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Here you will find the most important informations about Cook Islands
|Cook Islands General Information||Cook Islands Business Profile||Cook Islands Tipping|
|Cook Islands Entry Requirements||Cook Islands Social Profile||Cook Islands People & Economy|
|Getting Around Cook Islands||Cook Islands Health & Medical Facilities||Cook Islands Clothing & Attire|
|Cook Islands Duty Free||Cook Islands Currency/Money||Cook Islands Sports & Activities|
|Cook Islands Communications||Cook Islands Shopping||Cook Islands Time Zone|
The Cook Islands (Cook Islands Maori : Kuki 'Airani) are a self-governing parliamentary democracy in free association with New Zealand. The fifteen (15) small islands in this South Pacific Ocean Country have a total land area of 240 kilometres (92.7 sqmi). Tourism in the country's number one industry, the leading element of the economy, far ahead offshore banking, pearls, marine and fruit exports. A popular art form in the islands is Tivaivai, often liked to quilting. Defense is the responsibility of New Zealand, in consultation with the Cook Islands and at its request. In recent times the Cook Islands has adopted an increasingly independent foreign policy.
Area: 240 kilometres (92.7 sq miles).
Population: 18,700 (official estimate March 2006).
Population Density: 76 per sq km (197 per sq mi).
Costitutional Monarchy. Head of State:
Queen Elizabeth II. Queen's Representative : Sir Frederick Goodwin. Prime Minister : Jim Marurai
COOK ISLANDS ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
No visa is required for a stay of up to 31 days which is granted on entry but visitors must have a return or ongoing ticket. You can extend this by applying at the Immigration office in the Government Office Building behind the Post Office (phone 29 347). The maximum extension is six months and you’ll need proof of funds to get an extension. Officially you are supposed to have a hotel reservation for your first night on Rarotonga, and the minimum most hotels will book is two nights (some even have four night minimums). In practice, if you write the name of a hotel on your entry card, the Immigration Officer probably won’t question your ‘honesty’. Representatives of the backpacker places meet all flights and their dormitories are never full. However, if you want medium to top end accommodation, you should book ahead as the best resorts are often full. Click here for more Visa Informations
GETTING AROUND COOK ISLANDS
The Cook Islands travel network is fairly sophisticated which makes getting around the islands easy. Rarotonga is only 32km in circumference so it is easy to explore by car, moped or bicycle. The main circular coastal road is flat and tar-sealed and there are lots of side roads heading inland which connect to an ancient road, a km or so inland at the foot of the mountains.
Car hire is about NZ$50 a day basic. Moped rentals are a lot more reasonable with deals of NZ$55 for four days. There are rental companies based in Avarua Town, at the Airport and at several of the resorts and hotels. Helmets are not necessary although hire companies do offer them is you want. Petrol is reasonable and driving is on the left. .
To drive in the Cook Islands (moped or car) you will first need to obtain a Cook Islands driving license at the police station in Avarua. If you're current license does not specify you can drive a moped, you will need to take a quick test. Fees for the license are NZ$15 and are obtainable on the same day. Moped and bicycle hire is also available on Aitutaki, Atiu and Mauke but a license must first be obtained in Rarotonga.
Buses travel around Rarotonga every hour in each direction between 7am and 4pm Mon to Sat with reduced Sunday services. There's also a night bus operating until 10pm weekdays and until 1.30am on busy Friday night. Fares are NZ$2.50 a ride or NZ$17 for 10 rides. There is no bus service on Aitutaki (except airport pick-ups / drop-off's) nor on the other islands.
There is only one airline operating between the islands - Air Rarotonga. There are daily air connections (except Sunday) from Rarotonga to Aitutaki and several flights a week from Rarotonga to Atiu, Mauke, Mitiaro and Mangaia for the same price. Air Rarotonga's pass between Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Atiu offer substantial savings. Inter island shipping is generally too infrequent and too great a distance to be considered by all but the most seasoned of travellers -those looking for something special.
