Essential Travel Tips for Your First Time in Niue
Niue may be only one small island but it is an understatement to say that it packs a lot! With dozens of sea tracks hidden on its shoreline, you will go on daily adventures uncovering so many treasures from freshwater chasms to incredible snorkelling spots! That’s right, Niue is as vibrant on land as it is in the water, with fruit bats and colourful uga crabs populating its forest and whales, turtles and colourful reef fish populating its reefs and beyond.
Now that you are sold on Niue, let us guide you through planning the perfect trip there. We have put together this whopping list of 31 tips for travelling in Niue so that you get an idea of what you’re in for and get a bit of a frame on how to plan your trip. After all, that is what NiuePocketGuide.com is about; helping you make the most of your time on the incredible island of Niue.
1. Niue is Not About the Beach; It’s About the Adventure!
Let’s address the elephant in the room early into these tips for travelling in Niue – there are not many beaches in Niue. That’s simply not what “the Rock of the Pacific” offers. Instead, it has chasms, coastal arches, caves, beautiful forest and mind-blowing coral reefs. Niue is about adventuring along rocky sea tracks through the luxuriant forest and stumbling onto a glistening swimming hole full of colourful fish. If that sounds like your thing, then you are in for a treat.
Check out our list of the 20 Best Sea Tracks in Niue for inspiration.
2. Almost All Activities Run on Tide Time
With the above in mind, it is no surprise that most sea tracks are best explored at selected tide times. Reef walks and swimming holes are extremely tide-dependent, while some tours depend on the tide to launch their boats. The silver lining is that it makes planning your days really easy, just look at what the tide will do and plan one low tide (almost all swimming spots) and one high tide activity (walks to land attractions) and you are all sorted! The Visitor Information Centre and selected accommodations publish the tide times for the whole week, so grab a chart to plan your week.
For more information on planning activities with the tide, see What You Need to Know About the Tide Times in Niue.
Power Tip: If you are visiting Niue with the main intention to swim and snorkel, then time your visit when low tide is at a favourable time. For instance, you probably would rather snorkel at low tide around midday rather than at 6 am!
Tide times are easy to predict and there are plenty of websites that will allow you to search the tide times in Niue on selected dates.
3. Odd Hours and “Island Time”
The Niuean lifestyle has its own version of time, a bit like “Island Time” but somehow a tad more reliable. Most businesses will have opening hours and will stick to them. In fact, if a larger business such as the Swanson Supermarket has opening hours clearly stated, then you can expect them to be open during those hours. On the other hand, smaller businesses like cafes, gift shops and tours will keep “odd hours” which means that if they have to pick up their kids from school or feel more like fishing than working, then the hours stated don’t tend to apply.
We’ve got a full guide to Odd Hours and Island Time in Niue if you are after more information on the subject.
4. Most Travellers Don’t Need a Visa to Visit Niue
Niue is a very welcoming country for visitors. Not only is entering the country incredibly easy, but international passport holders from around 42 different countries are welcome into Niue for up to 30 days without a visa! For the world’s remaining countries, nationals can go through the very easy process of getting an Entry Permit. Learn more about visas and permits in our Niue Visa Guide.
5. Get a Car (or a Bicycle if You’re Fit)
Public transport is not available in Niue, so the best way to explore the island is to rent a car or a bicycle/e-bike. This will give you the freedom to follow the many blue signs around the island that point to a cryptic point of interest. It’s only when following them to the end that you will truly know what you are in for! (Trust us, it’s usually something amazing). Plus, driving in Niue is a lot of fun between the low speed limit of 40 to 60 kph and dodging countless potholes. On the other hand, cycling or riding an e-bike is also a lot of fun if you have the fitness for it; Niue is a lot bigger than most people realise!
6. Check Your Change
People in Niue are as kind as it gets so it is with no malice that for about a quarter of all our cash transactions, we received the wrong change. It went both ways: sometimes we got less and sometimes we got more than we were owed. For Kiwis, at least you can save yourself the hassle with most vendors accepting New Zealand debit cards. On the other hand, some businesses charge an extra fee for credit cards or only accept cash so you’ll find yourself paying with New Zealand Dollars (the local currency) several times during your trip. Make sure to do the math and double-check what you received.
7. Pack Reef Shoes (and Dive Gloves if You Have Them)
If we did not make it clear just yet, you will get to see a lot of stunning reefs when venturing around the shores of Niue. Because the rocks and corals are super sharp, packing some good reef shoes is a must. We even recommend packing hard-soled reef shoes as opposed to soft neoprene ones. Some older travellers have informed us that dive gloves are also a great idea should you need to grab a sharp rock when you’re snorkelling. And, of course, when in the water or on the reefs, be extremely careful where you are stepping, as corals can take decades to grow only a few centimetres.
