Backpacking in Nauru: Busting the Myths About This Lesser Known Island Country

“You’re turning every modern theory on its head” – Gryff Rhys.

Backpacking in Nauru: Busting the Myths That This Country is Isolated and Remote

Backpacking in Nauru: Busting the Myths That This Country is Isolated and Remote

Nauru is a real enigma for your travelling mindset. Before arriving here, you hear all sorts of fake stories about how it is the most remote island in the world, it’s the most isolated country in the world, it’s difficult to get to, the visa is a nightmare, it’s the least visited country in the world, there are only 2 flights per week, there are no ATMs, you can sleep on the runway, there are only 2 hotels, you get stranded here and have to wait a week for the next flight etcetera and so on and etcetera!! I’d love to meet the person who invented all that cow excrement!!l simply couldn’t believe it when I finally got here. Nauru is the opposite of everything.

Backpacking in Nauru: Busting the Myths That This Country is Isolated and Remote

Yes all of the above is bulldog toilet material!! I visited Nauru in 2019, ended up in the country 3 times, 5 visits to the airport, spent 6 days here, slept 5 nights here and cumulatively was present in the country on 8 calendar days. I also met HUNDREDS of other non-Nauruans!! I tell it how it is, get ready to dispel the myths, Nauru is certainly NOT “off the wheaten craic“, while parts of it are…

Destroying the myths about “least visited Nauru!”

1.Nauru is NOT the most remote island in the world

Firstly, Nauru is nowhere near the most remote island in the world. You can get a direct flight from Fiji, Kiribati, Solomon Islands or Australia!! That means 4 other countries connect DIRECTLY to Nauru!! There are also cargo ships that roll in here, as well as private planes and charters. Every time I visited the airport, the place was packed!

Nauru might look isolated but it connects DIRECTLY to 4 other countries

It might look lonely on the map, but it’s surrounded by many other island nations including Fiji, Kiribati, Tokelau and Marshall Islands. I’ve been to many more remote places in my life. Sark for instance – you need a boat from England, then a boat from Guernsey. Or a flight from England then a boat from Guernsey. Islands like Bouvet, BIOT, Ascension Island and Easter Island are far more remote. I’ve also been to Barrientos which only had a direct boat from Argentina which took 2 days (and no flights land on Barrientos!). Besides there are places like Christmas Island, Pitcairn Island etc. which are far far more remote. Nauru is a relative walk in the park.

Touring Barrientos in Antarctica in 2010 – genuinely remote

2.Nauru is NOT the most isolated country in the world

Nauru is nowhere near the most isolated country in the world, nowhere with an airport can be. There are daily flights and the place is a total hub for anyone backpacking in this region! You can fly to four other countries directly, as well as get ships. Plus nearby Kiribati itself is much more isolated and remote and in fact, relies on Nauru Airlines to provide a lot of its flights in and out.

Flying into Nauru on one of many flights – hardly remote

Flying into Nauru with over 100 others from many destinations- hardly remote

3.Nauru is NOT difficult to get to
When I first heard of Nauru, I thought it must be a nightmare to organise and that it could only be done face to face from a dodgy ticket kiosk in Majuro, Nadi or Honiara. How wrong I was. Nauru is not difficult to get to at all!! You just go on Skyscanner, Expedia or Gotogate, you book your flights from Fiji, Majuro, Brisbane, Tarawa into Nauru and go to the airport to board. It was easy! In fact it is easier than flying to Paris, Berlin, New York etc. as those places have TOO many options and multiple airports. Nauru has one airport, clearer flight options, less visa complications, smaller queues – it’s easy to get to Nauru. The total opposite of what I envisaged.

Nauru Airlines

Arrival in Nauru

4.Nauru is NOT the least visited country in the world
It felt absolutely ridiculous the first time I boarded my flight to Nauru (from Nadi in Fiji) as it was a big plane, an Airbus and it was FULL!! All my images of boarding a tiny little plane of just 6-7 people and landing as one of only 160 tourists a year on this remote island were gone. It’s very commercial, very busy and our flight had about 100 people on it!! Plus when we landed in Nauru, there was another plane here also with 100 passengers!! We were told only 160 visitors here per month, yet already in one day there were 200! Of those 200, probably around 10% of them are Nauruans, the others a mix from the nearby islands plus Australia, New Zealand and a few scattered countries. Before the trip, I had read Gunnar Garfors article on Least Visited countries. Now here I was destroying the myth. No chance should Nauru ever be classed as “least visited” country, or even in such a list…

5 tourists already – no way can Nauru be least visited!!

