Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Tipping & Tax Guide for Travellers© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com
Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Tipping & Tax Guide for Travellers

Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Tipping & Tax Guide for Travellers

© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

Tipping and Taxes for Tourists in the Cook Islands

No one wants to hear about the extra fees or taxes they might have to pay anywhere in the world. Luckily, the Cook Islands‘ taxes affecting tourists is only limited to two types of tax: Value Added Tax and the Departure Tax. As the taxes are almost always included in the price, you’ll hardly notice that you’re paying the extra percentage. What’s more, tipping is not customary in the Cook Islands, so there’s no requirement to factor that into your budget if you don’t want to. Nevertheless, it’s always good to be consumer-savvy, so wise up on the taxes that you’ll encounter on your trip with this Cook Islands tipping and tax guide for travellers.

For more money advice, see How Much Does a Trip to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Cost? and What is the Best Way to Pay in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands?

Is Tipping Customary in the Cook Islands?

It is not customary nor expected for tourists to tip in the Cook Islands. Should you want to reward good service, however, a tip will be well received.

There are, however, taxes that you will have to pay during your holiday. More on that in the sections below…

Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Tipping & Tax Guide for Travellers© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

Taxes on Goods and Services

VAT Rate: 15% of the price of all goods and services.

A tax applied to all goods and services in the Cook Islands is known as Value Added Tax or “VAT“. This tax will be applied to most things that you buy in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands, from food in restaurants to vehicle hire to any activities you pay for.

Almost all prices you will see in the Cook Islands will include the VAT unless stated otherwise. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to ask whether the price includes VAT.

Goods and Services Exempt from VAT

Some goods and services in the Cook Islands are exempt from the VAT, including:

  • salaries and wages
  • hobby activities
  • private sales of personal or domestic items
  • exempt supplies (for instance, to a person for consumption or use outside the Cook Islands, such as repairs or maintenance on overseas marine craft).

Learn more about exempt goods on the Ministry of Finance & Economic Management website.

Can You Get VAT Refunded?

Visitors cannot claim a tax refund on VAT in the Cook Islands. You can, however, buy goods that are VAT-free, in other words, duty-free at the arrivals and departures lounges of Rarotonga International Airport – see The Guide to Duty-Free Shopping in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands for more information.

Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Tipping & Tax Guide for Travellers© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

Cook Islands Departure Tax

Departure Tax: NZ$71.77 per passenger

The Cook Islands Departure Tax is a flat rate of NZ$71.77 and applies to all persons leaving the Cook Islands, except for children under 12. The Departure Tax is included in your outbound flight ticket from Rarotonga, so there is no upfront fee to pay on departure.

If you’re visiting by private sailing boat, however, you will have to pay this departure fee to the authorities. Learn more about the marine craft departure process in Sailing Guide to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Tips for Yachting.

For more tips for departure, check out Leaving Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Departure Tips.

More About Tipping, Taxes and Money in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands

That’s it for our guide to tipping in the Cook Islands, as well as taxes in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands for travellers. For more about money and budget in the Cook Islands, check out the following guides:

Finally, for more essential tips, head to the 30 Tips for Travelling in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.


Robin C.

This article was reviewed and published by Robin, the co-founder of Cook Islands Pocket Guide. He has lived, worked and travelled across 16 different countries before settling in the South Pacific, so he knows a thing or two about planning the perfect trip in this corner of the world. Robin works and consults regularly with Cook Islands Tourism Corporation, a local government body representing the tourism industry. Robin is also the co-founder of several other South Pacific travel guides and is a regular host of webinars with the South Pacific Tourism Organisation.

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