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Getting Settled

So, you’re migrating to beautiful and bustling Honolulu, Hawaii. Thousands before you have been drawn here by the region’s climate, economy and attractions. Before you can establish roots in your new home, though, you’ll need to take care of the basics, such as hooking up utilities, getting your car registered, and finding a doctor.


Honolulu residents have some choices to make when it comes to the basic utilities they use in their homes. The city government oversees the water supply, wastewater, and solid waste and recycling. There are mandatory recycling laws in place in Honolulu, so you’ll want to check those out at The Board of Water Supply oversees all water use and billing, while consumers have more options when it comes to things like cable and Internet. You can set up all your utilities on your own, or employ a company like Connect Utilities ( to help you connect everything at once.


Unless you are renting a home where utilities are included, your first step will likely be to hook up the juice, so to speak. Almost all of the electricity in Honolulu is provided by Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc., which owns Hawaiian Electric Company, Hawaiian Electric Light Company and Maui Electric Company.

The largest provider of electricity in Honolulu is Hawaiian Electric Company, 808-548-7311, The rates vary based on which subsidiary provides your electricity and where exactly you live; however, the average residential rate is about 28 cents per kilowatt hour. The company does provide energy efficiency rebates and tax credits for employing solar energy.

Natural Gas

If your home uses natural gas for heating, cooling or to operate a gas range or other appliances, you will need to contact The Gas Company, 808-535-5933,, the only gas company in the area, to set up service. The company charges based on a metered rate, and may sometimes charge based on an estimated usage rate, which is based on the average of the previous six months’ charges.


Hawaiian Telcom provides local telephone service to most Honolulu homes, and also offers both long distance and wireless plans. Other long distance options are available through companies such as AT&T. Prices generally start at about $40 a month for local landline service. Plans with unlimited long distance are becoming more common, and usually depend on your monthly usage.

  • AT&T, 888-757-6500,
  • Hawaiian Telcom, 808-643-0813,

As broadband Internet access has become more common, a number of companies have started offering low-cost telephone service using a broadband Internet connection. Some of the most established Internet phone services are Vonage, 800-519-4007,, and Net2phone, 973-438-3111, These plans can cost as little as $25 a month, but keep in mind that if you choose one of these companies for phone service, your phone won’t work when your Internet is down.

Area Code

The area code for Honolulu is 808. That includes all islands out to the Midway Islands.

Cell Phones

Both AT&T and Hawaiian Telcom, listed above under “telephone,” offer cell phone service. In addition, here are some of the many companies that offer wireless service and phones.

Cell phone service will start at about $30 a month for a single phone, and the prices will go up from there as you add services, phones and minutes. A family plan with two phones and 200 minutes will run about $60 a month with most companies. This is an increasingly popular option, as some families choose to give up their landline phone in favor of using cell phones. Many companies offer free or low-price phones when you sign up for their service.

Another increasingly popular option for people who don’t use their cell phones much is the pay-as-you-go plan. Under these plans, you pay about $20 for 200 minutes. Usually you have to add minutes to the phone every month in order for the minutes to roll over, or every three months to keep the same phone number. VirginMobile has a variety of pay-as-you-go options, as does AT&T and smaller companies such as BoostMobile, 866-402-7366,


Oceanic Time Warner Cable,, the area’s largest provider of cable television, dominates the market for high-speed Internet service as well. Oceanic Time Warner also offers bundled cable TV, high-speed Internet and telephone service with unlimited long distance starting at about $150 a month. Each is more expensive separately.

Hawaiian Telcom, 808-643-0813,, also offers Internet to the Honolulu area. Like Time Warner, they offer a bundling service starting at around $50 per month.

You may also be able to get satellite Internet service, which is quite common in rural areas. Companies like Dish Network,, Wild Blue (a Direct TV service),, and Hughes Net,, offer satellite Internet service. You will need to enter your new address at the Web site or with a customer service representative in order to determine if service is available at your new home.