8. Everybody Speaks English
Good news! You won’t have to learn a brand-new language to enjoy your escapade to Niue. Almost everybody in Niue speaks English confidently and at worse, you may only have to speak a bit slower. However, the Niuean language is quite beautiful and sadly, due to the low local population, is actually on the UNESCO endangered language list. So if you would like to learn a few of the local lingo, check out our list of 10 Niue Words You Need to Know When Visiting Niue!
For more information on the local language, take a look at The Guide to the Niuean Language.
9. Dress with Cultural Sensitivity in Mind
Locals are very religious so wearing respectful clothing is quite important to them. With this in mind, men should avoid wearing swimwear outside of the swimming areas and should avoid walking around shirtless. Women are advised not to wear overly revealing attire and put a top over their bikini when outside of swimming areas and accommodations. To be fair, after your first sunburn, you’ll appreciate the layer…
Learn more about the local customs and protocol in Niue Etiquette: What are the Local Customs in Niue?
10. Be Aware of Tapu Areas
On some occasions, such as a death in a village, some areas may become “tapu” meaning that entering them is not allowed. You will find them well-marked by signs or by palm leaves woven onto poles. If you happen to stumble onto such an area, it is courteous to avoid entering it and not to speak too loudly, as people may currently be grieving there.
11. Sundays are Really Quiet
As mentioned previously, some Niueans are very religious. God and religion play a huge part in the local culture. As such, Sundays are, well, “religiously” observed as the day of rest. No tours are running and many restaurants are closed until the evening. A few exceptions include the Scenic Matavai Resort restaurant and the nearby Washaway Café in Avatele. The gas station also has short opening hours on Sundays. We recommend planning your Sunday around scouting a couple of sea tracks. Seriously, there are so many of them!
Tourists are also welcome to any church service around the island where you will experience angelic singing by the locals. See the 10 Things to Do in Niue on a Sunday for more inspiration.
12. Medical Condition or Gluten-Free? Come Prepared.
Niue is a small country – really small! It only gets supplies once a month by a large cargo boat and has to make up for the rest with good old-fashioned hard work. As such, Niue does not have a pharmacy – only a local hospital where you will be able to get a limited prescription. So if you need medication or suspect you need medication, come prepared. We give some ideas in What Medication to Pack in Your First Aid Kit for Niue.
On a similar note, if you have a special diet, local restaurants will be happy to accommodate provided that you supply a few ingredients. For example, Kaiika is happy to make gluten-free pizzas if you provide the base. Rice dishes are available, of course, but if you have another type of special diet, pack a few backup food items.
Learn more about the food in Niue in The Guide to Food in Niue.
13. Everybody Knows Each Other
The great thing about living in a country of only around 1,500 people is that everybody knows everybody. From one village to another, simply naming somebody will score you smiles! So if you are ever lost or ever need to contact somebody, chat to a local and they’ll help you get in touch with them!
14. The Locals are Super Friendly
Speaking of the locals, you will be amazed at how kind-hearted the locals are. They don’t speak fast or loudly but they are super happy to have a chat, show you their catch of the day, discuss life on the island, or tell you about some local legends. Niueans have a strong relationship with New Zealand and many of them have family there or have studied in the country themselves so if you are a Kiwi travelling to Niue, you’ll probably have a lot of common culture too.
15. Niue is Great for Kids But is Not Packed With Kids
As a country, Niue is a kid’s paradise: heaps to explore, plenty of short and easy walks, and various days from swimming with fish to eating ice cream (don’t worry, mum, Cornettos are soooo cheap in Niue!) As long are your kids are confident with walking for about 20-30 minutes they will have a blast clambering over rocks to find the next swimming hole. But surprisingly, not many families make their way to Niue which makes it quite a kid-free country! That’s a plus for adventurous couples looking for an adults-only style destination!
Families, take a look at The Travel Guide to Niue for Families, while those seeking a more adults-only holiday, head to our The Adults-Only (Child-Free) Travel Guide to Niue or The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Niue.
16. The Best Days to Enjoy the Resort are the Plane Days
Ok, Niue is never that busy. With only one plane that fits 167 passengers landing twice a week, you will hardly be sharing the country with more than 250 tourists at a time. You will see the same faces everywhere and form a relationship with other travellers by just passing them at least once a day!