COOK ISLANDS DUTY FREE
The inbound duty is two litres of spirits or two litres of wine and 200 cigarettes (or equivalent). Personal items (including sporting equipment are not dutiable. I’m told that outbound duty free cigarettes are the cheapest in the world. Smokers should seize that opportunity with a promise that it will be the last carton - why would governments ever ban such a nasty little product when they are extracting that much duty into the coffers!
COOK ISLANDS COMMUNICATIONS
Communications: TelePost (CITC Shopping Centre, next to ANZ Bank) opens 8:00am to 4:00pm weekdays and 8:30am to midday Saturdays for stamps, phone cards, faxing and Internet access. Telecom Cook Islands (walk up to the Earth Station Complex on Tutukimoa Road) is open 24 hours a day for overseas phone calls, telegrams and Internet access. Both are slightly more expensive than other Internet cafes but possibly slightly faster and more reliable. The public fax number for Rarotonga is (682) 26174.
Post: The post office in Avarua on Rarotonga will hold general mail for 28 days and doesn’t charge you to pick up letters - which is surprising for a somewhat cash-strapped government. Telepost (CITC Shopping Centre) sells stamps, telephone cards (public phones outside - dial 00 for international access) and has a fax send and receive service as well as Internet access. On Aitutaki the post office is in the Administration Centre and sells phone cards (public phones also outside), has a fax service and sells Aitutaki postage stamps. These can only be used to post letters from Aitutaki and are not accepted on Rarotonga.
The Cook Islands News (published daily except Sunday) is well worth the $1.00 to get a bit of an insight into how the place ticks. It may not have as much international news as the Sydney or Auckland papers but isn’t that what you’re trying to escape from? The Cook Islands Herald is a weekly paper owned by the same family that runs the local radio and television stations. Watch especially for reports on local political scandals and announcements of local events. Even the ads and classifieds can be interesting.
COOK ISLANDS BUSINESS PROFILE
Economy: Tourism is by far the main foreign exchange earner generated by the 60,000 or so tourist arrivals each year. An estimated 80% of the GDP is generated through tourism and services. Other services include the dubious industry of offshore banking, but continued pressure from Australia and New Zealand along with a recent tightening in international money laundering may see an end of this lucrative business for the Cook Islands Black pearls and fruit exports (mostly pawpaw) are the only other major source of income for the islands although revenue from the sale of fishing rights (mostly Tuna) is being promoted to the international market. Several cottage industries are doing well including coconut perfumes and soaps, and the rapidly growing export of Noni juice used as an all round medicinal remedy. Most trade, both imports and exports, is with New Zealand.
COOK ISLANDS SOCIAL PROFILE
Food & Drink: Restaurant dining should be on every visitors list. The size of Rarotonga makes dining out easy and those willing to get outside the resorts will be rewarded. Apart from the wonderful location, Trader Jacks in Avarua has excellent food. For those wanting to kick on there’s the Staircase Bar and Restaurant nearby and Banana Court. Also in Avarua, Portofino is still popular after 15 years - good food (dine in and take away) and there’s Lotus China for Chinese. The outdoor garden setting is nice, once you get used to the traffic noise and the occasional rooster (for some reason Cook Island roosters have no idea of time and they can crow at any time of day). For a cheap snack, head to Mama’s Café next to Foodland or Aramoana Fish ‘N’ Chips by the harbour.
Nightlife: You will find nightlife in Avarua at Trader Jack’s, the Staircase Bar & Restaurant, the Banana Court, TJ’s Nightclub and at the larger resorts. Friday night is the ‘biggest’ night of the week and Sunday nights are the quietest. A cheap thrill tip from David Stanley’s Moon Handbook. Find out when an Air New Zealand 767 will be arriving and position yourself on the sea wall at the west end of the runway. Apparently it’s quite an experience to have a big jet pass 15 metres over your head. I imagine even more so after a Friday night pub crawl (aim to get there at 10:15pm!).