Water and Sewer

The Board of Water Supply, 808-748-5000,
display.cfm?sid=1069, controls your water service in Honolulu. When you call to start service, be sure to have on hand the date you want to start, your new address and your billing address, if it is different from the address of service.

New Honolulu water customers do not have to pay a deposit or hookup fee; however, the person setting up the account must be the same person who will be responsible for paying the bill. The water charges are calculated based on usage and your meter reading, starting at around $1.75 per 13,000 gallons. A full chart of water charges can be found on the Water Supply’s Web site.

Water restrictions are common throughout the island in times of drought, usually limiting outdoor watering to evenings and mornings on certain days of the week. Honolulu does enact voluntary restrictions often, and also offers lots of information on water conservation as well as special programs and rebates. Check with the Water Supply Board to get a list of its water restrictions.

Honolulu operates on a sewer system that is regulated by the city. There is a sewer base charge of $50.40 per month for a single family home as well as a sewer usage charge. The usage charge is calculated by your monthly water consumption, although each family is also given two credits: one for water used in a non-sewage purpose (such as gardening) and one called a “lifeline”, which allows customers to pay only the base charge for the first 2,000 gallons of water used. More information on sewer usage and charges can be found on the Honolulu government Web site,

Garbage and Recycling

The City of Honolulu picks up garbage and recyclable items twice a week from homes throughout the city. This schedule is always evolving, as more and more recycling is integrated into the disposal process. The city’s Solid Waste Services, 808-768-3401,, is still working on getting standardized containers to everyone, so you may need your own 35-gallon container for waste and recycling. Bulky items are picked up for free at your home once a month. The city also picks up yard waste, which is used to make mulch and compost that is available for free to the general public.

Driving in Hawaii

To register your vehicle(s) in Hawaii, you will need to register it/them in your home county or city. Hawaii requires annual registration of vehicles, and you can be fined for a lapsed registration; so it’s a good idea to take care of your car matters soon after you arrive.

Driver’s Licenses, State IDs, and Automobile Registration

To make any changes to your current licensing or registration, you must visit a driver’s license office in person. You will be required to bring along certain documents, including your current registration and license, and other identifying documents. To transfer your out-of-state license to a valid Hawaii license, you must visit a driver’s license office and fill out all the relevant documents. You will need to bring along your current license as well as an original social security card (not a photocopy). To find the phone number of the DMV office closest to you and general information about obtaining a driver’s license go to

To get a Hawaiian license, you will have to not only prove your identity but also take a written and eye test. If you fail the tests, you will have one additional opportunity to take the tests before a road test will be required. The whole process can cost anywhere from $10 to $40 depending on the length of time the license is valid (you have choices) and your age.

Drivers as young as 15 1/2 who have taken a driver’s education course are eligible for a learner’s permit, which must be signed by both parents. The permit must be held for 180 days before a road test is allowed. Until the age of 19, drivers are issued provisional licenses. Young drivers go through tiered rules that become less strict the longer they drive without any violations.

Licenses are issued for a period of two to eight years, and cost $3 a year. All applicants for driver’s licenses will have to pass a vision screening and a written test covering road signs and driving knowledge. Handbooks are available online or at the licensing offices.

State ID cards are administered by the Attorney General’s office and not the DMV, as in other states. The ID card is purely for the purposes of identification and does not grant permission to operate a moving vehicle. To obtain the card, you must visit the office in person, as well as provide your proof of your residency (such as a bill), an original social security card, a birth certificate or passport, alien resident card, and change of name documentation, depending on your situation. If you are under 65, you will have to pay a fee of $15 cash; if you are over 65, the cost is $10. Much more information and specifics are available on
the Attorney General’s Web site,

Automobile Registration

Vehicle registrations are required to be updated yearly in Hawaii and your fee will be determined by the weight and usage of your vehicle. Proof of vehicle inspection is required for any registration, and proof of insurance is required for inspection – so your first order of business is to make sure that your insurance is up to date and legal in Honolulu. After that, you can get your car inspected, and then registered. As with most states, inspections can be conducted at service stations, car dealerships and mechanics. More information on car registrations can be found on the Honolulu government Web site,


Parking is ample and mostly free throughout the suburban areas that surround Honolulu. Downtown Honolulu is a different story; so knowing the ropes can prove helpful when it comes to parking downtown. There are free parking garages, free validated parking for certain activities, and paid parking garages available throughout the city.

