The Cook Islands is a democratic nation with a Westminster parliamentary system of governance. Being a commonwealth country, the Queen’s Representative is Head of state, however the Cook Islands gained self-government status in 1965 and continues to remain in close association with New Zealand. All Cook Islanders are granted New Zealand citizenship at birth. Most Cook Islanders are bilingual, with both English and Cook Islands Maori languages widely spoken. Visitors are exempt of requiring an entry permit, and can enter the Cook Islands for stays no longer than 31 days. All visitors must show a valid passport, proof of onward passage, and the financial means to support the duration of their stay. New Zealand citizens are not required to provide proof of outward passage. Extensions of stay may be granted to a maximum stay of 6 months upon approval granted by the Ministry Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Rarotonga. Local time is 10 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time.
In the Air
Rarotonga is home to the Cook Island’s International Airport at Avarua. Air New Zealand operate direct flights from New Zealand, North America (Los Angeles), and Australia (Sydney). There are also connecting Air New Zealand flights from Australia, Asia and Europe. Virgin Australia operates regular services out of New Zealand, with connecting flights from Australia. Air Rarotonga operates weekly code share services in conjunction with Air Tahiti from Tahiti. Air Rarotonga is our nation’s domestic airline with daily return flights operating between Rarotonga and Aitutaki. Air service to the remaining Southern Group islands receives a less frequent flight schedule. It is possible to fly between Atiu and Aitutaki islands every Wednesday according to passenger demand. Flights to Manihiki and the other Northern Group islands operate upon an on-demand charter service.
Currency used in the Cook Islands is the New Zealand dollar ($NZD). Currency exchange is available at Westpac Bank within Rarotonga’s International Airport. Foreign currency exchanged at Westpac Bank, ANZ Bank and Western Union in Avarua. Banking hours extend from 0900 until 1500 hours from Monday to Friday. ANZ Bank, Avarua branch has extended hours until 1600 hours on Friday, whilst Westpac Bank is open on Saturday from 0900 hours ‘til 1200 hours. ATM machines are located around Rarotonga, including Muri. ATM’s are located within the main villages of Arutanga – Amuri, on Aitutaki island, with the Aitutaki ANZ agency plus ATM being located near Pacific Resort, Aitutaki. Electricity is supplied at 240 volts AC Hz/ 50 cycle. Visitors from USA, UK and Europe require adapter plugs suited for New Zealand use for dual voltage appliances. Adaptors are available for sale on Rarotonga.
On the Road
Rental vehicles, motorbikes, scooters and pushbikes available on most islands and are widely available on Rarotonga. Driving is undertaken on the left hand side of the road. Visitors can drive in the Cook Islands on their overseas licence for up to six months, unless the licence expires, is revoked, suspended or disqualified in that time. Drivers are only permitted to use the class of motor vehicle they are entitled to drive in their home country. It is essential to gain a Cook Islands license to rent a scooter if the driver does not already have an endorsement to drive a motorbike on their international license. Police office hours for driver licencing on Rarotonga are 0900 – 2000 from Monday to Friday and from 0800 until 1500 on Saturdays. Maximum speed limit for motorbike & scooter drivers is 40 kph, and 50 kph for other motorised vehicles.
Public buses are available on Rarotonga and are operated by Cook’s Passenger Buses during peak daylight hours, and a restricted service exists at night-time and after 1300 hours on Saturday. Buses operate in both a clockwise and anticlockwise direction. Taxis, limousine and private charter coaches are also available transfers for evening dining and cultural shows and can be organised with respective venues. Activities and sports operators will also assist with transfer services.
Medical and dental services are available on the populous islands. Rarotonga Hospital is open 24 hours and located in Black Rock, phone (682) 22664. Nominal consultation and attendance fees apply for all non-Cook Islanders.
For Your Comfort & Safety
There are no poisonous animals to be found in the Cook Islands. Centipedes, wasps and stonefish can cause a localised reaction. Mosquito repellent and sunscreen is highly advisable. Important: wearing of reef shoes/flippers will minimise the risk of encountering stonefish on rare occasion within sheltered, warm and silty lagoon waters.
Communication within Rarotonga are modern and widely available for telephone, internet and postal services. Cyber cafes and WIFI hotspots are located within the main villages of Rarotonga and Aitutaki, and especially near major resorts and visitor accommodation. Telecom phone and internet cards can be purchased at the Telecom Centres in Rarotonga and Aitutaki, and also from larger stores around Rarotonga.
In order to respect local customs and culture, it is expected to avoid wearing skimpy attire in public places. IT is widely acceptable to wear swimwear in suitable areas such as at the beach, by the pool or relaxing around designated beachfront areas of the resort. Informal wear can comfortably be worn on most occasions, however church attendance requires a more modest dress sense.