Wallis and Futuna is the name of a small series of islands located in the South Pacific. These islands use the CFP franc as their national currency. This stands for the Cour de Franc Pacifique, which basically means it is known as the Pacific franc in English.
As you might guess from the use of the franc, the subunit here is the centime. There are 100 to each franc although as with some other world currencies you won’t actually see the centime in use. This is because the franc is now the only denomination that coins and banknotes are available in.
The smallest value of coin is the one franc coin. Aside from this there are a variety of other coins. These are the 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 franc coins. You will also find four banknotes that are commonly used, and these are the 500, 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 franc notes.
You might think the name of this currency rings a bell, but this could be because the franc was created at the exact same time as the similarly-named CFA franc. This latter version of the franc was designed for use in Africa, while the Pacific franc was designed for use in the Pacific part of the world.
Initially this franc came in three versions and Wallis and Futuna were granted use of the New Caledonian franc. However today the currencies are all known more simply as the CFP franc.
This is nothing short of a challenge to be honest, so it pays to be prepared! Firstly you may run into problems trying to get hold of the franc prior to arriving in Wallis and Futuna. Secondly there isn’t a bank at the airport either, so you can’t very easily exchange your cash once you get there. Your best bet is to head for the shopping centre in Mata’Uta because there is a bank there that is usually happy to exchange foreign currencies for the local franc.
If you are thinking of taking in traveller’s cheques it is best not to do so. There is a good reason for this – most places simply don’t accept them anymore. The one place that still appears to do so charges an extremely hefty fee for the service so it is best to avoid them altogether.
Judging by the stories told by travellers to the islands, the best option is to bring in US dollars. Some people have said it is easy enough to actually pay in US dollars in many outlets, although the downside is this won’t apply everywhere you go. This means you could get stuck if you solely rely on this and end up going somewhere that rightly expects the local currency.
So what do you do if you cannot get the franc before you travel and it is made virtually impossible to get when you arrive as well? The good news is some outlets will provide the franc in advance of your travel to the islands. The bad news is they are few and far between so you’ll have to do some detective work to ensure you can get the right amount of cash you’ll need.
Another piece of good news – in case you were desperately in search of some! – is that credit cards are generally accepted in lots of places in Wallis and Futuna. You do also have the opportunity to get a cash advance on your card, although do check the rates for this in relation to your particular card. You want to know the charges prior to doing it.
It’s worth knowing that the Wallis and Futuna Pacific franc is pegged to the value of the euro. However this is not on a one-to-one basis so you might still need to use a currency converter in order to work out what this particular franc is worth, even if you happen to use the euro in daily life. If you use any other currency you will undoubtedly need the converter to work out how much you will get in exchange for your own currency. Obviously this won’t include any commission you are charged on getting hold of it in the first place, but at least it gives you a place to start from.
If you would like to learn a little more about Wallis and Futuna, perhaps in advance of considering a trip there, try the UK government website. They have a page at https://www.gov.uk/government/world/wallis-and-futuna which gives you more advice and information on the islands.
So how safe will you be when you visit the islands? Well, crime isn’t completely non-existent but it doesn’t present a major problem. However it still makes sense to take some straightforward precautions, especially since you may be carrying cash with you a lot of the time. While you can pay for things by card you are likely to have either US dollars or the local currency with you as well – possibly both.
You might therefore want to make sure you book into a good hotel that provides you with the use of a safe during your stay. You can keep additional cash in there to make sure you don’t have to carry it all round with you or risk leaving it in your room without it being secured.
The Wallis and Futuna islands are north-east of Fiji and directly to the west of American Samoa. The largest land mass beyond this mix of islands is Australia, which is to the south-west of the islands.
This is not the most popular spot in the world to head for on holiday, although some people do choose it and have a great time there. Wallis is known for being volcanic in origin, offering a variety of scintillating and fascinating areas for you to visit. For example Lalolalo Lake is charming and worth a look, since it exists inside a volcanic crater. However for this very reason you cannot actually enter the lake since the sides are incredibly steep. If you jumped in you’d never get out again.
When you visit you will see shades of France almost everywhere you look. While these islands are far from France they still come under French foreign territory, hence the French look and feel to some of the areas you can visit.
On Futuna, not far from the airport on the island, you can visit Pierre Chanel church. It looks a little the worse for wear outside but don’t be fooled – the interior is quite spectacular. The church was named after the saint of the same name, and it is thought to have relics of him here. If you believe the information given about the relics you can also see the weapons that ended his life. It is rather bizarre and yet makes for a fascinating story. The spot where his life ended – in the church itself of course – is also marked for people to see.
The capital of the islands is a place called Mata-Utu. It exists on Uvea island and there are a few sights here worth seeing, perhaps most notably the Mata’Utu cathedral. While this is the capital it is really little more than a town, although it does provide some opportunities to find out more about the islands and how the capital has developed over the years. Another of the main sights here is definitely worth attempting – a climb up Mount Lulu Fakahega. This isn’t a mountain, far from it – it is actually a large hill offering sensational views from the top.
You can probably tell that tourist attractions in Wallis and Futuna are fairly few and far between. There are sights here but they are not promoted as tourist attractions as such, and to be honest this is the way the locals appear to like it. The islands are not heavily-indebted to tourists for their income or way of life. Indeed, nothing could be further from the truth. The remoteness of the islands means few people come here for a holiday, even though there are hotels and plenty of other services for those that do.
This is probably one of the reasons why getting hold of CFP francs is such a challenge compared to visiting other countries and islands around the world. They don’t particularly want to encourage a huge influx of tourists since the islands are not well-set up to receive them. The locals can enjoy their islands and merely welcome the odd visitor now and then. It seems to suit everyone and it is probably the way things will stay too.