P L A N S | before the trip


Source: Flickr

Malo e lelei!

Good afternoon, all – today we will be getting a little more in depth as of the plans that Darien and I have regarding our move to The Kingdom of Tonga. These plans will span between a few posts, and will include: Saving for the trip, gathering materials, shipping, flying, arrival, first few weeks, construction, finalization, and planning for future projects/business schemes. Let’s get started –

B E F O R E  T H E  T R I P

As much as we dislike the effects of corporations on our societies, we have both taken full-time jobs with Amazon doing warehouse work. It’s $13.50/hour, 5 days a week for 12 hours – night shift. This is the same job that helped me get the money I needed to go to Los Angeles within two weeks of working there, with little prior savings. Darien and I feel that this sacrifice and setting aside of time to work will give us benefits to make our future plans follow through a bit more smooth/efficient. I admit that we honestly dislike the very concept of money, and are displeased to have to sacrifice so much time and energy to earn it, but it is what will get us to Tonga without too much trouble.

Hopefully, after the beginning of the year, we will still have our jobs (peak periods are temporary positions that require rehire from Amazon once peak is over). If we work until May-June, we will each have enough money to pay for our plane tickets, visas, shipping, land, building, and a good amount left over to invest into other small businesses in the area. Combined, we will be able to help our loved buy plane tickets to move here as well. BUT, that all depends if we can stay full-time and work up until we leave. We are prepared to move, no matter how little or much money we have.

After finishing the job, quitting, and having the funds ready for the move, we will be taking a road trip back to LA with our friend from Chicago (we met while in LA). There, we will reconnect with family and friends, buy all materials needed to be shipped, and will finalize/prepare the container being shipped. At this time, we will gather all records needed from us to be able to get residency in Tonga, as well as complete any necessary paperwork and send it for approval to the Visa/Immigration office in Vava’u.  We are aware of a few different ways to get residency, and will further discuss it with those we’ve been Emailing from Vava’u. After reading the blog ( My Move to Tonga) of another couple moving to Tonga from North America (Canada), I am deciding on whether or not I could buy our plane tickets now or wait until we have our residency finalized. She had bought hers and waited too late to do her paperwork, and thus had to push back her flight. In Tonga, they are not urgent in the slightest when it comes to tasks. There’s no rush, or ‘priority material’; it gets done when it gets done. Discovering this, we will begin our paperwork about 3 months before our estimated departure. We have found flights from LAX to Vava’u, with a connection flight in Fiji for $921; hopefully that price doesn’t inflate!

I have been chatting with a Real Estate agent that also assisted the blogger I mentioned above. She stated that he was extremely helpful and was able to help them go from planning to making the trip to getting their land! There have been land scams in the past that have sort of jinx’d the online postings of land in Tonga, so a lot of the people I’ve emailed with have warned about such matters. I am still moderately hesitant, mostly due to the fact that scamming is a daily thing in America, and almost everyone has been in one way or anymore (mostly through Identity theft or big credit card corporations making money off random account charges). I will not 100% settle on a piece of land until I have seen it with my own eyes and can pay in cash to the owner him/herself. Charlett (the blogger) had paid for hers online, and did not experience any kind of corruption/scam/miscommunication with the Real Estate agent, but you can’t be too careful. Eventually, she moved to Vava’u and is currently building. She was staying in an apartment in Neiafu until it was finished, but she proved that her land (and the neighborhood) existed with pictures and construction updates. She has since returned to Canada to work for a few months to raise some extra money and wait-out the rainy season. We will be camping on our property while we build our home ourselves – but we will be very open to anyone who would like to help (and pay them with a gourmet meal).

