money saving tips in society islands

9 Money Saving Tips for the Society Islands in French Polynesia

money saving tips in society islands

Traveling so easy a Gingerbread can do it!

Money Saving Tips

Sign up for hotel reward programs. 

Shop at nearby markets or grocery stores.

roast chicken chips

  • We purchased baguettes, cheese, lunch meat, snacks, wine, and beer from the nearby market in Bora Bora. We had drinks and lunch at our bungalow or packed a picnic when out exploring. Only eating out 1 or 2 meals per day and buying fewer drinks at restaurants significantly lowered our expenses.
  • At the markets, customers are charged $1 USD per bag at checkout. To cut costs further pack a reusable tote. 

Take the Aremiti Ferry instead of flying from Tahiti to Mo’orea.

  • We transferred to Mo’orea from Tahiti via inter island flight for the aerial views in lieu of splurging on a helicopter excursion. The Aremiti Ferry shuttles between Tahiti and Mo’orea for about $15 USD per person each way.

Bring liquor and snacks in a checked bag.

mitch on a dock

  • We packed carefully wrapped bottles of rum, sake, and vodka in our checked bag from Pittsburgh, PA significantly lowering our alcohol expenses. In Mo’orea we used the complimentary Diet Cokes in our mini fridge as a mixer cutting costs even further. 

Use credit cards instead of cash. 

  • The conversion rate is 1 USD: 100 XPF, regardless of daily fluctuations. Depending on the exchange rate, using credit cards could result in a slightly better price. According to our guide, USD are accepted almost everywhere since Americans were the first tourists to the island. 

Book excursions in advance.

  • We booked all of our tours in advance through Viator. Once in French Polynesia, we saw our resorts offered the same or very similar tours through the same local companies at much higher price.

Don’t throw away liquids over 3 ounces before boarding inter island flights.

air tahiti nui

  • Liquids aren’t limited to 3 ounce containers on Air Tahiti inter island flights. Bottles of rum, water, and commercial sized sunscreen are all welcome in carryon bags. Contrary to our research, carryon bags were not weighed at check in. We were only required to show the bag.

Take the free shuttle boat from Bora Bora Airport (BOB) to the main island.

  • Bora Bora Airport (BOB) is located on an island. There is a free shuttle boat that takes passengers from Bora Bora Airport to Vaitape Port on the main island. Staying on the main island, our hotel informed us it was cheaper to take a taxi from the port than a prearranged shuttle through the hotel. Direct boat transfers from the airport to motus must be pre-scheduled through the resort.

Budget accordingly. French Polynesia is expensive.

  • The average cost of a cocktail is 17 XPF (if using cash, the island uses the conversion rate of 100 XPF: 1 USD regardless of the daily exchange rate). Many resorts offer happy hour with a buy one cocktail get the second free special starting around 5:00pm and lasting 1-2 hours. Bottled water is not complimentary at restaurants. We never had an issue bringing our own water bottles to dinner.
entrees in french polynesia
Baked Fish of the Day Parmesan & Almond Encrusted with Passion Fruit Sauce $23 USD at Hiti Mahana in Tahiti (pictured left) Seared Mahi Mahi with Taha’a Vanilla Sauce $28 USD at Matira Beach Restaurant in Bora Bora.
  • Most entrees increase from around $28 XPF and are a smaller serving size. Very few restaurants offered appetizers or sides. When a starter salad was available it was about $18 XPF. Resort breakfast buffets were $50 USD per person and dinner buffets during the Polynesian dances were $95 USD per person. Luckily we waited, and were able to see a free Polynesian show while staying at the Tahiti Pearl Beach Resort & Spa

Did You Know?

There are no Polynesian restaurants.

  • Polynesians don’t eat their traditional food every day. Saturday men fish and women prepare vegetables and roots for the weekend feast. Early Sunday morning a pit is prepped, and the food is wrapped in leaves for a day of slow underground cooking. Due to the amount of time involved with preparing a traditional Polynesian meal there are no restaurants, but excursions are available to partake in a traditional feast.

French Polynesia is extremely…French.


  • Thinking of France, we picture the Champs-Élysées, champagne, macaroons, and sophistication. French Polynesia put a twist on that image. A waitress with a flower behind her ear in a floral dress delivered our cocktails accompanied by a small bowl of marinated olives. We browsed a French menu illuminated by tiki torches while reapplying a layer of bug repellent.
  • We encountered several residents originally from France. Because there are no visa requirements from France to French Polynesia, it’s not uncommon for vacationers to cancel their return flight and take up residency.

Most flights from Tahiti stop at Mo’orea and then Bora Bora.

view of bora bora from plane

  • After an 8 hour flight from Los Angeles, California (LAX) to Tahiti, we boarded an inter island flight that stopped at Mo’orea for passengers to disembark before continuing the roughly 40 minute flight to Bora Bora. Visiting Mo’orea first and Bora Bora second will result in the most direct flight route.

Traveling Gingerbread Tip: When leaving Bora Bora sit on the right side of the plane for the view above. 

A flower behind the ear is more than an accessory.

  • A flower behind the left ear signifies marriage, while a flower being the right ear means you are single and ready to mingle. Men traditionally wear closed flowers while women’s flowers are fully bloomed. 

Wear bug repellent after sundown.

  • As soon as the sun went down, we swapped sunscreen for bug spray. Even quick trips out after sunset resulted in insect bites. We had success with insect repellent citronella bands until Tahiti, where mosquitoes landed on the bands during our tour through the rainforest.

There is little to no night life on Mo’orea and Bora Bora.

last night in tahiti

  • From Mo’orea, locals take the Aremiti Ferry from Vaiare to to Pape’ete, Tahiti for a night out. There isn’t a downtown area in Mo’orea or Bora Bora and most resort bars close around 10:00pm. We didn’t mind the early nights and woke up early each morning to watch the breathtaking sunrises.

Temperatures can be cooler than expected in the evening.

  • We visited French Polynesia in early September. It was windy and overcast with scattered rain showers the majority of the trip. Luckily, we wore warmer clothing on the plane because we didn’t expect the chilly temperatures in the evening. The locals informed us the seasons have begun to shift. That weather is typical of July, their “winter”.

tiki torches

September 2019


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