Trip Coach: October 21, 2008
Alexis Kelly, editor of the Fodor's guidebook to Tahiti and Polynesia, answered your questions about earthly paradise.
While the destination's remote location does makes it a very expensive place, there are ways to save money. As I said to reader from Manassas, Va., cruising is the most economical way to experience this area. You'll cover more ground and there's nothing like gliding across the calm blue waters, watching the islands come into view, and exploring the different lagoons and beaches. By land you might only be able to afford to see one island in 7 days, by sea you could see four different ones. Another plus? You won't have to worry about transportation, crowds, or really anything.
If you don't want to cruise, consider staying in a pension or guesthouse, rather than a resort. Pensions and guesthouses are usually family-run and offer cheaper rates that include the half-board option (breakfast and dinner) or the option to self-cater (buy and prepare your own food in the on-site, communal kitchen). Some are quite charming and provide beautifully located, private accommodations. However, with inexpensive rates can come basic facilities (like no warm water), close proximity to other guests, shared bathrooms, etc. Not ideal for your romantic trip as newlyweds, but you will be together and could meet some really interesting people.
Renting a villa is also an option and one that would give you your own space. There are a few villas for rent on Bora Bora (with a view of the lagoon) that sleep two and range in price from $1899 to $2560 a week. On the high-end, it's about $350 per night, which is on the expensive side, but with your own kitchen you can self-cater, sleep in, and make your own rules.
Also, try dining at the roulottes instead of a pricey restaurant. These mobile food vans sell chicken, crepes, steak, and the traditional poisson cru (raw fish marinated in lime juice and coconut milk). They usually open around 6 p.m., and you can pull up a stool to eat or do take away. Some vans will even allow you to bring your own alcohol; just make sure you ask first.
You could also consider going to an island other than Tahiti.
• Moorea has the greatest range of budget accommodations (camping, self-catering, pensions, small hotels) and there are numerous restaurants nearby that allow you to dine according to your budget.
• Huahine has great villa-car-boat rental deals and there are reasonably priced restaurants and roulottes in Fare.
• There are no resorts on Maupiti, 25 miles west of Bora Bora, which eliminates the expensive option and most of its accommodations include the half-board (breakfast and dinner) option. There are very few excursions, but those that do exist will be cheaper than on other islands. This lack of options and lack of people might be exactly what you're looking for.
And check out Airtahiti.com. They are always offering amazing packages. If you can find a cheap flight from Orlando to New York's JFK, you might be able to make it work.
Atlanta, Ga.: Help. I would like to visit Australia and Tahiti, and limit my trip to 15 days. I would like to keep the price below $2,500. Is that possible? What time of year is it most affordable to travel to this area?
Alexis Kelly: I hate to break it to you, but I don't think it's possible to keep this type of trip under $2,500. The airfare alone could cost that much. I did see recently that Qantas was offering an economy ticket from NY's JFK to Sydney for about $1000 roundtrip. They were also offering special deals with American Airlines for connecting flights from other US cities to get to NYC, but none of the cities were Atlanta. So this means you still have to get to NYC, and then get to Tahiti once you're in Sydney. And then you have to stay somewhere, eat something, and maybe even leave your room to see some sights. It all adds up!
For this type of trip, I would figure around $3,500 for flight and accommodation, but again that does not include food. See what a travel agent, Air Tahiti Nui, or maybe even Qantas can come up with.
Air Tahiti Nui offers stopover packages from LA to Sydney, with the option to stay in Tahiti for 2-4 nights (a longer stay is an additional cost), but I would suggest calling them directly (or checking out their web site) to see what they have to offer.
I know calling a travel agent seems so archaic, but they do know of great packages and can do all of the research and leg work for you. They may even be aware of deals before they are published.
As for the most affordable time to travel, anytime between October and May will give you great weather and a good price. July and August are the most expensive and worst weather times.