If you wish to stay in the same place longer than a couple of hours, you will have to choose one of the parking lots scattered throughout the city. Lots vary in price, so you may want to do a bit of research before heading out. Most of the lots in Chinatown start at about $3 for every half hour, with a flat rate of $7 to$8 during certain times. The rest of downtown is fairly similar, with the visitors’ spots experiencing a slight bump in price. is a good resource for both finding and pricing parking.

Violations, Towing and Theft

Hawaii has created a Web site for its legal system, including traffic violations: If you receive a parking citation or moving violation, you have 21 days to pay your fine, which you may do in person or via the state’s online payment system. If you do not pay within the set time, your fine is sent to a collection agency and a “stop” may be placed on your license, keeping your from renewing your license until the debt is settled.

If your car is towed from a private lot in the city, a price scale set by the state protects you. The tower cannot charge you any more than $75 per tow and $7.50 per mile towed. They are only allowed to charge you $25 per day for storage. If your car is towed, you will need to contact the private towing company directly to arrange to get it back.

If you suspect your car has been stolen or broken into, call 911 immediately.

Broadcast and Print Media


Television reception is spotty in Honolulu if you don’t subscribe to cable or satellite service. Most households can expect to get all the major networks without an antenna. For access to the hundreds of stations available these days, you’ll have to purchase cable or satellite service.

Cable access:

Oceanic Time Warner Cable, 800-892-2253,

Satellite service is the other way to buy access to more channels. Those companies include:

Direct TV,

Dish Network, 888-581-9813,

Because the infrastructure is different on the islands than in the continental United States, you may have to call to find out what the limitations are in your service in the area.

Honolulu Television Stations


Honolulu radio listeners can access a wide variety of local and national programming through stations based in Honolulu and beyond. Below are just a few of the stations available to you once you reach Honolulu.

Newspapers and Magazines


Local Magazines


A number of blogs (that’s Web logs to the uninitiated) are cropping up where people discuss all kinds of local issues. These tend to come and go pretty quickly, but here is a sampling of what’s available at the moment:

Official Documents

Voter Registration

Hawaii has come late to the party as far as early voting, although voters in the past could effectively vote early by registering for absentee voting, which did not require (and still doesn’t) that a voter be absent from the state to employ this option. However, you still must register at least two weeks before and election in order to vote on Election Day at your assigned precinct. You can register to vote when you get your new license, at any of the licensing offices, but Hawaii also encourages mail-in registrations, so pick up a form at a local library, post office, satellite city hall, or any school in the University of Hawaii system. You can also print a form from the Web site, The HI Board of Elections, 808-453-8683, is the place to find all the information you need about elections, including polling and one-stop voting places, upcoming election dates and sample ballots.

In Hawaiian primaries, you must select a political party (Democrat or Republican) and vote ONLY for candidates of that party on your ballot in order for your vote to count. Votes that do not adhere to this process will not be counted. In the general election this restriction is lifted and you may vote for whomever you like, regardless of which party you declare.

