Niue's remoteness, as well as cultural and linguistic differences between its Polynesian inhabitants and those of the rest of the Cook Islands, have led to it being separately administered. The population of the island continues to drop (from a peak of 5,200 in 1966 to about 2,100 in 2002 and about 1,200 in 2011) with substantial emigration to New Zealand and Australia. It is self-governing in free association with New Zealand since 1974, with Niue fully responsible for domestic affairs, and New Zealand asked to retain responsibility for foreign affairs and defence.
The economy suffers from the typical Pacific island problems of geographic isolation, few resources, and a small population. Government expenditures regularly exceed revenues, and the shortfall is made up by critically needed grants from New Zealand that are used to pay wages to public employees. Niue has cut government expenditures by reducing the public service by almost half. The agricultural sector consists mainly of subsistence gardening, although some cash crops are grown for export. The sale of postage stamps to foreign collectors is an important source of revenue. Efforts to increase GDP include the promotion of tourism and a financial services industry.
The word "Niue" is not used in the local language to refer to this island, meaning in fact "Look! There's a coconut". Captain Cook called it "Savage Island", thinking (incorrectly) that the natives who came to greet them were painted in blood. The locals had eaten a native red banana, called the hulahula
Niue's timezone is GMT-11 mainland New Zealand is GMT+13 in daylight saving time. So Niue is one day later than the mainland.
Tropical; modified by southeast trade winds. The average daytime temperature is 27°C from May to October and 30°C from November to April. December to March is the cyclone season
From the sea approaches Niue is flat with its cliff faces resembling a large ‘Swiss cheese’ composed of coral limestone rock peppered with caves, hidden caverns and chasms, buried grottoes and other subterranean natural fissures that are yet to be discovered and developed into tourist attractions.
The island is approximately 73km in circumference with two distinct terraces. The upper terrace, 60m high at its highest point, slopes steeply to a 0.5m coastal terrace ending with high cliffs, some over 20m above sea level. A rugged fringing reef, which in places over 100m wide, surrounds the island.
Steep limestone cliffs along coast, central plateau. Unlike most Pacific islands, there are no long, white sandy beaches, only tiny, secluded, white sand beaches that might be yours for the whole day.
Time difference from mainland New Zealand
You need to cross the Dateline (west to east) on travelling from Mainland New Zealand to Niue, so Niue is as much as 23 hours behind the mainland (winter) and 24h (the whole day) behind in the summer time. So be careful about the date when you communicate between Niue and Mainland New Zealand, because Auckland is one day ahead of Niue.
The only way to arrive in Niue (IATA: IUE) is by plane from Auckland. Be careful not to schedule your flights around religious holidays such as Easter or Christmas, or the October Constitution celebrations, as seats are often at a premium since many Niueans return home at these times.
Air New Zealand is the only airline to fly into Niue using scheduled services with only one flight a week out of high season and two in high season leaving New Zealand on a Saturday or Wednesday. Huge crowds gather at the airport to meet every flight. Everyone (including New Zealanders) must have a return ticket. There is a $34 departure tax upon leaving (not included in price of plane ticket)
Hanan International Airport is about 2km southeast of Alofi. Taxis meet the flight and many accommodation options include free transfers. If you don't have accommodation booked, just about anyone will give you a lift.
There are no ferries from foreign ports. Outside of the cyclone season you can sail your own yacht to Niue. Niue Yacht Club has information online. Harbour fees are $15 per day. If you flew in during sailing season it's possible to hitch on a yacht off of Niue
Hire a vehicle or bicycle on arrival at one of several rental shops (e.g. Alofi Rentals) There is no public transport system. Getting around the island by car takes approximately 40 minutes. A Niue drivers license is required and can be obtained from the Police department for $22.50 when you present your home license (it's a cool souvenir). There are two petrol stations on Niue; both are in Alofi. One is in Alofi North and the other in Alofi South.
Hitchhiking is very easy on Niue; almost everyone will pick you up. Traffic on the eastern half of the island is very light and you could be in for a long wait, so take extra water. Riding in the back of utes is OK, but be careful because palm leaves can get your eye poked out if you're not careful.
Alofi and all the other villages are small enough to walk around. Cycling around the island takes around three hours. There's no harm in walking around the villages and in town as it is perfectly safe and a good way to catch and interact with the Niuean culture itself.
