Ahead of our 2019 expedition to the WW2 heritage-rich Solomon Islands here are answers to frequently asked questions about travel to this remote and naturally beautiful island nation in the South Pacific.
Is it safe to travel to the Solomon Islands?
The Solomon Islands are perfectly safe to travel to, and safer than most popular tourist destinations around the world. Made up of over 900 islands, the Solomon Islands are known as the "Happy Isles". At the heart of this island nation are it’s friendly and culturally diverse people. This unique melting pot of cultures and traditions is an important feature of the Solomon Islands. The Solomon Islands is a developing country, and as with travel to anywhere in the world, common sense and normal precautions taken when traveling outside the US go a long way. Hotels in the Solomon Islands feature security. For more information regarding safety please consult the US Department of State’s page on travel to the Solomon Islands: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/SolomonIslands.html
Where are the Solomon Islands located?
The Solomon Islands are located south of the equator in a subregion of Oceania known as Melanesia. The over 900 islands that make up the country of the Solomon Islands lie east of northern Australia, east of Papua New Guinea, north of Vanuatu, and west of Fiji. The first Europeans to arrive in the Solomon Islands were the Spanish in 1568 under the command of conquistador Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira.
What is the time difference in the Solomon Islands?
The Solomon Islands are 15 hours ahead of the US East Coast, and 18 hours ahead of the US West Coast.
What language do they speak in the Solomon Islands?
English is the official language of the Solomon Islands. From 1893 to 1978 the Solomon Islands was a colony of Britain, the British Solomon Islands Protectorate. Though English is the official language, the de facto lingua franca is Solomons Pijin, a form of English creole. The vast majority of the population speaks Solomons Pijin as only a small percentage are able to communicate fluently in standard English. Additionally, throughout the over 100 inhabited islands, 70 indigenous languages are spoken.
What is the weather like in the Solomon Islands?
The Solomon Islands are extremely humid throughout the year due to the tropical equatorial climate. Seasons are not pronounced and the mean temperature is 79.7°F. As a tropical equatorial climate it does rain, but it is not monsoonal with extended periods of heavy rainfall. Poor weather usually comes and goes fairly quickly.
What type of food can I expect to eat in the Solomon Islands?
As the Solomon Islands are a culturally diverse place and made up of over 100 inhabited islands, traditional food varies slightly from locale to locale and people to people. What most islanders subsist on comes direct from what they harvest from the land and the sea. Pork, fish, vegetables, and fruits are all staples of the traditional diet of the Solomon Islanders. The majority of the food we will be consuming during the expedition is standard Western cuisine made to Western health standards. Honiara (the capitol of the Solomon Islands), Guadalcanal features several 4-star and 5-star hotels with restaurants to eat at. On our expeditions we also like to experience the culture, so for those interested, there is opportunity to try traditional food of the Solomon Islands.
What currency is used in the Solomon Islands?
Since 1977, the official currency of the Solomon Islands has been the Solomon Islands Dollar (SBD). US dollars are not used in the Solomon Islands. To avoid being taken advantage of, it is strongly advised not to try and use US dollars in the Solomon Islands. As of this writing, the current exchange rate is $1.00 USD equals $7.83 SBD. In the Solomon Islands currency exchanges are available as well as Banks and ATMs but expect to pay exchange rates and service fees. Debit Cards and Credit Cards can be used at hotels, restaurants and some stores, but in most cases a service charge will be incurred. In order to avoid cash flow problems and unnecessary holds on your accounts, you must notify your bank and credit card providers prior to your departure to make them aware of your travels to the Solomon Islands. Using traveler’s checks is not advisable. Some US banks offer free currency exchange; we advise going this route and ordering Solomon Islands Dollars in advance from your bank.
Can I use my US electrical devices in the Solomon Islands?
The voltage in the Solomon Islands is 220 volts, which is different from the US. The voltage in the US is 120 volts. The plug used in the Solomon Islands is also different from the US. The type “I” plug is used in the Solomon Islands, which is the same type of plug used in Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, China and Argentina. Items such as laptops, tablets and smartphones are made to handle a range of voltage and for these items to be used in the Solomon Islands only a plug adaptor is required. The Travel Smart All-In-One Adaptor by Conair is the plug adapter we have used without incident on our travels and recommend, and it can be purchased from a number of sources online. If you plan on bringing multiple electrical devices, we strongly recommend the TESSAN 3 Outlet Surge Protector Travel Power Strip with 4 USB Ports Charging Station 5 Ft Cord + Asia & European Travel Plug Adapter Set.
Many stand-alone battery chargers for cameras are only 120 volts. Read the fine print on your battery charger to determine the voltage range it can handle. In order to prevent headache and to not fry your battery charger, if yours cannot handle 220 volts we recommended searching online and purchasing the Australian equivalent. We highly advise against using voltage converters in the Solomon Islands because in our experience with the power grid there it ends up frying and breaking your electrical devices. Batteries are expensive and hard to come by in the Solomon Islands and anything beyond AAA and AA batteries will be hard to find, so it is far easier, cheaper and safer in the long-run to purchase the Australian equivalent of your battery charger.
We recommend leaving things such as electric shavers and electric toothbrushes at home.
Can I use my US smartphone in the Solomon Islands?
Yes, you can! If you want to make calls from your smartphone to the US while in the Solomon Islands contact your service provider in advance in order to avoid exorbitant fees! If you prefer to avoid international calling fees altogether, prior to departing the US turn off cellular data and put the device in airplane mode – keep your smartphone like this for the duration of the trip. This will disable the device from receiving or making calls while you are overseas – effectively turning your smartphone into a tablet allowing use of the camera and other necessary features.
Will I be able to use the Internet in the Solomon Islands?
The Solomon Islands are some of the most remote places in the world, and as a result it is a backwater for Internet connectivity. Most of the population of the Solomon Islands do not have Internet access. Internet is available for a fee at most hotels in Honiara, Munda and Gizo. Internet speed is slower than what is accustomed to in the US. Connections can be excruciatingly slow at times. When traveling to the Solomon Islands be prepared to go off the grid. Prior to travel to the Solomon Islands it is strongly advised to notify work and family that you will have limited to no Internet access while traveling.
What travel documentation is required for travel to the Solomon Islands?
A valid passport that certifies your identity and nationality is required for entry into the Solomon Islands. It is highly advised to make multiple photocopies of your passport and leave with family at home, as well as bringing a couple photocopies with you. Information about obtaining a US Passport is available on the website of the US Department of State: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports.html
Any required vaccinations or health precautions for travel to Solomon Islands?
Currently the US does not require any vaccinations for its citizens to enter the Solomon Islands. Although not a requirement to participate in our expedition, we strongly recommend the following:
• Tetanus (it is recommended to get a booster if it has been more than 5 years since your last Tetanus booster)
• Hepatitis A
• Prescription Malaria prevention pills
• If have sensitive stomach (i.e. prone to diarrhea while traveling) bring an over the counter preventative medication
• If prone to sea sickness bring an over the counter preventative medication
• Insect repellent for jungle trekking
For more information regarding vaccinations and health precautions please refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s page on travel to the Solomon Islands: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/solomon-islands
What happens if I have a medical emergency in the Solomon Islands?
At all times we will be equipped with a satellite phone and a first aid kit. We maintain contacts for emergency first responders, and we work closely with local guides who have an intimate knowledge of the areas of the Solomon Islands we will be going to. The largest public hospital in the Solomon Islands is located in Honiara, with smaller facilities in the other areas of the Solomon Islands we will be traveling to. Private clinics are also found in Honiara. On our expeditions the health and safety of everyone is our number one priority.
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