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READ MORE FROM THIS TRIP
Introduction: BULA! Flying Economy To The Happiest Place On Earth
• Review: The Westin Los Angeles Airport
• Review: Fiji Airway A330-200 (Economy); Los Angeles – Nadi
• Review: Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay
• Review: InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa
• Review: Sheraton Fiji Resort
• Review: The Westin Denarau Island Resort & Spa, Fiji
• Review: Fiji Airways Premier Lounge
Other Articles About My Fiji Trip
• Reflecting On My Experience Traveling From the Fiji Airport to the Marriott Resort Momi Bay. Dangerous or Genius?
• How To Travel Between Nadi Town and Denarau Island For Cheap
Bula! I’ve arrived in Fiji and I’m so excited!!
This post will be a bit of a departure from what I generally write because …well, I think this is a funny story, highlights some of my personal struggles, and will give you another option should you decide that you want to travel to Fiji and be adventurous.
I’ve been criss-crossing this beautiful earth for many years now. Although outside forces have the potential to change travel plans, I’m fairly confident in my ability to get from one country to another, from one city to the next, and from the airport to my accommodations.
However, I often make very different decisions when I am traveling solo than I do when I am with my wife and/or daughter. And more often than not, those decisions are dictated by the simple question “is there a cheaper way to do this?”
MY TRAVEL EXTREMES
If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I don’t require much and understandably this can be interpreted as “cheap” (I prefer frugal).
If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you may have noticed that my accommodations fluctuate and border on extreme. One day I’m staying in a $10 hostel and a few days later I’m staying in a $1000+ suite at the Ritz Carlton Al Bustan Palace.
And when it comes to flying, honestly, I don’t mind flying in economy. However, sitting in Business class blows my mind because it’s waayyy more than I need (but I will gladly accept). 😉
ADD THIS TO MY LIST OF EXTREMES
I arrived in Fiji at the Nadi Airport (NAN) at ~5AM and had to travel from the airport to the Marriott Resort Momi Bay. The island is very large but looking at google maps, my hotel appeared (fairly) close.
Given that it was ~5AM, and the hotel probably wouldn’t let me check at that time, I decided to complete some “market research” for the blog.
I approached the first airport employee that I saw once I exited customs. It was a security guard and the conversation was as follows:
“Bula. I need your help. I’m trying to go from here (the airport) to Momi Bay. If YOU didn’t have a car, how would you get there?”
Her face lights up and she pulls me aside as if she is sharing a juicy family secret as Thanksgiving dinner.
“Are you going to the hotel…the Marriott?”
“That’s exactly where I am going.”
“You are smart traveler. The taxi prices are expensive and only tourists pay all that money. Buy an express ticket in Vodafone and walk over to the international departures. In front of the doors, you will see a ‘Suva Express’ bus. It will take you along Queens Road and you ask the driver to drop you off on the main road for Momi Bay. There will be taxis there or coming along and you can take taxi to hotel for say…5 dollars.”
“Phenomenal! So…if I were to catch a taxi to the hotel from here, how much would it cost me?”
“…80…90 dollars (90FJD = ~$45USD)”
“And how much will the Suva Express cost me?”
“4 dollars (~$2USD)”
– At this point I pull out my phone and open google maps –
“I just want to make sure that I understand all of your directions…vodafone for bus ticket, out these doors, over to departure terminal, suva express for 4 dollars along main road (aka Queens Rd), the bus will drop me off at this road (photo below) and I can take a taxi to the hotel for another 4 or 5 dollars?”
“Yes, you’re a local now!”
(She and I both laugh as if we are family)
“You’re a gem! Thank you so much for helping me.”
I followed her directions and bought a ticket at the Vodafone in the lobby.
I then walk toward the taxi stand knowing that I would be approached by several drivers…and I was. I asked how much it would cost to go to Momi Bay and was quoted $100 but negotiated the fare down to $70. That appeared to be the lowest that I could get any driver to go but took A LOT of negotiation.
However, I knew that I wanted a unique experience so I departed the lobby and followed the sidewalk for a 3 minute journey over to international departures.
And just as the security officer said, there were several buses located in front of the departure hall departing for various locations around the island.
I located the bus that said ‘Suva Express,’ provided my ticket and explained my plans to the driver. He welcomed me with a big smile and said “no problem. I will let you know when we arrive there.”
The bus was clean, about 1/3 full, and far nicer than I imagined. It also had air-conditioning, an amenity that is overlooked until you are in a location that receives rather intense sun rays.
As you can see from the photo below, the seats also had plastic around the head rests which did not bother me but reminded me of being back in my grandmothers living room and sticking to the plastic she had on her couches.
Although the bus is an ‘express bus’ to Suva, it stopped at the Nadi Bus Station which appeared to be a major bus terminal for the island.
Pro-Tip: The traffic in Fiji can be BANANAS particularly around rush hours. Given, Queens Road is the main road that goes around the whole island, it doesn’t take many cars to make it a traffic jam.
When we arrived at the intersection leading into Momi Bay, the driver informed me of my stop, pulled to the side of the road, and dropped me off at the informal bus stop.
Unfortunately, there was no taxi in sight but I was not worried because I had observed several passing taxis and knew that I could catch one at any time.
Ironically, as I waited for the next taxi, I looked across the street and saw a gentleman taking a look at, perhaps, water meters. But what intrigued me about the situation was the vehicle he was driving. It was a basic F-150 -type utility truck but it said “Marriott” on the driver-side door.
I bolted across the street…
Quick question…are you going back to the Marriott hotel?”
“Would you mind giving me a ride? I don’t have to sit up front? I can ride in the flatbed part of the truck.”
“No worries. Give me a few minutes and I will take you there.”
As I place my carry-on in the back of the truck, he invites me to sit in the front seat.
During the 5 minute drive to the Marriott, we make small talk, and he fills me in on aspects about the property including when the property was built and how amazing my stay is going to be.
He drops me off at the front door and I am greeted warmly by the staff.
In my younger days, I spent some time living in Guatemala (one of my favorite countries) and this experience just reminded me of the times when I would hop on the “chicken bus” and travel for hours without a care in the world.
In this case, my western mind said “it’s expensive so just pay the taxi and get to where you need to be. Don’t jump in someone else’s car. You don’t know them. They could kidnap you.”
But my need for adventure said “YOLO!” hahaha
Just for clarity, I’m not suggesting that anyone attempt to recreate my trip but this experience was refreshing, exciting, and made me feel alive.
If you plan to visit Fiji, you’ll find the people are AMAZING and I don’t say that lightly. In my experience, I would rank them in the TOP 3 nicest people in the world.
p.s. And just in case you’re wondering…I gave the Marriott driver a good tip because he was so helpful so it wasn’t a completely free ride but I felt good because I saved $40USD one-way. Given that I am in Fiji for a week, you can see how it could get costly really fast.
So what do you think…dangerous or genius…or somewhere in between? Would you have taken the bus or just paid for a taxi?