Earth : Oceania : Micronesia : Marshall Islands
After almost four decades under US administration as the easternmost part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, the Marshall Islands attained independence in 1986 under a Compact of Free Association. Compensation claims continue as a result of US nuclear testing on some of the atolls between 1947 and 1962. The Marshall Islands have been home to the US Army Post Kwajalein (USAKA) since 1964. A number of islands are off-limits to tourism (and even to locals) due to US military presence or the residue of nuclear testing.
Wet season from May to November; hot and humid; islands border typhoon belt.
The Marshall Islands consist of two island chains of 30 atolls and 1,152 islands, of low coral limestone and sand. Bikini and Enewetak are former US nuclear test sites; Kwajalein, the famous World War II battleground, is now used as a US missile test range.
The Marshall Islands consists of 29 atolls and 5 isolated islands, of which 24 are inhabited. They can be grouped into two island chains:
Everyone is required to possess a valid passport.
United States and all its territories, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Palau, Pacific Islands Forum Countries including Australia and New Zealand are exempted from the requirements of entry visa.
Entry visa will be issued upon arrival to citizens of Japan, Korea, Republic of China (ROC), Philippines and some others (please check timatic) provided the duration of the intended visit is no more than thirty (30) days, the visitor have a roundtrip or a transit ticket and a passport valid for at six months.
Citizens of all countries not listed above must present a passport valid for at least six months with an entry visa, a roundtrip or transit ticket before boarding and traveling to the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The entry visa to Majuro is issued by our Attorney General in the Marshall Islands. It suggested that you email the Immigration Director to request for issuance of entry visa upon arrival at Majuro Airport. Send by email to [email protected] OR [email protected] a request for issuance of a visa upon arrival and an attached copy of your passport, visa application, itinerary, and entry visa to the next country stop. You will be given a confirmation via email on the issuance of visa upon arrival.
Visas cost $25 for a tourist visa that lasts 3 months. Business visas cost $50. Visas last 30 stays on the onset, but can be extended for up to 90 days once you are in the Marshall Islands. You must show that you can pay for your entire time in the Marshall Islands and that you can pay for your way to leave, or demonstrate that you've already purchased what you need to leave the islands. When you leave the islands, you must pay a $20 tax. If you are over 60 years old, you will be exempt from this.
If you come from a country infected with cholera, you must present an immunization certificate. You must get an HIV test if you plan to work or live in the Marshall Islands, or if you will be staying for more than 30 days.
Air Marshall Islands (CW) provides regular scheduled internal flights to 10 of the atolls in the Marshall Islands and has planes available for charter. Flights are available between Honolulu and the Marshall Islands and to Fiji via Kiribati and Tuvalu. United Airlines stops in Majuro and Kwajalein on its island-hopper service between Guam and Honolulu. United also offers weekly flights to and from Guam and Honolulu.
Approximate flight times: From New York to Majuro is 14 hours; from Tokyo it is 11, from Guam it is eight hours to Majuro and five hours from Honolulu.
International airports: Majuro International Airport (MAJ). There are taxis and hotel transport from the airport to the town.
Currently only United Airlines operates any aircraft onto and off Majuro. Air Marshall and other smaller carriers have been grounded for financial and safety concerns.
Air travel between the islands is provided by Air Marshall Islands. However, the company is fraught with financial and technical problems, so one or both of the two planes in the fleet are often downed for days, weeks, or months at a time.
Transportation by ship is also available. Field trip ships travel throughout the islands, typically to pick up copra and deliver supplies; they usually provide passenger service as well.
To give a sense of scale, the ride from Majuro to Jaluit is approximately 40 minutes by plane and 24 hours by boat.
On Majuro There is a plethora of taxis available on the main road that travels the length of Majuro Atoll. Seventy-five cents will buy a trip to anywhere in the Majuro city area. To get to Laura, on the other end of the island, there is a bus that leaves about once an hour from Robert Reimers Hotel; if it arrives at all (very infrequent).
