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Countries Information & Lifestyle
 Tonga Tonga

Country Information & Lifestyle

 The Friendly Isles

The Friendly Isles

The Kingdom of Tonga is the official name of the islands and there are 176 islands spread over more than 400 km in the South Pacific Ocean, about a third of the way between New Zealand and Hawaii. Only 36 of the islands are inhabited with the majority of the population living on the main island group of Tongatapu and Eua in the south, Haapai in the middle and Vavau, Niutoputapu and Niuafoin the north.

Tonga lies south of the equator just west of the International Date Line and east of Fiji and is unique in that it is the only Polynesian country never to have been colonised and the only Monarchy in the Pacific. It lies directly to the south of Samoa, south east of Fiji and south west of Niu, the Cook Islands and Tahiti.

A proud, independent nation with a rich cultural history, the Kingdom of Tonga offers visitors a sense of discovery and adventure. It has many sought-after attributes including a pristine natural environment; beautiful reefs and beaches; a warm tropical climate; friendly dignified people; cultural traditions; and few tourists.

The Tongans once ruled much of Polynesia and have always maintained a strict and formal monarchy. They are deeply devoted to their Christian faith and this is clearly evident on Sundays when the country literally shuts down. They lead a relatively simple life making a livelihood though fishing and farming and live in close-knit communities surrounded by extended family.

The climate of Tonga is very pleasant, being slightly cooler and less humid than most tropical areas. A light breeze often tempers the humidity, and the islands receive most of their annual rainfall late in the season. The archipelago lies squarely in the South Pacific's cyclone/typhoon belt, with the greatest possibility for wild weather from January to March. The big cyclones come around roughly every 20 years, with a medium one every three to four years.

The capital of Tonga is Nuku'alofa, with a population of about 30,000 and is located on the coast of the island of Tongatapu. The official residence of the Tongan royal family, the King's Palace, overlooks the lagoon in the heart of Nuku'alofa Town. Tongatapu is a large, flat coral island covering some 250 square kilometres, with its southern side dominated by high coastal cliffs. There are several good beaches, amazing coastal scenery and interesting historical sites to explore.

Tonga's international airport, Fua'amotu, is located here and carriers offer direct flights from several of the main airports in the Pacific including Auckland, Sydney and Honolulu. There are also regular flights and a ferry service between then three main island groups.

Tonga has seven officially protected areas, including five national marine parks and reserves, one national historic park, and the 'Eua National Park. Two species of iguana call Tonga home, as do several colonies of flying fox, large fruit bats that enjoy sacred status and protection on the islands. The shining red parrot, the blue-crowned lorikeet and the incubator bird are to be found on Niuafo'ou. The scent of frangipani and heilala fill the air and more than 100 species of tropical fish live in the reefs around the islands.

The Vava'u group of islands is regarded as one of the premier sailing destinations in the South Pacific and is also a sanctuary for humpback whales which calf in the protected waters from July to October. Situated approximately 240 kilometres north of Tongatapu, the Vava'u Island Group is a smattering of 50-odd islands, in an area 23 by 25 kilometres, protected by a semi-circular reef.

The islands are separated by reefs or open water and the pace of life is slow and relaxed much like it was a century ago. The islands are hilly and relatively populated and among its diverse lofty trees are the fragrant pandaus, the elegant casuarine and the esteemed mulberry tree. The islands also abound in fruit and nut trees such as the breadfruit, tropical almond and coconut.

Vava'u is renowned for its unique shells and underwater world where dazzlingly beautiful coral gardens and reef fish offer snorkelers endless hours of delight. The waters teem with fish such as the tiny iridescent blue damsel and the gaily coloured clown and parrot fish, that dart among multi-hued coral pinnacles.

The Ha'apai's are low-lying coral atolls with fewer villages and no shortage of white sand beaches. Situated approximately halfway between Vava'u and Tongatapu the Ha'apai Islands are everything you might imagine of a tropical island paradise, friendly people; an uncanny sense of timelessness; remote, uninhabited atolls; lush, tropical bush; expansive, white sand beaches; balmy breezes and warm waters teeming with tropical fish. In Ha'apai you will find not only exceptional natural beauty, but also the friendliest folk in the Kingdom. Because papalangis or foreigners are rare in Ha'apai they are welcomed with open arms by the locals.

It was in Ha'apai that Captain Cook and his crew was invited ashore by the village chiefs for a feast. Unbeknown to Cook the chiefs' intention was to take over his ship and include some of his crew in the feast menu! Fortunately the chiefs could not agree on the timing of their gruesome plan and Cook sailed out of the Ha'apai's naming them the Friendly Isles. Ha'apai is also where the Mutiny on the Bounty in 1789 took place. Fletcher Christian forced Captain Bligh and a few of his crew to set off from Tofua Island in a rowboat on what was to become an epic journey.

