NOVEL CORONAVIRUS INFORMATION FOR TRAVELLERS ARRIVING IN THE COOK ISLANDS - click here for more information
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 negotiable outside of the Cook Islands, but are keenly sought by collectors worldwide.
Bank of the South Pacific (BSP), the Bank Cook Islands (BCI) and Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ) are located in downtown Avarua. Open Monday-Friday from 9am-3pm. BSP in Avarua is also open from 9am-12 noon on Saturdays.
ATMs are conveniently located around Rarotonga and Aitutaki and EFTPOS is available at most hotels and stores. Western Union has an office in Avarua offering money exchange and transfers.
Personal effects including sports equipment and clothing are exempt from duty. Duty free items allowed include up to 250 cigarettes, or 250gms of tobacco, or 50 cigars, 2 litres of wine or spirits or 4.5 litres of beer. However, goods in excess of NZ$750 could be subject to duty. Any food items must be declared on arrival otherwise they could be confiscated.
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 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.
Entry Requirements, Work Visas & Volunteering
What are the entry requirements for the Cook Islands?
When you come to the Cook Islands, a valid passport and a return ticket will allow you a stay of up to 31 days. New Zealand citizens are eligible for a 90-day stay on arrival.
Is it possible to extend my visa?
Extensions may be granted on a monthly basis – for up to 6 months. For extensions, apply 2 weeks before your permit expires. This does not guarantee admission to the Cook Islands. Immigration officers at a port of entry will have the final determination. For further information on immigration, please visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration at www.mfai.gov.ck .
You must have sufficient funds for your maintenance and confirmed booking/payments with the contact information of the accommodation you intend to stay at.
With the exceptions indicated below, holders of passports that are valid for less than 6 months beyond the intended period of stay in the Cook Islands must seek authority to travel to the Cook Islands from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration in Rarotonga.
This travel restriction does not apply to Cook Islanders and Permanent Residents of the Cook Islands. New Zealand (NZ) and Australian passport holders may also travel to the Cook Islands without seeking authority from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration provided their passports are valid for at least seven days beyond their intended period of stay in the Cook Islands.
ATTENTION: Sailors wanting to berth their yachts in the docks of Avatiu Harbour need to obtain moorings from the Harbourmaster at the Ports Authority, PO Box 84, Rarotonga, Cook Islands. If you are departing the Cook Islands by marine craft, you are required to pay departure tax. For more information visit www.mfem.gov.ck and www.ports.co.ck .
How do I obtain a work visa?
To acquire a work visa, you must already have a job lined up in the Cook Islands or starting up your own business. Your future employer will supply you with all the paperwork you need for your work visa, 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 visa will be issued once you are in the country.
Is it possible to volunteer in the Cook Islands?
There are some amazing volunteering opportunities in the Cook Islands. Global Volunteers is one of the main organisations to contact. Take a look at their website for more information on costs and dates https://globalvolunteers.org/cook-islands/#travel-tips
Getting Around the Cook Islands - Transportation
Can I drive in the Cook Islands?
All licenses from the following countries are accepted in the Cook Islands.
- EU Members
- New Zealand
- United States
If you have a full overseas drivers licence, you do not need to apply for a Cook Islands visitor licence. On an overseas licence, you will only be allowed to drive the class of motor vehicle that you are entitled to drive in your home country.
If you do not have a valid overseas licence from the above countries, you will need to obtain a Cook Islands visitor licence. Should you wish to drive a scooter or motorcycle and are not licensed in your home country to do so, you’ll need to apply for a Cook Islands licence to drive a motor vehicle.
The legal driving age in the Cook Islands is from 16 years old for a motorcycle and motorcar only. Any other classes you have to be 18 years and over. This includes all probationary, restricted or learners licence holders.
How do I obtain a Visitors Driver’s Licence?
You have a restricted overseas drivers licence
You will need to visit the Cook Islands Police Station in downtown Avarua, Rarotonga and produce your current restricted overseas driver’s license along with your passport and have this licence converted to a Cook Islands visitor driver’s licence to allow you to drive. The cost for the licence is NZD20.00. Visitors licences are valid for 30 days.
Getting a visitors motorcycle licence entails undergoing a theory and practical driving test at the Cook Islands Police Station in downtown Avarua, Rarotonga. You will need to present either one of the following forms of identification when applying for your visitor licence; passport or birth certificate.
Firstly, you must pass a theory test, the cost of which is NZD10.00. Once a driver passes the theory test, they can then move on to the practical test – cost NZD10.00. Testing fees are not refundable. The actual visitor licence is a further NZD20.00, bringing the total cost to NZD40.00.
