Fiji Arrivals Gate

Loaded on an archaic plane filled with glossy eyed honeymooners bound for island paradise, Dave and I found ourselves struggling with a second long haul flight in less than three days. Furthermore, the change from Aeromexico to Air Pacific was a drastic one- a freezing cabin, tiny cardboard-like seats and really bad wine were a surprise to us after our smooth sailing trip from Sao Paulo to LA. Arriving in Nadi at 5:15am was a relief. The sun was rising over distant mountains, and the sky lit up in pink and purple. We had arrived in Fiji, and it was like a postcard.

‘Sorry ma’am, you cannot take a bus from here. We have a taxi for $25 dollars right outside’. Having completed some research before our arrival, I knew the woman at the information desk was lying to me. It was early, and I was exhausted from the flight- this was the last thing I was capable of dealing with- someone who had probably arrived to the airport by bus herself, telling me there was no bus. Furthermore, it was our hope to experience both aspects of Fiji: the resorts and the real towns- we knew that this would not happen without learning the bus system. Out of need to identify myself as a real traveler and not a blind vacationer, Dave and I paid for airport internet service to find out the details of the public bus. Our airport ‘helper’ was persistent and remained at our side to remind us that this effort was impossible, and our only option was to purchase her taxi service. We called her out- kindly as we could- and found a public bus right outside of the airport terminal. Match point for the Backpacking Americans! (As a side note- we were the ONLY people on our flight to leave this airport by public bus- the tour operators in the airport lobby are very very good at convincing people against this).

Nadi Town's Bus Station

As if that was not rewarding enough, the following bus ride was likely the high point of the day for both of us. We were introduced immediately to the real Fiji, an open air bus packed with kids on their way to school, a kind and helpful driver, and people warm and intrigued by our interest in their home. We were off the beaten track of resorts and welcome cocktails- it was a beautiful thing.

Finding our way to Nadi Town in record time (and for the bargain price of F$1.15) we quickly found a grocery store where we stocked up on lamb sausages, coconut milk, potatoes, and Fijian Chili Ginger sauce. Stocked with groceries and prepared with the ins and outs of this tiny town’s bus system, we felt relieved that our goal to experience this paradise on a budget was possible. With two weeks of island life ahead, we set off for our first stop with confidence, light hearts, and flip flops.

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