People living in French Polynesia use the CFP franc as their official currency. This is a French overseas territory hence the name French Polynesia and also the use of a franc-based currency in daily life.
While the franc is predictably broken into 100 centimes this is now nothing more than a moot point. All the coins and banknotes are denominated in francs so you don’t have to worry about determining which coins are which.
You’ll see a variety of denominations available in coins, from the smallest one franc coin to the highest-valued 100 franc coin. You can also use the 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 franc coins. Aside from these there is a relatively small number of banknotes. They are the 500, 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 franc notes.
We have to go right back to the mid-Forties to find the first use of the CFP franc in history. It is called the CFP franc as it is known as Change Franc Pacifique, which literally means Pacific Franc Exchange. Interestingly enough it has gone by two other names during its history, although they have always used the same three letters so no changes were made in this respect.
While it existed as a single currency from the very beginning, the CFP franc did have certain regional variations depending on the territory that used it. In the case of French Polynesia the currency was referred to as the French Polynesian franc. It is a similar situation to the euro today, which is used in many countries yet each individual country has a country-based side to the coins it uses.
Most people who visit French Polynesia visit Tahiti, since this is by far the most famous island in the area. It can be quite challenging to get hold of any CFP francs prior to arriving on the islands, specifically because this is not a currency that is often called for. However some bureaux de change will get the currency for you, although you may well have to shop around and even then you’ll likely have to order it well in advance. Make sure you allow enough time for this.
Clearly since there are many islands here to be aware of, the ease with which you can get hold of the franc depends on where you are. If you wish to visit one of the smaller islands it is best to check out the facilities there in advance. Obviously if you were to visit an uninhabited one you wouldn’t need any cash anyway!
The good news is that Tahiti – probably the one and only French Polynesian island you will have heard of – is well-set up to cater for tourists. This means you can quite easily get hold of the local currency here. There are cash machines around that you can use and you can also pay via credit card if you have one.
Another piece of good news is that Tahiti is more than amenable to accepting traveller’s cheques. Again, if you are visiting different islands or Tahiti isn’t your intended destination, check the island you are going to will accept them. The best ones to get are those denominated in either euros or US dollars. The CFP franc is pegged to the value of the euro which is particularly useful to know in this respect.
This won’t be one of the easiest currencies to find on the currency converters. However if you find a halfway-decent one it should be included on its list. The quickest way to find it is as always by looking for the ISO currency code, which in this case is XPF. You can type this into the converter and it should take you straight to the right currency. Make sure you choose this and not the African version of the franc, as the ISO code is very similar.
The best way to find out the latest information about travelling throughout the French Polynesian region is to go to the official website for the UK government. They provide travel advice for dozens of countries and regions around the world. The relevant page for this one is at https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/french-polynesia.
This part of the world is popular among tourists for good reason. It is good to know it is pretty safe as well, since crime levels are very low. It does make sense to take some basic precautions just to protect your belongings but you shouldn’t have to worry about such things as bag snatching or even pickpocketing as they do not occur on a large scale.
French Polynesia exists over a huge expanse of territory, and yet the many islands that go to make it up are for the most part quite tiny. For example, there are well over 100 islands in all, and only around half of them have anyone living on them. As such while it is often called a country it is really a collection of islands spread over a huge space. Furthermore these islands amount to only a little over 1600 square miles in total.
The capital of the island nation is a place called Papeete. This boasts a rather impressive waterfront area so if you happen to hanker after boats you’ll find some nice ones here to look at. Its waterfront position is also why this spot is popular among cruise ships sailing in the area. You may well see one or two of them as you explore the area. As you might expect of the capital of French Polynesia, it is located on one of the main islands – Tahiti itself no less.
It is easily worth spending a day or two in Papeete to make the most of the many sights here. Among them are Bougainville Park, an attractive park that is wonderful to stroll through and good for younger children too as there are slides and other playground equipment there. If you would rather go shopping you shouldn’t miss the Papeete Market, which is an undercover market for the most part. It provides you with lots of stalls to look round that sell all manner of handicrafts and similar items, many of them locally made.
Tahiti offers plenty of other exciting things to see and do outside of the capital as well. While the island is one land mass it almost looks as if it is divided in two. The largest part of the island is almost circular and has Papeete situated to the north-western side of it. In the south-eastern area of this main section of Tahiti is a small section of land that juts out and spreads into the second, smaller section of the island. This isn’t quite circular but it does give the impression that it is two islands rather than one, even though there are roads going from one section to the other.
Since one of the finest parts of Tahiti is its coastline (and it does have a lot of it thanks to that unusual shape) you can hope on a tour that will take you right round the entire island. There is no better way to appreciate the scenery than this, particularly as you won’t be responsible for driving. This leaves you free to look out of the window at the spectacular scenes you will constantly be passing. The good news is the tour also stops at some of the very best highlights, enabling you to take some pictures en route.
Another attraction that is unique to Tahiti is that of the Pearl Museum. This is the only one of its kind in the entire world, so make sure you see it. Whatever you thought you knew about pearls, think again – this museum reveals it all.
There is much more to Tahiti than its perimeter though. There is much to be seen and experienced if you head inland and leave the diving opportunities behind, at least for a while. This is the place where adventurous hikers can be found, heading for the hills and wanting to explore the many routes available here. Located in the larger section of Tahiti is Mont Orohena – the highest mountain not just in Tahiti but in all of French Polynesia. You don’t have to climb the mountain to appreciate the beauty to be found inland, but it certainly makes for an inviting backdrop!
As you can see, there are many islands just begging to be discovered in French Polynesia. While the majority of visitors to this part of the world do flock to Tahiti – and for many good reasons too – some do not. They might head to a lesser-known part of the world here.
However, regardless of where you decide to go you can be sure you will be captivated by the charm that is inherent in French Polynesia.