The Best 6 Tips for Driving on the Island of Tahiti

Island driving is always easy, right? Maybe not! Driving on the Island of Tahiti was not so bad, but there are definitely some things you’ll want to know before you pull out of the parking lot. Here are the best tips you’ll find! 

Avoid Papeete at Rush Hour

Wow, y’all. What should have been a 10 minute drive through an island town took a solid hour (the entire 7:00am hour). There is no bypass, no work-around, no other way to get from one side to the other, so literally every person who wanted to go into or through Papeete has to take the same road!

Trust me, you’ll want to either go later in the day (after about 9:30am), or simply do your island circle drive in the other direction. The road does go all the way around Tahiti Nui (the big side of the Island of Tahiti), so if your plan is to simply drive around the island, start driving in the opposite direction of Papeete! 

If you choose to drive in Papeete at rush hour, buckle up. It’s going to be a looooooong drive!
Also helpful: How to Rent a Car and Take the Ferry to Mo’orea

You Can’t Go All the Way Around Tahiti Iti

While you can drive in a complete circle around the larger part of Tahiti, that’s not the case around the smaller part called Tahiti Iti. You can drive as far as Teahupo’o on the south side, and Pointe Tatatua on the north side. You can take a boat tour along the coastline, and there is also a hike across that section of the island, but it’s too rugged for a road! 

You can only go about halfway around Tahiti Iti (the smaller part of the island).
More here: What to Know Before You Visit Tahiti

Know How to Use Your Mirrors

This is so important, especially as people become more and more accustomed to backup cameras and parallel park assist. Rental cars in so much of the world do not include backup cameras, and that will still be the case for years to come. You might be surprised at how much you’ll need to depend on your mirrors for backing up, parking, passing, etc., especially if you haven’t “needed” your mirrors in a long time.

Our little car was great for us, but it came with no bells, whistles, or backup cameras!
Keep reading: Staying at the InterContinental Hotel Tahiti

Know How to Read a Map

Similarly, your rental car won’t be coming with a GPS! Oh, and your Apple Maps and Google Maps won’t work for giving directions. You can see where you are on the screen, but the option for “Directions” does not exist, or at least did not during our trip for some reason. (This was also the case on Curaçao, oddly enough!). It’s really important to know how to orient yourself using a map, and how to actually find your way using one as well. 

Directions not available! Good thing we knew how to read a paper map!
Check out my post about How to Read a Map!

You Will Not Have Unlimited Mileage

This one might take you by surprise! In most places you’ve rented a car, it was a given that you could drive as many miles as you needed or wanted. Not the case here! You will be paying for the car rental, and on top of that, you will pay for each kilometer you drive. It’s an island, though, right? So you won’t be driving too far. Just don’t be surprised when you get an extra charge when you turn in your car at the end of your trip! 

Keep track of how many kilometers you started with and how many kilometers you traveled!
Read next: What to Do on Your Last Day on Tahiti

Beware of Flash Flooding

If it’s raining in the mountains on Tahiti Island, it will be flowing down to sea level, even if it’s not raining on the roads. Also, parts of the road along the shoreline are actually just a few feet above sea level, meaning the water can rise and cover the road quickly. Pay attention to your surroundings, and use common sense. If you see water over the road, don’t drive through it! 

Beware of flash flooding on any island, even if it’s not raining where you are!
Also helpful: What to Pack for Your Trip to French Polynesia

Want more? Check out my dedicated French Polynesia Page!

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