Five Things First Time Travellers To Palau Should Know
- The official currency on Palau is the US dollar. Major credit cards are accepted in Koror, but cash is preferred on the other islands. If you do pay by card, keep in mind that there is a 3-5% transaction fee.
- English and Palauan are the two official languages of Palau. While you won't have a problem finding someone who understands English, Palauan is spoken more often. The island also has several regional languages including Japanese, Tobian and Sonsorolese.
- The tap water is safe to drink. But it does contain strains of E.coli that sometimes makes foreigners sick. If you don't want to take the risk stick to bottled water.
- Tipping is not expected. If you feel the service was exceptional, you're welcome to leave a tip, but don't feel obliged as there isn't much of a tipping culture on the island.
- Keep some money aside for the departure tax. When you leave Palau, you'll have to pay a USD 35 fee at the airport if it hasn't been included in your airfare.
Best Time To Visit Palau
The most popular time to visit Palau is from December to March. The weather is at its best, with minimal rain to ruin any outdoor activities. It's also the best time of year for diving, with high visibility, calm seas and plenty of marine life swimming around the coral reefs.
The only downside is that the higher tourists numbers mean you won't have this island paradise all to yourself. Hotel rates increase by 50%, and flights won't be cheap either. It's recommended to book your accommodation a few months in advance to lock in more favourable rates and ensure availability.
The cheapest time of year to visit Palau is during May, June and September. With high rainfall and wind, most tourists tend to stay away. But if you don't mind the less than perfect weather, you'll score cheap airfare and low hotel rates.
Despite the rain, the dive sites still have a lot to offer. Plus, with the lack of visitors, you won't need to share Palau's underwater treasures with groups of other divers.
Melekeok is the capital city of Palau. Located on the island of Babeldaob, less than 400 people call the city home, making it the world's smallest capital by population.
If you head out to Melekeok Pier and Beach, make sure you have cash on you. The government employees will charge you a small fee if you walk onto the pier or go into the water.
Koror is the largest city in Palau and the island's former capital. It's the nation's only real concentration of shops and is the best place to stock up on supplies.
Koror's most popular destination is the Rock Islands. These inlets are an easy day trip from the city and are home to Palau's top attractions: Jellyfish Lake and the Milky Way.
The state of Airai is located on the island of Babeldaob. It's one of Palau's most populated regions and is home to the country's Roman Tmetuchl International Airport.
While it doesn't have much to offer in terms of tourist infrastructure, it's all part of its charms. Airai boasts some of Palau's most fascinating cultural attractions (including a 200 year of Bai) and a dense jungle that remains virtually unexplored.
Top Attractions in Palau
Located off the coast of Koror, Jellyfish Lake is one of Palau's top attractions. Trapped inside a land-locked lake, millions of golden jellyfish live here, following the path of the sun.
Over the centuries, these creatures have lost their stingers due to no natural predators. This means that visitors can safely swim alongside the jellyfish. It's an incredible experience and deserves a spot on any Palau bucket list.
To get to the lake, you can join a full day tour to the Rock Islands. Prices range from 90 to 120 USD and include lunch and drinks.
Milky Way Lagoon
Another one of the Rock Islands famous attractions is the Milky Way Lagoon. The white limestone mud found at the bottom of the lagoon is renowned for its theatric properties. The locals believe the clay has the power to make you look at least ten years younger.
A visit to the lagoon is often part of the same tour to Jellyfish Lake. Once here, your guide will dive down to the bottom and bring back buckets full of the mud.
For best results, scrub the mud all over your skin and let it dry in the sun. Once it's hard and all the minerals have soaked into your skin, jump into the turquoise waters and reap the benefits of this natural body scrub.
Palau is famous for its excellent diving. One of the island's most popular dive sites is the Blue Corner. It's home to 13 different species of sharks, endangered sea turtles and curious Napoleon wrasses.
The site is suitable for all skill levels and is an excellent drift and reef hook dive. Time your dive to coincide with the incoming tide and watch hundreds of hungry fish appear to feast on the plankton including reef sharks.
After the show, you can unhook yourself from the reef and glide over the beautiful coral formations before returning to shore.
Badrulchau Stone Monoliths
Badrulchau Stone Monoliths are the Easter Island of Micronesia. Built around 100 AD, no one is sure how these large stones ended up on Palau or what they were used for. Interestingly enough, experts have discovered that these 5-tonne stones didn't even originate from Palau which only adds to their mystery.
Local legends believe that the gods put the rocks here to create a men's meeting house called a Bai.
While we may never know the truth, it's still a fascinating place to visit and well worth the trip. Pack a lunch and after you've explored the ruins, relax at the nearby picnic spots and take in the beautiful sea views.
Major International Airports in Palau
- Roman Tmetuchl International Airport