Leaving Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Departure Tips© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com
Leaving Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Departure Tips

Leaving Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Departure Tips

© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

What Happens When You Leave the Cook Islands from Rarotonga International Airport

The saddest part of your holiday is this very moment; when it comes to an end. You’ve gone through an amazing journey, experienced the warm hospitality of Cook Islanders and seen some stunning pieces of paradise – we’ve probably even planned a thing or two together here on Cook Islands Pocket Guide. But now, you need to check-in for your departure flight and leave Rarotonga. Here’s the final piece of advice we can give you; everything you need to know about leaving Rarotonga and the Cook Islands and the full departure process.

5 Tips and Things to Do Before Leaving the Cook Islands

Before we dive into the guide for leaving the Cook Islands, here are a few departure tips:

  1. Remember to spend all of your Cook Islands coins before leaving the Cook Islands; they cannot be exchanged overseas
  2. When packing your bags to leave the Cook Islands, make sure that you put anything that won’t pass through airport security into your check-in luggage
  3. Note that some items from the Cook Islands, such as souvenirs made from wood, shells or coconut fronds may need a phytosanitary certification to pass through biosecurity at your next destination. Check with your destination before departing or request a phytosanitary certification from Cook Islands Biosecurity
  4. Arrive at Rarotonga International Airport two hours before your flight is scheduled for departure
  5. Have a black or blue pen handy so you can complete the Departure Declaration Card.

Now, let’s continue with more advice for leaving the Cook Islands and what to do on departure.

Leaving Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Departure Tips© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

Rarotonga Airport Check-In Departure Process

You need to arrive at Rarotonga International Airport for your departure flight around two hours before your scheduled departure time.

Departure Airport Transfers

There are a number of ways to travel back to Rarotonga Airport from your accommodation. Taxis, your accommodation’s own transfer service and even the island bus are all valid options. Cook Island Tours (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) and Raro Tours (on Viator and Tripadvisor) both offer departure transfers that are a little cheaper than their arrival transfers. For more options, check out the 8 Best Airport Transfers in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands, which also work for departures.

For getting to Rarotonga Airport from the outer islands, check out Domestic Flights in the Cook Islands: Your Guide to Interisland Flights.

Check-In for International Departures

The check-in for international departures is in the same terminal as for domestic flights at Rarotonga International Airport. It will be the same process as your arrival check-in to the Cook Islands; providing the check-in staff with your passport and booking reference/e-ticket for your departure flight. You do not need to declare any personal items that you are leaving the Cook Islands with. There may be certain items, like food, that you can’t take past the borders in the country you are arriving in (such as New Zealand), so be sure to research the biosecurity measures for arriving in your destination/home country. These items, however, you don’t need to declare in the Cook Islands.

You will check-in any larger luggage you may have, and then you will be given a boarding pass and a Departure Card (see the section below) and asked to go through airport security.

Airport Security

Airport security is located opposite the check-in area down a long undercover courtyard. There are bathrooms in this area and rubbish bins should you need to dispose of anything before heading through airport security.

You will need to put your bags and items like laptops into separate trays to go through X-ray machines. There are certain items you can’t take through airport security, such as sharp objects, sporting goods, matches or lighters, and liquids, aerosols, gels or pastes that are not in 100ml (3.4oz) containers.

You will also walk through a metal detector to check for any restricted items on your person. Then, collect your bags and you’re in the departure lounge.

Leaving Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Departure Tips© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

Rarotonga Airport Departure Lounge

The large departure lounge at Rarotonga International Airport has a large seating area, charging stations for phones and laptops, a cafe, bathrooms, as well as a row of duty-free stores which you can read up on in The Guide to Duty-Free Shopping in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands. You’ll also likely get to kick back to the ukulele sounds of a musician while you wait for your flight.

If you have any Cook Islands coins or notes (not New Zealand Dollars) that you have left, note that you won’t be able to exchange them overseas. So the departure lounge is your last chance to spend them. Otherwise, there is a small charity donation coin-drop by the duty-free stores, should you want to donate to a worthy Cook Islands cause.

After your plane has landed, staff will take the time to unboard the arrival passengers. When the plane is ready to be boarded, there will be an announcement of seat numbers to board the plane. You will need to show your passport and boarding pass to staff, and hand over your completed Passenger Departure Card, before crossing the tarmac and taking the stairs to board the plane.

For the process for disabled passengers, see Accessibility in the Cook Islands: Disabled & Wheelchair Access Guide.

Leaving Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Departure Tips© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

Cook Islands Departure Card

Also part of your Cook Islands departure entertainment is completing the Cook Islands Departure Card, also known as the “Departure Declaration“. The information you provide on the card is used for survey and statistical purposes for the Cook Islands Government. Note that everyone leaving the Cook Islands (excluding those under 15 years old) is required to complete the Departure Card. The card needs to be completed in black or blue pen, which isn’t always available so it’s recommended to have one handy!

What Does the Cook Islands Departure Declaration Card Ask?

The Cook Islands Departure Declaration calls for information like your flight number, name, passport number and contact details. It asks if you are travelling with children and how many, your immigration status, the date of your arrival and your final destination. You will need to sign and date the form.

Note that visitors can skip questions 11 and 12.

Do You Need to Pay a Departure Tax for the Cook Islands?

You do not need to pay the departure tax of NZ$71.77 for leaving the Cook Islands if you are leaving via plane, as the tax is included in the price of your plane ticket. Learn more about the departure tax in The Cook Islands Tipping & Tax Guide for Travellers.

Leaving Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Departure Tips© Pxhere

Leaving the Cook Islands By Sailing Yacht

For those visiting the Cook Islands via sailing yacht, you must inform Customs of clearance at least 72 hours before intended departure. The Cook Islands Customs Service (CICS) has a Fact Sheet on the entire departure process for yachts.

For more information about leaving the Cook Islands via sailing yacht, see our Sailing Guide to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Tips for Yachting.

More About Leaving the Cook Islands and the Departure Process

That’s it for our guide to leaving Rarotonga and the Cook Islands and the departure process. For more information about Rarotonga International Airport and a few more tips for departure, check out the following guides:

Finally, if there’s anything else you need to plan for your Cook Islands getaway, you’re likely to find it in The Best Cook Islands Travel Guide: Plan a Trip the EASY Way.


Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Cook Islands Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in the South Pacific over 10 years ago with nothing but a backpack and a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to explore a paradise such as the Cook Islands. She knows the islands inside out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience Raro’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also the editor of several other South Pacific travel guides.

Was this article useful?