Some of the hotels on Pohnpei have small car rental services for guests (7 Stars Inn, Seabreeze, Yvonne’s Hotel). The important word here is small. Expect a very limited selection of vehicles with moderate up-keep. There is also a growing number of companies that specialize in car rental.
Kia sedans $45 / day; $40 / day for seven or more days
Sedans $55 / day; $330 / week
SUVs $65 / day; $390 / week
SUVs $60 / day; $55 / day for seven or more days
Sedans $55 / day; $360 / week
Pick-up trucks $65 / day; $405 / week
The rules are not all that different from any developed country. The reality is another matter; enforcement is minimal. There is no driver education, and many people begin operating vehicles without having taken tests of any kind. The concept of right-of-way is poorly understood, and passing frequently occurs where it is unsafe. Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or sakau (kava) is rampant. Though speed limits are usually not more than 24 kph (15 mph) around most of the island, a lot of people drive twice or three times that fast (especially taxis) and zip around the blind turns without care. Most of the Circle Island Road is paved now, but that doesn’t mean it’s in good condition everywhere; potholes are a fact of life and rain is ever-present. Additionally, while people drive on the right side of the road in the FSM, the majority of the cars on Pohnpei are second-hand imports from Japan with steering wheels on the left. Drivers in these vehicles have limited visibility, increasing the odds of accidents.
All this is simply to say that one must drive defensively and make no assumptions about what other drivers will or will not do.
Taxi services on Pohnpei are as numerous as raindrops. New ones are constantly appearing while others vanish. All companies operate on a flat-fare basis. In and around Kolonia Town, it’s $1.00 per person per ride. To Palikir or U, the price goes up to $2.00 or $3.00, depending on the company. A ride deep into Kitti or Madolenihmw will cost $5-20.00 a head. Because local taxis don’t use meters and the fare isn’t directly proportional to the distance, Pohnpei’s taxi drivers have to hustle to make any money by the end of the day. They tend to drive very fast and very recklessly, and you can expect them to stop many times before they get to your destination in an effort to cram as many additional passengers as possible into their vehicle. Some of the drivers are super sweet. Others are, without a doubt, deranged. Also, don’t be surprised if your driver isn’t wearing a shirt or if he periodically opens the door, while speeding along, to spit his betel nut juice on the roadway. Seriously.
Taxis can be requested by phone or waved down on the road. If doing the former, we recommend that you have someone at your hotel do the calling. The taxi company dispatchers are often difficult for foreigners to communicate with and are more likely to get the correct information (and send a taxi faster) if a local person speaks with them.
If you can get your hands on a good mountain bike, exploring on two wheels is not a bad option. There are, however, a number of things to consider. For details, visit our page on Biking.
Outside of town, it’s normal to see local people walking along the road from place to place, but they don’t do it because they want to, and most Pohnpeians are baffled when they encounter a foreigner who chooses to walk when other options are available. Never the less, the island is not a bad place for pedestrians. You just have to be doubly conscious of traffic on the roads, accept that the Western concept of “right-of-way” means next to nothing to most people, be wary of dogs, and always be prepared for torrential rains. Kolonia has sidewalks along most of its major streets, but they are in bad condition and are often very slippery. Watch for holes and loose concrete slabs unless you want to end up hurting yourself or falling in a stream of sewer water.
The primary place to ask around for boats to charter is the Kolonia “Ice Dock” behind the old Public Market. Most boat operators will ask you to pay for the gas they need to travel to and from the destination you choose plus a fee for their time. Mixed gas runs upwards of $7.00 / gallon, so chartering boats can get expensive. It’s best if you have a few people to split the cost. Ander Joseph is a reliable boat-operator worth asking for.