Going to live in Tahiti, French Polynesia, what an idea, right? Yet, many people consider doing it. For many, Tahiti is like a dream, a paradise island, lost in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It might be right… But that’s more than that! For my part, this Tahitian experience began back in 2015, when I was formerly working on the island of Mayotte, in the Indian Ocean. So, I’ll explain in this article everything you need to know to consider moving to Tahiti. This article, originally written in French, was updated in June 2019. I will try to update it with as much current info as possible!
At the time of writing this article (January 2018), I am living in French Polynesia since 2015. I thought it was finally time to write my first article about living in French Polynesia.
This article is intended for people wishing to leave their country to live in French Polynesia, and for whom most of the costs remain at their expense. The goal is not to talk about a trip to French Polynesia, even if I would really recommend coming to discover this idyllic lifestyle before settling in Tahiti. This is more a practical guide for future arrivals in the South Pacific. Tahiti is not only tiare flowers, white sandy beaches, coconut trees, sharks and overwater bungalows. The aim here is above all to make you ready for the way of life on this small tropical paradise, along with the costs it represents.
For those who want to go live in Tahiti, I’ll simply start at the beginning: how do you settle on the island? What do we have to do, and most importantly how much does it cost to live in the sun? To go further and to learn even more about life in French Polynesia, I invite you to come and read my new article. I resume there all the questions asked by email, and I try to answer them in a good summary!
I already talked about this in a full article I wrote about how to go to Tahiti for cheap. This will surely be your biggest budget if you have decided to come to live in Tahiti. Plan about 1500€ or even 2000€, depending on the season.
Recently, air traffic is evolving, and a new low-cost company (Frenchbee) offers now lower prices to leave cheap. International flights are offered around 900€ (low season), 1000/1100€ (mid-season) and 1200/1300€ (high season). All flights from Paris to Papeete have at least one stopover.
This article was originally written in French, for French people. If you’re living in Europe, chances are the cheapest flights will be from Paris anyway. For Americans or Canadians, you can have a look at Skyscanner website in order to compare airfare and found the best prices.
Overall, there are two kind of people:
- Those, like me, who came with 2 suitcases of 23 Kg, which roughly holds my entire life in! Well, that’s a bit of a lie since I actually sent two 30 Kg parcels via mail, which costed me an arm and a leg (250€ each). When all is said and done, it’s a pretty bad idea,
- Those who wish to bring back personal belongings (decoration, books, etc.) and have a box delivered. In this case, you will have to inquire to the transporters (AGS, PHOCEA, etc.). Prices are often around 400/500 € per m3. Be sure to check with customs if you choose this option.
If you’re planning to move to Tahiti, you will undoubtedly have to start looking for a place to live in. I personally advise you to book an accommodation for the first 2 weeks of your arrival, which allows you to arrive feeling more relaxed, and leaves you a bit of margin to find your “real” accommodation. Count from 40 to 60€ per night, depending on what you’ll choose. Worth noting that Airbnb works very well on Papeete, and this will be way less expensive than staying in a hotel.
Once arrived, you have two solutions: looking for it by yourself or going through a real estate agency. Everyone has his own preference, knowing that the second solution will very often cost you half a month’s rent.
For accommodation, there’s something to suit all tastes in Tahiti, either a very beautiful place, a very old one, big/small, furnished or not, in short like in any other city. The only thing left to do is to determine your budget, according to how many people you are (all by yourself, in couple, with children?) as well as your desires, regarding where you are going to work. This can be the subject of another article if necessary, to give you advice on where to live in Tahiti. Living in Papeete is still very different than living outside (Punaauia or Mahina), and even more different than living on the peninsula.
If you go through an agency, you’ll end up with quite an expensive bill: 1/2 month agency fee, 1 month deposit cashed, and the first month’s rent, all to be paid (almost) at the same time. In my case, 2500€, which is a considerable sum! Also note that usually, the majority of the housing here are fully equipped. If it is not the case, then the price is often cheaper but you will have to plan a large budget to minimally furnish.
It is also one of the things you’ll have to think about if you want to move to Tahiti. Here too, there are two opposing schools of thoughts. First, those who have a limited budget and don’t want to spend too much money on a car, and then those who don’t want to take the risk of going to the garage every week, like me.
Car prices are very high here, compared to what you could find elsewhere. A car in “good condition” and not too old costs about 5000 to 6000 € (600.000 to 800.000 xpf). You can find cheaper, but at your own risk, knowing that there is no MOT test here (you’d better have a good knowledge of it…).
A scooter or 125 will cost you less, from 1500/2000€.
