Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Driving in Fiji

from w.
Here are some tips about driving in Fiji.

Cars are driven on the left of the road in Fiji. Fiji recognises driving licenses from English speaking countries. Drivers from other countries need an international driving permit. Petrol costs over 2.40 FJD a litre. Taxi drivers do not need to put on seatbelts but the passenger next to him do. (I think so.)

The island of Viti Levu has a main road right around it. But with two names - from Suva clockwise to Lautoka this is called the Queen’s Road. From Suva anti-clockwise to Lautoka it is called the King’s Road. In Vanua Levu there is a good road between Savusavu and Labasa but many of the other roads are unsealed and have many potholes. Many roads on Viti Levu and Vanua Levu often consist of bare rock surfaces, loose rocks, potholes, and stretch of mud.

Although the Queen’s/King’s Road are major roads, they are not highways as in Australia. Some roada have only a single carriageway. Speed humps through the middle of Fijian villages require motorists to drop their speed to about 20 kph. Sometimes cows, goats, horses and poultry wander on the road.

If hiring a car, the best choice is a 4 wheel. The frequency of speed humps and the potholes damages vehicles.

Traffic jams may be experienced in Suva especially if there is a festival or unannounced street parade. We were in a taxi in Victoria Parade behind a lot of stationary vehicles. Peceli told the driver to get into the left lane and nick around a corner to reach our destination near Government Buildings by a different road. We found out later there was a street parade for the Carnegie Library reaching 100 years! The taxi driver should have known this.

It is best to avoid driving at night. Street lighting is poor and a lack of footpaths means that many roads have people walking alongside.

Tropical rain is a hazard for driving because it can be very heavy and visibility can be close to non-existent, so it’s a good idea to pull over and wait out the rain.

Most taxis we have caught have meters so we do know what should be charged. It was usually $4.40 from our flat to the main streets of Suva. Watch out though that you might be taken the long route to somewhere. We had to go from A to B and there was a direct road but we were taken on a grand tour of the posh houses of the Domain in a circle route it seemed. More money for the driver!

However some drivers are very obliging and will stop while you shop for the obligatory gift of yaqona etc. If someone has been very helpful Peceli gives an extra $2 or so and says, ‘Bhaiya, give this to your mother.’

Watch out for bad drivers who may cut you off or try and pass a bus near a curve in the road ,occasionally yell abuse, though most people in Fiji seem to be patient in situations that would cause road rage elsewhere.

We were in a taxi near the hospital in Suva when suddenly a car on the right veered out of a street almost smashing into our taxi. Our driver hurled abuse in a high falsetto voice, and at the next traffic light pulled up alongside the other car, yelling even louder. I said, ‘Hey, calm down. Just write down his number.’ When we were dropped off at the flat I said to him, ‘I will say a prayer for you bhaiya.’ He replied, ‘Thanks. I have been having a very bad day.’

Don’t expect cars and vehicles to be in excellent condition and don’t make a fuss - the drivers/owners are doing their best to make a living. One mini-bus we caught from Navuso back to Suva had a door that swung open at every bend we went around. Don’t worry, it swung back as well.

Buses may be express such as the ones from hotels to hotels. Others stop anywhere someone calls out for it to stop. The story of the Qaloa bus we took from Pacific Harbour to Suva, I described in an earlier posting. It was a long, long trip that afternoon!

And I have written elsewhere about how people are stacked into a bus – five people into a seat that is barely big enough for two. A hundred children in a bus designed for sixty. And the recent bus accidents have been well reported in the Fiji media.

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