Now, if you are after a very peaceful lunch or afternoon by the island’s only resort pool, then plane days are what you are aiming for. With everybody either exploring or waiting at the airport, you’ll get the whole place to yourself. In the same spirit, most arrivals will eat at the resort on their first night, so plane days are a good time to book your table at one of the prised restaurants like Hio or Kaiika.
See the Guide to the Best Eats & Restaurants in Niue for restaurant recommendations.
17. In the High Season, Book Early for Everything!
From July to September, Niue experiences some of its best weather conditions and the popular whale season is in full swing. This makes this period the high season in Niue, meaning that this is the time of the year when most tourists are visiting the country. During this time, we recommend booking your trip three to four weeks in advance. This includes accommodation, popular activities like whale swimming and scuba diving, but, most surprisingly, your evening dinners too! Yes, you need to call in a couple of days earlier and ask to reserve a table. Restaurants have very limited seating and only take one booking per table per night. Almost every night in the high season sees restaurants fully booked, as seen during our last trip to the island.
It’s also worth exploring Niue in the low season for this reason and more listed in the 10 Reasons to Travel in the Low Season in Niue.
18. Self-Catering is Actually Quite Expensive
There are a few self-catering accommodations available in Niue, including studios or holiday houses where you will be able to cook for yourself. Although it is cheaper than eating out for every meal of every day, you will still find the local prices quite steep. After all, most food has to be imported from New Zealand.
19. Know When the Whale Watching Season is
An important tip for travelling in Niue for any adventure seeker, the whale season in Niue runs from July to September and allows you to get up close with some of the most beautiful marine mammals on the planet. Important things to note are that you can only swim with whales with a licensed operator and the whale season is also the “busy” tourist season.
We’ve got plenty more tips in The Guide to Whale Watching & Swimming in Niue, so if this is your thing, make sure to give it a good read.
20. Any Wildlife Activity is Not a Guarantee
Whale swimming, dolphin swimming, uga hunting, fishing charters, scuba diving with turtles… These are only some of the amazing wildlife interactions you can experience in Niue. We’ve done most and more and were amazed every single time, but like with any wildlife activity that respects wildlife, viewings and interactions are not a guarantee. The animals are free and it is up to them to decide if they want to play ball or not. It’s a good idea to set expectations right for wildlife sightings in Niue. You can also book a few whale swimming tours, for instance, to increase your chances of better interaction and see how every tour is different!
21. Pack Reef-Safe Sunscreen
We’ve mentioned corals extensively in this article alone, so it should come as no surprise that the reefs around Niue are spectacular and deserve to be taken good care of. One small thing that any traveller can do is spend a few extra dollars to get reef-safe sunscreen. This is a sunscreen that contains no nasty chemicals that harm the local coral. As a bonus, they tend to be better for your skin too!
There’s no need to spend too much time hunting for reef-safe sunscreen, as we’ve got a list of the 10 Best Reef Safe Sunscreens for Niue at the ready! Plus, check out more ways to the mindful when visiting Niue using the 25 Ways to Travel More Sustainably in Niue.
22. Getting Online is Quite Easy
You’ve probably read a lot about the lack of roaming in Niue and the slow internet speed. To be quite honest, the issue is really not that bad. If you want a reliable internet connection on the go, get yourself a MiFi from the Telecom Niue shop in Alofi and you’ll be kitted with plenty of data to last your whole trip. We won’t go into all the details here, but if you want to learn more, check out How to Get Internet & WiFi in Niue.
Plus, for phone advice, check out Niue Phone Network + Will Your Phone Work in Niue?
23. The Goatfish Season Can Happen at Any Time!
This one confuses many visitors. Every year, a huge number of goatfish (if you are picturing a goat mermaid, you’ve got it wrong) spawn in the waters around Niue. When this happens, many sea tracks are closed as the locals fish the goatfish, locally known as kaloama. This usually lasts a couple of weeks but famously in 2019, it lasted for over 10 weeks! This event usually occurs between March and April but, honestly, it can’t be predicted. But don’t worry, there are still plenty of amazing things to do in Niue during the kaloama season – just check out the 101 Things to Do in Niue!
Plus, for more information on the kaloama season, see What You Need to Know About the Kaloama/Goatfish Season in Niue.
24. It Rains in Niue, But That’s Ok!
We all have visions of an idyllic sunny holiday when jetting off to a tropical country but, well, “tropical” climates also mean that there is rain involved – sometimes a substantial amount! Simply taking it on the chin and moving on with your day is the best way to handle when the heavens open, as it’s likely that the shower will pass quickly anyway. If it doesn’t, well, at least you have 10 Things to Do in Niue on a Rainy Day. We would say that travelling in the “dry season” will ensure some drier days, but, honestly, that’s no longer the case with climate change.
