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Tuvalu 2019 Crime & Safety Report

East Asia & Pacific > Tuvalu; East Asia & Pacific > Tuvalu > Funafuti

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Tuvalu at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The U.S. Embassy in Suva does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizen Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or establishment, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of services provided.

Review OSAC’s Tuvalu-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Crime Threats

There is minimal risk from crime in Funafuti, yet it can have an impact on the work and life of the community. Only two murders have occurred since 1978. However, visitors should review security practices to mitigate potential instances of petty theft.

Cybersecurity Issues

Tuvalu has made some advances in its cybersecurity roadmap. Tuvalu participated in the inaugural Pacific Cyber Security Operational Network (PaCSON) event in 2018 funded by the Australian government to enhance cyber resilience in the region. However, Tuvalu has not reached a level of wide implementation. Use normal security precautions when using public computers.

Other Areas of Concern

Tuvalu uses Australian dollars as its currency. There are no ATMs in the country. Prepare to pay cash for hotel bills and all other services, as credit card services are not available. Tuvalu National Bank accepts traveler’s checks and most major currencies, including U.S. dollars.


 

Transportation-Safety Situation

For more information, review OSAC’s Report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Road Safety and Road Conditions

The road network in Tuvalu is very small, with only a few dozen people owning vehicles. Driving is on the left side of the road. The main roads on Funafuti are paved, but roads on other islands are generally unpaved. Road conditions in Funafuti are fair, but can change drastically after a cyclone. Tuvalu only owns one vehicle for paving roads. Roads are not well marked. Exercise caution, as traffic tends to move slowly. Animals and unwary pedestrians walking in the road make night driving on unlighted secondary roads hazardous.

Exercise caution when walking at night on a road due to potholes, especially after rainy weather.

Driving while intoxicated is illegal and punishable by fine or imprisonment.

For more information on self-driving, review OSAC’s Report, Driving Overseas: Best Practices.

Public Transportation Conditions

There are no car rental agencies on Tuvalu due to its small size. The most prevalent forms of travel include taxi, bicycles, and hotel transportation services. Locals frequently use one of several public buses on Funafuti to commute. However, there are no bus stops; travelers must wave down the bus of their choice.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Funafuti International Airport (FUN) is the only airport in Tuvalu, with flights to Suva running on Tuesdays and Fridays. There have been no reports of items stolen from checked baggage. Maintain awareness of belongings at all times, use Transportation Security Administration (TSA) approved locks, and retrieve checked bags as soon as possible.

Terrorism Threat

There is minimal risk from terrorism in Funafuti.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Civil Unrest 

There is minimal risk from political violence in Funafuti. Although protests are rare, avoid demonstrations and large crowds. While daily life appears calm on the surface, Tuvalu experienced civil unrest during a constitutional crisis in 2012-2013. That and some protest activity in 2016 suggest that civil unrest could erupt without much advance notice.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Tuvalu is an island nation subject to many natural disasters, including cyclones, earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, and landslides. Although the probability of a major earthquake or tsunami occurring during a particular trip is remote, small earthquakes occur regularly due to its proximity to the Pacific Plate boundary.

The cyclone season runs between November and April. However, they may occur all year. Cyclone activity frequently causes flooding along the coastline, often creating potholes and causing disruption to the infrastructure and essential services. Public services (e.g. water, electricity, transportation) are unlikely to be available for a significant period following a powerful cyclone. Authorities have completely evacuated outlying islands after particularly strong cyclones.

Critical Infrastructure

Many buildings in Tuvalu do not have fire alarms or fire suppression equipment in close proximity. Fire alarms at tourist hotels are sporadic with some evacuation plans in place. For more information on fire safety in hotels, review OSAC’s Report, Fire Safety Abroad.

Economic Concerns

Tuvalu is not a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the WTO, or any organization protecting intellectual property rights. As a result, the frequency of pirated items has not declined and stores may sell pirated copies of movies, television shows, music, counterfeit clothing, jewelry, and other luxury goods.

Personal Identity Concerns

There is some sensitivity with the way women dress on Tuvalu. Tuvaluans are generally polite and respectful towards women, who are starting to hold more positions in politics, education, employment, and health. Despite new legislation, domestic violence and discrimination remains a concern in the country.

