Is Fiji a safe country to visit?
We've lived between Fiji and Australia for the last eight years. Living and working in Suva and Sigatoka, and holidaying across many resorts in Fiji. Even though I have had a few 'situations', I can honestly say that I have never felt safer in a foreign country before.
I have just asked my Husband the same question, and he is in agreeance. We both feel safe there, and have confidence our children are safe there. It is worth noting that I have lived there on my own (felt safe), on my own with our children (felt safe) and also with my Husband (felt safe).
SAFETY WHILST HOLIDAYING IN FIJI
Holidaying in Fiji is very safe. Given tourism is their main industry, it is important to remember that it in Fiji's interests to ensure it is safe. Resorts are filled with behind-the-scenes security systems that tourists would not even realise are occurring. The security guards that you see roaming around, or shouting "BULAAAA!" as you enter, seemingly too-relaxed and too-happy to be working, will be taking stock of exactly what is going on.
We misplaced a scooter once at a big resort on the Coral Coast - the Security Guard tracked it down instantly because he had written down in his daily notes that it was left on our patio overnight (along with "one pair of purple thongs, a wet towel, and a tube of berroccas"), then he recalled seeing a similar scooter at the restaurant. I can also back this up from our experience of working and living at a resort - everything is taken note of, including any unsavoury characters who you may be socialising with. Fiji is very small, and almost everyone knows everyone, including their background. Unsavoury characters will not last long hanging around in a resort. It is also widely un-known that there are 'tourist police' whose very job is to help tourists in trouble, they also liaise with resorts on a regular basis.
That is not to say that unpleasant things won't happen, belongings may go 'missing' never-to-be found again, but I maintain this would happen anywhere you travel. It will serve you well to remain conscious of who you choose to be-friend, and how you act when out and about.
With this being said, here are some tips to remain safe whilst holidaying in Fiji.
3 TIPS TO BE SAFE ON HOLIDAYS IN FIJI
Safety Tip 1: DO NOT ADVERTISE YOUR WEALTH
Even if you do not think you are 'wealthy', as a tourist on holiday in Fiji, you are most definitely going to 'appear' wealthy. The very nature of your being in Fiji seems 'worldly' to locals who may be used to living a very (very!) different life to you. (I understand that in your home country you may be living pay-to-pay, and barely affording your mortgage, and saving up for a year to be on a holiday - but all of that is not taken into account when being viewed as a foreigner in Fiji). Be mindful of this perception.
Do not be flashy with your Jewellery (why do you need to wear all six of your diamond rings when sitting by the pool? or heading into the town centre or on a day trip to the village?) Lock it in your safe, but even better still, leave expensive jewellery at home.
Do not be flashy with your personal belongings ie. iPad, iPhone, Chanel glasses - by all means use them and wear them but have some discretion. Be conscious about where you leave them, put them under your towel hidden when swimming; put your phone in your pocket at the restaurant. You get the drift!
Safety Tip 2: YOUR HANDBAG
When out and about, outside of the safety confines of the resort, it is a good idea to be mindful of your handbag. Wear it across your body with main bag at your front. Don't carry the 'kitchen sink' with you - this will help you feel if your bag is being tampered with whilst carrying it. You will also know that the weight doesn't feel right, if something goes missing. Try to carry a bag that has separated compartments - I have known of two women who were at the Suva Market, carrying a simple tote - their bags were sliced open from underneath, purses dropping out easily into the hands of a cunning thief. Don't underestimate how clever these pick-pockets are. I've experienced being pick-pocketed myself (in Suva) and it was super fast, and not noticed until it was too late.
Safety Tip 3: BE SMART
It is so easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of adventures in any new country. Don't discount all the safety measures you would normally employ at home. Lock your room when out and about, make use of the safe, and especially if you are staying a smaller resort - tell the reception staff where you are off to each day. You will likely be invited by some locals to their village - on most occasions, this is genuine and out of a desire to share their way of life with you. However, if you feel like there are ulterior motives, it's simple - politely decline. Trust your gut. Don't go out at night by yourself, don't go clubbing in town at night by yourself. Once you get to know the locals, you will instinctively know if you should be trusting them.
