COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Republic of Kiribati (pronounced kir-ree-bas) is an island group in the Western Pacific Ocean. It consists of three archipelagos totaling 33 mostly low-lying coral atolls surrounded by extensive reefs, with a total land area of 800 square kilometers. Kiribati gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1979. Kiribati has an elected president and a legislative assembly. The capital city is Tarawa. Kiribati has few natural resources, and its economy is very small. Kiribati does have small but growing niche markets for fishing, especially at Christmas Island, diving, surfing and bird watching.
Tourist facilities are not widely available. Read the Department of State’s Background Notes on Kiribati for additional information.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or visit Kiribati, please take the time to tell our Embassy in Fiji about your trip. If you enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Here’s the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
There is no U.S. Embassy or diplomatic post in Kiribati. The U.S. Embassy in Suva, Fiji provides assistance for U.S. citizens in Kiribati.
U.S. Embassy Suva
158 Princes Road,Suva, Fiji
Emergency after-hours telephone: (679) 772-8049
Facsimile: (679) 330-2267
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: You will need a valid passport with a minimum of six months validity until the expiration date is required for entry. U.S. citizens are not required to obtain visas prior to travel to Kiribati. To see this and other general immigration and visa information, please go to the Kiribati National Tourism Office web site. For information on long-term visit or residency requirements, please contact the Consulate of the Republic of Kiribati, 95 Nakolo Place, Rm. 265, Honolulu, Hawaii 96819, tel. (808) 834-6775, fax (808) 834-7604, or via email.
There is an Airport Embarkation Tax of 20 AUD (Australian Dollars) levied on all passengers leaving Kiribati. Children under two years of age and transit passengers who do not leave the airport and continue their journey by the same aircraft are exempt from this tax.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Kiribati.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Stay up to date by:
CRIME: Although the crime rate in Kiribati is low, visitors should not be complacent regarding their personal safety or protecting valuables.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
Emergency numbers in Kiribati: The general emergency equivalent to “911” is 999. You can also reach individual emergency services by directly dialing 992 for police, 993 for fire, and 994 for ambulance.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Kiribati, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In Kiribati, you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. It is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. Driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Kiribati, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
Accessibility: While in Kiribati, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Accessibility of buildings, communications, and information for persons with disabilities is not mandated, and there are no special accommodations for persons with disabilities.
Customs: Kiribati’s customs authorities strictly prohibit the importation of firearms, ammunition, explosives and indecent publications or pornography. Strict quarantine laws govern the import of any part of plants, fruits, or vegetables, as well as soil, animals, and animal products. Visitors are not allowed to export human remains, artifacts that are 30 or more years old, traditional fighting swords, traditional tools, dancing ornaments, or suits of armor. For more information, please contact the Consulate of the Republic of Kiribati in Honolulu at (808) 834-6775 or via e-mail.
Currency: The Australian dollar is the legal currency in Kiribati. Traveler’s checks and all major currencies are accepted by banks and may also be exchanged for local currency at some local hotels. Visa and MasterCard are accepted at most hotels.
Natural Disasters: Kiribati is located in an area of high seismic activity. Undersea earthquakes in the South Pacific region can also generate destructive tsunamis. The government of Kiribati has only limited capability for notifying residents and visitors in the event of a tsunami warning. Visitors should take immediate precautions, such as seeking higher ground or refuge on an upper floor in a sturdy building, if you notice seismic activity and/or unusual tidal activity. Strong winds are common, especially during the cyclone season from November to April. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Health care throughout Kiribati, including Tarawa, is substandard. Medication and supplies are limited and hospital accommodations are inadequate throughout the country. Serious medical conditions requiring hospitalization or evacuation to the United States or elsewhere may cost thousands of dollars. If a person dies in Kiribati, there are no funeral homes with embalming or cremation services. If a relative wishes to return their deceased family member to the United States, there will be additional requirements needed to prepare the deceased member for travel. These requirements depend on the cause of death. The only international air connections in Kiribati are a weekly flight connecting Kiritimati (Christmas) Island to Honolulu and two weekly connections between Tarawa and Fiji. Air Kiribati provides rare flights between the islands of Kiribati. A serious medical condition could require an expensive medical evacuation. All water should be regarded as a potential health risk. Visitors should refrain from drinking any water that is not bottled, boiled, or otherwise sterilized. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit should be peeled before being eaten.
You can find good information on vaccinations and other health precautions, on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Kiribati, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
Traffic moves on the left side of the road in Kiribati. Roads in urban Tarawa and Christmas Island, while satisfactory in some areas, are generally in need of repair. After heavy rains, some road sections experience temporary flooding. Vehicle traffic proceeds at a relatively slow rate. Drinking and driving is a common practice, especially on the weekends. Since visibility is poor with no streetlights, drivers should be especially careful when driving at night. For specific information concerning Kiribati drivers’ permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Consulate of the Republic of Kiribati in Honolulu, Hawaii at (808) 834-6775.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Kiribati’s Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Kiribati’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA safety assessment page.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Kiribati dated November 3, 2011 to update section on Medical Facility and Health Information.