Tonga uses the unusually-named pa’anga as its national currency. The name of the currency comes from the native name of a vine that grows pods with seeds inside them. These seeds are roughly shaped like coins, hence providing the inspiration for the name.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
The pa’anga is divided into 100 seniti. You may also discover that 100 pa’anga is equivalent to one hau, although this is not used in casual daily life. This type of unit is called a superunit as it is bigger than the main unit of currency used.
The symbol for the seniti is a small ‘c’ with a slash through it. The pa’anga itself uses either the dollar symbol with a T before it to indicate the Tongan currency (T$) or simply PT.
You will see four coins that are used a lot in Tonga, and these are the five, ten, twenty and fifty seniti coins. There are also one and two seniti coins but these are not often used anymore due to inflation making them practically obsolete.
There are several banknotes as well, ranging from the smallest T$1 note to the largest T$100 note. In between you may also use the T$2, T$5, T$10, T$20 and T$50 notes.
From past to present – the history of the Tongan pa’anga
Tonga has used the pa’anga currency since 1967. Before this time the country used the Tongan pound. Inflation has been high in the country in recent years but at present seems to have settled down to a more manageable level.
How to get hold of the Tongan pa’anga
Generally speaking it is easier to wait until you arrive in Tonga to get hold of its local currency. This is because many currency exchange services don’t actually offer it as an option. However you shouldn’t assume this makes it difficult for you – in fact it may not be as challenging as you think.
The main rule of thumb is to take in a quantity of cash in US dollars or euros. These are the easiest to get hold of and to exchange once you are there. If you go into any bureau de change they should happily exchange them for the pa’anga. Be aware that while some hotels will change money for you, the exchange rate they charge won’t be as good as the one you will get elsewhere. Look out for some good rates local to where you are staying and then stick with those outlets for changing up your money.
You should also be able to withdraw cash from cash machines but it may depend on which card you have. The good news is many outlets do accept payment via either Visa or Mastercard, so you may want to take at least one of these cards with you for making payments. However you should always make sure you have cash on you just in case this is your only option when paying for goods or services.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Tongan pa’anga
You can use the same method you would use when looking for any other currency conversion. Simply find a converter tool you like to use (preferably one that is updated relatively often) and go from there. It only takes a few seconds to locate the Tonga, although it may not be included on all converters. If the one you choose has lots of currencies on it alongside the most popular ones you shouldn’t have much trouble finding it. Try searching for it under its ISO code of TOP to get to it faster.
The official website for the Tongan High Commission in the UK seems to be out of commission. However you can find out all the relevant information for the High Commission by going to this official council website – http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/az/az.aspx?searchletter=T&orgid=5405.
Travelling safely with the Tongan pa’anga
Tonga is a country not many people will be familiar with. As such it makes it even more important to consider all the most up to date travel information you can get hold of when you are thinking of visiting the country.
The good news is Tonga is a fairly safe place to visit. Crime does occur of course – we would struggle to find a country anywhere in the world that benefits from no crime at all. However the majority of crimes that do occur are minor, and there are lots of ways you can prevent them from happening to you.
For example petty theft is probably the most serious thing you have to think about. Most of the time this related to pickpocketing. You can reduce the odds of being affected by this if you do not make a show of having valuables. Keep your expensive watches and jewellery at home and make sure you don’t carry too much cash around with you. Another good thing to do is to divide up the cash you do have and keep it in separate pockets; a money belt is another possibility to consider.
Be aware too if you are taking money out of a cash machine anywhere. You won’t be at any more risk of theft in this situation than you would be at home, but even so it pays to be vigilant. Make sure you are particularly alert if you go out at night, and try to steer clear of areas you are not familiar with. Don’t travel anywhere alone at night either since this does make you a more inviting target for those looking for an easy target.
Where to spend your pa’anga in Tonga – and what to spend them on
Tonga is known as an archipelago; this is a group of islands. While there are over 170 in all only a little over a third of these are actually inhabited. The islands can be found in the Pacific Ocean. Fiji can be found to the north-west, while much further south you’ll see New Zealand if you look for the islands on a map. Australia lies further out to the west.
The capital of Tonga is Nuku’alofa. This can be found on Tongatapu, which is one of the main islands in the archipelago. There are many things to see and do in the capital, and since it is relatively small compared with other capital cities around the world it doesn’t take too long to get anywhere. The Royal Palace may be a little different from any other palace you may have seen – it is wooden for a start – but it should definitely be on your list of places to see. Check out the local market as well, which sells all kinds of local produce.
Elsewhere in Tongatapu you can see the so-called Burden of Maui, a stone structure that is believed to date back to the 1200s. It is comprised of three slabs of limestone and would not look out of place at Stonehenge, such is its appearance.
Tofua caldera is well worth a visit too, and it sits on Tofua Island in Tonga. This is a volcanic island and while you can get to it you usually have to swim the last bit! In addition the volcano is still active so you might want to see it from the safe distance of another island instead.
If you like the idea of going to a botanical garden while touring the islands, how about a visit to the ‘Ene’io Botanical Garden? There are all manner of stunning plants and flowers to be seen here, and it makes a very relaxing exploratory day out. It is in Vava’u and boasts the additional perk of being close to the nearby beach which you can also visit.
Whichever islands you choose to go to in Tonga, they all have something to offer. There are plenty of things to do on land as well as in the water, where you may well see some spectacular marine mammals and fish. As such you may want to plan ahead to determine which islands will give you the experience you are seeking.
Tonga may have been unknown to you as you started to read this article. However you should now have a better idea of what it has to offer and how much you can do there. From witnessing the power of a volcano to wandering among native plants and trees, these are just two of the things you might like to consider doing. Whenever you are hankering after a holiday with a difference, you might want to take a closer look at Tonga and its many islands, to decide which ones you would want to see for yourself.
The ability of the archipelago to provide many varied holiday activities is perhaps one of the main reasons why lots of people like to go there. Certainly, booking a trip there would be desirable for many people and it could be the best way to enjoy a holiday abroad with a few differences too.