In any case, you won’t have much choice but to buy a means of transportation to move around Tahiti, as public transportation are almost non-existent.
When you arrive, you will most likely rent a car for a week or two, it’s often what people do. You can look here to plan it.
When calculating your budget to move to Tahiti, you will also have to think about the first subscriptions for your home and for all meter openings. I’m thinking in particular of water, electricity, Internet, landline, mobile, etc. Count 400/500€ the first month only for these first subscriptions.
And yes, going to live in Tahiti is a great thing, but you will have to buy a minimum at your arrival. I’m especially thinking of the kitchen bare necessities and small appliances, as well as the first groceries. You can plan easily between 500 and 1000€ for the first necessities upon your arrival, depending on your accommodation and your ability not to spend too much.
“Count on an average of 150 to 200€ per week minimum, for two people. It is very variable, but it already gives you an idea”. Now in 2021, with 2 children, I almost spent between 25/30 000xpf per week for groceries.”
When arriving in Tahiti, you should generally think about:
- Opening a bank account at a local bank (not mandatory for everyone, but personally, it was),
- Going to the OPT (Polynesian Post Office) to get a P.O. box, because yes, there is no letter carrier here and you have to come and collect your mail at the “BP” as they say,
- Registering with the CPS, the local social security institution. Here, the French social security system no longer works, and you must register as a local. Depending on your situation (married, with/without children, etc.), steps will be different, and it can quickly become a headache. You will find all the necessary information on this website,
- Going to the different services to subscribe. I am thinking especially of electricity (EDT), telephone subscriptions (mobile, landline) and Internet,
- Finding out about schools, high schools, day care centers to sign up your children,
If you would like to know more about the administrative steps to take when moving to Tahiti, I could easily do a complete article on it, to guide the future arrivals. Anyone interested? If we make a small summary on the budget needed to go live in Tahiti, I would advise to plan around (based on my own experience):
If you are interested to know more about the administrative steps to take if you are moving to Tahiti, I could easily do a complete article on it, to direct future arrivals. Anyone interested? If we make a small summary on the budget needed to go live in Tahiti, I would advise to plan around (based on my installation) :
In short, it’s a lot of money to plan. It’s of course an estimate based on my own experience here, and therefore it can be largely adjusted lower if you’re alone, if you buy a scooter instead of a car, depending on the price of your house, etc. If you have any questions, leave me a comment at the bottom of the article.
“An installation for a couple of two can cost between €10,000 and €15,000”.
Here we get to the heart of the matter, because living in Tahiti or French Polynesia is going to cost you a lot of money. It is a reality that you have to accept. Coming here with nothing, without a job, is quite a gamble, and you should be prepared to financially struggle.
In this article, I will only talk about the cost of living on the island of Tahiti, since I live here. Rents on the islands are generally cheaper, but the rest (food, alcohol, etc.) is even more expensive than in Tahiti.
It is difficult to give an idea here as prices are very variable, especially depending on the location of the apartment/house.
To put it simply, prices drop as soon as you pass Punaauia (West coast) or Mahina (East coast). Between these two, it’s quite standard, and as it’s very likely that you will work in the area, I will mainly talk about this sector. Some price ideas:
- House-share: 50 000 to 70 000 xpf (400 to 550 €)
- Studio: 70 000 to 80 000 xpf (550 to 650 €)
- F2: 80 000 to 100 000 xpf (650 to 800 €)
- F3: 120 000 to 160 000 xpf (1000 to 1400 €)
- 2-bedrooms house: 150 000 xpf to 200 000 xpf (1300 to 1600 €)
- 3/4-bedrooms house: 180 000 to much more (1500 € and more)
UPDATE 2019: between us, prices have increased a lot in the last 4 years, and it’s now hard to find an F3 at 120000 xpf for example, at least in the urban area. As soon as you move away from the city, prices drop (but you get traffic jams then!).
About apartments, prices vary a lot depending on the standing (swimming pool, caretaker, residence or not, parking, etc.) and the location. These are general estimates but overall realistic. The best seasons to find accommodation in Tahiti is from June to August, before the arrival of teachers. After September, many places are already taken.
In your project to move to Tahiti, the food and shopping budget in general is to be considered. It is said that everything costs more or less 40% more than in France, and it’s almost true.
For your information, for 2 adults and a baby, eating more or less like in France but paying attention to what we buy and prices (otherwise we’ll go broke), we spend on average between 20,000 and 25,000 fr per week, which is between 160 and 220€/week, without considering the necessities for the baby (diaper, etc.). In total, between 600 and 800€ per month. Round up to almost 1000€ per month if we count pretty much everything and according to your way of consuming.
