Initially known as French Establishments in Oceania (1881), French Polynesia became an Overseas Territory in 1946. The French annexed various Polynesian island groups during the 19th century. In September 1995, France stirred up widespread protests by resuming nuclear testing on the Mururoa Atoll after a three-year moratorium. The tests were halted in January 1996. In recent years, French Polynesia's autonomy has been considerably expanded.
The currency in French Polynesia is the Pacific Franc (XPF - Franc Pacifique). The privilege of the issue belongs to the Overseas Issuing Institute which issues notes and metallic currency denominated in CFP francs (1000 CFP francs equivalent to 8.38 euros). The banking network comprises five banks and seven financial companies. The banks are grouped together within a local branch of the French association of banks which sets the conditions for the placement of banking operations and the rates of remuneration of deposits within the framework of the regulations in force.
Money exchange services are available at most banks, the international airport, licensed exchange offices, at hotels and resorts. Credit cards and ATM facilities may not be available at smaller shops and on the more remote islands and atolls. Only Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Diners and JCP (Japan) are widely accepted in French Polynesia. Holders of other cards may encounter difficulties obtaining cash and paying for goods. Industrial disputes and strikes have the potential to cause disruption to the supply of essential services and transport, including international and domestic air links.
Diving is a popular pastime in the Territory but the only decompression facility is located in Papeete and that in the event of an accident it might take some time to reach from some of the popular diving sites located on other islands. Tropical storms including cyclones can occur between the months of November and April. Faa'a International Airport in Papeete may be subject to closure during periods of heavy rain.
Although French Polynesia has a low crime rate, petty crime, such as pick pocketing and purse snatching, does occur. Travellers should secure your valuables at all times and remain particularly vigilant at night. Tap water in Papeete is generally considered safe to drink. It is recommended, however, to boil all drinking water or drink only bottled water outside of Papeete.
Medical treatment is generally good on the major islands, but is limited in more remote or less populated areas. In less populated areas, if there are no hospitals, medical assistance can be found at a Dispensaire, a French government-run clinic. Patients with emergencies or serious illnesses are often referred to facilities on Tahiti for treatment. Mosquito-borne diseases may be present, including dengue fever and zika virus. Outbreaks of dengue fever and influenza-like illness are common during the warmer and wetter months of the year. Take precautions against being bitten by mosquitos. Outbreaks of leptospirosis, scabies and diarrhoea also occur.
Road conditions in French Polynesia are different than in the United States. While most major roads are paved, many secondary roads are not. In urban areas, traffic is brisk, and all types of vehicles and pedestrians jockey for space on narrow streets.
Crosswalks are marked, and the law requires that motor vehicles stop for pedestrians; however, this is not always done. Tourists should exercise caution when driving, particularly at night. While extensive sections of the road circumnavigating Tahiti have streetlights, many streets do not. Tourists who rent bicycles or mopeds should be particularly attentive to their driving and the driving of others and not underestimate the danger, even on roads with little traffic. At night, beware of bicycles operating without proper lights.
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