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Cook Islands ©Christina Spicuzza
The 15 Cook Islands are scattered across the south Pacific over about 772,204 square miles (2 million sq km), an area the size of India. These unspoilt Polynesian tropical gems have the combined population of an average country town: about 14,000 unique and friendly souls. Most Cook Islanders dwell on the capital island of Rarotonga, which is also where most of the 70,000-odd annual visitors stop off, arriving at the island's international airport.
Circular Rarotonga is almost completely enclosed by a reef, harbouring a lagoon of clear turquoise water and white sandy beaches. The small island is dominated by a high mountain peak from where lush rain forests cascade down to the palm-fringed shore. The commercial centre of the islands is the friendly, bustling town of Avarua on Rarotonga, which has banks, shops and tourist facilities as well as a busy port and yacht basin. The outer islands are becoming increasingly popular for excursions, but remain largely unspoiled by tourism.
The Cook Islanders have their own language and government, and enjoy a vigorous and diverse culture with significant differences between each island. Even if you go no further than Rarotonga, though, you will be ensured of a dream 'South Seas' holiday experience on the pristine beaches, snorkelling the reef, or exploring the island by bus, motor scooter, bicycle or jeep.
The country code for the Cook Islands is +682, and the outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). City codes are not required. International Direct Dialling is available, but operator assistance may be required. In the main town of Avarua there is a telecommunications office (Telecom Cook Islands) offering international telephone, fax, email, Internet connections and other services. GSM 900 cellular mobile services are only available on Rarotonga and Aitutaki.
Emergencies: 999 (Police); 998 (Ambulance)
Cook Island Maori is widely spoken by locals, but English is in common use.
The following goods may accompany travellers over 18 years to the Cook Islands: 2 litres of spirits; 2 litres of wine or 4 and a half litres of beer, 200 cigarettes; 20 cigars or 250g of tobacco. Only travellers from New Zealand are permitted to import fruit, meat and livestock. No firearms, cartridges or cartridge cases, gunpowder, bullets, and other forms of ammunition are allowed without prior permission from the Minister of Police.
Electrical current is 240 volts, 50Hz. The three-pin flat blade plug with two slanted pins are used.
The climate in the Cook Islands is tropical, fairly constant and placid. The rainy season coincides with the hottest time of year, between November and March, but the rain usually falls in the form of late afternoon storms, which cool the air temperature and give some welcome relief from the heat which averages around 82ºF (28ºC) at this time of year. There is also a risk of cyclones and hurricanes during the hot season, and although these violent storms can do serious damage, the Cook Islands generally don't get hit too hard and extreme weather conditions are rare. The worst month for storms is February. The cooler, dry season, when temperatures range from 70ºF to 80ºF (20ºC to 26ºC), runs from April to October.
The Cook Islands are a year round destination because the weather ensures it is almost always suitable for swimming and beach lounging, which is the main reason people visit. Prices for accommodation and the like are pretty constant all year as there is not a 'peak season' for tourism. The best time to visit the Cook Islands is probably in the slightly cooler months when there is no chance of cyclones or serious storms.
Proof of onward passage, adequate financial means to support the stay, and proof of confirmed accommodation are required on entry into the Cook Islands. We recommend that passports be valid for six months beyond intended period of travel. Visa extensions are possible.
Entry RequirementsCanadian nationals must have a passport valid for six months beyond period of intended stay. A visa is not required for a stay of up to 31 days.
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US nationals must have a passport valid for six months beyond period of intended stay. A visa is not required for a stay of up to 31 days.
UK nationals must have a passport valid for six months beyond period of intended stay. A visa is not required for a stay of up to 31 days.
Australian nationals must have a passport valid for seven days beyond period of intended stay. A visa is not required for a stay of up to 31 days.
South African nationals must have a passport valid for six months beyond period of intended stay. A visa is not required for a stay of up to 31 days.
Irish nationals must have a passport valid for six months beyond period of intended stay. A visa is not required for a stay of up to 31 days.
New Zealand nationals must have a passport valid for seven days beyond period of intended stay. A visa is not required for a stay of up to 31 days.
There is little risk of disease on the Cook Islands, but visitors should take precautions against insect bites and sunburn. Outbreaks of dengue fever can occur, therefore a good arsenal of mosquito repellent and protective clothing is advised. Although no vaccinations are required one or two may be recommended by your doctor as a precaution: vaccinations for hepatitis A and hepatitis B are sometimes recommended.
Locals consider the tap water safe, but boiled or bottled water is advised for visitors, particularly in rural areas. A range of medical and dental services are available on Rarotonga, including a hospital and various pharmacies, but medical facilities in the Cook Islands in general are limited and comprehensive medical insurance is advised to include air evacuation for emergencies. If you require medication during your stay in the Cook Islands it is best to take it with you; make sure you have the necessary documents from your doctor to get the medication through customs.
Visits to the Cook Islands are usually trouble-free. There is relatively little crime, but it is always advisable to protect your valuables.
Emergency Phone Number
Emergencies: 999 (Police); 998 (Ambulance)
* For current safety alerts, please visit Foreign travel advice - GOV.UK or Travel.State.Gov
The currency of the Cook Islands is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD). Foreign currency exchange is available at the airport and two banks in Avarua, ATMs are also available in Avarua and are slowly becoming more widespread. American Express, Visa and MasterCard are accepted at restaurants and hotels in the main towns, and major foreign currencies can be exchanged at larger shops and hotels. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 3pm.
1 NZD = 0.9357 CAD
1 NZD = 0.70158 USD
1 NZD = 0.65342 EUR
1 NZD = 78.012 JPY
1 NZD = 0.56312 GBP
1 NZD = 0.91401 AUD
1 NZD = 0.69903 CHF
1 NZD = 13.149 MXN
1 NZD = 4.8336 CNY
Embassies of Cook Islands
Cook Islands Honorary Consul, Los Angeles, United States: +1 213 974 1307.
New Zealand High Commission, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Cook Islands): +44 (0)20 7930 8422.
New Zealand High Commission, Ottawa, Canada (also responsible for Cook Islands): +1 613 238 5991.
Cook Islands Consulate, Sydney, Australia: +61 (0)2 9907 6567.
Cook Islands High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 472 5126.
Foreign Embassies in Cook Islands
United States Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand (also responsible for Cook Islands): +64 (0)4 462 6000.
British High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand (also responsible for Cook Islands): +64 (0)4 924 2888.
Canadian High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand (also responsible for Cook Islands): +64 (0)4 473 9577.
Australian High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand (also responsible for Cook Islands): +64 (0)4 473 6411.
South African High Commission, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for Cook Islands): +61 (0)2 6272 7300.
New Zealand High Commission, Rarotonga: +682 22 201.
Inhabitants of the Cook Islands are very religious and frown upon inappropriate dress. Beachwear should not be worn in town, and topless sunbathing is a definite 'no-no'.
The main business centre is Avarua on Rarotonga Island. Business in the Cook Islands is fairly casual, extending to dress (which should also be modest, particularly for women) and punctuality. Meetings will be conducted in English when foreigners are present, although islanders may speak to one another in Maori to clarify their understanding during proceedings, and is not meant as an offence. Meetings usually begin and end with a prayer. Business hours are generally 8.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday.
Tipping is not expected and is contrary to Cook Islands custom.
Public Holidays in Cook Islands
Map of Cook Islands
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