I try to cook my food for lunch to avoid spending too much. For the others, it will be a sandwich between 400 and 600 xpf (3,5 to 5€) or a dish around 1000 xpf (8€).
As a general rule, if you don’t want to break the bank, you will have to limit all the products imported from France (yoghurt, cheese, alcohol), which are generally very expensive. 4 Brand-name Yoghurt = 16€ in French Polynesia. Tomatoes (local or imported … which are not great), between 6 and 8€ per kilo.
It’s very simple, a subscription to the local agency OPT costs about 2900 xpf, or 24€. It is mandatory for Internet with Vini, by ADSL.
There are two operators: Vini (the most used) and Vodafone. Different types of packages exist. Compared to France, it is very expensive. Here are some examples:
- Count 1500 xpf (12,5€) for 1h of communication,
- 1 GB Internet with 3G is the same price,
- 4h communication + 2Go Internet plan: 5000 xpf (40€),
- 40-minutes prepaid card: 1750 xpf (15€).
For details of all the Vini packages, it’s here.
You have the possibility to choose mobile + Internet packages at home.
- Standard ADSL package: 6100 xpf (50€),
- ADSL + cable package: 14000 xpf (120€),
- Optical fiber: 15000 fr (125€).
Using ourselves as an example, for two adults with therefore 2 mobile packages (1h + 1Gb Internet and 4h + 2Gb Internet) + basic ADSL Internet at home + landline: about 17 000 xpf, or 145 € per month.
We’re talking about the most expensive electricity in the world, can you imagine? The bill will mainly depend on 3 things:
- The size of your home,
- If you use air conditioning,
- If you have a swimming pool.
For information, for an all-electric F3 without air conditioning, I paid about 12 000 xpf/month (100€). I’ve since (in 2018) moved, and I only pay 7000 xpf (50€/month) now, who knows why? Beware of the different packages in relation to your energy usage when you open the counter! For a house with air conditioning, count 150 to 200€/month.
Strangely enough, it’s one of the only things that doesn’t cost much in Tahiti! For info, I pay in Papeete 62.5 xpf per m3 of water (or 0.5€/m3). The bill comes every 3 months, for about 4000/4500 xpf (for 3 months then), which is about 35€.
All these pictures were shot in Tahiti, that’s not so bad, isn’t it?
It all depends on where you live and what you ride with. Gasoline is at the same price as in France. Knowing that we only have one car and that I walk to work, I spend on average 7000/8000 xpf per month (70/80€). If you have two cars, you then double the rate. If you go to work driving, the gas budget increases again.
- Public school: free,
- 1 month at the nursery: 50 000 to 70 000 xpf (400 to 550€),
- Private school: prices vary a lot, so please check for each school. For example, I pay between 8/10000 xpf/month (60/80€) in 2019.
- 1 week of daycare: about 15000xpf (150€)
Of course, prices vary as well. A few orders of magnitude:
- All-risk car insurance (small car without malus): 40 000 xpf, which is about 350€ a year. I forgot to specify it’s the price with a premium of 40%, because I am assimilated civil servant. Otherwise, count almost double or not far…
- Home insurance (F3): 13 000 xpf, that is to say a little more than 100€/year.
My wife having given birth here, I’m used to the gynecologist, pediatrician and others! A few price ideas:
- Specialist consultation: 4000/5000 xpf, 32 to 40€,
- Generalist: 3500 xpf, or 30€.
Everything is reimbursed at 70% if you are registered at the CPS.
So, they are of course not obligatory when you live in Tahiti, but that’s where we usually mourn:
- Price of a roulotte/snack: (1200 to 1600 xpf), 10 to 14€,
- A dish in a small restaurant (2000 xpf/16€) and a “classier” restaurant (3000/4000 xpf, about 35€),
- A whale watching: between 6000 and 8000 xpf, depending on centers and islands,
- A cinema ticket / A cocktail in a bar: 1100 xpf (about 10€),
- A scuba diving: 5000 xpf (alone – 40€). In package, it goes down to 32€/dive. I’ll talk about it in the article on how to travel cheap in French Polynesia,
- One night in a guesthouse (half board): 10 000 to 12 000 xpf, so 80/100€ per night for two people (sometimes a little less, for far away islands). Full board is sometimes possible but it will be of course more expensive.
