Life Solomon Islands

Getting a car

August 12, 2017

We’ve got a new old car!

Its name is Zamzam.

Zamzam has three doors, a functioning radio, and a speedometer that doesn’t work. Named, we are told, in remembrance of the previous, previous owner who hailed from somewhere beginning with Z.

Wondering if you too should get a car?

Below is a comprehensive analysis of everything you need to think about regarding the question that has hounded every new expat to Honiara: “Should I, shouldn’t I get a car in Honiara?”

You should totally get a car!

1. You get to go to the beach

And you want to go to the beach because that means you get to get out of Honiara for a bit.

None of the beaches within the vicinity of Honiara are swimmable. As the nearest and closest beach is about 20 minutes out of town, you can catch a bus but that’s a long experience, and taxis can get a bit expensive. Bikes could get you to the beach… if you have a bike.

Exhausting all of those options, the only other way to get to the beach is by relying on friends to take you places… if you have friends.

2. Shopping is easier

There are no one-stop haven/supermarkets here. Shopping is a chore that will make sure you travel the breadth of Honiara to find all the things you are looking for. Market for produce, Bulkshop for sugar, butchers for meat, and the hardware store all other manner of things you couldn’t find elsewhere like hardware, jandals, and soda water. 

Now put all of that in a backpack and walk home with it in 30+ degrees feels like 40 degree heat. Get’s old real quick.

3. You can wear flash things to work

It is always hot here and Nid has swapped out the standard long-shirt and pants office wear for short-sleeved collared shirts and shorts. Borderline professional. By the time he gets to work he already has pit stains the size of Lake Taupo. With a car, he smells fresh as a daisy (that lasts for about ten minutes).

4. Your social life expands

We spend an unprecedented amount of our time attending social clubs, potlucks and house parties. Without a car, how will you go to all the things? Science studies show, people without cars in Honiara only get half the social invites.

5. You’re a woman

Easier and safer to get around by yourself at nighttime and a respite from the catcalling.

6. It’s just bloody convenient

Nuff said.

Maybe you can live without a car???

 1. It’s expensive

Importing a car, while great, can be expensive and nearly every second-hand car you buy here has a problem with it. And what with it being so hot and dusty and with potholes more like black holes, car lives are shortlived.

Expect something in your car to break at some point because it will. Eventually.

In saying that though, petrol is cheaper than New Zealand. Plus!

2. Traffic

You wouldn’t believe it when I say the traffic here is worse than Auckland, but it is. Honiara is basically one road and it will literally take 45 minutes to drive 2 kilometres. It takes Nid half that time if he just walks and takes the bus.

3. You have to stand in a long line for half a day to get licenced and registered

Anything that involves beaurocracy administration in the Solomon Islands is something you want to avoid if given the choice.

4. Compensation

All cars must have 3rd party insurance. Hit the mangiest on-the-verge-of-death dog here and you can bet someone will be knocking on your door for compensation because it was their favouritist most beloved pet.

Calculating compensation is a magical process of conjuring a number or bunch of items that might or might not make sense to the compensator.  Good luck with that.

5. You don’t get to walk

By walking, you really do get to see a lot of the community and the community gets to see a lot of you. Having a car will put you in a bubble and you will miss a lot of precious moments: frog roadkill, squishing giant African snails under your jandals, trying to avoid clumpy betel nut spit, running from packs of street dogs etc etc. Plus, no one says “Gudfala Mone!” to you when you’re in a car.

6. No such thing as driving etiquette

If you’re subject to road rage, getting a car is probably not for you.

Here are some examples of acceptable driving behaviour:
Not indicating – ok
U-turns in the middle of the road – ok
Stopping in the middle of the road – ok
Driving over roundabouts – ok
Driving on the wrong side of the road – ok
Blocking traffic – ok
Driving too fast – ok
Driving too slow – ok

Now that you’ve been given all of the information you need to make your own informed and balanced decision, here’s our advice: get a car.

If you can afford it and you’ll be here for more than six months, get a car. If you’re too poor, go splitsies. Partly for your sanity, mostly because you’ll be able to get to places outside of Honiara, mainly for the air-conditioning.