Useful Facts

Our Land & People - The Cook Islands is made up of 15 islands spread over 850,000 square miles (2.2 million sq. km) of the South Pacific Ocean. Rarotonga is the capital and the most thriving island, home to the international airport with direct flights from Los Angeles, Sydney, Auckland and Papeete. The total population of the 15 inhabited islands is approximately 15,000. The tropical climate remains above 20ºC year round, and is warmer during summer from December to March, whilst the winter period between April and November are cooler and drier.

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. 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.

Island Services - 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. 

Local time is 10 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time. 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. A person will be allowed to drive only the class of motor vehicle they are entitled to drive in their home country. Maximum speed limit for motorbike & scooter drivers is 40 kph, and 50 kph for other motorised vehicles. Rental scooters and vehicles available on most islands.  Police office hours for driver licencing on Rarotonga are 0900 – 2000 from Monday to Friday and from 0800 until 1500 on Saturdays.  

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. 

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.

Travelling to and around the Cook Islands – what you need to know
There are no poisonous animals to be found in the Cook Islands. Centipedes, wasps and stonefish can cause a localised reaction. Mosquito repellent is advisable. Important: wearing of reef shoes/flippers will minimise the risk of encountering stonefish on rare occasion within sheltered, warm and silty lagoon waters. 

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. Domestic transport air services are operated by Air Rarotonga, Rarotonga for services to the southern and northern group islands. 

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. Rental vehicles, scooters, motorbikes and push bikes are widely available on Rarotonga. Taxis, limousine and private charter coaches are also available transfers for evening dining and floorshows can be organised with respective venues. Transfers for inter-island air travel and day-tours are arranged via Air Rarotonga and local travel agencies. Activities and sports operators will also assist with transfer services.

Communications 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. 

Dress Code involves respect of the local customs and culture, which does not allow for skimpy attire to be worn in public places away from suitable areas such as when swimming, or relaxing around designated beachfront areas. Informal wear can comfortably be worn on most occasions. However church attendance requires a modest dress sense.  

Getting to the Cook Islands – is accessible by Air New Zealand which operates direct scheduled 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. 

Getting around the Cook Islands - 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. Special interest tours by boat and sailing vessels do occur during winter months when weather conditions are more favourable. Several of these eco-excursions are conducted by the Southern Cross, Tiare Taporo, and Bounty Bay vessels moored at Avatiu harbour, Rarotonga. 

Traveller Essentials – Items to bring with you to support your stay:
- Insect repellent and sunscreen lotions - Both products are widely available on Rarotonga. Limited supplies on Aitutaki and other outer islands
- Reef shoes
- Casual, light-weight clothing – include dress shorts and shirt for men, and dress or two piece summer suit for women if attending any church services or formal occasions
- Casual resort style clothing for daytime, smart casual for evenings. Also include suitable footwear for beach and island walks.