English (often with a distinctive New Zealand accent) is widely spoken. The local Niuean language is increasingly falling out of favour but you'll win the hearts of many locals by learning a few Niuean words.
Niue is dotted with many caves and limestone arches. There are a lot of 'sea tracks' that lead from the road to the coast. Wandering down one and seeing what you find at the end is a lot of fun.
Dolphins and whales can be seen off the coast
There are many activities to do in Niue. All you need to do is adventure out. Have a keen and energetic attitude towards everything. Be positive and able to try anything and everythin that comes to offer in Niue, so you are able to uncover the interesting facts and interest that Niue can offer.
These are just some of the activities, as the rest you must uncover yourself as there is more to it, with self discovery. Kayaking, fishing, diving (Niue Dive offers PADI certified dives), golf, cycling, etc. Niue is different to all the other Pacific islands in the sense that there are no beaches. Go spelunking in one of the many caves around the island.
If you're wanting to play a bit of touch, what better way to do it, by playing the locals. About every village has a green and most evenings the residents come out and play a friendly game of touch. So if you feel like mingling and playing a bit of sports, just ask around and you will find a game.
Snorkelling is an alternative to diving. The Utuko Reef in Alofi and the reef pools at Hio Beach are excellent for beginners. Further north from Hio there's a pair of giant natural pools at Matapa that are best at low tide. Around the island there are places to snorkel outside the reef but should only be attempted by confident swimmers; in any case, seek local advice and check water conditions before venturing off on your own. To be completely safe, go with a partner or take a tour. Niue Dive operates snorkelling trips to sites around the island, including Snake Gully. You can also snorkel and swim with spinner dolphins (April to December) and humpback whales (June to October).
Fishing trips are run by Nu Tours (4hr trips $280) for one or two people. Fish with Fishaway Charters (4hr trips $250) and you can personally barbecue your catch at the Washaway Cafe. Contact Willy Saniteli for info. Of course it's also possible to fish on your own, but remember that fishing is prohibited on Sundays.
Weaving is a popular traditional pastime on Niue. Most of the older ladies on the island go to a weaving group once a week. If you want to try it, try:
Few souvenirs are available. Postcards are available at the post office and there are two souvenir shops in Alofi. There is also an art gallery at the Niue Commercial Centre. Niuean weaving is among the finest in the Pacific and makes great souvenirs.
There are no ATMs though almost 30 businesses now accept EFTPOS and most of these also accept Visa and MasterCard credit cards.
After 9 years of trading, Niue’s previous sole provider of commercial banking services, Papua New Guinea’s Bank South Pacific, closed on 30 Apr 2013. A New Zealand bank, Kiwibank, opened for business the next day and offers a greater range of services including internet banking and consequently there are no overseas transaction fees for New Zealand eftpos cards. Kiwibank in Alofi opens M-Th 09:00-15:00, F 08.30-15:00.
It is still recommended that people show up in Niue with cash. Even though some places now accept credit cards the system is often down. If you run out of money you will be stuck. Take the hint, do not show up in Niue without more money than you'll think you'll need!
Niue uses the New Zealand dollar symbolised as $.
Due to the fact that just about everything has to be imported, Niue is a bit more expensive than New Zealand. Fresh fruits and vegetables are cheaper, though. Tobacco products are much cheaper due to the lack of taxes. Alcohol is rather expensive, although not as much so if you buy it at the duty-free shop. Once you have bought your food and paid for your rental car and its fuel, there is not much else to spend your money on, though a couple of tours could be worthwhile and most are good value. Exploring the caves, chasms and sea tracks on your own is free. If you bring you own snorkelling gear with you, snorkelling in is free too.
Don't expect McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, and KFC...unless you want to fly to New Zealand or Australia to get your fix. Bring a sense of culinary adventure. Local specialities include uga (coconut crab), anything with coconut, and the like. If you love tropical fruit you'll have fun in Niue; passionfruit, cassava, taro, vanilla, kumara, and various other fruits are available but it can be a bit hard finding where to buy them - try the Tuesday or Friday morning market in Alofi, or various roadside stalls. The supermarket has a limited selection.
One suggestion for eating out on Niue is to plan - book ahead, that way the restaurant will know you are coming and will be sure to stay open for you.
