English is spoken by everyone and Cook Islands Maori is the local language.
Tipping is not the custom in the Cook Islands
Bona fide visitors do not require entry permits provided they possess onward passage and do not intend staying for more than 31 days. They must have a valid passport, adequate financial means of supporting their stay, and suitable accommodation.
Make sure you go to an Island Night if you want to see one of the star attractions of the Cook Islands - drumming and dancing. However, remember that you don't HAVE to have the meal that is usually laid on at the hotels and other places which run island nights. You can eat earlier at a cheaper place and then pay the entrance fee for the entertainment. This is usually about $10 a head.
Longer stays. Extension permits are usually granted for visitors wanting to stay over 31 days. Applications can be made on arrival at the Immigration Department. Extensions, for which there is a fee, are granted on a monthly basis, up to five additional months only. For up to three months the fee is NZ$70.00 (15 years and older), up to five months it is NZ$120.00 (15 years and older). Children under 15 are exempt from charges but must report to Immigration for official paperwork to be completed. People who wish to stay longer than six months must apply for a visa from their home country, before their arrival to:-
Principal Immigration Officer
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration
PO Box 105
Rarotonga Ph: (682) 29347
COOK ISLANDS Fax: (682) 21247
Entry for yachts. For mooring requests and information for seagoing vessels contact:-
PO Box 84
Rarotonga, Cook Islands. Ph: (682) 21-921 Fax: (682) 21-191.
Camping is prohibited in the Cook Islands.
Departure tax is NZ$55 for adults.
Cars and scooters can be rented but all drivers must have a current Cook Islands licence, this is a great souvenir and an even better tax-raising device for the Cook Islands Government. The test itself is a joke and no-one has been known to fail it. Remember, if you are going to travel at speeds over 40 kph you are required by law to wear a helmet. Suggestion: Allow about NZ$120 per week for hire of a 100cc two-seater scooter. This is the most widely used means of transport on Rarotonga by visitors and locals. Rates for renting cars (automobiles) vary but rock bottom price per day for older models is about NZ$45.
Driving is on the left-hand side of the road. Bicycles can be rented for about NZ$10 per day. There is a regular round the island bus service which goes in both directions usually about every 30 minutes.
Currency is the New Zealand dollar but you can buy souvenir Cook Islands coins and notes. NZ dollar floats so value fluctuates.
Suggestion: Most restaurants and shops accept credit cards but many do not, specially small grocery stores. Automatic Teller Machines are available on Rarotonga. Cards acceptable for cash withdrawas are Visa, Mastercard or any card issued overseas carrying the logos Cirrus, Plus or Maestro.
Duty free: When you arrive at Rarotonga Airport you should stock up on liquor and/or tobacco at the duty free shops before going through immigration check-in since liquor costs are on the high side once you are in the country. Also, you can bring in sealed processed foodstuffs.
Dress is casual but, in common with most Pacific islands and Asia, it is considered offensive to wear almost nothing when visiting towns or villages. Topless sunbathing is definitely a no-no.
Swimming gear. Bring suitable reef walker shoes with you for swimming or wading in the lagoon. Coral is sharp and a cut on the foot can easily get infected. Also bring your own snorkel mask and fins (flippers) if you want to explore the lagoon's coral heads. You can swim with reef shoes but you will get further quicker with fins.
There are e-mail and internet services from Telecom Cook Islands in Avarua as well as various wireless 'hotspots' around the island.
Electrical power is 240 volts 50 cycles, as for New Zealand and Australia. In some cases, a two pin adapter may be required. Some accommodation providers can supply connections for 110 volt electric razors.
Insects. There are no venomous reptiles on Rarotonga. However, in common with other tropical countries there are mosquitoes, ants and wasps. You should always use repellant on exposed legs and arms even during the day because mosquitoes can be active in the shade. The common brown tropical centipede can sometimes make an appearance, mostly in damp, dark areas such as bathrooms. They can bite if trodden on with bare feet. However, they are easily seen because they are usually about four inches (10 cm) long. Suggestion: You can deter them as well as millipedes (harmless), cockroaches and other beasties by drawing a line around the threshold of all ground floor entry points such as doors with white insecticide chalk. This can be bought quite cheaply at any general store in Avarua and will remain active for a couple of weeks.
Nearest major grocery shopping is at Wigmore's just west of Titikaveka, otherwise you will need to go into Avarua. If available, try and buy local vegetable and fruit because it is a lot cheaper than the imports from New Zealand. Wigmores often have fresh tuna steaks which can be fried quickly with just a little oil in a Teflon frypan, ummm!
You will find helpful suggestions in the guestbook, specially for eating out.