Cruising to the Solomon Islands is relatively new, so ports like Gizo are still trying to get logistics right. First impressions stepping off the tender boat onto uneasy ground at the port entrance are that this destination is very raw. Locals huddle around in interest to see the commotion, but they are friendly and welcoming. A large open-air hall is filled with traditional dancers while an emcee introduces cruisers to the destination and points out places of interest. There is a money exchange desk where you can grab some local Solomon Dollars and wander up the road lined with shop stalls. These are very basic: a blanket or raffia mat on the ground lined with handicrafts ranging from shell money necklaces (unique to the islands), calved wooden sculptures and other shell trinkets. Adventurous cruisers can even try the local betel nut (a bitter tasting nut that is chewed with lime that stains the teeth red but gives a slight buzz).
Port of Gizo
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Good to Know
There are limited facilities in Gizo so be prepared before you step off the ship. The actual passenger terminal is an open-air, traditional-style hall. Here you will find a makeshift stand for money exchange, but changing money on the island can prove tricky unless you are a client of the bank. Credit cards are not accepted in the small market stalls.
The Gizo Hotel is the main point of call for all other amenities. They have the only bathroom facilities, free internet in the lobby, and the bar offers a great place to relax with a cool drink, overlooking the main street.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
Solomon Islands' currency is the Solomon Dollar (SBD). (You can visit www.xe.com for current rates.) There is an ANZ bank at the end of the main street with an ATM where you can withdraw money, but unless you are a local client, you cannot change currency in the bank. The Gizo Hotel can change money, but they run out fast so get in quick. Worst case scenario, you can barter with local vendors who often will accept AUD and NZD.
English is widely spoken and understood throughout the Solomon Islands. However, the local language is Pijin English. Pijin is also known as Solomons Pidgin, Neo-Solomonic or Kanaka, and is closely related to Tok Pisin, Bislama and Torres Strait Creole. Say thank you "tagio tumas" to the locals in their lingo -- it will bring a smile to their face and be much appreciated.
The handicrafts sold in Gizo are well constructed and unique to the Pacific region, however for a truly authentic gift to take home from the Solomon Islands, check out the shell money. Strands of shells collected and beaded onto strands used, culturally, as payments for brides in the villages. These strands of shells are made into necklaces, bracelets, earrings and other jewellry.