FAQ

INFORMATION FOR TRAVEL ENTRY REQUIREMENTS TO THE COOK ISLANDS

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Entry Requirements & Work Permits:

Do I need a permit to travel to the Cook Islands?

No. All visitors wishing to visit the Cook Islands will be issued a visitors permit on arrival into the Cook Islands, provided they meet the following entry requirements:

  • All international passport holders must have a passport valid for a period of at least 6 months beyond their intended period of stay in the Cook Islands.
  • There is a one-year retiree visa and permit.
  • All New Zealand and Australian passport holders are allowed stay of up to 90 days in the Cook Islands.
  • All other international passport holders are eligible for a stay of up to 31 days
  • You must have evidence of a valid outbound ticket or return ticket to your port of origin.
  • You must have proof of accommodation during your stay in the Cook Islands.

Can I still travel to the Cook Islands if my passport is valid for less than 6 months?

If your passport is valid for less than 6 months beyond the intended period of stay in the Cook Islands you must seek authority to travel to the Cook Islands from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI) in Rarotonga. Visitors can contact MFAI on [email protected] or visit the Cook Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration for more information.

Can I still travel to the Cook Islands if I have a criminal conviction?

You will need to provide relevant information to the Immigration department for review. To apply for an exemption, please email:[email protected] for more informaition.

How to Apply for a Visitor Permit Extension

Any visitor class of visa and permit can be extended for an additional 62 days or less at no fee. The extension can be requested in advance of travel or once on island.

  1. Email your extension request to: [email protected]
  2. Include "Visitor Extension concession" in the subject line of your email.
  3. Attach a copy of the passport bio-data page and the travel itinerary for each traveller.

Immigration Cook Islands will confirm when the request has been processed. Standard processing time is 20 working days.

Is a long-term Visitor Visa and Permit available for extended stay in the Cook Islands?

Yes. When applying for a Long-term Visitor Visa and Permit to the Cook Islands, you must have a valid passport and proof of onward travel. Applicants are required to show they have sufficient funds and comprehensive health insurance for the duration of their stay. The permit strictly prohibits engaging in work or study and varies in maximum length: up to 12 months for New Zealanders and 8 months for other nationals. The application process also includes a fee.

For stays extending beyond six months, additional documentation proving good health and character is necessary. For complete details on the application process and all requirements, please visit the Cook Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration for more information.

How do I obtain a work permit?

To acquire a work permit, you must have a confirmed place of work in the Cook Islands or are starting up your own business. Your future employer will supply you with all the paperwork you need for your work permit, including requirements for a police clearance and medical check-up, as well as a signed letter of job offer. Once all your paperwork is in order, you will receive a waiver letter so you can enter the Cook Islands. Your work permit will be issued once you have arrived in the country.

Where can I find out more about travelling to the Cook Islands?

For more information on travelling to the Cook Islands, visit our Travel Entry Requirements page.

Driver’s License and Transportation in the Cook Islands:

Can I drive in the Cook Islands?

Yes. All visitors over the age of 16 are able to drive in the Cook Islands. Provided they have a current driver’s license from their home country or have obtained a Cook Islands visitors license.

What drivers’ licenses are accepted in the Cook Islands?

The following drivers’ licenses are accepted in the Cook Islands. Your overseas license only enables you to drive the motor vehicle class that you are entitled to drive in your home country.

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • EU Members
  • Switzerland
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • UK
  • United States of America

If you currently hold a driver’s license from a country that is not listed, you will need to obtain a Cook Islands visitors license from the Cook Islands Police station.

What is the legal driving age in the Cook Islands?

Visitors (over 16) from Australia, New Zealand, US, Canada, UK and the EU can drive in the Cook Islands for up to six months using their full overseas license; provided it does not expire, is revoked, suspended or disqualified in that time. Need more tips on driving in the Cook Islands? The Aunties have you covered in this video.

Can I use my restricted driver’s license in the Cook Islands?

No. If you have an overseas restricted driver’s license, you will have to obtain a Cook Islands visitor license.

Can I apply for a Cook Islands driver’s license during my visit?

Yes. You can apply for a Cook Islands visitors license at the Rarotonga Police Station in downtown Avarua. You will need to undergo a theory (NZD10.00) and practical (NZD10.00) test before you receive your Cook Islands visitor license (NZD20.00). Visitor licenses are valid for up to 30 days.

What do I need when applying for a Cook Islands visitors driver’s license?

