Bora Bora – Are You Joking???

For some time now I’ve watched tourists using the ATM’s installed outside the banks on Bora Bora walk away empty handed with a look of indignation & exasperation; stunned, & quite rightly so, that they can not withdraw cash against their credit cards often set with no limit.

How can this be? How can Bora Bora, where tourists are the economic motor of the island, continue to represent itself as a ‘top end’ tourist destination when the very people it seeks to attract, people who live in a cash-less society & use their credit cards for everything, can not even make a withdrawal? How can it be that not even the slightest effort is made to explain, let alone apologise for the situation?


Earlier this week I was in Vaitape with American friends when they were confronted with this very problem – an ‘infallible’ credit card failed, without explanation, to deliver the small amount of cash required.

Frustrated & embarrassed I took them inside the bank to meet with the Director of the bank – a banker who has traveled & is at least familiar with banking procedures outside of French Polynesia, a person who speaks some english, a banker in the old style – one who wants to help & assist his client.

For those tens of thousands of tourists reading this report – annual views of this site are currently running in excess of 100,000/year, well in excess of the total number of tourists coming to these shores – this is the (totally unacceptable) position:

  • The ONLY credit card that will permit you to make a cash withdrawal against the card at any of the ATM on Bora Bora (any ATM, including those at all 3 banks & the Post Office) is a Visa Card. That’s right – any other card, be it American Express, MasterCard or whatever, will leave you empty handed!
  • Worse, you can not make a cash withdrawal against your card from within the bank. The only exception is that Socredo has the facility to do so from inside the bank ….. but on the day we went to see them, the required equipment to make such a withdrawal was broken down!
  • The plot thickens……so you can’t get any cash, & you decide to use Western Union to send you some (now urgent) cash. Be aware that Western Union on Bora Bora is only operational on Tuesdays & Wednesdays! (If you wish to transfer money to a local person, forget it….the Director of the bank explained that such receipts were subject to strict controls flowing from legislation relating to money-laundering & drug running; receipt of the funds by a local could be delayed by anything from days to months!)
  • And don’t think your (supposedly) 5 Star Resort will help you. The Americans I was seeking to assist were staying at Le Meridien & had been told no such cash advance was provided……not ready to accept more bad news I have not contacted the other Resorts but strongly suggest anyone coming to Bora Bora contact their hotel in advance so as to avoid disappointment.

This is not just a disgrace, not just an inconvenience & annoyance to travelers, but in fact impacts negatively & directly on the large number of local Tahitians who conduct small businesses in town where tourists would gladly enjoy passing a little time, but where, for lack of cash, they can not even stop to buy; a much needed level of income needlessly lost for many families.

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