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By No owner — last modified Nov 19, 2017 10:11 PM

 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  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 and EU countries not part of the Schengen Area Agreement.

Visitors from the Schengen Area countries are permitted a period of 90 days in any 180-day period.

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 A fine of $1150TOP will be charged for having an out of date visa.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 to Toronto, Canada, before being 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 traveller. The letter is valid for one month. A money order for $34.50 is required for the one-way authorisation letter to be issued.

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

Last updated December 2017.

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.

Note: After many boats being refused extensions by one individual in the Customs department, he has now resigned and the situation has returned to normal with extensions being granted.

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.

The Masters letter has to be stamped by Immigration and Customs – leave a copy with each department and take several yourself.

2) Haul your boat out of the water and sign a standard 'Master in Charge' letter with the managers of the boatyard (again, stamped by Immigration and Customs as above). 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.

Yacht in transit packages have customs inspection fees of $29top+ as well as courier service fees.

The local airline will fly equipment up for $4.50 a kg. (it may be cheaper to pick it up).

Last updated September 2017.

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.

Share |
Alita
Alita says:
Nov 15, 2017 07:37 AM

It is Europeans within the Schengen treaty, who get a 3 month visa on entry.

Ptadd
Ptadd says:
Oct 02, 2017 10:49 PM

Some people are getting 90 day visitor visas on arrival for free it is worth asking for it. For most people you then won't need to renew.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Sep 26, 2017 11:12 AM

Statement provided today from Vava'u Tourist Association, The BoatYard and other local businesses:

The individual within the Customs Department who raised this issue again has been a problem for us over the past few years, however today it was confirmed that he has resigned and that the situation has returned to normal with extensions now being granted.

This individual's decisions were not based on any government policy that we know of. Now that he has left the post, this issue shouldn't raise its head again, but to make sure of that the Vava'u Tourist Association and us at The BoatYard, along with the other local businesses are taking this further to secure the industry and to let the cruising public know that contrary to the actions of this one man, Tonga is open and welcoming to yachts.

We hope this helps to alleviate any concerns and we look forward to welcoming yachts here in Tonga for many more years to come.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Sep 24, 2017 09:39 PM

Feedback from Peter Bould:
There has been a change in the allowed time a visiting boat may stay in Tonga. They are refusing extensions beyond 4 months.
There is considerable upset both from local businesses and from visiting boaters about this.
It is possible the reverberations arising from this change may result in the policy being reversed back to what it was, which was about one year with extensions.
Watch this space.

davesaggs
davesaggs says:
May 28, 2017 10:41 AM

North and South Minerva Reefs. Drone video including entrances:
https://youtu.be/zRSloJHOXPs
https://youtu.be/bgEP0OwwyzI

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Jan 04, 2017 11:10 AM

Confirmation from Tonga Customs:

As per the normal procedure, you have to apply for your yacht temporary import permit after 4 months and it can be granted for up to 12 months total stay at the discretion of customs.

Re. 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 they are overseas.
2) Haul your boat out of the water and sign a standard 'Master in Charge' letter with the managers of the boatyard.

For more information see the Customs section under Formalities.

Franklin Gray
Franklin Gray says:
Dec 20, 2016 09:05 PM

New Customs rules: First entry you get 4 months. If you want to stay longer you must apply 2 weeks before that is up and you will only get 3 months and then will have to apply again. Also, if you plan on leaving the boat for any period of time you must have a non-Tongan on it or put it on the hard.

domander
domander says:
Oct 07, 2016 09:01 PM

Anyone who is arriving into Tonga on a one way airline ticket such as joining crew need to know the old advice about having a refundable ongoing air ticket from Air New Zealand may NOT be sufficient to allow a smooth entry into Tonga. A crew member arriving to join Prince Diamond in Tonga in September 2016 had such a ticket, but was required to buy another ticket (changeable but not refundable) all the way back to her home in Toronto, Canada before she would be allowed entry. And it was still required that the captain (me) type an email to Air New Zealand proclaiming that we would definitely be leaving Tonga by boat before they would issue a refund on the Tonga to New Zealand air ticket!

The correct procedure for entering a crew member into Tonga on a one way ticket is to type 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 and giving the following information:

Crew name
arrival date
date and booking number of flight into Tonga
passport number and date of expiry
full name and date of birth
Captain's name
Boat owner's name
Boat name, registration number, country and port of registry

There are probably other details required which I have forgotten. Just put the kitchen sink into that email!

