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How to Survive Rarotonga on $300 a day

September 12, 2008

My main motivation for trying to be frugal with money is so I can enjoy life a little more. If you’re a spendthrift then you’ll doubtless be doing the same, but with the added dimension of significant stress around VISA time…

The partner and I just got back from a week in Rarotonga, and, well, it wasn’t all that thrifty. But there is a very good reason for that. Second Chef (my partner) is heavily pregnant and we just needed things to be easy. Consequently we stayed at the Rarotonga Beach Resort. As I say, not so thrifty. We did do the math though, and with the travel agents offering resort packages the costs were kept down significantly. If you factor in all the freebies the resort includes (like the three breakfasts I ate every day, alleviating the need for lunch… yay for buffets), then it’s expensive but not too bad.

So how did we cover costs? No mortgage. This means that we save a fair amount of money ordinarily. It also means no stress trying to produce 70% of our incomes each fortnight to pay huge interest on an asset we could rent from someone else for half that.

What we learned though is that the next time we take one of these trips we’ll be armed with information to really save money on a holiday in the islands:

  1. get your driver’s licence and hire a scooter to get about the island. the buses are reliable, but when you can have a scooter for as little as $80 for 6 days you’ll find the costs are comparable. All in all petrol cost us $12, less than two return tickets on the bus ($14). We did this, and it was worth it, if not only for the convenience. Or, hire bicycles for about the same.
  2. stay in a bungalow and halve the cost for accomodation. A hotel can cost $250-300 per night, but a bungalow or bach can be found for as little as $125 per
  3. book your airfares months in advance, and half the cost
  4. try to land on the Thursday flight, and buy your food for the majority of the week at the markets on Saturday. We got a kg of lemons (for drinks), and 2kg of tomatoes for $3. $3!! These sort of bargains abound, but you need your own kitchen (hence the bungalow)
  5. don’t plan to do anything on the island except laze about, swim, read books, and eat pawpaw. Everything else is expensive (mind you, it’s actually cheaper to go diving there than it is here)
  6. buy your own snorkling gear from the Warehouse for very little
  7. don’t go in for the tours, they’re mostly just charming and witty bullshit (we did get to listen in on a couple at some locations). Buy/borrow a guidebook and you’ll get the same information
  8. cook for yourself. The range of ingredients is very similar to New Zealand, so you shouldn’t be too much out on a limb there. Any bought meals cost a minimum of $40. You’d have to be spending like a drunken sailor to spend more than that on ingredients even at the very small local stores.

And there you go. Some tips to enjoy an exotic South Pacific Island holiday, on significantly less than $300 per day, and all on your savings from not owning an albatross like a mortgage.

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