After three decades as part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific under US administration, this westernmost cluster of the Caroline Islands opted for independence in 1978 rather than join the Federated States of Micronesia. A Compact of Free Association with the US was approved in 1986, but not ratified until 1993. Palau officially became independent on 1 Oct 1994.
Early Palauans may have come from Polynesia and Asia. Depending on the origin of a family, Palauans may represent many parts of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. However, they are not traditionally considered to be Micronesian. For thousands of years, Palauans have had a well established matrilineal society, believed to have descended from Javanese precedents.
Palau had limited relations before the 18th century, mainly with Yap and Java. Had it not been for shipwrecked islanders who took refuge in the Philippines, Europeans likely would not have found Palau until much later. Englishman Captain Henry Wilson was shipwrecked off the island of Ulong in 1783 and it was Wilson who gave the archipelago the name "Pelew Islands".
In the late 19th century, possession of the islands was claimed by Britain, Spain, and Germany. In 1885, the matter was brought to Pope Leo XIII for a decision. The Pope recognized the Spanish claim, but granted economic concessions to Britain and Germany. Palau then became part of the Spanish East Indies, along with the Northern Mariana Islands, the Caroline Islands and the Marshall Islands. They were all administered from the Philippines. Spain sold the Palau archipelago to Germany in 1899 after which it was administered from German New Guinea, and a period of economic development began. German engineers began exploiting the islands' deposits of bauxite and phosphate, and a rich harvest in copra was made. WWI intervened and the German period lasted only 15 years after which the League of Nations awarded Palau to Japan. The Japanese presence made Palau a major target for the Allied forces in World War II, and there were several major battles in the area.
Palau enjoys a tropical climate all year round with an annual mean temperature of 82°F (28°C). Rainfall can occur throughout the year, averaging a total of 150 inches (3,800mm). The average humidity over the course of the year is 82%, and although rain falls more frequently between July and October, there is still much sunshine. Typhoons are rare, as Palau is outside the main typhoon zone.
The South West islands of Palau are worth a visit if you have your own marine transport such as an ocean-going yacht. There are Sonsorol, Fana, Meriil, Hatohobei and Helen Reef, a conservation area. However be sure to take mosquito repellent if visiting Meriil as its local name is dancing island. Go there and you will find out why! If intending to visit any of these islands it is a wise idea to make the acquaintance of the governors at their offices in Koror itself. If you are lucky you just might be able to take a trip on the island supply vessel the Atoll Way. Sleeping is on a hard wooden platform along with the other souls who are either returning to their home islands or maybe the doctor from Peleliu island hospital who is making a routine visit to check up on the health of the islanders.
Nearly all other visitors can receive a free 30-day tourism visa on arrival. Citizens of Bangladesh and Myanmar must obtain a visa in advance for entry. For the latest information, contact the Palau Embassy in your country. Most travellers arrive by air from Guam, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan (Taipei), or the Philippines (Manila). Visitors must have a current passport, and a return airline ticket to travel to Palau.
The only realistic choice. There is only one airport, Airai (ROR), on Babeldaob.
Delta Air Lines launched daily service to (ROR) from Tokyo-Narita (NRT) on December 2010 with connections on to many destinations throughout Asia as well as to its hub cities in the US (including Hawaii).
Asiana Airlines and Korean Air currently operate regularly scheduled flights from Seoul's Incheon airport.
The airport is small and has few facilities, and it might happen that no taxis are available on arrival. The best option is to book in advance local transportation with your hotel, otherwise you should call taxi from downtown to pick you up. There are some car rental booths, but they might be closed on weekend. Again, if you need to rent a car, is better to book in advance.
Possible but not very easy.
Taxis and rented cars are available. Lots of local taxis can be found in Koror - they are not metered and fares are negotiable.
If you rent a car, be prepared to drive slowly on some bumpy roads. The road north was recently paved and is very nice... once you get past the airport. Traffic moves on the right, however many cars are right hand drive which can cause some confusion. The national speed limit is 40 km/h (25 mph). If you drive south, to Ice Box Park, please note that the facility behind it is a sewage treatment plant.
To move between the islands, you can make use of private boats or use the "government run boats" as a cheaper alternative.
