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By June RamliTweet
This was a hard article to write because this means that I have finally lived my pipe dream of travelling solo to Tahiti.
After two years of lockdown I decided to do the unthinkable and just head to Tahiti as a solo traveller.
The deal was sweetened when I managed to find a discounted ticket on Air Tahiti Nui and I grabbed it without hesitation.
When one travels to Tahiti from Sydney, it would be a codeshare flight to New Zealand by Qantas and onward to Tahiti by Air Tahiti Nui.
Flying Air Tahiti Nui was a surreal experience.
It was a fleet of new aircrafts and one of the stewards that day had appeared on the flight advertisement.
On boarding Air Tahiti Nui, we were given white Jasmine flowers to put on our ears.
The whole flight smelled absolutely awesome because of these flowers.
The flight to Tahiti was rather bumpy since we were flying through open sea, with wild turbulence.
But nevertheless, I arrived in one piece.
We were greeted by nice Tahitian music and though the immigration queue was long and snaky when it got to my turn, I was done in a jiffy.
I went in and had the task of looking for my luggage.
The Faaa International Airport in Tahiti is very laid back and not fancy looking and I easily located my bags within minutes.
I went out and got into a cab and Wendy my driver drove me to my hotel, the Kontiki Tahiti in 20 minutes.
The journey had cost me 2000 XFP.
By the way there is no Uber in Tahiti, in fact there isn’t any rideshare, they only have cabs and the mode of payment is cash.
So, make sure you bring some XPF when you visit Tahiti to cover the cab ride and the rest you can withdraw from Bank of Tahiti with your Australian bank card.
If cash isn’t your thing, fret not as your credit card usage is widely accepted in most shops and markets.
If you are unable to speak French, no worries since English is widely spoken too.
As for the travel Sim cards, it’s best you get them at the Vodafone store in the city centre which is only a stone throw away from the main market. If you opt for the travel sim card which you can get in the airport, the credit runs out fast.
Once I arrived at Kontiki Tahiti hotel, the check-in was smooth and if you pay with a credit card they will hold a deposit.
I opted for Polynesian cabins with shared bathrooms.
The reason being all other rooms were fully booked and I had to stay for 12 days.
This hotel is strategically located in front of the ferry and close to the city centre in Papeete with nearby markets and shops.
There were cleaning ladies cleaning the bathroom every hour and the toilets were clean.
After checking in, I got myself some dinner from a pizzeria next to the hotel.
By the way, the bar scene in Tahiti is really pathetic, they hardly have any great DJs and they only listen to stereo music and sip cocktails all day long!
The next morning, I walked around and discovered a nice bar and some food trucks but didn’t have the guts to try it due to cleanliness issues.
I heard about ‘day passes’ which five star hotels sell for a fraction of the cost so you can chill at their property without staying there. Great way of promoting the property. I got two day passes, one for the Intercontinental Hotel in Bora Bora, Tahiti and the other for their sister property at Papeete.
I utilised these passes to take product photos for my skincare and haircare products.
As for the rest of the 12 days, I spent discovering Papeete, rekindling my love for the French language and just walking around aimlessly doing nothing.
Although Tahiti is known as a premier honeymoon destination, I didn’t find many couples, just a few in Bora Bora.
The Tahitians are nice and pleasant people and they can spot tourists from a mile away.
They will look you in the eye and exchange pleasantries either in French or English or just by shaking their head and flashing their sweet smile.
I never got cheated while I was there!
I did a bit of shopping, I purchased some materials from a French speaking Chinese trader and got it sewed in Papeete. Bought some Tahitian Black pearls at Robert Wan with certificates, too.
I travelled to Moorea, which is 25 minutes from Papeete by ferry.
It was on November 1, which is a public holiday for Tahiti.
I spent the day cycling through the island, chilling at the Hilton Moorea with a spa and lunch by the beach.
From the ferry, we spotted a couple of whales so the ferry had to change course so that we wouldn’t get in their way.
The tipping culture is not prevalent in Tahiti so you don’t have to be guilt trip into tipping the service lady after your body massage.
Once done, the Hilton hotel rang me a cab which took me straight to the ferry terminal for my return ride to Papeete.
I don’t remember what I had for dinner that night but Papeete has a lot of gas stations with supermarkets attached to it and their selection of pastries are just out of this world.
You can get everything from chocolate cakes to tasty croissants.
However the only downside in Papeete is that it turns quiet after 5pm. It gets worse on a public holiday as literary everything gets shut.
They work five and a half days with Saturday being half day.
The whole city is closed on Sundays except for a select few restaurants.
I didn’t go to any motu (islands) in Moorea because it was a public holiday and everything was operating on a limited capacity.
Heading to Bora Bora
My trip to Bora Bora was booked at the last minute.
In fact it was done in my hotel room in Papeete by phone.
I chose to go to Bora Bora by plane and not the ferry. The plane ride to Bora Bora was only 50 minutes long, and the ferry ride was 16 hours to and fro.
Getting to Bora Bora was rather easy, I booked the flight tickets online via Air Tahiti and the hotel on Booking.com.
Once in Bora Bora, I found a rather chatty driver to take me to the Intercontinental Hotel in Bora Bora for a day pass and stayed there the whole day before going back to the mainland to stay at the Royal Bora Bora.
Though the hotel was run down, it was probably the best in terms of the price that I paid.