Theory Test: All applicants must provide their passport or a notarized copy of their birth certificate when applying for a Cook Islands visitors license. You will then be allocated a time to sit your theory test. Please keep in mind that this test may take some time depending on the number of tests needing to be processed.
Practical Test: You will need to provide your own scooter and helmet for the practical test.

Can I re-take the theory and practical test if I fail?

Yes. If you fail any of the tests, another day and time can be allocated for you to re-take either test.

Can I drive a motorbike/scooter using my overseas driver’s license in the Cook Islands?

Yes. Your overseas license only enables you to drive the motor vehicle class that you are entitled to drive in your home country. If your current license does not permit you to ride a motorbike/scooter in your home country, then you will need to obtain a Cook Islands visitor license which will enable you to drive a motorbike/scooter.

When can I apply for a Cook Islands driver’s license?

The hours of testing are as follows (which may be subject to change):

  • Theory Testing Monday to Thursday 9am; 11am and 1pm; Friday 9am and 11am;
  • Practical Testing Monday to Thursday 10am and 2pm; Friday 10am and 1pm

Do I need to wear a helmet?

Yes. Helmets are mandatory for all riders and passengers on a motorbike, scooter or electric bike on Rarotonga only. The new law – which is an amendment to the Transport Act 1966 – now requires all motorcyclists to wear helmets or face a fine of $250. This law does not extend to the outer islands however, all riders are encouraged to wear helmets whenever they are on a motorcycle, scooter or electric bike.

Can I fly my drone in Rarotonga?

Under the Civil Aviation Act 2002, there are strict rules applying to the operation of drones and RPAS to ensure they remain clear from aircraft flight paths. Cook Islands Civil Aviation Rule (CICAR) Part 101 regulates the general use of use drones. CICAR Part 102 applies to the operation of drones for commercial use. For further information and authority to operate please visit Ministry of Transport
Or contact the following:

Health Services and Safety

Are there any health services available in the Cook Islands?

Yes. A range of medical and dental services are available on Rarotonga. Aitutaki, Atiu and the Northern Group islands also have limited medical aid with very small hospitals. Emergency services operate on Rarotonga and there is an optometrist plus several pharmacies for prescriptions. Physiotherapists are also available on Rarotonga.

What is the emergency contact number for the Cook Islands?

For any emergency call: 999

Visit the Cook Islands Ministry of Health (Te Marae Ora) website for a full registry of community health clinics and locations across the Cook Islands.

Where do I go if I am feeling sick on Rarotonga?

When on Rarotonga, visitors are encouraged to visit the Tupapa Outpatient for any medical assistance. Contact the Outpatient on: +682 22664.

Should I be worried about Dengue fever?

While the risk to visitors is low if you are concerned about dengue fever we recommend you use insect repellent, wear light-coloured protective clothing, and stay in an accommodation with mosquito screens on windows and doors. Accommodation providers and other tour operators are continuing to take precautionary action by spraying to eradicate mosquitos.

Does the Cook Islands have snakes?

No. There are no snakes and most of the insects are harmless – but look out for centipedes, which can sting.

Is it safe to snorkel or kayak near the reefs and passages?

No. The coral reefs and passages to the open ocean should be treated with caution. Learn more about reef safety from our Aunties.

Is it necessary to have a guide with me while I am hiking on Rarotonga?

No. While some of the hiking treks are marked out, we do recommend that you take a guide with you, especially if it is your first time. If you plan on hiking please ask a local for advice, take a tour or let someone know your whereabouts. The Aunties have you covered in this hilarious, informative video about hiking in the Cook Islands.

Should I purchase medical insurance before travelling to the Cook Islands?

Yes. Visitors must meet their own medical costs during their time in the Cook Islands, including medical evacuation to New Zealand if specialist care is required. We recommend visitors take out health insurance to cover unexpected costs.

Languages

What are the official languages of the Cook Islands?

The official languages of the Cook Islands are Cook Islands Maori and English. English is widely spoken on the island of Rarotonga. While Cook Islands Maori is predominantly used in the outer islands (Pa Enua) of the Cook Islands.

Time zone

What timezone is used in the Cook Islands?

Cook Islands’ time is GMT-10 hours. Do your calculation before arrival, as booking accommodation to start a day too late is a common mistake.

Weather and Seasons

What is the weather like in the Cook Islands?

The Cook Islands enjoy a pleasantly warm and sunny climate all year round.

When is the best time to visit the Cook Islands?