Palau is most famous for scuba diving. One of the most famous dive sites - Blue Corner, with constant sharks and a high current - is located less than 1 hour's boat ride from most resorts. Many live aboards like Ocean Hunter operate out of Palau. There are also tours to WWII battle fields on Palau.
The Blue Corner, German Channel, Ulong Channel and Blue Holes are all amazing dive sites. You can dive the same site again and again and have completely different experiences each time.
Palau is also famous for its jellyfish lakes. These lakes contain jellyfish which have evolved away their stingers in the absence of predators. There are many tours which will go to the jellyfish lake to snorkel. SCUBA diving is not permitted, nor is necessary, in the jellyfish lake. Palau Jellyfish Lake  is included in the category of natural phenomena and scientific mysteries. Aside from the cost of the tour (around $100), there is $100 permit for the jellyfish lake which is valid for ten days.
Long Island Park offers a mildly interesting snorkeling area. It's located just south of the two bridges that connect Koror and Malakal. From Koror, cross the first bridge and then turn left.
Icebox Park, at the southern tip of Malakal, offers a nice view. However, swimming is not advised as it is immediately adjacent to a waste water outlet (clearly visible at low tide).
Nikko Bay is a great place for kayaking and snorkeling. A good place to launch your kayak is Ngermid Boat Pier. Head a few hundred meters south from the pier and you will see a floating wooden dock, under which lives a huge Napoleon fish. Snorkeling around the islets to the immediate west of the dock is quite impressive.
IMPAC, short for Imperial Palau Corporation provides day tours to Rock Islands including jellyfish tour and kayaking tours.
English and Palauan are spoken widely and are the official languages.
Palauan is a Malayo-Polynesian language that is influenced by Japanese, Spanish, and German. For example: mado (window) or tanjobi (birthday) are Japanese words, and ikelesia (church) comes from Spanish.
In the states of Sonsorol and Hatohobei, the local languages Sonsorolese and Tobian respectively are official languages alongside Palauan.
Japanese is an official language in the state of Angaur, and is widely spoken across Palau by older Palauans.
Filipino (largely based on Tagalog) is widely spoken in hotels, restaurants, and shops due to the large number of Filipinos working in these establishments. Kuya (older brother) and Ate (older sister) are even used as general terms for calling out to people.
Palau uses the US dollar as its currency. Visa and Master cards are commonly accdepted, however, American Express generally is not accepted. WCTC and Surangel and Sons are the two biggest stores with a grocery and department stores. There are numerous souvenir shops, convenience stores, and boutiques throughout Palau but the largest concentration is in downtown Koror. If you are from a country or territory with the US dollar as a official currency, you will not need to worry about understanding prices and currency transferring. Also if you are from Bermuda, East Timor, Panama, or Bahamas, the official currency(ies) of the mentioned countries and territories have fixed exchange rates to the US Dollar. Meaning what price is said in Palau will be understood with your country's/territory's official currency. Example; $150 US Dollars will equal $150 Bermudian dollars, but you will still have to exchange currencies.
As you might expect from a remote island where tourism is the main industry, prices are comparatively high, and even a low-end daily budget would be around $100/day. Meals in restaurants and cafes are generally between $5 and $10. Snack shops that also serve hamburgers, pasta, and rice meals offer food starting at $3. Meals in mid- to high-end restaurants start at $20.
Palauan storyboards are traditional wood carvings depicting Palauan myths and legends.
Several other places of note in Koror are the Taj, an excellent Indian restaurant, Fuji, a reasonably-priced pseudo-Japanese restaurant or Dragon Tai on the way into Koror.
The legal drinking and purchasing age of alcoholic beverages is 21.
Red Rooster Beer.Despite its size Palau has a small brewery, to be found next to the West Plaza by the Sea hotel (see below). It offers Amber and Stout and three other beers. Abai Ice in Koror is a small hut that offers fresh fruit smoothies -- highly recommended.
Many licensed establishments in Palau -- from quiet little bars to "Japanese"-style karaoke bars complete with bar girls. For a decent affordable drink, try Sam's Dive Shop or High Tide behind Neco dive shop. Alcohol is readily available at most stores. Public drinking is not allowed, and the local police are more than happy to inconvenience you if you are caught.
