Oceania Solomon Islands Travel

My First Impression of the Solomon Islands

Last week I traveled to Honiara, the capital of Solomon Islands for work. Solomon Islands was my 20th country and the 2nd Pacific Island country I visited, so I was pretty pumped to experience a different island in the region other than Fiji. I’d always been curious about Solomon Islands as I have many colleagues based in Honiara. I was hoping to write a guide for first-timers but due to the short duration of the trip (I only stayed for 4 nights and I was constantly working), I didn’t have much time to venture outside the capital or to the other islands. So instead, I decided to write about my first impression of this mysterious and little-known island in the South Pacific.

The photos were taken with my phone as I’d forgotten to bring my DSLR with me. I didn’t realize that I’d left my camera bag back home until I reached the airport. I blame the 6AM domestic flight I had to take prior to the international flight from Nadi to Honiara (I’m so not a morning person…). I’m not a big fan of phone photography despite the convenience so I really hope I get to go back with my full camera gear to properly capture the spirit of Solomon Islands.
 

Solomon Islands Airport

6AM flights are just not my thing


 

It’s hot and humid

The heat in Honiara was actually quite bearable. It was the humidity that drove me nuts. But it’s summer here in the Pacific so I wasn’t surprised.

Solomon Islands Airport

Casually walking to collect my luggage


 

People drive like a maniac

Not a joke. The road is extremely bumpy and there are puddles everywhere, not to mention there’s only one road that connects the entire island so the traffic is just insane. There’s also no sense of giving way or yielding so accidents occur quite frequently. I’ve never seen my colleague scream and swear so much until I was in her car…and I don’t blame her. Cars were consistently coming out of nowhere so I’d have used colorful languages as well if I was the one behind the wheel.

Oh and there are no crosswalks so you’re risking your life every time you attempt to cross. Those cars ain’t gonna slow down for you.
 

Healthy number of expats

There is a pretty big expat community in Honiara. You’ll see them having lunch at the local food court or having cocktails and dinner at a hotel bar. There are ample restaurants and coffee shops that serve western food and pastries for those who are homesick.

Solomon Islands Coffee Shop
 

Locals with bright red teeth

One of the first things I noticed was the locals and their bright red teeth. I soon found out that the red/orange stain was due to betel nut chewing, a popular pastime activity among Solomon Islanders. They chew betel nuts during breaks, after lunch or whenever they feel like it. What is a betel nut, you might ask? They’re the seeds of the Areca Palm, which is widely used across the world as a mild stimulant to promote digestion and relaxation. To the locals, chewing betel nuts is equivalent to the westerners going out for a cup of coffee or the Fijians drinking kava.

You’ll see signs inside almost every building banning the chewing of betel nuts. This is because betel nut chewing doesn’t just involve chewing, but also spitting it out. Chewed betel nuts can be found in the streets along with rubbish and plastic bottles mentioned above.
 

It’s EXPENSIVE

The cost of living in Honiara is SO FREAKIN HIGH. Yep, I had to say that in all caps for extra emphasis. The average rent is between USD 1,300 to USD 2,500 and the cost of dining out can range from USD 30 to USD 100. You can find basic groceries in the street shops but they can be pricey as they’re imported from Australia or New Zealand. The best way to save money is to shop local at the Honiara Central Market – the veggies and seafood are apparently dirt cheap. I didn’t have the time to drop by (such a shame because I love markets) but I’ve heard good reviews on the price and the freshness of the produce.

Solomon Islands Shop
 

Dusty and dirty

Unfortunately, Honiara is dirty as littering seemed to be a common practice. There’s trash and discarded plastic water bottles in every corner of the streets as well as in the ocean. Honiara is also incredibly dusty – my sunglasses was no match to the dust particles flying around the city. Thank god I brought eye drops with me.
 

Bed bugs and roaches

They’re everywhere – unfortunately, even hotels can’t avoid them – and you’re the weird one if you make a fuss about it. I stayed at IBS Monarch, a three-star hotel that cost USD 115 per night and I woke up to bed bug bites on my arm and ankles the first day. They “upgraded” me to a deluxe room (the only difference from the standard room was that it had a full-length mirror and a bigger sink) and I was greeted by a cockroach next to my bed the next day. Thank god it was flipped over and about to die. When I reported it to the hotel staff, they just shrugged and said that the cleaners must have forgotten to spray Mortein after they cleaned the room. I guess it’s just one of the downsides of the tropics…

Solomon Islands IBS Monarch Hotel

Clean-looking bed sheets are very deceiving


 

It’s not safe to walk around

Well, maybe not entirely true. What I meant here is that, just like in any country, it’s not safe to walk around alone in the evenings. I’ve been advised by my local colleagues to keep my valuables close at all times and to refrain from walking alone in the streets even in the afternoon. Now that I think about it, maybe it was a good thing that I didn’t bring my camera after all.
 

Friendly locals

Solomon Islanders are very friendly 🙂 I found them to be quite shy compared to the Fijians but they’ll still smile and say hi.

