Papeete is not a tropical paradise. It is a typical government center and industrial port with small doses of French and Polynesian charm. It has shopping, eating, and drinking, but very little sightseeing for a capital city and even fewer top-class hotels. The residents speak French and Tahitian, although English is spoken by many in the tourist trade. The people-watching is superb.
Papeete International Airport (PPT) is located in the district of Faaa. Air Tahiti is located in the main building and Air Moorea about 100 m away. The following services are available at the airport: bar, self-service and gourmet restaurant, bank, ATM, post office, telephone, boutiques, newspaper stand, car rental agencies, baggage lockers and public restrooms. There is a taxi stand and a truck stop at the airport.
Air Caledonie International operates flights from [Noumea]/[New Caledonia] to Papeete on Fri.
Air France has flights from [Paris]/[France] to Papeete on Thu, Fri and Sat via [Los Angeles], arriving in Papeete at 3.55am.
Air New Zealand offers flights from [Auckland]/[New Zealand] to Papeete on Mon, Thu, Fri and Sat, flight time approx.5 hrs, from [Los Angeles] on Tue, Thu, Fri and Sat, flight time approx. 8h20 min, operated by Air Tahiti Nui, from [London] via [Los Angeles] on Tue, flight time 24hrs, Los Angeles - Papeete operated by Air Tahiti Nui.
Air Tahiti Nui has flights from [Auckland] on Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat and Sun (flight time 8h20min), [Los Angeles], [Paris], [Sydney] and [Tokyo].
Air Tahiti has flights from Raratonga on the Cooks Islands on Tue (and an additional flight on Sat in Jul and Aug). Flight time: 2h40min.
Papeete is a walking city. It's really too small to bother with any other form of transport, unless you are going out to the fringes, or would simply like to experience the famous le truck for fun (hop-on, hop-off, anywhere in the city center for about XPF100!) Bring a water bottle: it can be quite hot and humid.
Don't bother with taxis: they're extremely expensive and very hard to find after 6pm, apart from two dedicated taxi stands along the waterfront. Meters are unheard of, so be sure to confirm the fare (in French, if possible) before getting into a taxi, and don't be afraid to protest or refuse to ride if you think the fare too high; as a general rule, you should never have to pay more than XPF 1500 for a journey from one side of the city center to the other. Many drivers distribute calling cards when you disembark; if you'll be relying on taxi transport for whatever reason during your stay, it's definitely worth becoming a repeat customer with a driver you trust and who will give you a good deal.
Le Truck will take you to other parts of the island and around town quite cheaply.
The waterfront. Papeete has redeveloped its waterfront into a long park, with foods and carnival-like attractions. It's still partially under construction as of August 2008, but will surely be good for a scenic stroll someday.edit
Black pearls abound. There is just about every kind of store here, including some (particularly near the Marché) who have no problem selling you imitation balls of black glass or fiberglass at market prices. Be sure to look for a certificate of authenticity on the wall of the shop, and trust your guidebook for recommendations.
You can go broke eating in this town. There are some fine restaurants but expect to pay US$30 for a hamburger at a hotel restaurant or other proper sit-down establishment.
There are a lot of midrange places where you can expect to pay US$20-30 for your whole meal. French and Chinese are well represented here. Look for the word "Snack" in the name of the restaurant. There is also a conveyor belt sushi place that's very good, and the chefs are quite friendly there.
The best deal in town is the Roulottes, the food trucks that set up shop every evening in the big square in the waterfront park. Every day they begin setting up around dusk. Chinese, French, and Tahitian cuisine are all well represented. You can get chow mein, poisson cru, crepes, pizza, ice cream, and because this is France, everything comes with bread. Expect to pay about XPF 1500 for your whole meal.
You can expect to pay upwards of US$10 for a pint of beer. A (small) jug of microbrew will run you US$35. Buy pitchers of Hinano to keep the costs down.
Chaplain's, (Downtown on the waterfront). The decor is a tribute to silent film star Charles Chaplain. Expect loud French rap. Keep an eye on your tab.edit
Mana Rock Cafe, (Downtown on the waterfront). This open-air pub is a good place to sit outside in the shade and have a cold beer on a hot afternoon.edit
Les 3 Brasseurs, (Downtown on the waterfront). The only microbrewery in French Polynesia. The beer is certainly better than Hinano, but you do pay a premium for it, and it pales in comparison to U.S. microbrews.US$35 for a 3.5 glass jug. edit
That tiki-bar near Les 3 Brasseurs, (Downtown on the waterfront). Its name doesn't really matter; it's the only other bar along this stretch. Some sidewalk seating and very limited indoor seating. Watch out for aggressive she-males. There's a sweet little dog that hangs out here. If you pet her, she will bark at anybody who gives you trouble for the rest of the night. Also remember to tip the bouncer extra when you want to get into the bar's "underground" club every night.edit
Air Caledonie International operates flights to [Noumea]/[New Caledonia] on Fri.
Air France has flights to [Paris]/[France] on Thu, Fri and Sat via [Los Angeles].
Air New Zealand offers flights to [Auckland]/[New Zealand] on Mon, Thu, Fri and Sat, flight time approx.5 hrs, to [Los Angeles] on Tue, Thu, Fri and Sat, flight time approx. 8h20 min, operated by Air Tahiti Nui, to [London] via [Los Angeles] on Tue, flight time 24hrs, Papeete - Los Angeles operated by Air Tahiti Nui.
Air Tahiti Nui has flights to [Auckland] on Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat and Sun (flight time 8h20min), [Los Angeles], [Paris], [Sydney] and [Tokyo].
Air Tahiti has flights from Raratonga on the Cooks Islands on Tue (and an additional flight on Sat in Jul and Aug). Flight time: 2h40min. You have to check in at least 2 hrs before departure and check-in closes 30 mins before departureof the flight.