Palau offers a number of guest house style boutique accommodations. Some are close to or within Koror, some are not. These are available for international bookings via dive shops that offer holiday packages (such as Sam's Tours). Prices range from US$50 a night upward.
There are also a number of nice basic hotels available in Palau.
There are lots of reasonably high end resorts on Palau, most catering for scuba divers.
Palau Community College offers both AS/AA degrees and occupational certificates. The campus library is open to the public, and offers computer terminals for community members and visitors to check email.
US citizens and citizens of the U.S. territory of American Samoa may live and work freely in Palau.
Aside from U.S. military aid, Palau's economy is heavily focused on tourism and offshore banking. However in comparison to most other Pacific island territories and countries, the average Palauan can earn up to US$8,000 a year. Which in the case of money, Palau is one of the best options.
Palau is quite a safe country to visit. Walking in downtown Koror at night, even past midnight is quite safe. But as with any place in the world today, common sense prevails. Pedestrians should be careful, as sidewalks are limited even in downtown Koror.
The constitution prohibits private ownership of firearms. Mere possession of bullets (used as a necklace or amulet by some) is punishable by law.
Saltwater Crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) still exist in Palau's mangroves and in the beautiful Rock Islands and can potentially be found anywhere on the island. Despite their fearsome and, in some areas, very justified reputation, here they rarely grow to the immense size that they do in Australia and New Guinea. There was only one fatal attack by a crocodile in Palau within recorded history and that occurred in 1965. The biggest crocodile in Palau's history was 14', 2" in length - large, but this is an average size for saltwater crocodiles in most other countries. The rarity of attacks probably stems from the fact that there are no more than 450 adult individuals currently on the island. Snorkeling and scuba diving are very popular in Palau and there has never in recent history been a report of an attack on a tourist. Judging from a recent survey, it appears crocodiles are quite unjustly hated by the locals, in harsh contrast to the worship they are given by the indigenous peoples of Australia, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. The reasons for this is that crocodiles are a delicacy to some native islanders.
Palauans have been known throughout history for their hospitality. Many Palauans are very understanding, and realize cultural differences and easily give respect for foreign visitors. Be sure however, to always pay respect to the local culture. As with any other ethnic group, rude remarks or any form of prejudice against the local culture is not taken kindly. Palauans can be just as angry and rude as they are kind. As long as you do not disrespect the culture, violate historic areas, pollute, or harm the ocean in any way, you will find the local atmosphere very laid back and easy going. Note that Palau is a matrilineal society with very strict roles for men and women. Western ideas such as feminism are not standard to the Palauan population, and an overly zealous attempt at instilling such ideas is taken as annoying, ignorant, and obnoxious. Most Palauans however, gladly engage in such debates and find intellectual conversations interesting. Be sure to keep in mind that locals do not expect foreigners to understand the national identity and local culture, so a quick apology for any wrongdoing is more than enough to satisfy a little friction.
As a Compact Free Association nation, Palau's official postal service is the United States Postal Service. For travel reasons, the USPS treats Palau as a territory. So the postal requirements in Palau are the same in the other C.F.A. nations and the US.
Almost all internet and telecommunications services in Palau are provided by Palau National Communications Corporation (PNCC).
International sim cards (US, Philippines, Japan, and other countries) will be assigned a local number upon arrival as long as the phone can access GSM 900. This conveniently allows you to use your own cellphone and sim card without buying a $25 PNCC sim card. If you do not receive a local number automatically, you may have to manually select PalauCel or PNCC as network provided. After receiving your local number, you have to load it with airtime that are available at a minimum of $10 prepaid card. After your load has been confirmed, you can now make and receive calls. To send and receive text messages or SMS, you need to change your message center to +680 779 0000.
Many hotels, restaurants, and coffee bars offer free Wi-Fi service. It may be relatively slow especially when there are several people trying to connect. PNCC also provides Wi-Fi service with prepaid cards available at $5 and $10 denominations. Wi-Fi service is better in downtown Koror.
There is a $50 Embarkation Tax (consisting of a $20 Airport Departure Tax and a $30 Environmental Protection Fee) levied on most passengers departing by air.  The tax is paid just before you go through immigration and is cash-only. There is an ATM in the airport lobby.