What are the driving requirements in the Cook Islands?
All licenses from the following countries are accepted in the Cook Islands.
- EU Members
- New Zealand
- United States
Whatever vehicle visitors are permitted to drive in these countries, that license will be accepted, including any conditions attached to that license. In this instance, there is no requirement to obtain a Visitor’s License to drive in the Cook Islands.
Should a visitor wish to drive a scooter or motorcycle and is not licensed, they must obtain a Visitor’s License. Please note that the legal driving age in the Cook Islands is from 16 years old. This includes all probationary or learner’s licenses holders.
How do I obtain a Visitors Drivers License?
There are two phases of testing in order to obtain a Visitor’s License. Firstly, you must pass a Theory Test, the cost of which is NZD10.00. Once a driver passes the Theory, they can then move on to the Practical Test – cost NZD10.00. The actual license is a further NZD20.00, bringing the total cost to $40.00.
In terms of process, all visitors requiring a license must present themselves with their passport at the National Police Headquarters in Avarua. Once reported in, you will be allocated a time to sit your Theory Test. This timing is largely based on the number of drivers as testing is conducted in batches. Fewer numbers will be processed but generally, there will need to be a justifiable number to proceed as Police Officers may be diverted to attend to other duties.
Given the large number of visitors each day requiring testing and licenses, there will be periods of waiting. There are quieter periods when processing can be dealt with more quickly. This is out of the control of the Police Service. Should you fail any of the tests, another day and time can be allocated for you to repeat the procedure.
The testing hours (which may be subject to change) are as follows: Monday to Thursday 8.30am to 2.00pm; Friday 8.30am to 1.00pm; and Saturday 8.30am to 10.30am.
The Cook Islands Police Service has a high priority for road safety – for you as a driver and for others using the road. As such, visitors undergoing testing will also receive a full briefing from a Police Officer on the conditions and rules of Rarotonga’s road system. 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 pre-conceived notions may cause failure during testing.
Given the high priority for your safety, the Police Service upholds a stringent process and does not apply leniency with the required tests. Your competency to drive on Rarotonga safely is vital. As a visitor you will be subject to the law like any driver. Please obey the rules and drive sensibly. Do not risk drinking and driving, or the urge to do stunts and speed.
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 so 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, https://www.cookislands.travel/local-services/cooks-island-bus-passenger-transport-ltd
What currency is used in the Cook Islands?
The Cook Islands unit of currency is the New Zealand dollar, supplemented by local notes and 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.
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.
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 and contact information of the accommodation you intend to stay at, as camping is not permitted in the Cook Islands.
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
What is the weather like?
If you are able to travel to the Cook Islands anytime between January and December, then that is perfect as the Cook Islands enjoy a pleasant warm and sunny climate all year round. June to August are slightly cooler months, November to March marks the warmer season, with occasional tropical showers. The drier months, from April to November, average 26°C. The warmer, more humid and damp season is from December to March, with temperatures ranging between 22°C (min) and 30°C (max).
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. 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.
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.
Is there a telecommunications network in the Cook Islands?
The telecommunications network in the Cook Islands is operated by Vodafone. There is an outlet located at the CITC Shopping Complex in the main strip of Avarua which is open 8am-4pm Monday to Friday, and Saturday 8:30am-1pm. Local SIM cards are available from the main office, down the road from the Cooks Corner bus stop (also in Avarua), and open 7am-11pm daily. There is also an outlet in Muri which is open 10am-6pm Monday to Friday, and Sunday noon til 4pm.
Vodafone also have the popular Travel Sim Card. It comes with with preloaded data and calling minutes and is valid for 15 days.
International telephone, mobile telephone, facsimile and internet services (including broadband) are available through these Vodafone outlets. Several internet cafés are located on Rarotonga and Aitutaki, with WiFi hotspots (where you can login with prepaid vouchers) also widely located around these 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.
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]