French Polynesia, an French overseas territory, is a group of Polynesian islands annexed by France during the 19th century. It is made up of several groups of islands, the largest and most populated of which is Tahiti. French Polynesia has a moderately developed economy, which is dependent on imported goods, tourism and the financial assistance of mainland France. Tourist facilities are well developed and are available on the major islands.
French Polynesia has one of the lowest crime rates within France and its territories. However, petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, occurs.
Medical treatment is generally good on the major islands, but is limited in areas that are more remote or less populated. Patients with emergencies or with serious illnesses are often referred to facilities on Tahiti for treatment. In Papeete, the capital of Tahiti, two major hospitals as well as several private clinics provide 24-hour medical service. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization or medical evacuation can cost thousands of dollars. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.
While most major roads are paved and well-maintained, many secondary roads are not. Traffic is brisk and all types of vehicles and pedestrians jockey for space on narrow streets. Crosswalks are marked and the law requires that motor vehicles stop for pedestrians; however, this is not always done. Tourists should exercise caution when driving, particularly at night.
As a overseas territory of France, defence and law-enforcement are provided by the French Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force) and Gendarmerie.
French Polynesia is located in an area of high seismic activity. In September 1995, France stirred up widespread protests by resuming nuclear testing on the Mururoa atoll after a three-year moratorium. The tests were suspended in January 1996.