Although other island states may be smaller in area and/or less populous, they are all dependent territories of other countries, so Nauru keeps the title of the world's third smallest independent republic.
First inhabited by Micronesians and Polynesians, Nauru was annexed by Germany in 1888. In 1900, Nauru's phosphate deposits, which occupied about 90% of the island at the time, were discovered and began to be mined under a German-British consortium. During World War I, the island was occupied by Australian forces. After the war, the island became a League of Nations joint mandate (later a United Nations trusteeship after the Japanese occupation for three years during World War II) under Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
Nauru achieved independence in 1968. In the years following independence, phosphate exports briefly gave Nauruans the highest per capita income in the world. The primary phosphate reserves were soon exhausted, crashing the local economy in the process, but in 2006–07 mining of a deeper layer of "secondary phosphate" began. As of 2016, most of Nauru's revenue came from the export of phosphate. The industry is controlled by the Nauru Phosphate Corporation (NPC). It is anticipated that the phosphate reserves will be completely exhausted before 2050. The sale of fishing licences is the other major revenue raiser. Countries such as Australia and Taiwan provide substantial development cooperation funding. Despite this, the unemployment rate currently stands at 90%, which is the highest in the world. That is not the only problem on the island, as over 95% of the population is obese and over 40% suffer from diabetes.
In 2001 the Norwegian container ship Tampa rescued several hundred asylum seekers from a sinking Indonesian vessel and attempted to deliver them to Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, which is an Australian Federal Territory. In what was labelled The Pacific Solution, the Australian Government established a controversial Off Shore Processing Centre (OPC) on Nauru where these people were housed, pending assessment of their claims to be refugees. The OPC was closed in early 2008, and re-opened in 2012. The OPC still remains very controversial owing to its extremely negative human rights record. As of 2016, there are approximately 470 people - chiefly of Middle Eastern origin - held in the OPC.
The climate is tropical, with some rain occurring between November and February.
There are a few "sandy" beaches but most of the shallow area around the island is coral reefs. Most of the interior of the island is worked-out mining land, which is to be rehabilitated.
There is a lagoon on the island, the only body of water there.
All foreign visitors require a valid passport valid for at least 3 months, a 30 day tourist visa and proof of hotel booking or local sponsor in order to enter Nauru.
Nationals of Cook Islands, Fiji, Israel, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Samoa, Solomon Islands. Taiwan, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu may obtain a free visa on arrival.
All other nationals must obtain a visa from their local Nauruan embassy before departure. There have been rumours on the Internet that you can get in for up to three days without getting a visa, but that is not accurate.
As of January 2018, in order to obtain a Nauru entry permit from visa exempt countries the Nauru Department of Tourism required a scanned color copy of your passport (valid up to 6 months from a date of arrival), a copy of your confirmed round trip flight details to and from Nauru, a copy of confirmed hotel accommodation from one of Nauru's hotels, a brief letter explaining the purpose of your visit, your job title, your employer's address, your employer's contact details, and a direct bank deposit receipt emailed to this address. Additionally, a completed and signed visa form is also required which consists of the following: 1 recent passport sized photograph, a police certificate outlining your criminal record (or lack thereof), a certificate of medical fitness (this requires that you get a chest x-ray and get your blood tested to ensure that you don't have any contagious diseases or serious abnormalities), a letter from your sponsor (for citizens of Australia and New Zealand), and a completed questionnaire asking for your family names, gender, passport information, marital status, email address, and information about your previous Nauru visa applications (if applicable).
Note that one of the main reasons why Nauru consistently ranks among the world's least visited countries is because its visa process is incredibly cumbersome. In order to successfully obtain a tourist visa from Nauru's Department of Tourism you will need to be persistent, patient, and determined, and you should expect to encounter numerous roadblocks along the way.
Alternatively, visas can be arranged by people already living on Nauru itself. If you can connect with a contact on Nauru - such as a missionary - your visa process will be expedited and in many cases your application will be approved in less than a week.
Nauru's national carrier Nauru Airlines flies to Nauru International Airport from Brisbane (Australia), Tarawa (Kiribati), Kosrae (Micronesia), Majuro (Marshall Islands), Nadi (Fiji) and Pohnpei (Micronesia). Schedules change throughout the year; further details are available from the website.
Nauru is so small that it takes less than one hour to drive right around it. The airport runway cuts across three of the twenty kilometres of road. The only traffic lights on the island are used to stop the traffic and allow the plane to cross the road to the terminal! This is a favourite souvenir snapshot taken by visitors.
Traffic drives on the left. The 19km Island Ring Road circles the island. Drivers should be on increased lookout for animals and pedestrians while driving on the beltway. There is a community bus which travels around the island every hour or so during the day. Cars or bicycles can sometimes be rented from Capelle and Partners, the largest local supermarket.
The official language is Nauruan, a distinct Pacific Island language. Some locals speak Tuvaluan or Gilbertese which are quite common around the island since these two ethnic groups have historically worked in the Nauru mining industry.