See Niue Weather, Seasons & Climate + Niue Weather by Month to learn more about the weather patterns.
25. Ask a Lot of Questions About Your Tour, Accommodation, Rental…
Did you know that to give back your car after rental you will simply park it at the airport and leave the key in the ignition? Did you know that when going on a fishing charter in Niue, you will not keep your catch but some operators will have it cooked for you in a local restaurant instead? Did you know that Tony from A5 Tours only accepts cash, even if you’ve been told that everyone takes card payments? There is a lot that Niue does differently than other countries, so it pays off to ask questions just so you know how things work. You’ve got to be proactive! We try to cover as many things as possible on Niue Pocket Guide but nobody expects you to read it all.
26. Save the Planet with a Lifestraw Bottle
Most water around Niue is safe to drink, which makes it one of the safest South Pacific countries to travel to when it comes to health. Despite this fact, most people choose to drink bottled water for their entire trip. This overuse of single-use plastic can take a huge toll on such a small country. For this reason, we recommend using reusable water bottles, such as a Lifestraw bottle that will purify and filter your water as you drink it.
Learn more about drinking water in Niue in Can You Drink the Water in Niue?
27. There is No Foreign Exchange in Niue
A super important thing to know when travelling to Niue is that Niue uses New Zealand Dollars or NZD as a currency. If NZD is not your usual currency, you will need to come prepared. Exchange your money before departing or, at the latest, at Auckland Airport, as there are no money exchange outlets in Niue, apart from Niue Rentals for Australian and US Dollars only!
28. If You Need a Travel Adapter…
Most travellers to Niue are from New Zealand or Australia, so this probably doesn’t apply to the majority BUT if you are travelling to Niue from a country that does not use type 1 power outlets, then you will need to get yourself a travel adapter in order to be able to use your appliances from home.
Get more info in our guide to Niue Electrical Outlets & Power Plugs.
29. The Airport Process for Departure Flights is a Little Different
When planning your last day in Niue, don’t take your departure time at face value. Although, yes, your flight may depart in mid to late afternoon, you will still need to show up at the airport at around 10 am to check-in. Then, you’ll have a few free hours to yourself. You’ll then finally get back to the airport for the security check and boarding. This unusual airport process is because the same airport staff are in charge of all of the airport operations and simply can’t handle it all at the same time. Heck, even the Police Station closes on a plane day so that the police can operate the luggage X-ray scanner! We suggest showing up at the airport at around 9 am to check-in, then plan a short sea track and a quick lunch in town before heading back to the airport.
Get a full guide to departure days in Niue in our article, Leaving Niue: The Niue Airport Departure Process.
30. There are a Bunch of Things You Can’t Take Home
Auckland Airport in New Zealand is the only entry port to Niue, so if you are planning to spend some time in New Zealand, be aware of the strict biosecurity rules there. Moreover, there are a few items that cannot be taken out of Niue such as uga or any crab parts, coral pieces and more. Saying that, there are some surprising foods you can take back to New Zealand with you, including honey. See our guide on How to Get a Quarantine Certificate in Niue to learn more.
31. Make the Most of Niue Pocket Guide
Our final travel tip is not really the end of Niue Pocket Guide‘s tips for travelling in Niue; we have spent a considerable amount of time putting together the bible of travelling in Niue…
Check out the Destinations section to know more about what places to visit in Niue and get inspired.
Check out the Travel Tips section in which we cover all the nitty-gritty of planning a trip to Niue and answer the most frequently asked questions.
In the Accommodation section of the site, we show you all the accommodation options available on the island from budget to luxury, from foodie to family, and more.
When making your Niue bucket list, the Things To Do section of our site will be your go-to.
We also have a Transport section to help you find out how to make your way around the “Rock of the Pacific”.
Finally, if you feel like taking it easy, we have created the Trip Ideas section where we have put together a range of itineraries according to timeframes and travel styles. You can literally just print it and go!
More Tips for Travelling in Niue
That’s it for our tips for travelling in Niue. But wait, there are more Niue travel tips in The Complete Travel Guide to Niue, as well as these guides:
- 101 Things to Do in Niue: The Ultimate List
- The 30 Best Accommodations in Niue
- The Food Guide to Niue: Places to Eat, Food Tours & More
Finally, you might find our itineraries useful: The Best Niue Itineraries for 2 Weeks, The Best Niue Itineraries for 1 Week, The Best Niue Itineraries for 5 Days and The Best Niue Itineraries for 4 Days.