- Reviewed: 9 August 2017, 17:30 NZST
- Still current at: 22 February 2018
The South Pacific cyclone season begins on 1 November and runs until 30 April each year. Each cyclone season, a number of severe storms can be expected across the region, although the precise risk varies between countries, as well as from season to season. On average there are around nine tropical cyclones each season, some of which will be classified as ‘severe’ (category 3 or higher).
New Zealanders are advised to monitor local and international weather reports to keep up to date with developments. Tropical Storm Risk provides information and reports on cyclones and their projected paths.
If you are staying in a hotel, you should follow the guidance of hotel management or your tour operator. Otherwise, heed any instructions issued by the local authorities, seek suitable shelter and adhere to any evacuation orders. Do not go outdoors during a cyclone and remain well away from the sea and rivers. You should also keep your family and friends in New Zealand informed of your safety and well-being, including after the cyclone has passed.
Some Pacific countries, such as Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, are seismically active and have volcanoes which erupt periodically. Certain volcanoes in these countries have high alert levels which, at times, can necessitate the evacuation of people within a certain radius. We recommend adhering to the advice and alerts of local authorities with respect to evacuation orders or “no-go” zones. Ash clouds from volcanic eruptions occasionally cause disruption to flights.
Additionally, while all oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, there is a heightened risk for low-lying island countries in seismically active regions, such as in the Pacific. New Zealanders are advised to follow any instructions issued by the local authorities in respect of tsunami threats.
Maritime safety, particularly of older vessels, is a concern in some Pacific countries. There have been ferry accidents in the Pacific resulting in a number of fatalities.
The safety standards New Zealanders might expect of transport operators may not be of the same level as you would find in New Zealand. Sufficient safety equipment may not be provided and safety regulations are not always adhered to. Ferries are often overcrowded.
We recommend New Zealanders considering travel by ferry assure themselves of the vessel’s seaworthiness and safety equipment before travelling. You may wish to consider taking your own lifejacket.
New Zealanders travelling or resident in the Pacific should hold a comprehensive travel insurance policy that includes provision for medical evacuation by air.
Medical facilities in the Pacific can be limited and hospitals may not be as well-equipped as those in New Zealand and may lack specialist equipment (including neo-natal equipment for premature babies). Hospital payment may be required up front, before any treatment is received. Outside the capital there may be limited capacity to respond to emergency situations. Not all Pacific islands have diver decompression chambers and divers requiring emergency treatment may need medical evacuation.
In cases of serious accident or illness there may be a need for medical evacuation to New Zealand or elsewhere. Medical evacuation is very expensive and if you don’t have travel insurance you or your family will need to cover the costs incurred. Check that your insurance policy covers you for all eventualities, including for any pre-existing conditions and all the activities you intend undertaking while in the Pacific – diving, sailing etc.
Cases of Dengue fever, Chikungunya and Zika virus have been reported in the Pacific, all of which are mosquito-borne illnesses. Travellers are advised to use insect repellent, wear protective clothing, and stay in lodgings where there are mosquito screens on windows and doors. See our Health and Travel advice for further information.
Mumps outbreaks occur frequently across the Pacific, and in many places vaccination against mumps is unavailable. All travelers to Pacific destinations born after 1968 should ensure that they are fully vaccinated against mumps through receipt of the MMR vaccine. This vaccine is available at GP offices in New Zealand and is free to eligible individuals. Please contact your GP to determine your MMR vaccination status before travel.
Ciguatera, or fish poisoning, is an illness caused by eating fish containing certain toxins. It can cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and tingling fingers or toes and can be found in many areas of the tropical Pacific region. There is no way to tell whether fish has been contaminated, so if you are visiting a Pacific island and want to avoid ciguatera, avoid eating reef fish. Deep water fish like tuna are a better option.
New Zealanders are subject to local laws and regulations when travelling overseas, including those that may appear harsh by New Zealand standards. Being a New Zealand citizen does not lead to any special treatment and the New Zealand Government and its officials cannot intervene in the justice system and law courts of other countries. New Zealand does not have any prisoner exchange agreements so if you’re convicted of a crime in the Pacific resulting in a prison sentence, you will need to serve your time in a local prison. See our arrest and detention page for further information.
General travel advice
Parts of the Pacific can been socially conservative – particularly outside the tourist and resort areas. Care should be taken to ensure your dress and behavior does not cause offence.
Destinations in Pacific where we advise caution.
There is some risk to your security in Papua New Guinea due to violent crime and the potential for civil unrest and we advise caution.
There is some risk to your security in Tonga due to the recovery from Tropical Cyclone Gita and we advise caution. See here for information and advice for New Zealanders regarding Tropical Cyclone Gita.