Events: Cook Islands culture and dance can be seen at the many and varied Island Nights and particularly during the annual Constitutional Celebrations. Sunday Church could be classified as a ‘ceremony’.
HEALTH & MEDICAL FACILITIES IN COOK ISLANDS
The locals drink the tap water but those with sensitive stomachs may feel better with bottled water (Foodland in Avarua is cheaper than roadside shops). You may want to get into the habit of boiling the jug in your room before bed so you have cold boiled water in the morning. You won’t contract any exotic tropical diseases but taking a small first aid kit is recommended. Hydrogen Peroxide, antiseptic cream and bandaids are recommended for coral cuts (even a scratch can attract coral dust). Analgesics and Berocca may come in handy, especially if you try to match the locals drink for drink on a Friday night and Imodium/Lomatil or similar can put a quick stop to an upset stomach. In the event of an emergency, Rarotonga’s main hospital is open 24 hours a day (phone 22 664). To call an ambulance, dial 998. There are also medical clinics and private practitioners. The Cook Islands Ministry Of health web site is at www.health.gov.ck.
In the event of an emergency, Rarotonga’s main hospital is open 24 hours a day (phone 22 664). To call an ambulance, dial 998. The doctors and facilities here are adequate but the pay is low for doctors, which means that to attract top doctors there has to be a bit of charity/missionary motivation. In the case of a serious emergency, a plane flight out may be the solution, which is why travel insurance is recommended. If you do visit the hospital, you will pass some of Rarotonga’s more exclusive residences on the way.
COOK ISLANDS CURRENCY/MONEY
The currency in the Cook Islands is the New Zealand dollar. You may receive strange shaped coins occasionally (Cook Island currency) - these can only be used in The Cooks - once you board the plane they become souvenirs. You can buy a mint condition Cook Islands $3 note at the Philatelic Bureau for $7 as a souvenir. Isn’t that a nice little money earner? If you don’t need one looking crisp and new, just ask a teller at the ANZ or Westpac banks if they have any. These cost $3, so it’s a bargain. There are two versions of the $3 note - and Aitutaki pink one and a Rarotonga green one (both are legal tender within the country). Banking facilities are available for international arrivals. There are Westpac and ANZ Banks in Rarotonga. Westpac is next to Island Craft in the Main Street and opens 9:00am to 3:00pm weekdays and 9:00am till midday on Saturdays. The ANZ is next to the Visitor Information Centre and opens 9:00am till 3:00pm Mon to Thurs and till 4:00pm Friday. There is an ATM at the ANZ and Westpac represents American Express.
Travellers cheques: Traveller’s Cheques are accepted in the Cook Islands but with ATMs, credit cards, cash exchange facilities is there a place for these dinosaurs in today’s sophisticated world? That said, traveller’s cheques do get a better exchange rates than cash at banks and they are insured in a way that cash can’t be.
COOK ISLANDS SHOPPING
Shops mostly open from 8:00am to 4:00pm weekdays and 8:00am to midday on Saturdays. It doesn’t take long to stroll around the shops in Avarua to see what is on offer. You can buy a mint condition Cook Islands $3 note at the Philatelic Bureau for $7 as a souvenir. Isn’t that a nice little money earner? If you don’t need one looking crisp and new, just ask a teller at the ANZ or Westpac banks if they have any. These cost $3, so it’s a bargain. There are two versions of the $3 note - and Aitutaki pink one and a Rarotonga green one (both are legal tender within the country). The Punanga Nui Cultural Market near the harbour is worth a visit, particularly on Saturday mornings. Island Craft is good for, well, island craft and there are shops that sell black pearls and other souvenirs. For good tropical clothing visit Tav’s Clothing Factory (Vakatini Road across from the Bowling Club in Avarua) and Joyce Peyroux Garments (Arorangi). For handicrafts and beachwear on Aitutaki, head to the Orongo Centre near Arutanga Wharf (closed Sundays).