To reach the outer atolls such as Arno, go to Uliga dock (one of two docks in Majuro) and pay for a ticket in the fish-processing plant. A small cargo boat goes to Arno twice a week (usually Monday and Wednesday) - weather dependent. You are, in theory, only paying for your luggage, not yourself. It is approximately $3 per bag. The boat to outer islands leaves when it is ready. Get there from 9am and wait to be safe. Make sure you are at the correct dock. There are two docks right alongside each other, and it can be confusing.
You can also organise a private charter with one of the "yachties" that moor their yachts in the lagoon, alongside the docks. They can organise day/overnight trips to close-by islands. Ask the Tourism Office for their contact details.
Most Marshallese speak Marshallese and English. One important word in Marshallese is "yokwe" which is similar to the Hawaiian "aloha" and means "hello", "goodbye" and "love".
The weekly newspaper The Marshall Islands Journal (www.marshallislandsjournal.com) is a reliable source of information and news about the country. Also useful is a CD called On The Move in the Marshalls, which contains hundreds of pages filled with facts, articles, maps, and photos and is produced by journalist Karen Earnshaw ([email protected]). Other useful web sites include the Visitors Authority site (www.visitmarshallislands.com) and the Mieco Beach Yacht Club's site (www.sailingmarshallislands.com).
The Visitors Authority has a Tourist Office in the centre of Majuro. The office operates on normal business hours and are exceptionally friendly and helpful. The staff will organise any help you need and utilise their local contacts and knowledge to truly assist your needs.
Unfortunately, Majuro has become polluted, both on land and in the water. Other than the island of Laura, off Majuro, there is little to see with regards to a typical tropical island setting. One can visit the Telecommunications Authority building for an interesting insight into telecommunications in such a small civilization. You can also visit the College of Majuro to make an appointment with an academic who can tell you more about an area/field. It is essential to travel off Majuro and to visit a neighbouring island or separate atoll, such as Arno. These neighbouring atolls are by far less polluted and offer the true tropical paradise setting. Arno is the most accessible than other atolls; with easy transport and accommodation options available.
Marshall Islands is known for their traditional weaving and boat-construction methods. Support the local artisan trade by buying local curios available at a number of curios shops (especially around Robert Reimers Hotel).
There is only one budget-style accommodation option on Majuro; the FlameTree Backpackers. FlameTree is a backpacker/lodge/bar in the center of town; renowned for its bright red-foliaged tree outside, as well as its raucous nightlife. The cheapest option is a $20 p/p/p/n shared private room, with a communal bathroom. This option is NOT recommended as the condition of the rooms have deteriorated heavily and the bathroom is not just shared with tenants. The reasonable option available at FlameTree would be a single private for $30 p/p/p/n. Robert Reimers Hotels are closer to international standards, but start at approximately $50 p/p/p/n. Grocery costs are comparatively high, with staples being reasonable, but imported goods or unique items costing a lot more than other states. For example, bread is approximately $2/loaf, but apples are $2 each. Cigarettes are exceptionally cheap, selling for approximately $2,50 a box. Wine is almost non-existent, whereas spirits are easily accessible on Majuro, but are expensive. Taxis cost basically $0,50 between any two locations on Majuro. Transport costs off islands is entirely dependent on the transport type used. Food becomes more expensive and less available on outer atolls and islands. Restaurants range from upper-end at $20 a head (not many) to simple take-away places for about $5 a meal.
There are many types of different fruits that are available at different seasons. There are also farms (mostly local) that produce vegetable or raise pigs. Most, if not all, the produce that can be seen are as follows: breadfruit, pandanus, coconut, corn, tomato, sweet potato, cassava, papaya, pumpkin, "nin" (noni), lime, pigs, and chicken. In addition to these, there are regular stands that sell fruit and traditional food along the road from Ajeltake to Laura. he Marshall Islands was once known as the world's "fishiest" place, meaning that there was an over-abundance of species of fish that dwell in Marshallese waters. However, there is great uncertainty as to whether this is still true today. This is due to the fact that data concerning overfishing and destruction of natural habitat (by means of anchors, harmful chemicals, climate change, and such) are indicating a dramatic change in the health of the sea area covered by the Marshall Islands. There are also several restaurants that serve international food. The Marshall Islands Resort's (MIR) Enra Restaurant and Robert Reimers Enterprises' (RRE) Tide Table are among the most well known. There are also several non-Marshallese owned eateries that are available, such as Monica's (Chinese), La Bojie's (Filipino), China Restaurant (Chinese), Special Restaurant (Chinese), Oriental Noodle (Chinese), The Stone House (Japanese) and Aliang Restaurant (Chinese).
