Medical Electives and Volunteering in Tonga

The Kingdom of Tonga is an archipelago of 176 islands located in the South Pacific Ocean. Captain James Cook explored Tonga in 1773 and was so impressed with their local hospitality he called them the ‘Friendly Islands’.

As a Polynesian monarchy, the Tongans have proudly retained their local culture and traditions. Tongan arts and handicrafts, including bone and wood carving, basket making and fine weaving, have been passed down through the generations. In more recent times, Tongans have embraced Christianity and a visit to one of the many churches on Sunday is a special and memorable occasion.

With warm weather all year round, Tonga makes an ideal destination to enjoy a jungle adventure, stunning landscapes and pristine beaches.


Medical Elective Placements

The Vaiola Hospital is based in the capital city of Nuku’alofa and has 200 beds, 52 doctors and around 245 nurses. Chronic diseases such as diabetes and ischaemic heart disease are major issues in Tonga.

The hospital welcomes students for their electives and international work experience from all fields including medical, dental and physio. Students join the ward rounds, doctors’ meetings to discuss cases and rotate through the various departments including Surgical, ED, O&G, Paediatrics, Mental Health and General Medicine. There are also Community Outreach Programs (with specific focus on diabetes, dental, medical or health promotion) involving bi-weekly visits to remote villages, homes and health centres to provide healthcare to he local people.

The hours are 8.30 am – 4.30 pm Monday to Friday. Although there is usually plenty of work to do, the pace is slower than what you may anticipate and therefore allow plenty of time and energy to explore the environment. It is more rewarding when you have time to understand the health care system, and get to know local customs and people.

As with all volunteering projects you will need an open mind, a level of resourcefulness, patience, compassion, good-humour and a flexible attitude to be able to get the most out of your placement.


COST: (per student)

  • 2 week program = AUD$1395
  • 4 week program = AUD$1895
  • 6 week program = AUD$2295
  • 8 week program = AUD$2695


  • Placement, pre-departure support and information pack
  • Return Airport Transfers
  • Accommodation at a comfortable guesthouse in a single room with shared bathroom (Please ask if you would prefer to upgrade to have a private bathroom)
  • Continental Breakfast daily
  • There is a communal kitchen available for your use


  • Lunch, dinner and drinks.  A supermarket is close by as well as a selection of cafes and restaurants
  • Items of a personal nature (eg telephone, internet, laundry)
  • Travel Insurance, Passport fees, Vaccinations
  • Flights (and taxes) to and from Nukuálofa, Tonga


General Travel Information

ARRIVAL & ORIENTATION:  You will fly into Nuku‘alofa International Airport and then transfer to your guesthouse accommodation.

TONGA WEATHER: Tonga’s climate is tropical, warm and welcoming. Temperatures are warm all year round and while it is hot in summer, it rarely reaches above 35°C . Tropical rains fall from December through February, coinciding with the warmest summer months. The winter temperatures (April to September) are only slightly cooler than summer temperatures (November to February).  Modest dress is necessary for both Tongans and visitors. Allowances are made for tourists at beaches while many Tongans remain conservatively covered while swimming.

STUDENT MEDICAL INDEMNITY:  We recommend that you advise your student indemnity provider of your volunteer work in advance of travel.

DEPOSIT: Processing of your Volunteer Application Form can be initiated once we have received your deposit. Due with your enclosed Application Form is AUD$495 per person. This deposit is non-refundable once your placement is confirmed.

FINAL PAYMENT: Final payment is due two months prior to departure or on receipt of invoice if travelling in less than two months. Apologies but payments by Visa and Master Card will incur a 1.5% fee and American Express 3.0%.

TRAVEL: STA Travel (ATAS Accreditation A10872) provides exclusive offers and benefits for volunteers. The travel team can be contacted for assistance with flights and travel insurance on: (Australia) or by phone: 1300 675 435, (UK)

TRAVEL INSURANCE: It is a condition of your travel arrangements that you have current travel insurance to cover against cancellation fees, medical expenses, lost luggage and evacuation.  We suggest Avant as they provide free travel insurance for medical students on their elective program.


Short term Volunteers (less than one month) can obtain a visitor visa on arrival however longer term volunteers must obtain an employment visa prior to arrival in Tonga.  Medical students and medical practitioners also require temporary medical registration and we will arrange this for you – the process may take a month and therefore please apply well in advance.

Please ensure that your passport expires at least 6 months after you return home and that you have some spare blank pages in your passport.

CANCELLATION FEES: Please refer to our Terms & Conditions. Please note that all costs are subject to change due to increases in taxes, hotel and volunteer price increases, as well as currency adjustments.