A letter will be issued to be carried by the traveler. The cost is $34.50 TOP payable on arrival. As I said the letter is valid for one month. This procedure is a pain in the neck but is in the end the easiest way to do the entry. We had a real problem trying to get the refundable ticket refunded, as they would cancel the refundable ticket, but not refund the money!. And in addition the extra ticket back to the home country may not be usable for you depending on your situation. In our case we WERE returning home from New Zealand, so it worked out for us. Comments and questions welcomed.

BBeer
BBeer says:
Oct 28, 2016 03:04 AM

Allen, I'm sorry that you're so upset with your experience with internet access here at beautiful Hunga Haven. As you may recall, in order to ensure you enjoyed your stay here and left on a good note, I offered to give you back the little extra cash that I requested for the extra data usage. However, for some reason you refused and became very angry.

To be fair I just wanted to clarify a few things from my perspective. I was trying to invoice you for extra data usage over the maximums indicated on our Splash Page, the page you use the password to sign in. Some how either you or your computer were able to get into our system without authorization. We have since put a password on that section also, so that this will never happen again.

Our Internet Management System certainly does NOT monitor or record your account information or passwords, nor does it install spyware on your computer. That would be an invasion of your privacy, illegal and something we would never do. This same system is used in hotels, hospitals, restaurants and internet cafes around the world and to make such an accusation is very upsetting and unwarranted.

nautinauti
nautinauti says:
Oct 07, 2016 03:58 AM

Beware of bad operators in Vava'u. We had a very bad experience at Honga Haven, anchorage #13. My wife signed up for and received a password for 2 hrs. on Oct 6, 2016. He charged us for 3 hrs., 2 hrs as stated and an extra $10.00 for the previous day. We did not have a password for the previous day, Oct 5, 2016, we did not use any internet. They also monitor which sites you are on. Now I feel I must change each and every account and password I have. I have no way of knowing what spyware he may be using and what harm he may cause.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Sep 20, 2016 08:54 AM

Posted on behalf of Clare Sudlow:
Vava'u Bluewater Festival
Calling all South Pacific Cruisers! – Don’t miss the 2016 Vava’u Blue Water Festival! A fun filled week in Vava’u, Tonga from October 1st- 8th.
Enjoy the friendliest of welcomes & a week of local festivities, parades, informative talks & parties centered around a mid week fun cruisers race day.
For full info visit: www.vavau.to/bluewaterfestival

Heatwave
Heatwave says:
Aug 02, 2016 08:35 PM

Theft in Vava'u.
We had cruised through Tonga, taking our time and enjoying the friendly atmosphere and of course the low crime rate. Unfortunately when our family flew out of Vava'u their flight was delayed so they came back to Neiafu for a few hours rather than spending this time at the airport. They left their bags with the taxi driver. When they arrived in Nuku'alofa they discovered that several items of men's clothing were missing from one of the bags. The taxi driver was the same size as one of the guys. Just wanted to let you know to be aware, not everyone in Neiafu is as honest as they seem. Apart from this isolated incident everyone else has been fantastic and we had a great time there.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Apr 15, 2015 09:50 PM

Re: Hunga Tonga volcano - From Wiki
20° 34′ 12″ S, 175° 22′ 48″ W
Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai is a volcano located about 30 kilometres (19 mi) south-southeast of Fonuafoʻou (also known as Falcon Island). A new eruption began at Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai on December 19, 2014. The eruption continued into 2015, with a tall ash cloud rising 3 kilometers (9,800 ft) into the sky on January 6, 2015. The eruption entered a new stage on January 11, 2015, when the volcano began sending ash plumes as high as 9 kilometers (30,000 ft) into the sky. An ash plume reached 4.5 kilometers (15,000 ft) on January 13, and the large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus released underwater caused an explosion in the growth of algae causing a red tide. Officials identified two vents, one on Hunga Haʻapai and another about 100 meters (330 ft) offshore and underwater. By January 16, a new island had been formed by the explosion, although geologists said the new island would probably exist only a few months until ocean waves wore it down. Tongan officials declared the eruption at an end on January 26, after observing no new gas, ash, or rock emerging from the island vent. By this time, the island was 1 to 2 kilometres (0.62 to 1.24 mi) wide, 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) long, and 120 metres (390 ft) high. The island had joined with Hunga Haʻapai, and was about 200 metres (660 ft) away from joining with Hunga Tonga. Locals visiting the island said seabirds were nesting.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Oct 24, 2014 12:45 PM

Posted on behalf of SV Estrellita
We’ve renewed our visas twice now and the fee as of October 2014 was 69TOP per person per month for the visa extension. We paid $138TOP for the two of us each time we went in.

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OceansWatch: Reef Check Training in Tonga  (30 Nov 2008)

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Warning to Sailors Visiting Suwarrow Atoll in South Pacific  (31 Jul 2003)