Packing list for Tonga
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Tonga and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80-pound weight restriction on baggage. Remember, you can get almost everything you need in Tonga for a price, and you can have parcels shipped to you later.
Note that hand washing and Tongan weather are hard on clothing, so any clothing you bring will eventually wear out. Lightweight, fast-drying clothing (polyester or nylon) is best and will not fade or stretch as much as cotton blends. See the note about leather items and mildew at the bottom of this page.
Dressing in a culturally appropriate manner is important, especially on outer islands. In professional settings, male Volunteers are expected to wear what Tongan men wear—a tupenu, a solid-color wraparound garment (easily found locally), with a button-down shirt. During leisure time, Tongan men typically wear the same things men wear in the United States (e.g., knee-length shorts or slacks and T-shirts). Female Volunteers are expected to wear mid-calf or longer skirts or dresses in both professional settings and during leisure time.
If the dresses/skirts are not long enough, long wraparound underskirts are available. Tight clothing can also be culturally inappropriate. At home or on some occasions, women often wear loose-fitting slacks, capris pants or below-the-knee shorts. In general, women should always cover their shoulders and knees and should not wear shorts except for swimming or exercising. Additionally, you should not be able to see your armpits or midriff when raising your arms.
Following are some specific clothing suggestions and recommendations:
- 1 or 2 black outfits (There are numerous times when it will be appropriate for you to wear black. For instance, in case of a death in the Royal Family or of someone in your community, you may be expected to wear black for an extended period of time. However, you can always buy more clothes here.)
- 1 or 2 sweatshirts or sweaters and sweatpants (it can get a bit chilly in winter)
- Lightweight spring jacket/rain jacket
- Lightweight suit jacket, black or dark. (Note: unmarried men can usually make do with a tie and a long-sleeved shirt)
- Swimsuit or swim trunks (even though women will not be able to wear a swimsuit in Tonga, it is a good idea to bring one for vacations)
- Socks and underwear (with sturdy elastic)
- Shoes, including high-quality flip-flops (e.g., Tevas, reef walkers, or water shoes), sneakers, hiking boots, and dress sandals (for men and women). Don’t bring nice leather shoes.
- Two or three light T-shirts
- Both black and white button-down shirts
- Jeans and lightweight pants (khakis or loose-fitting pants with drawstrings; one pair of each should suffice)
- Convertible (zip-off leg) pants
- Lots of lightweight, collared, short-sleeved, button-down-the-front shirts (enough for work and church, for every day but Saturday) and at least one tie and a long-sleeved shirt to go with it
- Shorts for your own house or exercise
- Bicycle or cotton shorts for modesty and comfort under tupenu (men’s skirt).
- Casual dresses or mix-and-match skirts and blouses (for work and in public, including church, skirts should be mid-calf to ankle length, and blouses should not be sleeveless, see-through or have bare midriffs).
- Underwear, bras (cotton is best), and sports bras (wickaway fabric [e.g., Coolmax] is effective)
- Undershirts or camisoles for sheer blouses
- One or two pairs of capris or lightweight long pants for hiking and free time (jeans are acceptable, but a bit heavy and annoying to wash)
- Bike shorts and/or slips for modesty and comfort under skirts (remember that Tonga is very humid)
Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
- Lightweight or travel (micro-fiber) towel (thick ones won't do well with hand washing and will take a long time to dry, especially during periods of daily rainstorms)
- Initial supply of your favorite shampoo, deodorant, perfume, etc. (Tongans place a high importance on hygiene, and offensive odors are particularly objectionable in Tongan culture.) Note that some brands of all of these items are available here and you should only bring them if you are particularly attached to a certain brand. .
- Cosmetics, if you wear them (local products generally are not of good quality)
- Six-month supply of tampons or pads (tampons are not always available in Tonga, and they are expensive)
- 2 or 3 Handkerchiefs (multi-purpose; e.g., for dishes, cleaning, sweat rags, etc.)
- Remember, Peace Corps will supply medical items like vitamins, insect repellent, and sunscreen
- hand sanitizer (e.g., Purell), if you want it
- Baby powder or talcum powder, if you have oily skin
- Small mirror
(Many of these items can be found in Tonga, but of reduced quality. You are encouraged to prioritize these items as you see fit, keeping in mind your limited luggage capacity.)
- Swiss army knife, Leatherman, or other utility tool (packed in checked luggage)
- Sharp kitchen knife (packed in checked baggage)
- Nonstick frying pan (those in Tonga are not of good quality)
- Sturdy manual can opener
- A French press or stove-top espresso maker (if you like coffee). Instant coffee is available here; but decaf coffee is not.
- Measuring spoons and cups
- Rubber spatula
- Spices/hot sauce (e.g., Tabasco)
- Vegetable holder (three-basket, hanging)
- Luggage: lockable rolling duffel bags work best (make sure locks are the ones approved by airlines—otherwise they will be cut off). You should also be able to manage all of your luggage without the assistance of others. You will also want a smaller bag to use for your pre-service training homestay.
- Small backpack
- Sheets (double flats are most useful because they fit either a double or a single bed)
- Sturdy, inexpensive water-resistant watch
- Sturdy water bottles (at least two; e.g., Nalgene or camel back)
- Camera: 35 mm (with an initial supply of film) or digital is recommended. Also consider an underwater camera. Film processing and printing is expensive and only available on Tongatapu and Vava'u. Consider extra memory cards and multiple rolls of film.
- Flashlight or headlamp (LED preferred) and/or reading lamp/book light
- Mask and snorkel or swimming goggles
- Small sewing kit
- Umbrella and/or poncho
- Rechargeable batteries and charger (batteries are available, but are generally of poor quality and there is no way to properly dispose of them)
- Walkman or CD player and CDs (many Volunteers choose a portable CD player with small attachable speakers) or mp3 player (e.g., iPod) or small boom box
- Bicycle (some Volunteers highly recommend bringing one because of the poor quality of local brands; others say bringing one is not worth the added weight). If you decide to bring a bicycle, then a bicycle tool kit and inner tubes are recommended. The Peace Corps will provide a helmet.
- Laptop computer—if you already own one, it may be worth bringing, as many Volunteers find it very helpful to have one. Conditions are hard on computers, but insurance is available. Most locations have electricity though a small number of assignments are in locations that have electricity only at certain times or not at all.
- Electrical converter for 210 volts (the same as Australia).
- Jump Drive for easy computer information storage and transportation
- Sun hat or visor
- Ear plugs
- Travel iron (with a converter and adapter)
- Extra pair of glasses
- Tape recorder
- School supplies (e.g., highlighters, index cards, stapler and staples, glue sticks, rubber bands, paper, laminating sheets, etc.)
Waterproof zippered plastic bags to help protect valuables and to keep clothes and important papers dry. Don’t bring anything made from leather, including shoes, belts, and wallets. They will mildew.