Solomon Islands Airport
 

Thriving tourism industry

To my surprise, the tourism industry is quite well set-up to accommodate tourists and visitors. Australians seemed to be the country’s main target due to the location and proximity. Specials and package tours are available on the official tourism site of Solomon Islands.

 

Woah, that was quite a list. I actually didn’t have any expectations prior to my arrival as I’d already been informed by my colleagues that Honiara resembles Suva 30 years ago. Regardless, I was still excited for my trip and I’m glad I had the opportunity to set foot in a new country. I’d love to go back and explore more of Solomon Islands though, such as visiting different islands, going scuba diving, trying local foods and so on.

 

Have you been to Solomon Islands? Would you like to visit? Comment and let me know!

 

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Solomon Islands Guide

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Khema
    December 5, 2017 at 2:46 am

    Solomon islanders seem like such amazing people I might overlook the bed bugs and roaches and go there for my next trip 😀 Nice article!

    • Reply
      susie
      December 5, 2017 at 4:17 pm

      I’d definitely go back again in spite of the bed bugs and roaches, it’s such a rare opportunity to experience different Pacific islands. In fact I’m going back next week for another business trip 😀

  • Reply
    Melai
    December 7, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    It seems like Solomon Islands didn’t leave you with a good impression. But knowing that locals are friendly is one great reason to go. 🙂 This country isn’t a popular travel destination so I bet they still have a lot more to improve to invite tourists in.

    • Reply
      susie
      December 8, 2017 at 4:41 pm

      I think I had too little time to fully experience what Solomon Islands has to offer and I definitely got unlucky with bed bugs :/ I’m actually going back this Monday so I’m pumped! Taking my camera with me this time 😀

  • Reply
    Mariann
    December 7, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    true! nice locals is an enough reason to visit! would love to go one day.

    • Reply
      susie
      December 8, 2017 at 4:42 pm

      Totally agree, I hope you get to visit one day! I’m excited to be going back on Monday 🙂

  • Reply
    Ruth
    December 7, 2017 at 4:21 pm

    You seem to be describing a Caribbean island. I am from Puerto Rico and these islands sound like home. The locals drive like there is not tomorrow, tons of roaches (sadly) and friendly people. Now, locals do not have red teeth and it is not that expensive (but expensive compared to the Dominican Republic or Jamaica).

    • Reply
      susie
      December 8, 2017 at 4:43 pm

      My partner’s from Yabucoa and I’ve been to PR twice now, i love that island so much. I fully agree Puerto Ricans drive crazy (my partner included haha). I’m going back to Solomon Islands on Monday so I can’t wait to write more about it <3

  • Reply
    neha
    December 8, 2017 at 4:24 am

    Great that the people are friendly here. It is very costly to go to these islands and if upon reaching one encounters bed bugs, littered beaches and dirt, this wont make for a pleasant first impression. I thank you for such an honest review and hope the people and government there work to make it better.

    • Reply
      susie
      December 8, 2017 at 4:45 pm

      It’s crazy expensive to travel to other Pacific islands even from Fiji so I only get to go for a business trip. I definitely got unlucky with bed bugs :/ I’ve heard that the government is actually putting quite a bit of effort to clean up the capital 🙂 I’m going back on Monday so I can’t wait to write more about the Solomon Islands <3

  • Reply
    Frances
    December 8, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    I’m not surprised its expensive being so far away from other things. The bettel leaves thing is interesting though – now I know if I see anyone with red teeth!

    • Reply
      susie
      December 9, 2017 at 2:20 pm

      I thought it’d be cheap to fly to different islands in the Pacific but oh boy was I wrong. I’m going back to Honiara on Monday so I’m looking forward to exploring more (fingers crossed!) 🙂

  • Reply
    Shivani
    December 8, 2017 at 8:19 pm

    Wow, such an expensive affair to see an island.I guess I might pass 😀 The concept of bed bugs is really new to me and even in hotels, that’s so odd, yes you can say I’m the weird one 😉 I guess driving wouldn’t hurt me much as coming from India I’m used to mad driving. All in all, you gave an awesome review about the place!!

    • Reply
      susie
      December 9, 2017 at 2:40 pm

      Thanks Shivani! Pacific islands aren’t cheap and I’m still getting used to seeing roaches everywhere, it was my first experience getting bitten by bed bugs and I think I just got unlucky. I’m going back to Solomon Islands on Monday so wish me better luck this time 😉

  • Reply
    nathalie salcedo
    December 8, 2017 at 8:31 pm

    Thanks for this! This seems very intriguing and something to keep in mind.

    • Reply
      susie
      December 9, 2017 at 2:40 pm

      Thanks for reading Nathalie 🙂

  • Reply
    Weekend Haven
    December 9, 2017 at 7:05 am

    Oh no. I hope you were still able to enjoy your stay despite the bed bugs and roaches. I think the island has still a lot more to offer.

    • Reply
      susie
      December 9, 2017 at 2:41 pm

      I think I just got unlucky with bed bugs :/ I’m going back on Monday so hopefully I get to explore a bit more! Fingers crossed 😉

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