Entering an outer island village in the ancient Polynesian Kingdom of Tonga is like walking back in time. Here the people are doing as they have done for centuries: living off the sea and the land. The villages are tidy, simple, and traditional; the villagers exceptionally friendly and generous.

Traditional song and dance also plays an integral role in the Tongan way of life. Ancient songs that have been passed down from subsequent generations are still sung at important ceremonies, and traditional dances are also performed, including the elegant solo dances performed by weddings brides.

Tongan food is delightful, and consists mostly of root vegetables such as taro and sweet potato, coconut products, fresh fruit, roasted suckling pig, chicken, corned beef, fish and shellfish. The traditional Tongan feast gets cooked in an underground oven, umu, common throughout Polynesia.

Whether you are considering a holiday home or a move permanently Tonga has everything anyone could want, all year round sunshine, friendly folks, beautiful beaches, history and excellent local cuisine. So come, discover the Friendly Isles of Oceania and stay awhile.

Purchasing a Property

Land in Tonga is owned by either the government or Nobles who were granted rights to the land. Native Tongan people were, in turn given plots of land in the form of tax allotments; rights to pieces of land with defined borders in exchange for the government's ability to tax the owner.

It can be quite complicated transaction for a foreigner to "acquire" property in Tonga. It has recently become common for a Tongan in possession of a tax allotment to lease it for a specified period of years. The government must approve all such lease agreements and, by law, they are not supposed to exceed 20 years.

A way around required government approval and the 20-year restriction is the rental agreement. This is similar to a lease and can be written for longer periods; typically 30 or even 50 years. In both cases, the owner of the tax allotment can also legally own any structures built on the land during the lease or rental period. And, in both cases, the financial transaction consists of a lump sum of cash up front and a monthly payment made throughout the term of the agreement.

A third and perhaps more desirable means for acquiring land in Tonga is the long-term government lease. This requires that the owner of the tax allotment surrender it to the government or to the Noble, if that's the case which allows the government or Noble to lease the land to a new party for up to 99 years. The owner of the tax allotment will typically receive greater financial compensation as inducement for surrender of his allotment and he will usually have to provide written explanation of his need or circumstances in a letter of surrender that gets presented to the Minister of Land for approval by cabinet.

This all sounds complicated because it is. There is a limited amount of land in Tonga and it's not likely that any more will spring up from the depths of the ocean. Land use, conservation, ownership and taxation are among many challenges facing the Tongan people and their government. Which leads to the number one concern for those considering a move to this archipelago.

Fees & Taxes

Search at the registry to ensure the lease is unencumbered 0.88$.

Preparation of the transfer form by a lawyer 500$.

Submitting the application for transfer 14$ + 10% of the property value (Stamp Duty).

Agent's fees 3% 10%.



Visas

All nationalities visiting Tonga are required to have a valid passport valid for at least six months plus return ticket. A visa is not required for nationals of United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, United States of America and other EU countries who can obtain a visitor's visa free of charge on arrival entitling the holder to stays of up to 31 days.

Nationals of Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovak republic and Slovenia do need a visa unless continuing their journey by the same or first connecting flight within less than 24 hours and not leaving the airport.

Visitors are required to have sufficient funds for the duration of stay.

Visas, valid on arrival and allowing multiple entry into Tonga, are required by all non-Tongan passport holders who are travelling on a one-way ticket, except for: holders of a letter of authority issued by one of Tonga's overseas diplomatic missions and bearing the official stamp of that Tongan diplomatic mission, or a letter of authority issued by the Immigration Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Tonga, bearing the official stamp of either the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Principal Immigration Officer.

Applications for visa extensions can be made at the Immigration Division, PO Box 352, Nuku'alofa, Tonga (tel: 26969 or 26970).

All other nationals are advised to contact the embassy to check visa requirements.

Visitors visa costs : TOP46 per month. Business visa: TOP200. Employment: visa TOP150. Transit: visa If transit period exceeds 24 hours, an airport tax of TOP25 is payable by all nationals over two years of age.

Visitors are allowed stays of up to 31 days. Extensions are available for a fee upon completion of an application at the Immigration Division. Business/employment visas are valid for up to two years and are renewable.

Applications for visas must be made prior to arrival. For enquirers, contact the consulate (or consular section at embassy or high commission) or the Visa Section, Immigration Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Headquarters in Nuku'alofa (tel: 26970 or 26969).

Approximately three to five. working days are required.

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