Most visitors to Niue self-cater for most if not all the time. Most shops are closed Sunday and open limited hours on Saturday; therefore it is advisable to stock up on food on Friday.
Coconut water is very refreshing and a natural rehydrant on a hot and humid day.
Frosty Boy serves great vanilla bean shakes and ice cream.
Visitors can purchase up to three bottles of duty-free wine and spirits within four days after arrival from the Customs and Bond Store behind the shopping centre. It is only open until noon on weekdays. Bring your boarding pass.
For the really adventurous, try Noni juice at the Vaiau Farm. Anything that tastes that bad has to be really good for you!
It's advisable to make a booking in advance but not necessary.
Most places to stay are in or near Alofi, and there are one or two options going toward Avatele. Accommodation is nonexistent on the eastern side of the island unless you have friends or are fortunate enough for a local to invite you in. Camping is permitted as long as you're not on private land but is strongly not recommended due to mosquitoes and, like in many Pacific islands, locals can take it like you're rejecting their hospitality
There is one small campus, a branch of the Fiji based University of the South Pacific and only one high school and one primary school. However, you can learn a lot about the history and culture of Niue just by speaking with older people who are in the know.
Opportunities to work on Niue are extremely limited. Teaching positions may be available at some of the primary schools, and success in business is also a possibility.
Niue is a very safe island. The only jail is located next to the only golf course and is considered an open prison. Crime is extremely minimal if not non-existent, and it's not uncommon for tourists to meet the Premier. If you want to meet your first world leader, this is the place!
Wear a helmet whilst cycling because an accident would be catastrophic and the nearest major medical facilities are in New Zealand and Australia. The only hospital is little more than a general practitioner's office, and combined with the fact that there is only one flight a week this is NOT a good place to have an accident or major illness. Travel insurance is strongly recommended. Seatbelts in vehicles aren't obligatory but it's advisable to wear one anyway
Some of the caves, especially Vaikona, it is strongly advised to go with a guide unless you're experienced because people have been lost and injured in some of the island's caves
Niue Foou Hospital is a basic hospital is located near the airport. Medical evacuations can be arranged to New Zealand if needed, but use common sense and take out travel insurance.
There are no snakes or poisonous insects. There is no malaria but the mosquitoes are awful during the wet season (December-March). Dengue fever does exist on Niue, and the High School's art teacher passed away from it. Take proper precautions.
Reef shoes are strongly recommended if snorkelling because coral cuts can easily become infected. If you cut youself rinse the cut straight away with generous amounts of soap and water.
Sunday is a special day reserved for Niue's strong church-going population. Fishing, kayaking and diving is prohibited by law on Sunday. Swimming is also prohibited on Sunday but, in practice, you can swim at many locations away from villages without any offence to the locals.
Swimming gear is OK in swimming areas but not in villages. Don't swim nude or topless, and don't swim where locals are fishing during the spawning season. Wave to everyone when they pass by
Niueans are among the friendliest people in the world. If they're able to help you, they will. Refusing an offer of dinner or a cuppa can be considered offensive
Niue is a very conservative island. Don't get drunk, as locals (especially police officers) don't look kindly on people getting drunk and then causing trouble. There have been reports of people being deported for these type of offenses. Furthermore, homosexual couples should be mindful to the culture and older generations.
Visitors pay a one off fee of NZ$25 to RockET who register their computer MAC address onto a single wireless base station of their choice. Connection speed seems poor and is a frustrating experience if previously used to broadband. If you don't have your own laptop there is an internet cafe next to the bakery at NZ$12 an hour. Some accommodation options offer internet access.
Skype audio or video calls don't work effectively due to the slow connection but Skype IM is OK. There are no phone cards available. Your best bet is to contact any and all friends/family from New Zealand (or your home country) before leaving for Niue because it's about NZ$2 a minute to call New Zealand, NZ$2.50 a minute to call Australia and about NZ$4.50 a minute to call everywhere else. Conversely, Niue is one of the most expensive countries to call, costing about NZ$2.20 a minute via Skype and NZ$6.50 a minute via landline. If you need to call from Niue the Telecom Office is open 24 hours.
There is now a limited mobile phone service on the island, which only works in the capital city of Alofi. You can buy a SIM card from the Telecom Office for $34 (plus $5 credit), however there is limited sizes of SIM cards so make sure it fits into your mobile phone first.