English is widely understood, spoken, and used for most government and commercial purposes. It is de facto official language.
Nauru uses the Australian dollar ($) as its national currency. Cash transactions are the norm; credit cards are rarely accepted. There are 8 ATMs on the island; 1 is situated at Meneng Hotel, Capelle and Partner's Supermarket, Nauru International Airport and 4 at the Bendigo Bank. ATM frequently run off the money and out of service.
Nauru t-shirts can be purchased at Capelle's.
Food is imported from Australia and arrives by ship and plane, usually every week as the vessels have been in operation regularly. There are lots of small "eating places", selling Chinese food. There is a fast food kiosk at Capelle's supermarket served by the locals and at Milton Ross supermarket served by Filipinos. There is also another fast food take away at McDon's, serving Filipino dishes.
Nauru has a serious obesity problem, as will become apparent as soon as you arrive. The decision to mine the phosphates led to almost complete loss of agricultural land, with the result that almost everything is imported. Such imported foods are usually processed and high in sugar and fat. Several studies have cited the country as the fattest in the world.
Dining in Nauru is a great experience. During your Nauru tours, enjoy all kinds of delicious and healthy dishes. Since Nauru is an island nation, seafood is very popular in its restaurants. Most of the restaurants of Nauru offer delicious seafood dishes.
If you go to the restaurants in Nauru, you will be offered authentic dishes that are loved by all. The cuisine of Nauru is highly influenced by the cuisines of countries such as Germany, Australia, China and Britain. You can savour all kinds of mouthwatering dishes in the various restaurants and bars in Nauru.
Local owned restaurants 'Jules' and 'Bay Restaurant' are popular names in the list of restaurants and bars in Nauru. Jules serves seafood delicacies from mussels, oysters and whatever you love from the ocean. 'Bay Restaurant' serves Asian delicacies and variety of pizza. Both places have various drinks to serve. There are many other restaurants in Nauru that are Chinese owned. There are many food stalls on certain roadsides on the island where local sell barbecue serves of variety dishes. If you crave for barbecue, keep an eye out for the 'BBQ signs' by the roadsides. Nauru cuisine is very light because of the high temperature. Another popular area to eat is at the 'Eigigu takeaway' which serves local food. It situated close to the Nauru Post office. Therefore, you will get to savour simple food items in the eateries of this country. The aroma and flavour of the delicacies of Nauru are unique to this country.
The dishes offered in Nauru are a treat to the taste buds. Sushimi, Coconut fish and Meat are one of their main foods. Cooked and smoked hams are also very popular.
The Reef Bar at the Menen hotel is one of the only bars in Nauru. It is on the opposite side of the island from the Od-N-Aiwo, one of two other hotels in Nauru. It serves beers and international spirits. The bar has a couple of pool tables, satellite TV and recorded music. It's lively at the weekends as there are sometimes local bands playing. There is also a huge flat screen located outside at the patio where there is a sea view at the background and guests and local friends do karaoke or sit and watch football matches live on weekends as part of their social outing. There is a bar called 'Jules' in Denig district that is privately owned, which opened in 2012. New faces will be enthusiastically welcomed by the locals and the expats will usually have a chat, too. No flip flops/thongs/shorts (enclosed sandals are OK). The usual clothes wear for men is collar T-shirts or floral island shirts and skirts/dresses for women. Standard clothing is highly recommended.
There are 3 hotels, the more expensive but brand new Budapest on the northeast coast, the original Menen on the east of the island and the budget Od'n Aiwo to the west. As of 2018 it was also possible to book alternative accommodations through Air BnB, such as a room in a guesthouse behind the airport. Note that these hotels are slow to respond to booking requests, and in order to successfully get the reservation confirmation as required by the Nauru tourist visa process you will likely need to follow up with the hotels several times.
Like many other Pacific Islands, Nauru is surrounded by a shallow reef with cut-outs through the reef providing access for boats and harbours, and there can be strong currents across the shallow water, moving boats in the harbours, and dangerous marine animals on the reef floor. Ask for advice before venturing into the water.
The trafficking of drugs and narcotics of any kind will be punished severely.
Although homosexual acts in Nauru were legalised in 2016, open displays of affection between same-sex partners may offend some.
The island hosts an immigration processing center for nearby Australia as a source of income. Do not trespass on the property.
Water supply in Nauru is dependent on rainwater collected into tanks from the roofs of houses and from an ageing reverse osmosis desalination plant.
Be respectful to the native people and their environment. As the nation has one of the highest obesity rates in the world, pointing out someone's obesity will almost always be taken poorly and cause offense. Use common sense, and avoid other actions that are considered rude internationally. Be respectful of the wildlife and nature, and remember that it has all been there long before any humans.
The island nation allows freedom of religion, but most of the island practices Christianity, so be respectful of any and all religious practices. While the constitution allows any religion to be practiced, religious practices under the Church of Latter Day Saints and the Jehovah's Witnesses have been limited.