All year round! Depending on what you like, here is a quick run-down of our seasons:

  • June to August - Cooler months
  • November to March - Warmer seasons with occasional tropical showers
  • April to November - Drier months with an average temperature of 26°C
  • December to March - Warmer, humid and damper season with temperatures between 22°C (min) and 31°C (max)

Banking

What currency is used in the Cook Islands?

The Cook Islands unit of currency is the New Zealand dollar, supplemented by local coins. The unique local coins and notes are not legal tender outside of the Cook Islands, but are keenly sought by collectors worldwide.

What banks are available in the Cook Islands?

Bank of the South Pacific (BSP), Bank of the Cook Islands (BCI) and Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ) are located in downtown Avarua. Open Monday-Friday from 9 am-3 pm.

Where can I exchange foreign currency in the Cook Islands?

Foreign currency exchange is available on the island of Rarotonga only, via the Bank of the Cook Islands and Western Union/No.1 Currency Exchange, located in the Avarua town area. Foreign currency exchange options offered are:

  • Bank of the Cook Islands: USD, AUD, FJD, CAD, GBP, XPF
  • Western Union/No.1 Currency Exchange: USD, AUD, GBP, FRF, EUR, CAD, FJD

Are there ATM and EFTPOS facilities in the Cook Islands?

ATMs are conveniently located around Rarotonga and Aitutaki and EFTPOS is available at most hotels and stores. Western Union has an office in Avarua, which offers money exchange and transfers. All ATMs in the Cook Islands dispense New Zealand currency.

Can I withdraw money using my international debit card?

Yes, all ATMs in the Cook Islands accept Visa and Mastercard. Please note that ATMs charge international cardholders a withdrawal fee of approximately $5.00NZD.

Telecommunications

Is there a telecommunications network in the Cook Islands?

Yes. Vodafone Cook Islands is the current mobile provider for telecommunications services in the country. 4G+ mobile data is available on Rarotonga and Aitutaki. With 4G now available on the remaining outer islands. There are WiFi hotspots at prime locations spread across all islands.

Are Traveller Sim cards available?

Yes. Visitors can get a preloaded Vodafone Cook Islands Travel SIM card. These are available at the Vodafone outlet at the airport or from their stores located in Avarua. Travel SIM cards are preloaded with mobile data, calling minutes, and TXTs to anywhere in the world. Click HERE to check out their traveller plans available. Check with your current mobile provider to see if your device is network locked (as it may need to be unlocked before your visit. Vodafones Travel SIM cards are also available as an eSIM.

What is a Travel eSIM?

A Travel eSIM is a digital SIM. So there's no need to swap SIM cards (and possibly end up losing your physical SIM). It's important to know that not all smartphones are eSIM compatible. Check here to see if your phone is compatible with Vodafone's Travel eSIM before purchasing one. Plan ahead and get your Travel eSIM online here before making your way to the Cook Islands. Skip the queues and get your eSIM online here or upon arrival, visit their outlet outside of Arrivals at the Rarotonga International Airport to get your mobile set up to the local network.

Does the Cook Islands have WIFI hotspots?

Yes. There are over 300 WiFi hotspots set up on Rarotonga and Aitutaki as well as accommodation providers on the outer islands. Vouchers can be purchased from any Vodafone outlet or reseller. Hotels, resorts and other accommodation providers also sell onsite WiFi vouchers for use while on the property.

Is roaming available in the Cook Islands?

It is recommended that visitors check with their providers what their roaming options and costs are before travel, as rates and process for activation vary depending on the network. If roaming is not available with their provider, pre-loaded Traveller Sims and e-Sims can be purchased from Vodafone Cook Islands.

Dress

What is the normal dress attire in the Cook Islands?

Although the dress code is informal, we do ask that you please dress modestly by not wearing brief attire when visiting town, villages and church. Nude or topless sunbathing will cause offence. A light sweater may come in handy for the cooler evenings. Learn more about dressing like a local.

Electricity

What power voltage and power outlet plugs do they use in the Cook Islands?

Electricity voltage is 240 AC/50 cycle, the same three pin plugs as used in New Zealand and Australia. Some hotels have outlets for 110 volt AC electric razors.

Clearing Customs

What items are exempt from Customs Charges?

Personal effects including sports equipment and clothing are exempt from customs charges. However, goods in excess of NZ$750 could be subject to customs charges.

Can I bring alcohol and cigarettes into the Cook Islands?

