You may not be familiar with Tuvalu but its currency is one of the most famous in the world – the dollar. This is their own version of the dollar however, and you’ll learn more about it here.
The Tuvaluan dollar is divided into 100 cents as is the case with other dollar-based currencies. There are only five coins in circulation, which are the 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent coins; aside from these you also have the one dollar coin. You’ll see the dollar is represented by the usual dollar symbol, although this usually has a T or a TV next to it to make it clear it is the Tuvaluan dollar rather than any other. Unusually the cent is represented by a small ‘c’, although this also has a vertical line drawn through it.
While the Tuvaluan dollar has its own collection of coins in circulation, it actually uses the Australian banknotes rather than issuing its own.
Tuvalu hasn’t always used the Tuvaluan dollar as its official currency. This only came into force back in 1976, but as we now know Tuvalu has stuck with the Australian dollar notes ever since bringing in its own coins. As you might guess, Tuvalu used the Australian dollar prior to 1976, for a period of 10 years.
Tuvalu has never really had its own currency, instead using a variety of other well-known world currencies. These have included the US dollar and the British pound. The current situation seems to have stuck for quite a while though, so there is no sign of the country adopting its own proper currency aside from what it has now.
The main thing to remember here is that the country uses the Australian dollar notes, so this is what you need to get hold of before going on holiday there. Fortunately you can do this quite easily since the Aussie dollar is easy to pre-order from bureaux de change before you go. Traveller’s cheques are also okay to take, but again these should be taken in Australian dollars for ease of use.
You won’t get anywhere trying to pay with credit cards in Tuvalu, so you need to think in terms of getting by with cash at all times. This can be challenging if you’re used to paying by card at home. It is possible to go to the National Bank of Tuvalu to get an advance on your credit card, but this will incur charges you may not be willing to pay. Think about this in advance; you’re probably better off opting to take plenty of traveller’s cheques with you to cover all your needs.
The best thing to do here is not to look for the exchange rate with the Tuvaluan dollar but to check the rate with the Australian dollar. Firstly it is a lot easier to find on every currency converter and secondly the Tuvaluan version is at par with it, so they’re worth the same. Obviously you’ll have commission to bear in mind when it comes to exchanging one currency for another but at least you’ll have a good point to start from.
There is a consulate for Tuvalu in London but there is no dedicated website to represent it. Instead you can visit the UK government website, as it has a page devoted to Tuvalu and various pieces of travel information for the country. This can be found at https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/tuvalu.
Tuvalu seems to be a friendly and pleasant place to visit. The part of the world it is in means you have a chance of being affected by cyclones if you go anywhere between November through to April, so bear this in mind. The rest of the year should be fine in terms of extreme weather.
Tuvalu can be a challenge to get to and depart from, since there aren’t that many flights connecting it to other parts of the world. In terms of money we’ve already mentioned the importance of landing in Tuvalu with enough in the way of cash and traveller’s cheques to keep you going. Crime isn’t really a major concern here but it does always make sense to take the same precautions you would at home. If nothing else it will reduce the odds of accidentally leaving a bag behind if you set it to one side for a short time!
So what do we know about Tuvalu? Well, it is an island nation – something you may already have guessed – and it sits in the Pacific Ocean. If you look on a map you will see it is far away from any other islands in the region. Fiji is some considerable distance away to the south, while the Solomon Islands are located out to the west.
Technically-speaking there are several very small islands that make up Tuvalu, including one very long thin island that looks like a reverse L-shape on the map. There are a mere 10,000 or so people that call Tuvalu home, and when you visit you will see why – this is a tiny place in the scheme of things!
The capital of the island nation is Funafuti, which is in itself an atoll. This is in fact the L-shaped part of the islands we mentioned above. The Funafuti International Airport is situated here, taking advantage of the long strip of land to place its runway in a good position. Needless to say you always have ocean views here, since the size of the island becomes ever more apparent once you have landed.
Tuvalu isn’t a major tourist attraction and it isn’t particularly geared-up to receive lots of tourists either. Indeed, this is borne out by the slightly unreliable plane service going to and from the islands. While in Funafuti you can enjoy the lagoon that is a major feature of this particular island. With the Pacific Ocean wrapping itself around you in every direction, it is easy to see why people love swimming here. Indeed, water-based activities are one of the highlights you can do in Tuvalu. Snorkelling is great fun thanks to the clear waters and you might be surprised at how much you can see down there. You can also hire a boat to go out further from the land if you wish. There is a lot to be said for this, especially since it is the best (and probably only) way to reach the smaller land masses in Tuvalu where no one lives. You can have an island all to yourself for the day and never have to worry about finding a quiet spot on the beach! Pack a picnic, board your boat and sail off to a small slice of paradise. It might sound like a cliché but in Tuvalu it is a cliché you will be more than delighted to take part in.
If you do this in the Funafuti area you should be aware you are in a huge marine conservation area. Take great care to protect everything around you and do not disturb the wildlife and fish here. You may even see turtles on your travels, not to mention all kinds of birds that call this home or stop here en route to somewhere else.
Fongafale is another popular island in the region, and is well worth a visit. Again you will have some nice beaches to visit, but here you also get to see some remnants left over from the Second World War. Some of these are on the beaches themselves and tell a story of a world that is long since in the past.
Clearly Tuvalu is not the type of place to visit if you want a lively holiday with lots of bars and entertainment. However it is a good place to go if you want to get closer to nature and have a more relaxed holiday. If swimming, sunbathing, wandering along quiet roads and beaches and enjoying a natural break is your thing, you will probably love this part of the world.
It’s a good idea to do some more research on Tuvalu before you book anything though. A week here really would be getting away from it all but two weeks might prove to be a little too much. It all depends on the kind of holiday you really want and what you expect to do while you are there. Certainly, if you want to hire a boat and head out into the waters from islet to islet, you’ll have a great time getting away from it all. Indeed in this case, two weeks might not be anywhere near enough! Which side of the argument will you fall on?