Suva is the capital city of Fiji, and often maligned. However, Suva is part of the real Fiji that tourists should experience. The trick is being prepared. Fiji has received a great deal of poor press due to the political climate. Travelers to Fiji often overlook this capital city to spend time in the tropical resort islands, or tourist traps as Port Denarau. However, Suva is well worth a visit while you are in Fiji.
A real working city
While the resort islands are beautiful, relaxing and totally what people generally look for in a tropical holiday, Suva is where the population truly interacts. Being the largest city in the South Pacific Islands, Suva is cosmopolitan. Indigenous Fijians and Fijian Indians make up a large proportion of the population. The people are generally friendly and helpful, though there are precautions to be taken.
Fiji has a high unemployment rate and very little in the way of social welfare. Finding a job can be tough, and workers may earn little in comparison to western pay rates. With high unemployment, there is a somewhat seedy underside to the city, which puts many off trips to Suva. However, there are ways of minimizing the risks involved while experiencing the real Suva.
Fijian’s tend to view all westerners as rich, and therefore may try to take advantage of this by hiking up prices. Some store owners will try to corral you into their stores, or lead you in from the street. When in Suva, stay with someone else. Salespeople are less pushy with a group. Check your products in the store after purchasing as some have reported switches being made after money has changed hands. If you do not feel comfortable with a deal, do not make it.
Dress modestly in Suva, and avoid wearing expensive labels. Try to avoid carrying large cameras or bags with you around the city. A pocket camera and a zipped or hidden pocket for your Fijian Dollars is all you need to see the city without fear. But Suva is not all “doom and gloom”. Some of the loveliest people and most generous spirits live and make their living in the city. Approach people with a smile, ask questions and above all, enjoy learning about them.
Shopping in Suva can be just like in other cities. Air-conditioned malls are common, and provide a clean, cool escape from the humidity and heat outside. Do expect to pay for your toilet tissue in the mall facilities, so keep some Fijian coins on hand for the bathroom attendant.
Places to see in Suva
With over 70 parks in the city, this has to be a starter. With coconut palms growing gracefully on the waterfront, take a walk down to the peace garden. Enjoy the fragrance of the tropical flowers and messages of well being. Another stunning park is by the Fiji Museum, which is worth the visit.
For a real taste of Fijian life head to the markets. The sights and sounds of local people selling their produce is a spectacle in itself. Many of the stallholders travel in from the outer islands with their wares, eking out a living for their families. Chatting with the locals about their produce and how it is grown can be fascinating. Here is the perfect opportunity to try fresh tropical fruits, as the merchants are only too happy to show you the fruits, sell them cheaply, cut them open and show you how they are best eaten.
Walking around the city is an easy task, but sensible footwear is advised given the hills, humidity and road quality. Walking gives you a perfect chance to see the city and experience the culture. Ask the locals where they eat their lunch- this can lead to a more authentic meal at a much cheaper price than the tourist traps. As you are walking, look out for the colonial architecture, of note are the Government House, Parliament buildings and the Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Buses are common and cheap in Suva. However, they are often crowded and windowless. Watch out for speeding buses when crossing the roads. Taxi vans are cheaply available, and can be hired easily for trips or tours.
In conclusion, Suva is a bustling city with a great deal to offer tourists. Just beneath the surface is a darker side with beggars and pushy salespeople. Do not let the negative side of Suva prevent you from seeing the city. As a working city, Suva is part of the real Fiji that needs to be experienced by people traveling to the Pacific Island chain. Be cautious, but make sure you see Suva for yourself.