The best beach for you to check out during your stay in Bora Bora proper would be the Matira Beach where you can see wildlife like stingrays swimming close to the shores.
I had dinner at the Bora Bora beach club and managed to video a stingray swimming close to the shore just to say hello to me!
This is a pro-tip, most dinner reservations come with complimentary taxi service.
If you are booked to have dinner on the island then you’d be stoked to find out that they would send a cab out to you and send you back once your dinner is done.
It comes out as a complimentary service but I am pretty sure it is all included in the bill.
The next day, I swam a bit around the area and then went roaming around to the nearby supermarkets and shops.
Most of the goods sold in the supermarkets are French based and French food is widely available in these supermarkets so if you find the hotel food too expensive then these supermarkets would be your saviour.
Don’t do Bora Bora if you are low on the cash. Do it only if you have some money to spend. Bora Bora is not a cheap destination to visit. Consider yourself warned here.
Next, their shopping centre is pathetic so don’t bother checking it out.
I did and regretted it.
The hotel would force you to visit these shopping districts and you have to pay for the transportation.
Instead just stay in your hotel and enjoy the beach.
I couldn’t enjoy the beach because it was the rainy season, so I had very limited time at the beach but nonetheless I was happy because I managed to tick this destination off my bucket list.
I have been wanting to visit this place since 2014.
You will find pine sized cemeteries of loved ones buried right in front of the local houses.
I was shocked when I saw this but found it a rather sweet gesture that they would do that.
The servers in Bora Bora are rather rude and that is because they have thousands of tourists visiting their island.
You just have to persevere with this but the rest of the country like Papeete and Moorea display really good customer service.
Getting to the airport from the hotel is rather easy.
The driver would send you to the ferry terminal and you can take a complimentary ferry service to the airport.
If I remember correctly that whole ride is about 15 to 20 minutes.
Once you get to the airport, checking in is fast and easy.
You don’t have to worry about immigration, all you need to do is get your pass and check in your luggages and wait for a boarding call.
I made two new acquaintances while waiting for my flight, one was a man from Taiwan who had been working there for several years at the Four Seasons with his brother.
The other was a former Mr Tahiti.
The flight to Papeete from Bora Bora was smooth.
Surprisingly, I got the same cab driver – Wendy to take me back to hotel Kontiki, Tahiti.
It was hilarious and we both had a good laugh!
Heading to Teahupo’o
After my Bora Bora adventure was done and dusted, my next mission was to check out the famous surf beach in Tahiti known as Teahupo’o about an hour away by car from Papeete.
I wanted to take a taxi but Wendy my taxi driver told me that the cost would be exorbitant and suggested I rent a car.
Instead of renting a car and putting myself in harm’s way since the folks there drive on the left side of the road, I decided to take a bus as that would be a great way for me to mingle with the locals as well.
The bus ride was very interesting, to say the least.
I waited for the bus in front of the ferry terminal near my hotel at 6.30 am and arrived at the area at around 9am.
Thanks to Kevin from Moorea for helping me out during the first half of my journey to Teahupo’o.
Without you, I would have been lost for sure.
Taking the bus to Teahupoo was rather interesting as you will need to take two shuttle services but don’t worry, the locals in Tahiti are very friendly and if you get lost they will somehow help you.
Once there I was kind of disappointed, the beach looked plain and it was quite dirty.
I was about to leave when a lady told me to walk across the bridge and check the area there.
I concurred since the bus would take an hour to make its way back.
There I met a few locals, including one French man who had set up a home based there.
There was one cafe but it didn’t pique my interest for further investigation and so I headed to the beach and took some product shots there.
The hilly background made great product shots.
As it was low tide, I did not see those high waves that the Teahupo’o beaches are famous for but nonetheless it was a pretty cool experience.
After that I headed back to the bus stop and went back to Papeete.
On my last day in Papeete, I spent it at the Intercontinental Hotel in Faaa with their day pass where I experienced their massage.
The massage at this hotel wasn’t as great compared to the Hilton Hotel in Moorea but I had enjoyed my time at their make-believe beach which was filled with colourful fishes.
It was as though I was swimming in the aquarium.
After this experience, I headed back to my humble abode at Kontiki, Tahiti and left for the airport at 5am the next morning.
After leaving Tahiti, I spent two days in New Zealand and wrote about the experience here.
My 12 days sojourn was what a Chanel bag would have cost me in Australia!
Tahiti is not a cheap place to visit but I thank my lucky stars that I managed to cross that destination off my to-do list as it has been there for the longest time.
I would also like to thank the countless strangers that I met during my trip and who have helped me in any way that they can, particularly the staff at Kontiki, Tahiti.
I am not sure if I will be returning to Tahiti soon because there are other parts of the Pacific Islands that I want to visit but if I do get a sponsored trip or otherwise from Tahiti Tourism, then I would be more than happy to do so.
So, for this trip, it was fully sponsored by the good folks at DailyStraits.com but that didn’t mean that we didn’t spend, we did but only on things that we were interested in.
So, if you are single and mulling a solo trip to Tahiti but are hesitant because it is a premier honeymoon destination, don’t be, it’s a safe destination to visit even as a solo female traveller.
Look at me, I spent 12 glorious days there and came back in one piece.
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June Ramli is the editor of DailyStraits.com. To stay in touch with June, look her up on Twitter @junesairaramli