5 TIPS TO BE SAFE WHILST LIVING IN FIJI
Safety Tip 1: DO NOT ADVERTISE YOUR WEALTH
All information (written in the same point above for holiday-makers) relates to expats in Fiji as well. I will however extend it a bit to include being aware of your behavior on a general basis. Don't leave the kids bikes, scooters, your surfboard or Nikes out in the yard, or at your front door. It is basically using a giant yellow highlighter on your house inviting someone to take their pick. Remind the kids not to be flashy with their belongings either. They don't need to walk around the market playing games on their iPhones. Again a giant yellow highlighter. I am writing from experience - my daughter was playing her DS whilst on a bus trip from Suva to Sigatoka - in the split second she left it on her seat whilst standing up (at her seat) to stretch her legs - it was gone. And no one 'saw' a thing!
Safety Tip 2: YOUR HANDBAG OR MANBAG
All information (written in the same point above for holiday-makers) relates to expats in Fiji as well. However, if you are living and working in Suva, be extra vigilant. This is where my own phone was stolen. Don't leave your bag on your car seat with the window open whilst driving. A recent con has been distracting the driver whilst stopped at a set of lights, then a 2nd person grabs whatever is sitting on the seat. This is just a reminder to be conscious of simple safety precautions like putting you bag under the seat, or your purse in the glove box, remember 'out of sight' makes it more difficult to target.
Safety Tip 3: SHAKE UP YOUR ROUTINE
It is so easy to get bogged in your daily routine. I know this because as a family, we are very routine-based, especially around our daily coffee hit.
"Drop the kids off, head to the local coffee shop, sit for half an hour and read the Fiji Times, sip your latte, leave, head to the market to get the dinner, grab a taxi home"...
This makes it very easy to know when our home was empty, and precisely when a would-be thief should drop by. Please don't underestimate how recognisable you are, as an expat living in Fiji. You stand out! Very obviously! (even without a giant yellow highlighter). So it's my advice to switch up the coffee shop you go to, change your shopping day every once in a while. If you do your groceries each Monday, as an example, some unsavoury character may notice this. What this means to him is that your purse is full of cash.
Safety Tip 4: GET TO KNOW PEOPLE!
Hopefully this will be at the top of your list regardless. If you are moving to Fiji, there is a whole country of fabulous Fijians you are going to meet, learn about and become friends with. Don't be a 'closed off' expat. Make friends with the locals, and let them make friends with you. Not only is it a great introduction to the life of a different culture, but as I've said before, Fijians are notoriously caring by nature. If they see you're doing something which may not be so safe, your local friends will tell you. They will look out for you. Invite your neighbours for a BBQ, once they get to know you and your routines, they will definitely look out for you, and look out for any unsavoury characters hanging around. In saying this, you must keep your wits about you, and trust your gut instinct. Don't invite randoms into your home, and if you feel like something isn't right, it probably isn't. Obviously, there will be some dodgy people around (as anywhere in the world), be mindful of who you invite into your life.
Safety Tip 5: CHOOSE HOUSING WISELY
Regardless of your accommodation budget, you can make good safety choices. Most housing in Suva is geared towards being safe - with bars on all windows, deadbolts or multiple locks on all the doors, big fences at the front with padlocks to lock the gates etc. At first, this can seem daunting, but after a while you will begin to question the houses that don't look like this. Top tip here would be if your budget can afford it, choose a house/apartment that comes standard with a security guard. Second top tip is if you are in a house, get a dog or two! They are a great deterrent. Even better if you get dogs that know how to 'guard'. We adopted two dogs from SPCA, and whilst they were great at barking and incredibly cute - if anyone came into our yard - they would want to play!
Our very cute, very loveable (non)-Guard dogs
Is Fiji safe as a country to travel to as a holiday-maker? Is it safe to live in Fiji as a Fiji expat? My answer to both those would be a resounding yes. You need to keep your wits about you, you need to adopt safety principles as you go about your day, you need to lock your house - but you have to do all these whichever country you are in.
The only difference is that you will most certainly stand out as an Australian in Fiji, you won't blend in like you do in Australia. But this will work in two ways - you may become a target because you are new, or you will be looked out for by the locals that know and care about you. Being an open traveler and an open expat will help you, more than harm you - but isn't that the type of traveler you want to be anyway?
What about you - do you have any travelling tips with regards to safety? I would love to hear them. Share them in a comment below.
Thanks for reading, MOCE from me x