For the budget-conscious traveler, utilizing local buses provides an affordable means of navigating Fiji. The experience of riding in these open-windowed buses allows passengers to immerse themselves in the sights and sounds of the passing scenery while bouncing up and down on the well-padded seats as the bus traverses the streets. In the event of a sudden downpour, particularly common during the rainy season, canvas flaps are deployed and secured to the window frame with heavy-duty push buttons. These canvas flaps feature clear polyethylene windows, enabling passengers to still enjoy the view, and as soon as the rain stops, the locals click into action and, in unison, start rolling up the canvas again and securing it again out of the way. Though this does not always happen, some passengers just allow the wind to cause the canvas to flap away in the wind.
Traveling on local buses also offers visitors the chance to engage with the people of Fiji, known for their gracious hospitality towards travelers who are proud to show their home. With bus stops in every town and village, this mode of transportation remains the most prevalent throughout the islands, presenting an excellent opportunity to thoroughly explore Fiji.
The buses typically adhere to specific routes, stopping at main town and city bus stops. Operating on a laid-back schedule known as ‘Fiji Time,’ services typically commence at 6:30 a.m. and continue until 7 p.m. daily.
Some of the newer buses that have been introduced in the last 10 years do not hold the nostalgia of the older 1960–1970 buses. Although they do the job of taking you backwards and forwards to your destination, the overall experience we feel has been lost. Typically, both styles of buses travel along the same routes in Fiji, so you most likely have the opportunity to choose. The newer buses do have the advantage of knowing you will always arrive at your chosen destination completely dry; this cannot be said of the older ones.
Fiji Public Transport Ticketing System: eTransport
Buses employ an electronic ticketing system known as Etransport, with the slogan ‘travel easy’; which necessitates passengers to acquire a disposable prepaid card (offered in denominations of $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100) from Vodafone outlets or bus stations nationwide. These cards maintain validity for 30 days and are eligible for cash refunds during that timeframe at any Vodafone retail outlet. Further details on this system can be found in the comprehensive article provided below.
IN DEPTH SUPPORTING ARTICLE: Fiji Bus Transport: eTransport System
General Reference: Average Bus Prices
As a point of reference, we have compiled a few examples of the average prices for traveling to and from different destinations in Fiji.
- Getting around a city by bus: typically costs anywhere between 1 or 2 FJD per person, depending on the number of stops.
- If you are traveling between major towns along the Queen’s Highway, expect to pay between 2 and 5 FJD per person. For example, from Nadi to Lautoka or Suva to Pacific Harbour.
- When traversing across the whole island between the two main cities of Lautoka to Suva or Nadi to Suva, it will typically cost you around 20-25 FJD per person each way. This route is usually undertaken via air-conditioned coaches for comfort on the long journey that takes around 5-6 hours.
Images: Official Prices per Stage of Bus Travelled.
We have included below the 3-page FCCC Government Press Release (converted into images) detailing the bus fares across the main three islands in regard to the different stages of travel. Although this probably does not mean much to many, it means very little to us. However, we thought we would include it for reference.
Getting to and around Denarau Island
Access to Denarau is exclusive to the smaller yellow bus (West-Bus). Every 15 minutes, these buses travel up and down the road to Denarau Island from Nadi Bus Station, conveniently dropping passengers off in the heart of the Port Denarau shops and the main resorts on the island. The Yellow Westbus costs 1 FJD each way. (This service uses the ETransport system detailed above)
The open-air Bula Bus offers convenient transportation around Denarau Island, connecting the port (home to various restaurants), hotels, waterpark, and golf course. It’s an easy and preferable option, especially on hot days when walking might be less appealing.
A day pass for the Bula Bus costs $11 FJD, and a five-day pass is priced at $35 FJD. With the pass, you have the flexibility to hop on and off at any desired location. The buses operate every 10 minutes, ensuring minimal wait times between resorts and the marina. Simply purchase your ticket on-board.
Visitor Advisory 1: As you conclude your holiday, please take note that any remaining balance on your disposable card can be refunded at any Vodafone retailer or authorized agent outlet. Just present your disposable card and a valid ID to receive the refund in cash. Ensure that you complete this process before the card expires (within 30 days). Alternatively, consider the option of giving the card to a local resident, allowing them to utilize the remaining balance, a gesture that would be sincerely received.
Visitor Advisory 2: If you are in the country for an extended period of time, it might be worth getting to know your transport options and the overall transport system. Usually, there are multiple routes that take you to the desired destination. Traffic on certain routes may vary depending on time of the day and frequency of the transport.
Visitor Advisory 3: In rural areas, bus stops may be scarce. It is advisable to approach local villagers and inquire about the appropriate location to catch the bus. The residents are well-informed about the best ways to board buses in these areas. Additionally, in such regions, you can easily flag down public buses by signaling the driver from the roadside.
Travel Advisory 4: On the really old buses, we advise you to sit towards the middle and front of the bus. Stay away from the area near the driver’s side rear axle, as this is where the exhaust pipe is located. Sometimes, these historic buses emit plumes of black diesel smoke, and if the gentle breeze is blowing in the right—or, in this situation, the wrong—direction, you may experience remnants of engine particulate matter coating your nasal passages. It’s not a pleasant experience, but I can safely say it’s one you will remember and not wish to repeat.
Travel Advisory 5: During the summer months and in the middle of the day, the sun can be strong. If you are traveling on the older stock of buses in Fiji, when choosing your seat for your journey, take a look at where the sun is the strongest and select seats in the adjacent line. This way, you will always get a cool breeze fanning your face as the bus moves around the streets during your journey and avoid the full strength of the sunrays.
Travel Advisory 6: Local buses do not make pickups at Nadi Airport; the only available options for transportation are the express air-conditioned coaches and yellow taxis. Nevertheless, a local bus stop is situated across the road from the main airport gate for Nadi-bound travelers. It’s important to note that carrying multiple suitcases on a local bus may not be feasible. We strongly advise against doing so. If you are a budget-conscious traveler, consider using the air-conditioned coaches to transfer you to your destination, separate yourself from your luggage at your accommodation, and then use the public transport system. Heed this advice, as attempting to bring multiple suitcases on a local bus can be a nightmare for both you and other passengers. You might only save 3-4 dollars in total, but the unpleasant memory could linger and discourage you from using the service again during your adventure.
Visitor Safety Advisory
Visitor Safety Advisory 1: Hold On – In a crowded bus, with no place to sit, find the best standing spot. Make sure it is near a pole or a handle, which can be held on to. Holding on to something not just prevents you from falling over someone in case of unforeseen jerks and pushes, but it also transfers the weight off your legs and reduces the overall fatigue of travel, but try not to lean on poles – People have a habit of leaning over the poles in buses. This is not a good idea, as it does not allow your fellow passengers to find a place to hold on to.
Visitor Safety Advisory 2: Keep your transport cards/fare readily available – Keep the transport cards or your fare ready in the pocket. This quickens the boarding process. It also inhibits you from opening the wallet in crowded places, revealing the money and credit cards within. The more you display the money or expensive items on you, the more appealing a target you become.
Visitor Safety Advisory 3: Be aware of your personal belongings – Keep the luggage you are carrying with you to the minimum. Additionally, keep your wallets, cell phones and other expensive belongings close to you. If you have expensive items in the luggage, avoid leaving it on overhead racks. Instead stick them below the seat making them less accessible.