If you’ve visited and fallen in love with Fiji, chances are you’ve entertained the fantasy of making this island paradise your permanent home. And if you’re brave and adventurous enough to leave the life you know and make this dream a reality, read on for some practical advice on how to make your transition to becoming Kai Viti (residents of Fiji) a bit easier.
Visitors-turned-residents will want to start by doing ample research and legwork before actually making their big move. Tourist visas to Fiji are valid for three to four months (you can renew the visa for another three months by briefly stepping out of the country), so you’ll probably want to arrange for a residence permit (and work permits, if you will be working while in Fiji). This can be done before you actually arrive in Fiji by filling out appropriate forms and supplying required documents to the Fiji High Commission (see http://www.fiji.org.nz/consular-and-immigration-/). Children of expats in Fiji usually attend the International School, and arrangements for this can be made in advance (see below for more detailed information on schools and universities in Fiji).
Unless you are relocating to Fiji specifically for work or a long-term project, you might want to decide which island is most suited for you. Viti Levu is considered the mainland and with its varying landscapes and amenities, may be the place in Fiji that will allow you to most closely simulate a recognizable Western lifestyle. The Yasawas and the Mamancuas Islands offer a more rural and remote lifestyle. Rental properties in Fiji can range anywhere from $240USD to $3,500 USD per month. (See below for more detailed information on renting and buying property in Fiji.)
What to bring and how to bring it are other questions that would-be-Fiji residents should be asking themselves. Remember that you’re moving to the tropics, where the high temperatures and humidity will make winter clothes unnecessary. Fiji has many local products and brand names imported from New Zealand and is a duty-free shopper’s paradise, where bargaining is acceptable in most stores. However, if there’s a particular brand of chocolate or coffee or cereal or toothpaste or insect repellant or whatever else that you simply cannot feel at home without, be sure to bring it with you.
A very convenient way of shipping your things to Fiji is to rent a container on a freighter. This way, you can accompany your things, or you can fly over a few days later when you’ve received confirmation that your things have arrived safe and sound. Intlmovers.com is a good source where you can search various options for shipping your belongings via air or sea.
Once you’ve arrived in Fiji, you’ll want to make the most of what can appropriately be called “the coconut grapevine,” which will allow you to obtain the goods and services you’ll require by making connections with the local Fijians and expats living on the islands. Like in any country, the bureaucracy in Fiji and the hoops and hassles of dealing with daily concerns of setting up a home can be quite overwhelming. Making appropriate connections will enable new residents to take advantage of tried-and-true tips and advice. Online social networking sources such as Expatfinder and Facebook (as well as a plethora of expat blogs that currently exist) will be useful in seeking out others who may have already made the big move to the islands.