Once we are in LA and have started the paperwork, it’ll time to find out shipper, a container, and materials. As of right now, I am inquiring with a few locals to see what building materials and tools are available in Tonga, and which we should purchase here in the States. If I had to guess, they probably have nails and hammers, as well as the Earth bags, clay and sand, and a natural concrete mix. We will mostly likely have to buy out cordless power tools here and include them with the shipment, as well as the plexiglass for the windows, gardening tools, bed sheets and comforters, clothes, and misc. decor items. Most of the items we own will be sold before we move, to contribute towards a lighter shipping load. International shipping to Vava’u (Port Refuge in Neiafu) is approximately $3,500, give or take weight additions/subtractions and import taxes. Sigh, “I can do this, I can do this, I can do this”.

As far as our two cats are concerned, we have researched multiple airline guidelines regarding pets; most airlines have a thermo-controlled cargo room specifically for life freight (animals). Some even offer to be able to use your pet crate as your carry on! I have to look more in to specifics on price and exceptions, just to know which option would be best. I am aware of the required quarantine, but heard that a good sob story will shorten the stay that the animals have to comply with.

Once everything discussed in this post has been approved/bought/settled – we will fly out of LAX in route for the Crown Jewel of the South Pacific

Swimming on Tao water, Tonga:

Source: Pinterest

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5 thoughts on “P L A N S | before the trip

  1. Hello – I live in Tonga and moved here r5 years ago from Wash DC. Please do more research on moving your pets here. Besides preparing them with all shots, documents and microchip you will have to check them in at LAX with paperwork 5 days in advance and take them to the cargo terminal – not regular check in. You will need to complete all quarantine info and have a vet notified of your arrival in Tonga – they will have to meet you at the plan and check your cats. You will need all the same permits and local vet check from Fiji if you are transiting through Fiji. Your pets can be stopped, sent back or destroyed at any point. Please do not continue the illusion that a sob story will have any influence on customs, Min of Agriculture or the vets.

    I suggest you have a back up plan for sending your pets back to somewhere, to someone just in case.

    There are not many vets in Tonga and less in Vava’u. Pet food when available is expensive. There is not regularly available flea, tick and worm medication – plan to bring your own and make sure you declare it.

    I wish you luck in your move.


    1. Thank you so much for your reply! Yes, you’re absolutely right. I’ve been chatting with a few people whom have flown their pet with them to Tonga. So far, I have a long list of things to do beforehand, and am aware of the mass amounts of paperwork, haha! I have a friend whom is a flight attendant and she is arranging to have us fly from LAX to Sydney, then Vava’u. She said that we could possibly each have a cat as our carry on and place under our seat in a carrier, but she has to check both Sydney and Vava’u regulations to make sure. We do have a back up plan if we cannot send them, but they are our babies and we will do almost anything to have them with us. We use an organic flea/tick treatment that works wonders, make from lemon-apple cider vinegar. I’m originally a farm girl so I have to admit that I have only taken animals to a vet a small number of times. I thank you for your advice, because it is hard at times to get a clear answer of pet regulations and such online. How long is the quarantine, and is it with each stop or just the destination? That is probably the part that worries me the most. On what basis would a pet require being destroyed, especially a small house cat? I’m not entirely convinced that a sob story will do the trick, and to be honest I don’t have the knack for it, I was just that by a local in Tonga who has ties with the Min. of Foreign Affairs. I had a roommate in LA that would only feed her cat meat and veggies, and her cat was in perfect health without the traditional cat food. We were thinking of doing that so that we wouldn’t have to import. I’ve also see many DIYs for making your own cat food if preferred. What all set backs did you go through when shipping/flying with a pet to Tonga? What should I expect? A main reason why I have this blog is to have others read my plans and basically tell me what is right and what is wrong, and how to attempt to complete each task smoothly. I thank you and am awaiting your reply. –


    2. Upon further research, pets are not allowed into Australia. I am trying to find alternate solutions to see if there are other ways to get our pets into Vava’u – but me and Darien have to fly United to get our discount.


  2. Hi Becca,

    I saw your post on Cher’s website, so thought I would drop by and say hello.
    I have just returned from Vava’u, where we have a small property, and yes, it IS a beautiful place. I didn’t want to leave and come back to Oz.