If you have already blow half your budget in leisure time, you easily blow the other half in vacations or weekends in the other islands. Some price ideas:
- A flight Papeete – Marquesas: 80 000 fr, so almost 650€,
- A flight to the Tuamotu: 300/350 €,
- Domestic flights from island to island are very expensive for the distance traveled,
- A package flight + 1 night (“séjour dans les îles”): Huahine: 30 000 xpf (approx), or 250€/person. Prices increase quickly and it is the closest island to Tahiti. Count 700/800€ for the whole weekend for two, with an activity and a restaurant,
- There are direct flights to New Caledonia, New Zealand, Japan, Chile, USA (Los Angeles and San Francisco), Cook Islands, Hawaii (Honolulu) and Easter Island. The airfare depends on the destination, the cheapest being to Easter Island (very often),
- Other destinations are accessible via flights to Australia, Vanuatu, Samoa, Fiji and Tonga (from Auckland). All these Pacific islands have the most beautiful beaches in the world… it could be an idea to go and discover its tropical paradises, right?
It’s a pretty big point here and working in Tahiti is not that simple. You’ll notice that I often talk about Tahiti because, it must be said, the job market outside Tahiti is still quite limited. It’s quite the same to find a work in all the French Islands. You can however find in other relatively well-developed islands, like Raiatea or Bora Bora for example.
Here are a few key points in no particular order that may help those who wish to settle in Tahiti for work:
- The majority of expatriates from France occupy positions in the territorial civil service or in the state civil service (on secondment from their French region back home). I am not a specialist at all in the public service, but it seems to me that if you’re part of it, you just have to apply for a transfer or secondment to French Polynesia, as in all the Overseas Departments. I let you see with your HR Director at home! They are mostly professors, military, and all people having administrative jobs. A lot of A category people are present here…
- For people working in the private sector looking for a job (as it was the case for me), it is much less simple. I had personally sent my resume to local companies in my field, hoping for a reply and a future job interview. In general, I will recommend applying to any job offers that have a vacancy in your field (look at the job description).
- Depending on the sector, new job offers are rare and you will have to be patient! However, there are some sectors hiring more than others. To mention only the main ones: nurse, all tourism-related jobs, hotel and catering, medical/paramedical (team management, booking agent, chef, care assistant, etc.),
- As a general rule, don’t hesitate to also send a spontaneous application (CV and motivation letter) and to follow up a few weeks later if you haven’t had any response,
- Don’t generally expect to have an open-ended contract right from the beginning. The offers are very often fixed-term contracts of 3 to 6 months first,
- Neither should you hesitate to search on all the websites related to employment in Polynesia, as well as Facebook groups.
This is a vast subject that I’m trying to approach here. Living in Tahiti is expensive, it is a reality we must not forget. The necessary salary is obviously very variable according to your way of life, your adaptation to the territory, your leisure activities, etc. Some interesting information to know however:
- You should know that there is no tax here (good news!). Your final net salary every month is truly final. No taxation is required at the end of the year, unlike France,
- The basic salary can vary widely between the private and public sectors,
- For the exact same job, the average salary is much higher in Polynesia than in France,
- On the territory, it is 39 working hours (and not 35).
Alone, life is also expensive in Tahiti. If you add up all the charges that have to be paid (as seen above), it’s already quite a lot of money. Accumulated, and on average, we very quickly reach 150 000 xpf only for the bills (1300€). Without any restaurant, any leisure, nothing at all.
I would say that the bare minimum would be 200 000 xpf alone (1700€). To enjoy a little more, 250 000 xpf. With 300 000 xpf (2500€) alone, you’ll have more than enough.
In general, I would say that for a couple, a bare minimum of 2000/2200€ is necessary (240 000 to 260 000 xpf). With that, you’ll be able to pay the bills (rent, water, electricity, etc.) but forget about leisure activities and weekend getaway on the islands. I don’t even talk about putting money aside to get out of French Polynesia.
If you plan about 3000€ (360 000 xpf), you will be fine: some activities, restaurant and weekends on the island of Moorea.
From 4000€ per month, you’re comfortable I think, and you can then afford a little more.
I advise you to go for a minimum wage of 4000€/month (about 500 000 xpf). If you want to go to other islands and on weekend getaways, it is better to plan about 5000€ (600 000 xpf).
These are only estimate, based on what I see here, and for expatriates who are used to living “à la française”. You can indeed spend less than that, everyone has their own way of doing things.
So, I hope that this article will help you take the plunge to go and live in Tahiti, and that you will start discovering French Polynesia.
If you are looking for more precise information about French Polynesia, and want to dream a little, I invite you to go and see all the other articles I wrote about French Polynesia.
If you have specific questions about our settlement and your future trip to live in Tahiti, I am very well placed to answer them, having been living here for two years now. Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment at the bottom of this article. I will be happy to help you!
See you soon,