Tahiti Will Open Its Borders to International Tourists on May 1

Resorts, cruises, and airlines are already offering deals for travelers

Beach resorts in Tahiti
Max shen / Getty Images

If you're aching for a change of scenery, you can now book a flight to French Polynesia starting May 1, the country's official date to reopen to international tourists.

To visit, you'll need to abide by testing and health protocols at the border, and also show a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival. What precisely those health protocols will look like is yet to be announced. According to French Polynesia President Édouard Fritch, the country will be implementing entry protocols using "virological testing, serological testing, vaccine, and ETIS (Electronic Travel Information System[s])." The announcement of a May 1 opening comes after a series of conversations between Fritch and French President Emmanuel Macron, who collectively selected May 1 based on several economic and health-related factors.

French Polynesia's current COVID-19 rate is less than 20 new cases per week, in a nation of around 275,000 people across 118 islands, an infection rate of less than 0.008 percent. COVID-19 vaccinations are currently available to all residents.

Before the most recent closure in February, travelers were issued a self-administered COVID-19 test to be used four days after arrival. Travelers dropped the tests off at their hotel's front desk or one of several central drop-off points. For the few tests that came back positive, travelers could self-quarantine at their resort or return to Tahiti's central quarantine location, where they received healthcare, meals, and lodging. According to representatives from Tahiti Tourism, the country hasn't determined whether that program or a similar one will be re-implemented by May 1.

The announcement comes on the heels of many companies announcing flight and travel deals to help rebuild the Tahitian economy, especially for U.S. luxury and honeymoon travelers. Air Tahiti Nui announced earlier in March that it would resume Los Angeles-to-Tahiti flights on May 1, complying with the country's rule requiring passengers to show proof of a negative COVID-19. Multi-island adventure company Aranui Cruises, which administers COVID-19 tests before and during sailings – announced four-figure discounts on Marquesas Islands cruises, and luxury resorts like Le Bora Bora and Le Taha'a are offering discounts of up to 40 percent for willing travelers. Tourism accounts for a large percentage of French Polynesia’s $3.45 billion GDP, with 17 percent of the workforce employed in tourism and hospitality.

French Polynesia closed its borders on Feb. 3, 2021, reversing an initial re-opening on July 15 after March 2020's first border closure. The February freeze—announced by Macron—limited all non-essential travel outside the E.U. and included French autonomous territories like French Polynesia. The government announcement was in response to COVID-19 rates in France, though French Polynesia's rates have stayed comparatively low. 

With the border opening announcement, French Polynesia also announced its designation as a "Safe Travels by WTTC" country. Managed by the World Travel and Tourism Council, the "safe travels" designation is given to countries that agree to abide by a global set of health and safety-related travel guidelines for travelers and residents. The long list of protocols is based on World Health Organization and the U.S. Center for Disease Control recommendations and includes criteria like avoiding guest food handling and using electrostatic spraying technology and disinfectants in public areas. French Polynesia joins a long list of other popular tourist countries with the designation, including the U.K., Portugal, the Maldives, and the Bahamas.

From the U.S., direct flights to Tahiti's Papeete are available from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Honolulu. The flight time from LAX to Papeete is approximately eight hours, and travelers can learn more about visiting French Polynesia at TahitiTourism.com

Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Embassy in Fiji, Kiribati, Nauri, Tonga, and Tuvalu. "COVID-19 Information." April 9, 2021.

  2. Reuters. "COVID-19 Tracker." April 9, 2021.

  3. Air Tahiti. "Resumption of Air Tahiti Nui Commercial Flights." April 9, 2021.

  4. Index Mundi. "French Polynesia Economy Profile." Retrieved April 9, 2021

  5. World Travel and Tourism Council. "Safe Travels: Global Protocol and Stamp for the New Normal." April 9, 2021.

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