I remembered back to my time backpacking in Austenasia, when I became the country’s first ever tourist back in 2015, later in the same year I also backpacked through the People’s Republic of Podjistan and Adammia. In the latter two countries, I remain their ONLY ever tourist. That is the true meaning of least visited, Nauru seemed like Paris in disguise in comparison.

LEAST VISITED – Backpacking in Austenasia – by the national flag.

LEAST VISITED – Getting my passport stamped and becoming the first backpacking tourist to visit Podjistan.

LEAST VISITED – At the Empire of Adammia flag – Sir Jonny Blair

Backpacking in Nauru – NOT the least visited country in the world

5.Nauru is NOT a difficult visa to get
We’ve heard all the stories about visa nightmares for Nauru – the Lonely Planet even citing this as one of the hardest visas to get. Well let me tell you – through the years my struggles with visas for Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Suriname, Iran, Bangladesh, Myanmar, China even – they were ALL much trickier than Nauru. Of course, Young Pioneer Tours and their epic “Least Visited Countries Tour” help you as you are part of a group. But the visa itself requires not a lot of effort – you fill in the application form, you send a copy of your passport, your hotel booking, your itinerary, a letter from your employer, the application form and the payment. You get your confirmation and you show this on arrival into Nauru and bingo…they stamp your visa intill your passport at Yaren Nauru International Airport.

Nauru Visa

6.Nauru has AT LEAST 4 ATMs
Yes you read all these fake stories that Nauru has no bank, no ATMs, no currency exchange points etc. and that you MUST enter the country with a shipload of Australian Dollars as there is no way to get more money there. Even our tour guide told us strictly there is not a single ATM in the entire country. This was proved wrong within a minute of leaving immigration, with an ATM right there at the airport. Our hotel also had an ATM which worked, as did two supermarkets we visited!

Capelle and Partners Pacific and Occidental Supermarket

ATM at Capelle and Partners Pacific and Occidental Supermarket

I tried the ATM expecting it not to work due to the fake stories, and of course it worked. Three other ATMs on the island also worked, dispelling the myth. Of course don’t rely on it, and bring your own money in anyway, in case of a power cut or shortage, but the fact remains, the myth was wrong. Please note, all the ATMs only dispense Australian Dollars and in 100s, 50s and 20s.

ATM in Nauru

It reminded me of 2013 when I spent a month in Iran and we were also told there are no ATMs there! As soon as we arrived in Bazargan, we saw one immediately! Of course – as always still carry cash just in case but the myth is untrue.

7.Nauru IS a hub in the Central Pacific
When I posted on Facebook about passing in and out of Nauru a load of times on the same trip, some fellow tourists tried to claim that Nauru is NOT a hub or a useful stopover in the Central Pacific. It totally is – to get to many other island countries in the Pacific, the cheapest and easiest route is via Nauru!

Nauru IS a hub in the Pacific

Nauru Airlines market themselves as the hub for Pacific travel! Nauru Airlines rule the roost here and Nauru acts as their hub! Even some of my travel friends and blog followers were surprised to hear that Nauru is the main hub here. It’s the best island in the region to fly in and out of everywhere else, both money wise and in terms of logistics. Basically, Nauru is the stop off point and place you MUST pass through to get to the other countries here, especially Marshall Islands and Kiribati. There are also connections to Pohnpei in Federated States of Micronesia (not direct – you need to alight in Majuro) and Fiji (direct), Solomon Islands (direct) and Australia (direct).

Arrival in Nauru with Nauru Airlines

8.There are NOT a lot of dogs attacking humans on Nauru
We were warned about vicious dogs that attack, bite, hurt and maim humans on a dander round the island of Nauru. However, we walked a lot and this didn’t happen. We took sticks for security just in case there were any attacks.