Same-sex sexual activity between males is illegal, with maximum penalties of seven to 14 years’ imprisonment depending on the nature of the offense. However, there are no reports of prosecutions of consenting adults under these provisions. There are no recent reports of violence against persons based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Tuvalu prohibits discrimination on the basis of physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disability. Supplementary state services to address the special needs of persons with disabilities are very limited. There are no mandated building accessibility provisions for persons with disabilities. The only multi-story government building has elevators, but they are not always operational. There are no elevators in private multi-story buildings.

Drug-related Crimes

There are no reports of drug-related crimes on Tuvalu. Penalties for possession of any amount includes fines and possible jail time.

Kidnapping Threat

There is minimal risk from kidnapping in Funafuti.

Police Response

The ability of local police to assist victims of crime is limited due to a lack of response vehicles, radios, and other essential equipment, especially on outlying islands.

Report all incidents of crime to the local police authorities. Remain calm and polite when interacting with the police to avoid misunderstandings.

Carry a copy of your passport on your person, as police often ask for identification of all parties involved in any type of incident.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Police generally treat arrested or otherwise detained foreigners well. U.S. citizens in police detention should request to speak with a U.S. Embassy representative in Fiji. The assistance the Embassy can provide is limited to making sure U.S. citizens are not treated differently from local detainees, and providing them with a list of local attorneys.

Crime Victim Assistance

For emergencies requiring police, fire emergency, or medical assistance, dial 911

For administrative calls in Funafuti, dial +688 20726 for police.

Medical Emergencies

Medical and dental care is very limited in Tuvalu. Health care facilities are limited to the Princess Margaret Hospital in Funafuti. The hospital offers general medical services such as dental, surgical, obstetric, and gynecologic services. There are often shortages of supplies and medications at the hospital. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.

In rural areas, two nurses, a nursing assistant, and two primary health care workers operate satellite clinics.

Carry adequate supplies of any needed prescription medicines, along with copies of prescriptions, the generic name of the drugs, and a supply of preferred over-the-counter medications. For more information, refer to OSAC’s Report, Traveling with Medications.

Emergency response is limited due to the space between islands and road conditions. Ambulance availability is minimal from Princess Margaret Hospital. Individuals requiring an ambulance in Funafuti should call 911 or Princess Margaret Hospital (+688 20480).

Tuvalu is malaria-free, although travelers coming from infected areas must carry a yellow fever vaccination certificate. Tuvalu's only water supply is rainwater stored in tanks, so the use of bottled water is highly recommended.

Communicable diseases present in Tuvalu include Dengue Fever, Tuberculosis, and Typhoid.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

For a list of available medical facilities, refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.

Available Air Ambulance Services

Princess Margaret Hospital works frequently with international evacuation services.

Insurance Guidance

Serious medical problems often require the intervention of health professionals and hospitals in Guam or Hawaii. Serious medical conditions requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation (medevac) can cost thousands of dollars and considered only if the patient has adequate insurance or pays up front. Medevac to Guam, Hawaii, or Australia can be very expensive and severely limited by the lack of flights out of Tuvalu. In some cases, a medical evacuation to Australia or New Zealand can require a medical visa. Strongly consider purchasing supplemental medevac insurance.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Tuvalu.

OSAC Country Council Information

There is no OSAC Country Council in Tuvalu. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s East Asia Pacific team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Embassy Suva, 158 Princes Rd, Tamavua, Suva, Fiji

Embassy Contact Numbers

Telephone: + (679) 331-4466

Emergency: + (679) 772-8049; for after-hours emergencies involving Americans, callers can also dial the main switchboard at (679) 331-4466 and ask for the duty officer.

Website: http://fj.usembassy.gov/

Nearby Post: Virtual Presence Post Tonga

The RSO in Fiji is also responsible for Tuvalu, New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna, Tonga, Nauru, and French Polynesia.

Embassy Guidance

U.S. citizens traveling to Tuvalu should register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to ensure they receive pertinent security updates and notices.

Additional Resource: Tuvalu Country Information Sheet