When we think about travel to Tahiti, we envision crystalline lagoons in Bora Bora, swimming with Blacktip reef sharks, dreamy stays in overwater bungalows, and the sweet floral scents that waft across Moorea, Huahine, Taha’a and all of the islands. These hallmarks of French Polynesia all still await Tahiti’s visitors. But this being 2020, we also need to address the oh-so-sexy topic of COVID travel protocols and how this affects travel plans for Tahiti.
I hear you: you are ready to plan your dream travel to Tahiti, but you may be a little unsure about what travel to Tahiti looks like right now. Also, wearing a mask in a tropical destination doesn’t exactly mesh with your visions of paradise. I get it. Let’s take a look at the new steps in place for travelers to Tahiti so we have a better understanding of what to expect.
The good news is that the Islands of Tahiti largely avoided major effects from COVID-19, and French Polynesia was declared COVID-free as of 29 May 2020. The Islands of Tahiti wisely took the downtime when international travel was curtailed to design measured steps for reopening the Islands to tourism: steps that preserve the unique Tahitian travel experience as well as everyone’s health. As of 15 July 2020, Tahiti is once again open to all international visitors. So let’s get an overview of the Tahiti travel experience and what you need to know right now (with the understanding that guidelines may change over time):
Travel Insurance. All travelers are required to have travel insurance or a financial guarantee declaration that would provide coverage for COVID-related medical care, confinement, and/or repatriation costs.
Test. Prior to your flight, you will need to present a negative test result based on a SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR (virus genome test). This is the nasopharyngeal test performed with a long swab. The test must have been completed within three days of your departure flight to Tahiti. If you have trouble finding a testing site in your area that will give you such quick results, Air Tahiti Nui has identified a medical testing provider in Los Angeles that can perform the necessary test for Air Tahiti Nui passengers and provide results in approximately 48 hours. It is strongly recommended to take the test as early as possible within the three day window prior to departure window. A certificate of a negative result (including identification of the type of test, namely an 'RT-PCR Covid-19 test) must be shown to your airline at check-in. Airport officials in Tahiti may also request to see the certificate.
Online Form. Additionally, all travelers must fill in a health entry form prior to departure. This form, specific to French Polynesia, must be completed online no earlier than three days in advance of travel at www.ETIS.pf (ETIS stands for Electronic Travel Information System). You must already have your negative SARS-CoV-2-RT-PCR test in hand when completing the form. The form will ask you about your itinerary, your insurance, and your test results. Once you complete the form, you must print out your receipt that shows a QR code. You will present your receipt to the airline at check-in, and again upon arrival in Tahiti. You should keep a copy of this form with you during your stay in the Tahitian Islands.
In the air: what to expect on your flight to Tahiti
If you fly with Air Tahiti Nui (as many of our Tahiti travelers do), you will notice some differences in your travel experience, all designed for peace of mind and the highest standards of cleanliness. Other airlines also flying from the United States to Tahiti have put similar measures in place. Here are the changes outlined by Air Tahiti Nui:
Physical distancing. In the airport, during boarding, and on board, physical distancing measures are in place.
Welcome packet. Passengers will receive a welcome packet that includes a mask, hand sanitizer, and wipes.
Enhanced cleaning and disinfection of the aircraft before, during, and after the flight.
Fresh air. While not new, it is worth noting that the air inside the aircraft is renewed every two to three minutes, and purified through highly effective HEPA filters.
Masks. Crew and passengers are required to wear masks at the airport and during the flight.
Meal service. A simplified meal service has been introduced to minimize physical contact.
Duty free service and in-flight magazines have been temporarily suspended.
During the flight, you will also be provided with a traceability form to complete.
Here is a link to a video by Air Tahiti Nui about the new measures in place on board. Of course, warm Tahitian hospitality is evident every step of the way.
While in Tahiti: what to expect in the islands
Self-test kit. Upon arrival at the airport in Tahiti, you will be presented with a date-stamped envelope containing a COVID-19 self-test kit. On the fourth day of your stay in the Islands, you must perform a self-test consisting of nasal and oral swab sampling. Once you have completed each swab, you place them into a collection tube, which is then double bagged for transport. You then bring the pouch to the reception of your resort. You would only be notified in case of a positive result. You can watch a short video by Tahiti Tourisme on the self-test kit steps here.
Step right up. In public spaces and when in the presence of others, you are asked to wear a mask and wash or sanitize your hands frequently. When checking in at your resort or in other public places, the spaces have been adapted to allow for physical distancing (for example, by floor markers at reception and spaced-out tables in restaurants). Staff at resorts are taking additional cleaning measures, with a particular emphasis on frequent touch points. Of course, when you are on your own, it is up to you whether to wear a mask or not.
Island distancing. The wonderful thing about the Islands of Tahiti is that physical distancing has essentially always been built into the island experience: private overwater bungalows or garden patios with private plunge pools, wide open lagoons, stunning beaches, hiking trails....all lend themselves beautifully to a relaxed social distance. With Tahiti receiving about the same amount of visitors in a year as Hawaii sees in a typical week, Tahiti has never felt crowded.
Tropical style. Tourism service providers in Tahiti have been given official guidance on conducting tours safely in respect to wearing masks, physical distancing where possible, and providing opportunities for hand washing or sanitizing. While in Tahiti, be on the lookout for gorgeous tropical fabrics that have been made into masks. I get it, no one likes wearing a mask, but if we’ve got to, we might as well make it fun and match the tropical environment. (Travel tip: balance out your mask-free time at your overwater bungalow or private garden to avoid raccoon-like facial tan lines. Also, always bring plenty of high-SPF, reef-safe sunscreen to Tahiti: the sun is incredibly strong.)
I'll leave you with a link to another brief video produced by Tahiti Tourisme, showcasing the incomparable beauty of the Islands of Tahiti and the steps being taken to keep everyone safe: Let’s Take the Right Steps in the Islands of Tahiti. I dare you to watch and not want to plan your next vacation to Tahiti, stat!
Here’s my personal opinion: Tahiti is honoring the moment we’re all in, and the Islands are taking the right steps while preserving the uniquely Tahitian hospitality and experience you will find nowhere else in the world. The Islands are reopening smartly and with little impact to the overall Tahiti travel experience.
When you’re ready to start your future Tahiti travel planning, reach out to me. I am a Certified Tahiti Specialist and would love to take care of all the details for the ultimate Tahiti vacation of your dreams. For Tahiti planning especially, planning 6-9+ months out is wise to ensure the best availability and options. You can contact me through my contact page or at welcome @ bluetailtravel . com. I look forward to connecting!
Happy Travels Always,
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Disclaimer: Bluetail Travel is not responsible for the current validity or changes to the travel information provided in this article. This article summarizes publicly available information available at the time of publication and is provided as an overview only.
Information sources: Tahiti Tourisme, Air Tahiti Nui, Aéroport de Tahiti, Gouvernement de Polynésie française
Photos of Tahiti within article: copyright Christina Schlegel 2019, all rights reserved.