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Kiribati Atoll ©luigig
Known to many under British rule as the Gilbert Islands, Kiribati (pronounced ) seems to be a tiny nation in the central tropical Pacific Ocean, but its 33 atolls, mostly surrounding turquoise lagoons and barely rising above the surrounding ocean, span a whopping 1.4 million square miles (3.5 million sq km). First sighted by British and American ships in the late 18th and early 19th-centuries, the main chain of islands was named the Gilbert Islands in 1820 after a British captain who crossed the archipelago en route to China in 1788.
Only two thirds of the islands are actually inhabited and, interestingly, uninhabited Caroline Island was the first place in the world to usher in the millennium, giving Kiribati much needed publicity and a helping hand onto the world's stage. The increased number of tourists in the past decade is proof of this. Kiribati's islands offer a multitude of fascinating and exquisite tourist attractions. Christmas Island, located in the southern part of the Line Islands, is a bird-watcher's paradise and is an important breeding habitat for the seabirds that flock there to swoon over the surface tropical fish, squid and tuna. Common sightings include the Wedge-tailed, Christmas, and Audubon's Shearwaters, as well as the Masked, Brown, and Red-footed Boobies.
The clear turquoise waters teem with the unique biodiversity found off the shores of the Kiribati islands, considered to be one of the few genuinely unspoiled and largely unexplored underwater sanctuaries remaining in the world.
The locals in the outer islands survive largely on coconuts, breadfruit and fish as Kiribati's recent colonial and WWII history has had little impact on them, but the main island of Tarawa was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles in WWII history, when more than 7,000 Japanese and American soldiers lost their lives. The locals here still reside in thatched houses, but there are signs of a stronger Western influence with more cars, movies, bars and internet access. Many people come here to sunbathe on one of the countless sandy white beaches, sip on an exotic cocktail and watch other beach goers partake in volleyball, surfing, kayaking and jet skiing. The Taiwan Park and Dai-Nippon Causeway on the eastern tip of the Betio Islet in Tarawa are definitely worth a visit.
The official language is I-Kiribati, but English is widely understood.
Visitors to Kiribati may import the following goods duty-free: 200 cigarettes/50 cigars/225g of tobocco, an mount of perfume reasonable for personal use, a reasonable amount of gifts, one still and one movie camera and a reasonable amount of film, and sports equipment for personal use. Those 21 and older may bring one litre of spirits and one litre of wine.
Electrical current is 240 volts, 50Hz. Three-pin power outlets are standard.
All foreign passengers to Kiribati must hold proof of return/onward tickets (or sufficient funds to purchase them), and proof of sufficient funds to cover their expenses while in the country. Generally, visa-exempt visitors are granted an initial stay of 30 days. An extension of stay is possible, provided that it does not exceed four months in any calendar year. Note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Kiribati, if arriving within six days of leaving or transiting through an infected area. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Entry RequirementsCanadian citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Kiribati. A visa is not required for stays of up to 30 days.
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US citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Kiribati. A visa is not required for stays of a maximum of up to 30 days.
British citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Kiribati. A visa is not required for holders of British passports endorsed British Citizen or British National (Overseas) for a maximum of 30 days. Nationals with other endorsements in their passports should confirm requirements prior to travel.
Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Kiribati. A visa is not required for a maximum stay of up to 30 days.
South African citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival and require a visa to enter Kiribati.
Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Kiribati. A visa is not required for a stay of up to a maximum of 30 days.
New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Kiribati. A visa is not required for a stay up to a maximum of 30 days.
Kiribati offers limited health facilities and any serious injury or illness is likely to require evacuation by air. Comprehensive health and travel insurance is therefore recommended.
A Yellow Fever vaccination is required for those arriving from infected areas, and vaccinations are also recommended for hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
* For current safety alerts, please visit Foreign travel advice - GOV.UK or Travel.State.Gov
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Embassies of Kiribati
Foreign Embassies in Kiribati
Travellers to Kiribati will encounter a strange mix of informality and rigidity in terms of social mores and customs. Generally, Kiribati boasts a relatively classless society, where people are known by their first names, and talk freely and good-humouredly with one another. However, despite this general bonhomie, there are certain codes of behaviour that are strictly observed. In all aspects of social life, modesty and humility are considered desirable traits - direct eye contact is not often made, women are expected to dress conservatively, and aggressive or confrontational behaviour is heavily frowned upon. Travellers to Kiribati should note that the top of one's head is considered a sacred, deeply personal area. Under no circumstances should you touch someone on the top of their head (unless invited to do so), and if you are walking past someone who is lying down, give them a wide berth to ensure that you don't cause offence. In general, don't pass through crowds of people, especially if they are engaged in the 'circular' discussions that characterise Kiribati's social life.
Public Holidays in Kiribati
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