Cost of Living
It can be surprising to people how expensive day-to-day living costs are in Fiji, especially if you are trying to live a similar standard as in your home country. There is a vast difference between the ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ in Fiji. If you are willing to drop your standard of living, you can live relatively cheaply.
Across the board, a lot of consumables are imported into the country, so they are generally more expensive than you will be expecting. Electrical items, furniture, kitchenware and clothing are all expensive, whereas local food and services are inexpensive. Going to the movies is a cheap family outing in Fiji, with tickets starting at $5Fjd (approximately $2.40US). Heading to the hairdresser is also very reasonable, my husband got his hair cut regularly for $3Fjd (approximately $1.50US). Transportation by taxi is also inexpensive by westernized standards.
What I would suggest is to be sure to educate yourself before your departure on what you should take with you to Fiji and what you should leave behind. There are little things that you would not expect to have to pack, like freezer ice bricks or a decent cooler. By doing this you will save yourself a lot of money and/or a lot of time running around Fiji in search of your desired item. Also consider whether shipping your belongings to Fiji is more cost-effective than starting from scratch when you arrive.
In hindsight, this topic should have been at number one of this list of things to consider before retiring to Fiji. Fiji is affectionately known as the ‘Rugby Nation’ or the rugby capital of the World. From the time they can walk, Fijians live, breathe and die for their sport, and rugby is at the top of the list. If you’re a rugby fan, move to Fiji – NOW! If you are not a rugby fan, you may want to reconsider your choice of retirement location. The streets will literally go dead when their national 7s team is playing; you will not be able to get a taxi, or go to the bank, or even grab a coffee. During the recent Rio Olympics, Westpac actually shut its doors and closed for the afternoon whilst the Fiji went to battle for the Gold. When they won, the Prime Minister declared a public holiday. They’ve even recently released the world’s first $7 note in honor of their 7s team! There is no possible way to escape their love of it.
Location, location, location
So now that you’ve confirmed you’re legally entitled to retire in Fiji, and you’ve decided you are happy to live within the Fijian culture and unique factors which make life interesting, where in the country of 333 islands are you going to choose?
Most retirees dream of Fiji for years before taking the plunge. Whilst seemingly things stay the same in Fiji forever, I have noticed that slowly things are changing to catch up with the Western world. So if it’s been a while since your last visit or if you haven’t visited Fiji before, I would recommend this before you decide on a location.
The type of experience you want to gain from retiring to Fiji will factor greatly on the location you choose. Do you want to sip cocktails on a beach? Do you want easy access to visit luxury resorts for lunch each week? Do you want the hustle and bustle of the capital city with cheap movies and good access to international groceries?
The biggest misconception people have about living in Fiji is that it does not automatically translate to ‘sipping cocktails’ on a beach each day.
Living in a smaller town like Sigatoka can seem like the idyllic ‘island living’ that we all dream about, and a lot of retirees I’ve met have chosen the Coral Coast town after staying at one of the big luxurious resorts in the area. Despite living like a King at the resort, living in a house in the same area does not necessarily equate to the same. Annoyances like the national water authority cutting water supply to provide enough supply for the big luxurious resorts are common and when you can’t shower for the third day in a row, you are not going to feel very much like a King. Remember tourism is the main industry in Fiji, so tourists are treated exceptionally well, and almost everything is geared around keeping them happy.
Speak to expats living in the area you are considering about the realities of residing there. Ask about water cuts, electricity cuts and the water pressure. Across all our homes in Fiji this has been a constant problem.
Consider things like access to grocery stores, transport (if you won’t have a car of your own), proximity to the ocean and protection from possible cyclones/bad weather, even the availability of the type of activities you want to spend your days undertaking.
One last piece of advice
The best piece of advice that we would give anyone considering a move to Fiji, whether you are a retiree or planning to move to Fiji for work is that you need to set your expectations at the right level. Then take everything as it comes. ‘Rolling with the punches’ will be your best friend when living as a retiree expat in Fiji, as will be having a good laugh at the end of each day. Oh, and getting on board with ‘Fiji Time’.