Not many people visit Nauru. For those that do, this is often part of the appeal. The tiny island country in the pacific is widely reported to be the least visited country in the world.¹
The entire country is only 21 square kilometres and it has a population of just over 11,000 people. There are not really any major attractions, but it is interesting to observe daily life in the smallest republic in the world. It has a small-town feel to it, with very friendly people and a relaxed pace.
Here are the things you should know when planning a visit:
Nauru Airlines is the only airline that flies to Nauru. As of August 2018, they have direct flights once a week to and from each of Brisbane (Australia) and Nadi (Fiji).
The rest of their flights are combined into their weekly Island Hopper route which starts in Brisbane and stops at Honiara (Solomon Islands), Nauru, Tarawa (Kiribati), Majuro (Marshall Islands) and Pohnpei (Federated States of Micronesia). There are also plans to extend the Island Hopper from Pohnpei to Guam. The Island Hopper leaves Brisbane on a Thursday night and runs overnight. The return trip starts from Pohnpei early on a Sunday morning.
The limited flight schedule makes it more difficult to plan a trip to Nauru, especially if you want to combine a visit to Nauru with some of the other Pacific island nations in the region. With some careful planning, however, I was able to visit Nauru, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands from Australia over the course of a week.
For up to date information, please check the Nauru Airlines schedules page on their website.
Visas are required for everyone except people from the following places: Cook Islands, Fiji, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Taiwan, Tonga, Tuvalu, UAE and Vanuatu.
The current situation for Australians and New Zealanders is unclear. They were previously banned (in 2016) due to the controversy surrounding the Australian refugee detention centres on the island.² I applied for my visa using my Irish passport but I did also list my Australian citizenship on the application form as they ask whether you hold any other citizenship. My visa was approved, and so I suspect that they have relaxed the ban.
Make sure to allow plenty of time before your trip to apply for a visa as the process can take a long time. It took over 3 months from when I first enquired to when my visa was granted.
A one month visa costs A$50 and the money needs to be transferred to an Australian bank account held by the government of Nauru. To request a visa application form the best option is to email the Director of Immigration, Rajeev Keerthiyil (firstname.lastname@example.org).
You will then be required to supply the following:
- Completed visa application form
- Copy of passport bio page
- Confirmed travel tickets to and from Nauru
- Hotel booking confirmation
- Document to prove your current employment/occupation
In the application form, police and medical checks were also mentioned but I was told that I didn’t need to supply them. I’m not sure if this varies by country or if they are just no longer required.
You must have a hotel booking for your visa to be issued. Getting in touch with the hotels in Nauru was one of the most difficult parts of planning my trip. Initially I emailed 2 of the hotels. Neither responded, and after waiting for a few weeks I ended up having to call both of them at the outrageous rate of A$10 a minute (from Australia). This added an extra A$50 to my expenses, which was completely unnecessary, especially as both told me that they would respond by email.
I ended up staying at the OD-N-Aiwo hotel which is near a supermarket, post office and a few restaurants, and is not far from the airport and government buildings. They also said that they could arrange a day tour of the island when I asked.
As far as accommodation goes these are basically your options:
The big, expensive government-run hotel that has definitely seen better days.
Phone: Ph: +674 5578020, +674 5578021, +674 5578022
This is where I stayed and the room was fine but nothing special. It’s cheaper than the Menen but still very overpriced compared to other countries. It was A$120 for a single room and $180 for a double. It is a t least in a good location for exploring the area around the runway, parliament and what is effectively the main town on Nauru.
Phone: +674 5541967, +674 5588991
Ewa Lodge (Capelle & Partner)
On the far side of the island from the airport etc, but has some good reviews. This place is run by Capelle & Partner who own a lot of different businesses on Nauru. Some of those businesses include a supermarket, a café and a bakery, all of which are conveniently located beside Ewa Lodge. This is probably where I would stay if I went back to Nauru.
Phone: +674 5571055, +674 5571000, +674 5571001
A newer place on the far side of the island. It doesn’t have a restaurant, so a car is probably required if staying here.
Phone: +674 5583697
There are also a few places listed on Airbnb but I’m not sure if these would be acceptable for the visa requirements.
I was only in Nauru for a couple of days, so I walked around the first day and did a tour of the island the second day. The OD-N-Aiwo were able to arrange this. The main reason for the tour was that I wanted to learn a bit more about the island and there were a few things, like the old Japanese anti-aircraft gun that I would never have found on my own.
It is possible to arrange to rent a car on Nauru. Most people seem to just rent someone’s personal car, apparently with no insurance, or anything approaching a normal rental agreement. If you ask at your hotel they should be able to organise something quite easily. Driving is done on the left side of the road in Nauru.
ATMs are rare on Nauru and the country has only 1 bank (a branch of the Bendigo Bank from Australia). The currency used is the Australian dollar. Cash is the main method of payment so it is worth stocking up on Australian dollars before you arrive.
Nauruan is the official language and is spoken by about 6,000 people on the island. Nearly everyone speaks english though, so no language barrier really seems to exist.
Food & drink
There are only a few restaurants and cafés on the island. The Bay Restaurant in Anibare is regarded as the best. When I was there, they had some really good sashimi.
The Chinese restaurant next door to the OD-N-Aiwo hotel was good, as well as very convenient if staying there.
The tap water on Nauru is suspect, so you are better off sticking to bottled water.
As for beers, there is a small range of terrible, mainly Australian beers available everywhere, such as Carlton, VB, Pure Blonde and Bud Light. A few places have some of the much better Matilda Bay beers like Fat Yak and Beez Neez.
Internet access on Nauru is expensive. Some hotels have wifi but it usually costs extra and is not very reliable. Another option is to buy a SIM card from the only phone company on Nauru, Digicel. A 500MB data package costs about A$10, but this on top of the price of the SIM card, which is about the same. They can be purchased at the airport or at the main Digicel shop in the Civic Centre in Aiwo.
11 amazing facts about Nauru, the least visited, most obese nation on Earth, The Telegraph, published 31 Jan 2018
Nauru cancels visitor visas for Australian and New Zealand citizens, abc.net.au, published 7 Mar 2016