If backpacking conjures up wintry memories of ‘self-discovery’ marooned somewhere in the murky hinterland of eastern Europe, in some grimy and somewhat sinister hostel-from-hell, well switch up your style! Dust down your boardies, dig out your snorkel, and book a one-way ticket to Fiji for some uber-island hopping. And when you’ve arrived on the speedboat, and you’re kicking back on the world’s most perfect beach, don’t forget the friends you left behind who preferred to stay in Transylvania stoically eating goulash in the rain. Send them a sunny postcard. They will hate you.
One of the fantastic things about Fiji is that as well as the covetously expensive resorts, the archipelago also hides some really cool budget travel accommodation, (which also means that you can stay for ages!) There’s a bulging backpack of options across Vitu Levu, in the usual tourist hubs; Nadi, Suva and the Coral Coast, but if you want to kiss goodbye to civilisation, remoter islands in the Yasawas, Mamanucas and Kadavu are peppered with chirpy cheapies. Some of the smaller islands may not have hot water, and their electrical supply may by a bit temperamental, but with that heavenly sunset vista, and the bonfire crackling away on the beach, really, who cares?...
Expect to pay between $25 and $40 for a standard dorm room on the larger islands, but up to $60 on the smaller islands because they often offer full board with meals, as there may be nowhere else to eat—unless you fancy catching it yourself!
Slum it in style at the cream of Fiji’s budget options; The Uprising Resort in Pacific Harbour offers cheap dorm rooms, or step it up a grade in their reasonably priced beachfront bures. All guests can take advantage of the swimming pools and the home-away-from-home restaurant. Tanoa Skylodge in Denerau and Smugglers Cove in Nadi are some other footloose and fancy free options that are guaranteed to be easier on the wallet than you might expect to experience a slice of paradise.
There are countless options for island-hopping the Mamanucas; join the 24 hour party people at Mana Lagoon hostel, fuel even more fun—if that’s possible—on tiny Beachcomber island, and finish it in a cute bure at Funky Fish on Malolo island. The possibilities are endless…
There are regular ferry services between Vanua Levu and Vitu Levi, and South Sea Cruises also operate ferry transfers to the Mamanucas. If speed is of the essence you could catch the Malolo Cat. Transport between other islands such as Kadavu can be trickier as ferries often abide by Fiji Time, but you may be in luck as some backpacker resorts, especially those in the Yasawas, offer speedboat transfers from Viti Levu. If you are on the big island already, there are numerous ways to explore it, but jumping aboard the fun bus with the Feejee Experience or Discover Fiji tours means it’s likely you will meet a bronzed gang of fellow travellers to splash in some magical waterfalls, bump on some 4WD off-road adventures and kayak with… all in a day’s work.
When you get bitten by that Fiji bug–don’t worry it won’t hurt; in fact quite the opposite–you will want to stay until the next millennium. Unfortunately there are no working holiday visa opportunities in Fiji, but one option that may be open to backpackers is to seek out work crewing yachts. While it is highly likely that you will have to forsake your privacy, work like a dog and not wash for a month–sounds just like being back at uni–it will keep you island hopping those balmy seas until you grow barnacles. Keep your eyes peeled for noticeboards at marinas, or network with some friendly sailors.