Duty-free items allowed include up to:

  • 200 cigarettes OR 250grams of tobacco OR 50 cigars
  • 2 litres of wine OR spirits OR 4.5 litres of beer
  • Duty free concession is per passenger 18 years old and over.

Can I bring vapes and vape refills into the Cook Islands?

From the 01 July 2024, bans on vape devices and products will take effect. Details below:

  • Tourists and visitors over the age of 21 are allowed to bring only one imitation tobacco device and up to 30 millilitres of e-liquid.
  • Must not dispose of the liquid and device in the Cook Islands, or give it to another person in the Cook Islands.
  • Must carry the device or any remaining liquid out of the country on departure, or hand over to the Ministry of Health.

For more information read the Tobacco Products Control Amendment Act 2024 on the Ministry of Health website.

Can I bring food into the Cook Islands?

All food items brought into the Cook Islands must be declared on your arrival card otherwise they could be confiscated; including meat, dairy products, eggs, honey products, and seeds for human consumption. No fruits and vegetables are permitted. Travellers with special food requirements will need to contact Biosecurity Cook Islands before arrival for items that may require a permit. More information available on the Ministry of Agriculture website.

Can I bring donated goods into the Cook Islands?

If you are wanting to bring in donated goods to give out to local groups or organizations, we recommend providing them with this step-by-step process to first have goods cleared with the Cook Islands Customs team.

  • Contact the receiving party : Get in touch with the organization or group in the Cook Islands that will be receiving the goods.
  • Contact Cook Islands Customs: Email the Customs team at [email protected] to discuss your specific case. They can provide accurate and up-to-date information on the requirements for bringing in donated goods. Ensure this is done at least a week prior to your arrival into the Cook Islands to avoid delays.
  • Follow Customs guidance: Follow the instructions provided by the Customs team. This may involve providing additional information or documentation.
  • Coordinate with the receiving party: Keep the receiving party updated on the progress of the clearance process and ensure they are prepared to receive the goods once they have been cleared by Customs.

It is important to note that this is just a general overview of the process. Each case may have unique factors that need to be considered. We recommend contacting Cook Islands Customs directly for accurate and current information specific to your situation.

Other Questions

What is the legal drinking age in the Cook Islands?

The legal drinking age in the Cook Islands is 18.

Is it possible to collect stamps?

If you are a stamp collector, the colourful Cook Islands stamps are distinctive and sought after by enthusiasts. Stamps are available from the Post Office located at the Vodafone Cook Islands main office, which opens Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm.

Is there public transportation on Rarotonga?

Yes. It is very easy to get around the island using public transport. There are two buses that circle the island of Rarotonga; Clockwise and Anti-clockwise. The buses will stop anywhere along the main road. All you have to do is smile and wave them down. Here is a link to the bus timetables.

Is there adaptive vehicle assistance for people with disabilities?

Yes. The Cook Islands Creative Centre offers transfer services to cater for people with disability, visiting the Cook Islands. Pick up and drop off services are available for NZD60.00. Contact the Cook Islands Creative Centre operations manager Danny Tixier for more information:
Email: [email protected]
Phone: +682 74019

Can I drink tap water in the Cook Islands?

No. While some accommodation providers have filtered taps, it is always best to boil tap water before drinking it. You can also refill your reusable bottle at filtered water stations around the island.

Do cruise ships visit the Cook Islands?

Yes. Disembarking passengers are met by friendly locals in a pop-up market by the wharf, including an information desk. Day activities are usually pre-booked in advance, such as round island tours and Muri lagoon tours. Cruise ships arrive early in the morning and depart late afternoon the same day.
For more information, contact our local agents below:

Cruise Cook Islands
P.O.Box 440, Avatiu, Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Stuart Henry - Managing Director, Rarotonga Agency
Ph: +682 25761 Mob: +682 54966
Email: [email protected]

Mike Henry - Director & Aitutaki Agency
Mob: +682 55105
Email: [email protected]

Martina Travel Ltd
P.O. Box 54, Avarua, Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Christine [Vina] Manuel - Shipping Manager Travel and Shipping Agencies
Ph: +682 21780 Mob: +682 55251
Email: [email protected]

Turama Pacific Travel Group
Turama House PO Box 240 Rarotonga Cook Islands

Robert Skews – Managing Director
Tel: +682 22026 Mob: +682 55039
Email: [email protected]

Jacopo Dozzo – DMCK Manager
Ph: +682 22026 Mob: +682 55966
Email: [email protected]