Two annual trips to Fiji, a fun loving 11 year old girl, and the joy of shopping! (except for a husband who hates it)!
Given we arrived in the evening via Qantas both trips, therefore having 1/2 a day each time to fill in prior to boarding the Malolo Cat to the Islands the next day... what's a family to do - but shop!
Being relatively naive trip one, we jumped on one of the many rickety buses from Raffles Gateway (airport hotel) into Nadi( $FJD 2). The trip itself is a hoot of an experience. Buses that would not even be considered roadworthy in Australia, putter their way through the villages with teeth chattering bumpiness. Open air, ancient vehicles booming out local music make for a truly authentic trip with the locals and adds to the honest Fiji experience!
Arriving in Nadi town itself, is not quite as charming as gazing at the local homes, kids playing rugby roadside and vegetation along the way. The town itself is crowded, dirty and seemingly filled with annoying Fiji/Indians hassling you for business at every doorway.
There are of course the big 'western' superstores purpose built for tourists such as Prouds & Jacks that are chock-a-block full of tatty touristy gifts (which my daughter loves mind you), but be mindful of the prices that come with those classy air conditioned monoliths.
The local food markets are vast and fascinating (real shopping for the locals). Smelly but kind of wonderful. The main street strip of local shops lining both sides, do have pretty some cheap things to buy - t.shirts, wooden carvings, sulus etc. Be careful of those nagging shop owners though...they say that their wooden products have been treated, but we've seen many confiscated on the way back through Australian customs! DO NOT try to buy a bikini for an 11 year old girl! No such thing exists as they think kids should wear 1 pieces or shorts and tops. We were looking through one shop and whilst I was describing what I wanted to one salesperson, another had dragged my daughter into the broom closet and was trying to alter an adults bikini on her before I even knew it! Not acceptable without an adult with her I thought.
The non-stop charletons also ask kids their names and commence to carve their name into some ugly wooden piece so you feel honour- bound to buy it...not this wised up Mum!
As 1st timers, we also fell for the 'honest Fijian' sales pitch of "Stan The Man" - True Fijian who supposedly 'supports 17 villages' and before you know it, drags you up some 'Kings Cross like" stairway into his CD burning, trinket filled lair - shared with us our own 'personal Kava ceremony', read to us some journal about the cancer solving properties of the Kava grown in his villages, then set about ripping us off something chronic before we could escape! Around the corner in their local outdoor markets were exactly the same trinkets (only Stan's village produced the real thing - NOT) for at least 1/4 of the price! Live and learn I guess - still, we lived, laughed and learned.
2nd Time around, we avoided Nadi and headed out for a 30 minute ricketty bus trip to Lautoka instead. Maybe because we headed out early (8.45am), and because most 1st timers head to Nadi - this turned out to be a great decision ! The locals made great conversation along the way, to my daughter's delight "One Direction" blared from the radio, and the picturesque countryside into the 'Sugar Country' was wonderful. It seemed NOBODY was actually there shopping...we safely and quietly wandered around able to calmly pop in and out of shops easily without being hassled. Heaven! My husband actually enjoyed buying some very well made trousers, shorts, board shorts, 3 t.shirts and fun casual pants for my daughter - all for $FJD 104.00 ($AUD 60.00)! Lautoka is definitely the place for hassle-free shopping! Local food markets even bigger and cleaner than Nadi too!
If you don't have the time to head out to either Nadi town or Lautoka, you'll find almost the same things at Denrau Marina - just presented a little nicer, and a fair bit more expensive!
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.