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By No owner — last modified Jan 04, 2017 11:11 AM

 Tonga - Formalities

Clearance

The Q flag must be flown. The captain should contact the Harbour Master or Customs on arrival (prior to docking/mooring), who will give instructions where to berth for clearing in and may or may not board the yacht. One must present the outward clearance from the last port.

You will be boarded by Immigration, Customs, Quarantine, and Health.

You must clear in and out of each island group if you plan to travel within Tonga – this is known as a domestic check in/check out and you will need a Local Movement Report (Small Craft) issued by customs for each island group. See each island group for details.

See the chosen Port of Entry for specific clearance information for that port.

In general in Tonga, clearance will take quite some time, so be patient and polite.

See Fees for clearance below.

Last updated March 2016.

Immigration

A free 30 day Visa is granted upon entry for the following nationalities, and a second visa for 6 months can be purchased for $69TOP per month.

Citizens from The EU, Australia, Barbados, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Cook Islands, Dominica, Estonia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia (New Caledonia, Tahiti, Wallis & Futuna), Israel, Italy, Japan, Kiribati, Malaysia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Monaco, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Norway, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russia, Samoa, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Slovakia, Slovenia, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lusia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Switzerland, The Bahamas, Tokelau, Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United States of America, Vanuatu.

All other visitors require a visa in advance.

Applications for visa extensions can be made at the Immigration Departments in Neiafu, Ha’apai, Nuku'alofa, Niu’topatpu (tel:+676 26969 or +676 26970; fax: +676 26971; e-mail: visatonga@gmail.com).

Note: It is necessary to have a valid visa at all times, so ensure it does not expire when moving between island groups. A fine of $1150TOP will be charged for having an out of date visa.

Proof of Onward Travel

Updated rules regarding a clarification of one-way ticket arrivals into Tonga:

Anyone who is arriving into Tonga on a one way airline ticket (such as crew joining the vessel) must possess a return ticket to their home country, not just an onward ticket to another country. A crew member arriving to join a yacht in Tonga in September 2016 had such an onward ticket to New Zealand, but they were required to buy another ticket (changeable but not refundable) all the way back home in Toronto, Canada before allowed entry. It was ALSO required that the captain send a formal email to Air New Zealand proclaiming that the yacht was definitely leaving Tonga on a particular date before the airline would issue a refund on the Tonga-to-New Zealand air ticket.

From the Tonga Consulate General: "Persons arriving in Tonga by air and intending to depart by yacht, MUST hold a letter of authority from one of Tonga's diplomatic missions overseas and bearing the official stamp of that Tongan diplomatic mission or Letter of Authority issued by the Immigration Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Tonga, bearing the stamp of the Principal Immigration Officer. It can also be handled by sending an email to tongapermit@gmail.com no more than one month before arrival proclaiming the incoming crew will be leaving by boat on a specific date. The following information will be required:

Crew name
Arrival date
Date and booking/reservation number of arrival flight 
Passport number and date of expiry
Full name
Date of birth 
Captain's name 
Boat owner's name 
Boat name, registration number, country, and port of registry

An official letter will be issued to be presented by the traveler. The letter is valid for one month. A money order for $34.50 is required for the one-way authorization letter to be issued.

See the Tonga Consulate General Website for complete information and travel checklists.

Last updated November 2016.

Customs

Length of Stay

On arrival, yachts will be granted a 4 month stay. You then have to apply for a yacht temporary import permit after 4 months. The yacht extension must be applied for before the existing one expires (at least 2 weeks before is advisable).

Further time granted is at the discretion of Customs, but can be up to 12 months.

Leaving your Yacht in Tonga

In terms of leaving your yacht in Tonga unattended, as temporarily imported yachts are technically under customs control (as in most countries) Tonga customs department are working out a system to be able to have a better way of keeping track of these boats.

There are currently two options for leaving your boat in Tongan waters unattended:

1) Leave your yacht on a managed mooring (cyclone rated if in cyclone season) and sign a standard 'Master in Charge' letter with the owner of the moorings so that someone has responsibility for the boat while the owner is overseas.

There is a customs inspection fee associated with this option. This fee has not yet been set, but will be set in line with Tonga's existing inspection fees and be a nominal amount.

2) Haul your boat out of the water and sign a standard 'Master in Charge' letter with the managers of the boatyard. The yard is then responsible for applying for extensions to boats out of the water at their facility. There is no inspection fee associated with this option as Customs will know where the boat is at all times.

If you wish to stay on your boat while in Tonga, there is no requirement for Master in Charge letters or inspection fees.

Yachts may remain in Tonga for up to 12 months, provided the necessary arrangements have been made with Customs. A small daily fee is charged for boats left unattended.

Other Customs Rules

Firearms must be declared on arrival and will be held in custody ashore until departure.