COOK ISLANDS TIPPING
Tipping is not encouraged in the Cook Islands. Tip with a smile and 'meitaki ma’ata' (thank you). Polynesian custom says that if you give something for nothing, the person receiving will owe you - and that’s how a tip is perceived. Bargaining can also be taken as an insult.
COOK ISLANDS PEOPLE AND ITS ECONOMY
Like many other South Pacific island nations, the Cook Islands' economic development is hindered by the isolation of the country from foreign markets, lack of natural resources, periodic devastation from natural disasters, and inadequate infrastructure. Agriculture provides the economic base with major exports made up of copra and citrus fruit. Manufacturing activities are limited to fruit-processing, clothing, and handicrafts. Trade deficits are made up for by remittances from emigrants and by foreign aid, overwhelmingly from New Zealand. Efforts to exploit tourism potential, encourage offshore banking, and expand the mining and fishing industries have been partially successful in stimulating investment and growth.
COOK ISLANDS CLOTHING & ATTIRE
Think cotton, think casual (shorts, short-sleeved shirts). Dress should be light and casual, but not too brief in public places. Sunbaking around the resort pool or on a beach is fine, but bathers shouldn’t be worn outside the resort. A sarong/sulu/paraeu is a useful accessory for covering up over a swimming costume as well as wrapping wet things in or using to lie on. Again, tropical clothes are fine for evening wear - ties are rare, even for people going to court or funerals. In the cooler months a long-sleeved shirt or jacket may come in handy. Ladies - roadside walks are unkind to heels - better to wear a comfortable pair of flat-soled shoes than make a fashion statement. A pair of reef shoes will come in handy, as will your own mask and snorkel. If you are planning on a Sunday church outing, men should wear long sleeves and long trousers (and shoes!) and ladies should wear a dress (the locals also wear dress hats). For local lightweight tropical clothing head to Tav’s Clothing factory on Vakatini Road or Joyce Peyroux Garments in Arorangi.
COOK ISLANDS SPORTS & ACTIVITIES
Watersports: Scuba-diving and snorkelling are excellent in the clear waters of the islands many lagoons. Visibility is seldom less than 30m (100ft) and the scenery is quite varied, with canyons, caves, 73 types of live coral and a rich marine life. A maximum of 10 persons can dive at any one site at any one time. There are four dive companies operating in Rarotonga and Aitutaki, usually offering two diving trips a day. Divers must have a recognised diving certificate. Some of the best dive sites include the Matavera Drop-off; the Ngatangiia Swimthroughs (particularly well known for its unusual and rare fish species); Koromiri Coral Garden; Mataora Wreck (purposely sunk in December 1990); Papua Canyon (known for its eagle ray population); and Sand River. Whale watching can also be practised in the Cook Islands: the humpback whale season is from July to October. In addition to observing the whales from a boat, it is possible to swim with them wearing a snorkel; for details, contact local operators. Game fishing excursions (usually five-hour trips) are available. Visitors can also watch flying fish being netted at night in outrigger canoes equipped with bright lights. Visitors are welcome at Rarotonga Sailing Club, where sailing races are held on Saturday afternoons from October to May. Kayaking tours in the lagoon are also available, as are lagoon cruises to the coral reefs in glass-bottomed boats or in a semi-submersible vessel.
The Rarotonga Golf Club has a nine-hole golf course. In addition, lawn bowls has an enthusiastic following and is a long-established sport in Rarotonga. Two-and-a-half-hour pony treks to Wigmores Waterfall leave twice daily with a maximum of six people per trip (advance booking is recommended).
COOK ISLANDS TIME ZONE
The time zone is the same as Hawaii - two hours behind California time and 22 hours behind Fiji and New Zealand. This can give some travellers a feeling of ‘Groundhog Day’ - leaving Australia or New Zealand on, say, a Thursday, arriving in the Cook Islands on a Thursday after midnight, going to bed in the wee hours and waking up with a whole Thursday ahead. Of course a Thursday can disappear in a couple of hours on the way home.
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