Moving to the Solomon Islands and wondering what to pack? Now that we’ve been here for a year we feel like we can pass on a little bit of wisdom. To be honest, Stilettos in the Solomons’ list is still pretty spot on 7 years later but we thought we’d add our two cents.
When you’re packing keep in mind that if you have to buy stuff here you won’t have a lot of options, it will probably be low quality, and it’ll cost a bomb. On top of that, things are hard to replace and difficult to get fixed. Your stuff may get stolen at some point. But no wari – if you do get desperate there are always people flying in and out of Honiara if you’re prepared to ask nicely.
Pack List for the Sollies
(in order of importance according to Dan and Nid)
An open mind
You are not coming to a Hawaiian resort. This is a country ranked 156th on the human development index. There is little infrastructure, things break down all the time, it’s really hot, the internet speed is always very upsetting, roads are dusty and dirty, and you can count the places to hang out and eat/drink on two hands. If you don’t think you can handle that, pick a country higher up on the index.
At Dan’s first visit to the GP the nurse made her tie her own tourniquet using a rubber glove. We’re not saying don’t go to the Doctors hia, but it’s better to sort out your vaccinations,
Surplus breathable undies is a must. And bras unless you don’t mind second-hand ones at bale shops. If you bring a mooncup you’re winning as sometimes tampons can be hard to find. Sanitary pads are relatively easy to find on the other hand. Also, max out on whatever you do for birth control.
Glasses and contacts
There is an extremely limited supply of glasses so make sure you have a spare pair or two in case you lose one off the side of a banana boat. Contacts are the same, bring a supply – don’t think it’ll be really easy to just post yourself a supply because it’s not. Also, we highly recommend getting prescription goggles for snorkeling and diving. If you’re from Auckland, visit wetties (Dan’s cost about NZD 120).
Smart phone, laptop, power bank, e-book reader. Because anything you buy here will be shit or overpriced. Keep in mind bringing expensive stuff means extra vigilance on your part in not getting it stolen. Other electronics that we’ve brought that bring us joy is a speaker, projector (for movies), and a Nintendo Switch. Bring a power surge protector plug or multiplug to plug in said devices. That’s how our microwave died 🙁
Backpack and a drybag
You’ll need a backpack for carrying all your expensive electronics we just told you to bring especially if you don’t have a car. A drybag goes a long way on hikes, boat trips, and rainy weather.
A library of entertainment
Not books, a stocked Kindle is easier to pack. Bring a vast library of legally acquired movies and TV shows. There’s no such thing as streaming here but there are lots of DVD shops that sell not-legally acquired movies and TV shows if you don’t mind Chinese subtitles or a few dud copies. Lels also gets a new bunch of very cheap second-hand books every Thursday night (bookclub is every second Tuesday of the month at Tenkai).
Several pairs of shoes
Honiara is hard on footwear as there are the same amount of potholes in the sidewalks as there are on the roads. Bring breathable, hardy shoes and a few pairs extra for when they break. A few pairs of jandals/sandals, sneakers (x2), reef shoes, and shoes for boat rides (you may lose friends but crocs are the honest best for banana boats). If you have to buy shoes here, your options are limited and low quality but you can get lucky at the bale shops every now and then. Anything leather will mould. If you are thinking about bringing hiking shoes, keep in mind they are hot and clunky to walk in and will get waterlogged – much easier to just wear sneakers. Plus you’ll feel overdressed when you see the local guides hike with jandals.
Sheets and towels
Easier to just bring your own especially fitted sheets or your fancy waffle duvet covers. You can find towels here but good luck finding one that works.
Paddleboards, kayaks, bikes, snorkelling gear, diving gear, fishing gear, electronics, exercise gear…. what did you think we were talking about?
Personal care things
There are personal care things here but not a huge variety. If you have your own special preferences or brands of creams, shampoos, conditioners, dyes, balms, ointments, oils and pastes, bring them. Bring that organic bottle of ocean-and-dolphin-friendly, sensitive-skin sunscreen and
A good drink bottle
You can’t drink the tap water here and you’ll be sweating five times more than you’re used to. Bonus points for vacuum insulated bottles that will keep your cold drinks cold after three hours of walking in the sun.
You can buy the basics here and there are plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, but anything that you could consider “fancy” you may not be able to find. Most frequent fliers into and out of the Solomon’s use their baggage weight on specialty cheese and meats (you need to get a meat license for bringing over meat). In saying that, the Bulk Shop and Pantatina can surprise and you can find things like LSA, whole wheat flour, tahini and sour cream (sometimes). So, bring the comfort food you can’t live without or the special brand of peanut butter that makes life worth living. We like bringing back sauces, chia, onion soup mix for kiwi dip, Dan’s favourite chocolate, and Pic’s peanut butter.
If you are lucky enough to have a WiFi connection this won’t be as urgent but most of us, probably you included, will rely on mobile data. Make sure all of your gadgets and apps are updated: your computer, phone, tablets, gaming stations, fitbits, speakers, e-book readers… If you use online apps, download offline equivalents. Download all your books, podcasts, TV shows, and music. Figure out how to turn your computer to ‘metered connection mode’, what apps you can turn to ‘use less internet’ mode, find the ‘download over WiFi only’ setting, and turn off auto update. If you’re thinking of doing a blog, set that up before you leave or else it won’t happen. Despite all your efforts, you will still run out of data.
Your coffee kit
You can get Nescafe instant and supermarket branded coffee and a local brand of coffee here. But if you’re a coffee fancy pants or you’re just from Australia or New Zealand, there is a high chance that you will want some home coffee comforts. Bring your grinder, stovetop espresso pot, French press, drip and filter, or whatever device you use and a few packs of your favourite beans.
Kitchen appliances you can’t live without
You can get some appliances here, but they’ll cost three times as much as you would pay back home. Bring a blender/Nutribullet – you’d be a fool not to make smoothies here.
If you plan on travelling outside Honiara, which you should, you will likely travel via banana boat. These are small dinghies with an outboard motor that are not fit for open sea travel, which they use for open sea travel. In any case, these boats may have some life jackets but usually not enough if you’re in a big group. If you think you’ll be taking a lot of boat trips, get a personal locator beacon or check that your workplace here has some to borrow.
When it rains here, it pours. And it can be a lifesaver if it starts raining while you’re on a banana boat.
If you live in West Kola you’ll get to hear the dog howling orchestra. Every. Single. Night. If you’re in the village, everything noisy happens right when you’re trying to get to sleep.
We’ve ummed and ahhed about this one as we’ve only ever needed our own mosquito nets less than a handful of times and that’s only when we’ve gone on overnight hikes. Most accommodation will have mosquito nets and ceiling fans offers better protection than a net. But, it doesn’t hurt to bring one just in case.
Have we missed anything? Leave a comment if you think so.