You are advised to take a stick to fend off attacks from vicious dogs

9.There are LOTS of souvenirs in Nauru
Before our trip we were told that the country has ZERO souvenirs. This is very very wrong and a fact gone horribly incorrect. We found three places with souvenirs – the shop at Nauru Airport, the souvenir section of Capelle and Partner Supermarket (in Ronave, Ewa) and the shop in our hotel, the Menen Hotel.

Souvenirs in Nauru

Nauru Souvenirs (inside Capelle and Partners)

Souvenirs in Nauru

Nauru Souvenirs (inside Capelle and Partners)

Nauru Souvenirs (inside Capelle and Partners)

Nauru Souvenirs (inside Capelle and Partners)

Souvenirs in Nauru

The souvenirs available ranged from key-rings to fridge magnets to pin badges to ties to caps to t-shirts. Postcards and stamps are also available of course, at the main Post Office in Aiwo.

10.There is NO international football team
For those fellow tourists who are trying to visit every FIFA international football team, you don’t ever need to include Nauru. Places like Kiribati, United Kingdom, Monaco, Marshall Islands and Nauru have never had a recognised international football team. The national sport here is AFL (Australian Rules Football).

AFL (Australian Rules Football) in Boe

Watching AFL (Australian Rules Football) in Boe, Nauru

Although football has been played here, and a representative team and league have existed in the past, there is currently NO football stadium. I still visited the national stadium with my Travelling Northern Ireland Flag just to tick it off anyway.

At the National Stadium in Nauru

11.Nauru HAS a museum
We were told that Nauru has no museum. Low and behold – it was wrong again. They have one national museum called the Nauru Museum. It is in the capital city, Yaren. It opened in 2019 and is free to enter. The opening hours are 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday. We toured it and loved it.

Nauru Museum, Yaren

12.You will NOT arrive on a tiny plane
Before my trip to Nauru, I was imagining a country with so few visitors that we’d be in a tiny plane with about 6 other people and we’d land in something like this…

This is the type of plane I imagined I’d be in on route to Nauru!

All my dreams were totally shattered when we boarded a HUGE Boeing 737 plane with Nauru Airlines and the plane was full!! In fact, we had 6 flights in total, in and out of Nauru and almost all of them were full!! Over 100 passengers each time.

In front of the huge Boeing 737 which took us to Nauru!

The huge Boeing 737 which took us to Nauru!

The huge Boeing 737 which took us to Nauru!

13.You cannot sit on the runway and wait for the next flight
Again my dreams were totally shattered here. I had heard reports about locals waiting on the runway for the next flight, or locals waiting to welcome the flight from the runway as they hadn’t seen their friends and family for years. I had heard of locals waiting for the next Coca Cola delivery as they might not see the product again for months. All of that is total bullshit. Nobody was on the runway. Nobody was waiting. Nobody cared. Nobody is allowed on the runway (it’s out of bounds). Family and friends can visit easily, and regularly. Products such as Coca Cola are widely available.

Nobody waiting on the runway???

Also the runway was huge and modern and not some mud field. The whole experience turned my travel mind upside down. Everything I thought of beforehand, was wrong! But still, I loved Nauru and that is the beauty of travel!

Nobody waiting on the runway???

15.Nauru DOES have a capital

Before arrival we were also told that Nauru doesn’t have a capital city – again – bulldog excrement. It has Yaren, a capital with 16 cool sights to backpack through!

Backpacking in Nauru: Top 16 Sights in Yaren (the Capital)

Backpacking in Nauru: Top 16 Sights in Yaren (the Capital)

In Nauru, I visited every bar, village and province in the country and will continue to write more about it. Here are the villages:

1.Yaren (capital)
2.Makwa
3.Ibwenape
4.Anibare
5.Ijuw
6.Ewa
7.Anabar
8.Arubo
9.Baiti
10.Waboe
11.Nibok
12.Arijejen
13.Orro
14.Yangor
15.Boe
16.Arenibek
17.Meneng (where we stayed)
18.Ronave
19.Aiwo

I was in Nauru on the Least Visited Countries Tour with Young Pioneer Tours, which can be booked here.

Here are some videos from my time backpacking in Nauru:

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