There are very few options for accommodation on Majuro - even less on outer atolls. The cheapest you will find, considered "Backpacker", is the FlameTree Lodge in the center of Majuro. Starting at $20 p/p/p/n for a shared room with communal bathroom, they also have private en-suites for $30p/p/p/n. However, FlameTree is a shared building with a very active bar and clientele. The managers warn residents about the loud music until early hours and the high possibility of sex workers occupying the corridors and other rooms. It is not for the faint-hearted. Its saving grace, is the legendary manager, Isaac, who will help you with ANY problem and is very accommodating. It is possible to camp on the island, but it will have to be in the private boundaries of someone's property with their permission. There are no parks or campsites available for camping. Prices suddenly increase very sharply the moment you desire amenities or international standard service/cleanliness. Robert Reimers Hotel group have rooms starting at approximately $50p/p/p/n and increasing as room size and amenities increase. At the top end of the spectrum, there are a handful of "Resort" style accommodations, but they are very pricey, as expected, and actually do not offer anything truly spectacular (no particularly excellent location etc.). It is possible to find accommodation for the outer atolls, such as Arno. Consult the Visitors Authority office for details and contact information. Accommodation for Arno atoll (camping and Lodge) can be arranged from Robert Reimers Hotel. Trying to organise accommodation before arriving in Marshall will prove almost impossible. Due to failing telecommunications, it will prove almost impossible to organise anything ahead of time. However, there is almost always available space at any establishment, so organising accommodation upon arrival will work.
How to greet and salute locals in their local language. How to prepare and enjoy the local fruits and vegetables. How to fish using local techniques and equipment. How to climb a coconut tree and prepare a coconut for eating.
It is possible for Americans to get work on either Kwajalein or Roi-Namur Islands in Kwajalein Atoll. Only citizens of the Marshall Islands and US Military personnel are allowed to disembark at Kwajalein Atoll. The island nation is massively short on skilled professionals and is increasingly advertising posts for skilled positions , especially focused around infrastructure development and healthcare. Approach the government sites or Visitors Authority for more information.
The crime rate of the Marshall Islands is VERY VERY LOW, and you DO NOT have to worry about going outside at night. The only hazard can come from drunken youths. Be careful of clearly inebriated people.
Remember to take you daily medication with you, because they are basically NO pharmacies in the Marshall Islands. Also, remember to take diarrhea medication with you. They are also a lot of mosquitos there, so take mosquito repellent with you also. WARNING, SOME MEDICATIONS ARE ILLEGAL IN OTHER COUNTRIES. CONTACT A HEALTH DEPARTMENT IF YOU WANT TO SEE IF ANY OF YOUR MEDICATIONS ARE ILLEGAL IN THE MARSHALL ISLANDS. The sun-burn factor is extremely high, and fresh drinking water is not readily available (even in restaurants/establishments). Always wear footwear when walking in the surf/coral as there are a lot of things that can injure, poison, bite or infect you.
Nudity is not appreciated on Marshall Islands, and conservatism increases as one travels further from the capital island. Snorkeling and swimming should be done with as minimal bare skin exposed as possible (male and female). It is a religious society, and social norms are generally quite conservative, with limits being set on alcohol consumption and nudity in most communities throughout the islands. The family unit is held as vital and there is a strong sense of community. As an outsider, you are seen as slightly strange in your loneliness, but then welcomed or even symbolically adopted into local families as a gesture of welcoming.
If you want more information on the Marshall Islands, contact the Marshall Islands Embassy by mailing a letter to the adress: 2433 Massachussets Ave. Northwest Washington, D.C., 20008. If you want to call the Marshall Islands embassy, pick up a phone and dial (202)-234-5414. The only really operational and useful establishment on the island (and off it) is the Visitors Authority Office. They are the only real institution "in the know". However, even their information is usually out-dated or defunct.