In terms of process, all visitors requiring a visitor licence must present themselves with their passport or birth certificate. Once reported in, you will be allocated a time for your theory test. Please keep in mind that this test may take some time depending on the number of tests needing to be processed.
For the practical test, you will need to provide your own scooter. If you pass the theory test, the licences office will provide you with documents to take to the Polynesian Rentals next door to the police station. You will then show these documents on arrival and take your practical test with Polynesian Rentals. If you pass your practical test, Poly Rentals will provide you with documentation to take back to the police station. You can then also drive your scooter or motorbike to the police station. Upon arrival to the police station, you will need to show all documents to obtain your Cook Islands visitor licence to drive a scooter or motorbike.
Should you fail any of the tests, another day and time can be allocated for you to repeat the procedure.
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
For the benefit of all drivers, a Road Code is available from the Licensing Office for a cost of NZD20.00. It is advisable to be familiar with the code as relying on assumptions and preconceived notions may cause failure during testing. The visitors licences are valid for 30 days.
Is it possible to hire a scooter?
Absolutely! Hiring your own scooter while you are in the Cook Islands is so much fun. Scooters can be hired for as little as NZ$15 a day. If you have a full motorcycle class on your overseas license, you do not need to take a test to acquire a Cook Islands licence.
If you do not have a full motorcycle class on your license and would like to hire a scooter during your visit, you will need to undergo a driving test at the Cook Islands Police Station in downtown Avarua. See "How do I obtain a Visitors Drivers License above".
Do I have to wear a helmet?
Yes. Safety helmets are compulsory for all non-residents of the Cook Islands travelling on a motorcycle – driver and passenger. This is compulsory for Rarotonga only and does not apply to visitors driving a motorcycle in the outer islands.
Can I hire a car?
If you are wanting to move around the island more independently, hiring a car in the Cook Islands is simple. Car hire fees start from as low as NZ$40 a day and if you have a full over overseas drivers license, you do not need to apply for a Cook Islands license. On an overseas licence, you will only be allowed to drive the class of motor vehicle that you are entitled to drive in your home country.
Is there public transportation on Rarotonga?
It is very easy to get around the island using public transport. There are two buses which circle the island of Rarotonga; Clockwise and Anti-clockwise. The buses will stop anywhere along the main road. All you have to do it smile and wave them down. Here is a link to the bus timetables.
Health Services & Safety
Are there any health services available in the Cook Islands?
A range of medical and dental services are available in Rarotonga. Aitutaki and Atiu 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.
Caution: There are no snakes and most of the insects are harmless – but look out for centipedes, which can sting.
The coral reefs and passages to the open ocean should be treated with caution. Learn more about reef safety from our Aunties.
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.
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.
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 accommodation with mosquito screens on windows and doors. Accommodation providers and other tourist operators are continuing to take precautionary action by spraying to eradicate mosquitos.
Cook Islands Maori is the local language but everyone also speaks English.
Is there a telecommunications network in the Cook Islands?
Yes. Vodafone Cook Islands is the sole provider for all telecommunications services in the country. 4G mobile data is available on Rarotonga and Aitutaki. 3G is now available on Mitiaro, Atiu and Mauke. The remaining outer islands only have 2G service. There are also WiFi hotspots at prime locations spread across all islands.
Get a preloaded Vodafone Cook Islands 15-Day Travel SIM card on your arrival to the Cook Islands (at the airport, Avarua or Muri Beach stores) and you're good to go with 3GB data, 30 calling minutes and 300 TXTs to anywhere in the world.
There are also over 300 WiFi hotspots set up on Rarotonga and Aitutaki. 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.
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?
The Cook Islands enjoy a pleasantly warm and sunny climate all year round. June to August are the cooler months, whilst November to March marks the warmer season, with occasional tropical showers expected. The drier months from April to November have an average temperature of about 26°C, whilst the warmer more humid and damp season runs from December to March. During this season the temperature ranges between 22°C (min) and 31°C (max). Severe weather is rare and infrequent.
Is it possible to collect stamps?
If you are a stamp collector, the colourful Cook Islands stamps are distinctive and sought after by enthusiasts. Mail is available from the Post Office, which opens Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm.
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]
Matina 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]
DMCK – Destination Management Cook Islands
Turama House PO Box 240 Rarotonga Cook Islands
Nina Webb – Manager
Tel: +682 23026 Mob: +682 74685
Email: [email protected]