    I admire what you are pursuing , and having read through your posts, realise you are going to a lot effort to make things happen. In seeing what you have done so far, I would suggest, if I may, that you take a trip to Tonga, and stay for awhile and see how things work. The landscape is exactly as it is in your post, but there are e few things to sort out first, before you start shipping your life into the South Pacific.

    Without making it sound “too difficult”, the Tongan Government welcomes foreign guests as tourists, but setting up there permanently takes a lot more work, mostly to abide by the land and visa laws, as no-one actually owns land in Tonga as it is all owned by the King. The King then provides parcels of land to local Tongans, some of whom will lease it to foreign parties at different rates and for a set number of years, the best lease being a government registered 99 yr lease.

    In doing so, you may build upon it, improve it, plant a vege garden etc, but that does not entitle you to permanent residence. The standard tourist visa is for one month, and the only way to stay longer, is to show that you have the funds to support yourself for longer. These types of visas are generally for retirees. You are also not allowed to work, or to set up a business, or apply for a business visa whilst on a tourist visa. i.e. it must be applied for from outside the country. And the only way to stay for an extended period is either to be fantastically wealthy or invest in a business which supports the local economy and provides local jobs.

    So here’s where the Catch 22 starts ……..

    In order to obtain a business visa, you must register a Company.

    In order to register a Company you must obtain a Foreign Investment Registration Certificate.

    In order to obtain a Foreign Registration Investment Certificate, you must take your relevant documentation, including a business plan, the registration form detailing how much you are going to invest, and how many jobs it will create, a current bank statement showing that you have the funds to complete your business plan, and your passport along to the Ministry of Labour Commerce and Industries in the capital Nuku’alofa.

    You must pay for the application in cash, as there is no method of wiring it, and must provide a residential address in Tonga for your Company Registration.

    After that, the application for a business visa allowing you free access, shouldn’t be a problem. The only problem is, if your business falters, and you don’t file a tax return, your Company will be de-registered and so will your business visa, leaving you in limbo.

    So, there’s a lot to think about. Like all sovereign nations, Tonga restricts permanent residence for foreigners, to those it thinks will contribute to society and will be an asset to the country as a whole.

    I know it sounds a little confusing, but strangely when you get you head around it, it actually makes sense. I hope I haven’t put you off. Like all things in life, it is surrounded with bureaucracy just for the sake of it.

    On the matter of the cats, I probably wouldn’t try to ship them to Tonga. Apart from the risk they may run away and turn feral and attack the local wildlife, there is also the problem of dogs, many of them, which although not aggressive, wander around freely with the pigs and the chickens. I think I would be a very nervous if I was a cat in Tonga. 🙂

    I hope I’ve explained things somewhat, and if you need any questions answered ( if I can ) please feel free to email me at kawcreation@optusnet.com.au

    regards, Geoff

    PS – you can see what sort of thing we are creating here …. http://www.niteshift.asia/seahorseresort22.html , just a sketch for now, but what we aim to achieve.


    1. Thank you for your comment! A big reason why I have this blog is to get feedback from others, especially those who have made the leap. I expect our plans and goals to be nothing more than outlines – I have communicated with many expats in the area and many have faced difficulty on various occasions regarding their move. The visa situation was always so fuzzy to me, so thank you for clarification! Also, I’ve pretty much given up on the idea of sending my cats over. It’s sad to actually come out and say that, but all attempts have pointed to the direction of ‘not going to happen’. But I did want to note, I am loving what you are aiming to achieve, with the link provided above – a lot of similar things that I would want to be involved in once settled. I have a goal that is a little far fetched, but it is based around me getting this blog out there and starting to generate an income from it, would that be considered a ‘job’ per say? I see both sides so it is hard for me to determine a conclusion. I’m always open to suggestions, advice, etc., and always appreciate discussions on the topic of Tonga. It’s already been a crazy ride, and we haven’t even left yet! Haha. If anything, I am trying to retire very, very early!


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