealand.  Internet access will either be through the partner organisation or at the Teletok (local Telecom) office – there are no internet cafes.  Volunteers can make international phone calls from the Teletok office. It is also possible to set up a landline in your own home (at your own cost), although line rental and calls are very expensive.