If you buy the right things the cost of living in Fiji can be quite low compared to countries like the UK, US and Australia. The flip-side is that many things cheaply available in these countries are ridiculously expensive or non-existent here – good quality meat, chocolate, books and magazines, cosmetics and toiletries, many dairy products, and imported spirits to name a few.
Here are a few things though you can usually get for less than a pound (US$1.50) on Taveuni, and generally in Fiji.
A Cinema Blockbuster on DVD
Any new movie coming soon to a cinema near you is already available in Fiji thanks to a thriving pirating business. Sometimes the quality is excellent, sometimes the video and soundtrack are out of synch, and sometimes the title doesn’t match the actual contents. But for FJ$2 you can’t complain too much. Genuine DVD prices are beyond the reach of many people here, hence the thriving business, and trying to actually find a kosher copy of anything is nigh on impossible anyway. My genuine DVD purchases are done in bulk on overseas trips, everything else is not quite the real thing.
A 600ml bottle of Coke
And yes, this is the Real Thing !! I guess Coke is available almost everywhere and anywhere, and will be priced according to the local market. Here it costs FJ$2, about 75 pence. Empty plastic bottles and tin cans are one of the biggest causes of litter here in Fiji, although this has improved greatly in the last year or so. There is very little in the way of recycling, and it’s pretty much non-existent on Taveuni – everything ends up in landfill. Plastic bottle rafts have actually crossed the Pacific, so maybe local dive operators and fishermen should set a trend and use this readily available rubbish to build their own boats..
A 375ml Fiji Bitter Stubby
An even better thing than The Real Thing. A 24-bottle carton of Fiji Bitter stubbies from the bottle shop or supermarket costs FJ$48, or $2 a stubby. At the Clubhouse here on the estate it’s $4.80, and at a resort you’ll pay upwards of $6. Fiji Bitter bottles are the property of the brewery even after you’ve bought them, and in this area recycling is very effective. Back in the days of my youth most glass bottles could be returned to the store where you would receive a refund, and this is sort of the way it works for Fiji Bitter. Individuals themselves don’t usually return their bottles, they are collected house-to-house and then the collection guys return them to the brewery. In this way Fiji Bitter bottles have something like a 98% return rate.
A 5-pack of 2-minute Noodles
At just under £1 for a 5-pack this is part of many peoples staple diet here. Instant noodles have been cited as a major cause of health problems in the South Pacific due to high calories and salt content. There are few health scare-stories about instant noodles, and I’m sure if you ate 5 packs a day you wouldn’t be competing in the next Olympics, but they do come in handy as a filler-upper food. The little flavour sachets do a reasonable cuppa-soup too !!
Two Daily Papers
You can buy both the daily papers together for less than £1 – The Fiji Times and The Fiji Sun. There will usually be a report about a bus fire, a house fire, what Frank has been up to, and the latest discussions about the existence of God in the letters page. I have gone to bed many a night fearing I will burn in hell, on the bus, or in my bed. If I survive until morning the newspaper makes useful firelighter.
A Local Bus Ride
Better than a trip to Alton Towers or Disneyland is a trip on a local bus, so this is excellent value for money. Many have roll-down tarpaulins for rainy days, the glass-free windows making for pleasant travel during the hot and sunny ones, and handy escape exits. Sit near the fire extinguisher if there is one on board. For about £1 you can get to the airport to catch the next flight to Disneyland.
A Packet Of Kava
After a bus ride you may need sedating, so bag yourself a small packet of pre-pounded kava root for a couple of dollars and get groggy. For those that don’t know, kava is a plant root pounded into a powder, mixed with water and then drunk at ceremonial and social occasions in much the same way as most Westerners drink alcohol. It is mildly narcotic, hence there are a few side-effects: “The sensations, in order of appearance, are slight tongue and lip numbing (the lips and skin surrounding may appear unusually pale), mildly talkative and sociable behavior, clear thinking, calmness, relaxed muscles, and a sense of well-being.” (Wikipedia).
A Roti Parcel
I love roti parcels – they are quick and easy to eat and just the job when you’re out and about and have forgotten to eat breakfast. At under a £1 you can splash out and have two if particularly peckish. They are quite filling, a bit like a tortilla wrap. They are available at numerous stores and market stalls here, and can be a reliable source of income to the people that prepare and sell them.
Fruit and Vegetables
As well as Fijian and Indian style fast-food like the roti parcel the market stalls have a wide range of vegetables, a bag or bowl of which will be about a £1 depending on what you buy and whether they are in season. Pineapples, papaya, cucumbers, sweet potato, different varieties of chillis and peppers, coriander, ginger, chinese and English cabbage, long beans, bananas and tomatoes – all you need to offset the Coke, Fiji Bitter, noodles, roti parcels and kava. If you have more than a pound in your pocket and buy a few bags the nice ladies will usually slip you an extra cucumber or two, which is a nice surprise if you’re not expecting it.
Well, I think that’s ten things, and if you did them all in one day you could get around, get fed, get watered, catch up on the news, see a movie and get mildly kavatized for less than £10. I’m now off to review my shopping list – every time I set foot out the door it seems to cost me $200. Something going wrong somewhere…….
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