Fresh produce may be confiscated. Garbage must be disposed of officially on arrival.

Equipment sent to vessels in transit may be imported free of duty. Be aware goods will come into Nuku’alofu and then you have to pay courier fees to get it to your port of choice. The local airline will fly equipment up for $4.50 a kg. (it may be cheaper to pick it up).

Last updated December 2016.

Health

ZIKA VIRUS ALERT: (September 2016) There have been recent safety alerts from the US State Department, UK Foreign Office, and Center for Disease Control (CDC) regarding travel to parts of Central and South America, Africa, southern Asia, the Caribbean, and the South Pacific islands. Tonga is an area of interest. There is growing concern about the rapid spread of the ZIKA Virus and the impact of the virus on pregnant women and babies. ZIKA is transmitted by mosquitos in tropical and sub-tropical climates, and there is currently no cure or vaccine. This situation is evolving rapidly, so please refer to the CDC’s dedicated website if you are intending to cruise in one of the effected areas.

Documents

Local Movement Report for cruising within Tonga

Day sailing within the island groups is not restricted, but a Local Movement Report (Small Craft) known locally as a ‘domestic check-in, check-out’ is required when moving between groups served by customs offices.

Any harbour dues should be paid prior to visiting customs, as the receipt needs to be shown to obtain the Local Movement Report.

On arrival at the next island group, one must contact customs on arrival.

When travelling between Nuku'alofa and Vava'u, or vice versa, one can request that the Local Movement Report includes Ha'apai if intending to stop in that island group.

Last updated September 2014.

Fees

Port fees for the Kingdom of Tonga (Port of refuge, Neiafu, Vava'u) 2014 (fees quoted in local Tongan dollars).

Customs
During working hours, free
Overtime $20 per hour

Quarantine
Clearance fee per boat $28.50
Rubbish 0,40 per kg
Overtime $20 per hour

Immigration
A free 30 day Visa is granted upon entry and a second visa for 6 months can be purchased for $69 per month.

Health
$100
Overtime $20 per hour

Port Control
On departure harbour dues must be paid -  Vava'u charge 0.45c per gross tonne per month, Nuku’alofa charges $2.40 per gross tonne per month, Ha'apai no charges.
Overtime $20 per hour

Last updated September 2014.

Restrictions

Note: Swimming with whales is ILLEGAL from a private yacht!

Any swimming with whales is illegal UNLESS with a licenced operator. Fines are becoming larger and your Visa may be cancelled or your vessel could be detained. This has happened and visas have been cancelled with a yacht having to leave immediately. Rather go with a professional who knows how to approach whales. Don’t let yachties get a bad reputation.

Don’t harass whales: a collision at sea WILL ruin your entire day!

Marine Reserves: There are some underwater sites of particular beauty and these have been designated as marine reserves. These reserves are for viewing only, collection of shells or marine life is prohibited and anchoring is not permitted near or in the giant clam reserves.

There are seven marine and coastal reserves around Tongatapu: Hakaumamato Reef, Pangaimotu Reef, Malinoa Island and Reef, Ha'atafu Beach, Monuafe Island and Reef, Mounu Reef Giant Clam Reserve (northwest of the yacht harbour) and Muihopohoponga Coastal Reserve on Niutoua.

Three reserves are proposed for Vava'u: the wreck of Clan McWilliam in Neiafu harbour, the coral gardens between Nuapapu and Vaketeitu, the Giant Clam Reserves in Hunga Lagoon, Neiafu Harbour and off Ano Beach. Giant clams are an endangered species and those tagged with a number printed on the shell or an aluminium tag should not be disturbed even outside of the reserves. Visitors are requested to show restraint in collecting other shells, by taking dead shells or buying them and limiting the number taken to one or two of each species. Over-collection of Triton shells has led to an increase in crown of thorns starfish which in abundance can destroy the reef; and visitors are urged not to buy or collect tritons.

Waste Disposal: Throwing rubbish into the harbour or waters of Tonga is forbidden. As there are no refuse containers on the out islands, visitors are expected to carry all rubbish with them on board and dispose of it in one of the refuse containers in Faua harbour, on the wharf at Neiafu, or at the Moorings Base.

Last updated September 2014.

Local Customs

Social Customs:
Anyone appearing in public without a shirt (and ladies covered from shoulder to below the knee) will risk being fined.
Dress code is very strict, as is Sunday observance, when no work (even on your own boat), sporting or other strenuous activities are allowed. Neither should laundry be hung out to dry.
Hats should never be worn either in church, or in the presence of a person in authority or someone to whom you wish to show respect.
Displaying anger or frustration is considered very bad form in Tonga.

Pets

Animals, birds and plants need a quarantine certificate and may be confined on board. Dogs and parrots may be destroyed.

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