Planning a Trip
All international flights arrive at Tahiti-Faaa International Airport, 7km (4 miles) west of downtown Papeete. With its runway built on a landfill over the reef, it is French Polynesia's only international airport.
Tahitian musicians are usually on hand to welcome international flights, and they'll keep you entertained while waiting in line to have your passport stamped at Immigration. Once you've cleared Customs, you will see a visitor information booth straight ahead. Start there for maps and other information. If you're on a tour or have made other prior arrangements, representatives of the local tour operators will be holding signs announcing their presence.
Pick up some pocket money at Banque de Polynésie, to the left as you exit Customs, or at Banque Socredo, to the right. Both have ATMs, and Banque Socredo has a machine that will change U.S. dollars and other major notes into French Pacific francs.
I have spent many hours waiting for flights at the open-air, 24-hour snack bar to the right. There's a McDonald's next to Air Tahiti's domestic departure lounge, also to the right.
Getting to Your Hotel
Unless you're on a package tour or your hotel has arranged a transfer, your only choice of transportation to your hotel between 10pm and 6am will be a taxi. Official fares from 8pm to 6am are 1,500CFP (US$19/£9.50) to the hotels on the west coast, 2,500CFP (US$31/£16) to downtown. Add 100CFP (US$1.25/65p) for each bag.
If you arrive when the local buses are running and you're in reasonably good physical condition, you can haul your baggage across the parking lot in front of the terminal, climb the stairs to the main road, and flag down a bus.
If you're driving a rental car, take Route 1 W. to the InterContinental Resort Tahiti, the Sofitel Tahiti Maeva Beach Resort, or Le Meridien Tahiti. Route 1 E. passes the Sheraton Hotel Tahiti Resort & Spa on its way to downtown Papeete. If you're going to downtown, watch for the Route 5 signs directing you to the expressway connecting Papeete to the west coast.
Most hotels will store your baggage for free. The airport's baggage storage room is in the parking lot in front of the international departures gate. It's the small building behind the pavilion where Tahitian women often sell leis and flower crowns. It isn't cheap: Charges range from 640CFP (US$8/£4) per day for regular-size bags to 1,100CFP (US$14/£7) for surfboards, bicycles, and other large items. The room opens 2 hours before every international flight departs. Regular hours are Monday from 4am to 7pm, Tuesday through Thursday from 5am to 11pm, Saturday from 5am to 12:30am, and Sunday and holidays from 1pm to 12:30am. MasterCard and Visa are accepted.
Check-in time for departing international flights is 3 hours before flight time; for domestic flights, be there 2 hours in advance. All of your bags must be screened for both international and domestic flights leaving Papeete. (There are few security procedures at the outer-island airstrips.)
There is no airport departure tax for either international or domestic flights.
Note: There is no bank or currency exchange bureau in the international departure lounge, so change your money before clearing Immigration.