Library Cards

Hawaii operates 24 libraries throughout the island of Oahu, as well as bookmobile services and libraries on the other islands. Most offer computer access, children’s activities such as weekly story times, classes for adults, and other activities. A full list of libraries and the activities they offer are available from the state library,

You can apply for a library card at any library, and the card is good for all Hawaii library locations. To get a card you will need to bring a photo ID that has your current address or a photo ID with a bill, lease or other document to prove that you are a permanent resident. Residents from outside Hawaii can still get a card good for 5 years for a $25 fee, or a visitor card for just 3 months for $10. The visitor card may not be renewed. Once you have a card, a lot of library business can be done online, including requesting and renewing books, using a four-number PIN that you choose when you apply. Books can be returned to any location.

The library system also offers a telephone reference service where librarians answer questions that require short, factual answers. To reach them, call 808-586-3621. You may also use the online “Ask a Librarian” feature, .

The university libraries at area institutions are also available for research, though most will not allow you to check out materials unless you are a student there.


“Think ahead” should perhaps be your mantra these days when you’re preparing for international travel. With the process for obtaining a U.S. passport getting ever stricter, you will need to allow at least 6 weeks to get a passport, and at least three weeks if you pay an extra $60, plus shipping, to expedite service.

The U.S. State Department, 877-4-USA-PASSPORT,, issues passports from its 15 regional offices. The Hawaiian passport office is one place to obtain your passport, Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Federal Building, 300 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite I-330, Honolulu, HI 96850, but you can also apply in person at some area post offices. Forms are available at these locations and at the passport Web site:

  • 3600 Aolele St., Honolulu, 96820
  • 2330 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu, 96815
  • 335 Merchant St., Honolulu, 96813
  • 2754 Woodlawn Dr., Honolulu, 96822
  • 100 N. Beretania St., Honolulu, 96805
  • 1450 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu, 96805
  • 1170 Nuuanu Ave, Honolulu, 96817


You must apply in person if you are applying for the first time, are under 16 (or were when your current passport was issued), lost your passport or suspect it was stolen, or your name has changed. Otherwise, you may send the forms and documents by mail. Generally you will need to provide a birth certificate and picture ID for a new passport, as well as two passport photos. Contact the passport office for alternative forms of ID if you don’t have these handy.


Your dog, cat, or more exotic pet will likely find Honolulu as hospitable a home as you do, as long as your landlord or neighbors are welcoming. To bring Fido to Hawaii, however, you will also have to pass through some strict regulations for dogs, cats and other pets.

Bringing your Pet to Hawaii

Because Hawaii is rabies-free, most pets will have to undergo a quarantine period of up to 120 days upon entering the state at your expense. To avoid a long quarantine, which can be both costly and stressful, your best bet is to qualify for the 5-day-or-less or direct release from the airport. Your pet should qualify for this program if it has been properly vaccinated, has an implanted microchip and passes other requirements.

To qualify, though, it is vital to follow precisely the elaborate and somewhat intimidating regulations detailed in the Department of Agriculture Web site: You should begin this process early. It takes a minimum of four months preparation to bring an adult dog or cat. A puppy or kitten under ten months will not be able to qualify.

There are a great many regulations for bringing pets into Hawaii. Animals past forty days’ gestation are not permitted entry. If your pet has special medical needs, you must arrange its quarantine at an approved veterinary hospital prior to arrival in Hawaii. Airport regulations prohibit animals being released from crates at the airport, so you will need a way to transport the crate to your vehicle and then load it onto your vehicle; there are no baggage carriers available at the quarantine station. If you are anticipating direct release, your flight will need to arrive no later than 3:30 p.m., or there will not be time for your pet to receive inspection, and it will need to remain overnight. You may want to contact the authorities directly with your questions. Direct all queries to the following addresses: Animal Quarantine Station, 99-951 Halawa Valley St.,
Aiea, Hawaii 96701-5602 or send an email to

A number of animals are prohibited for entry or ownership in Hawaii, including alligators, geckos, gerbils, ferrets, hamsters, hermit crabs, snakes, wolf hybrids, and some birds. For questions about whether it is permissible to bring a particular animal, contact the Plant Quarantine Non-Domestic and Microorganism office, 808-832-0566 or 808-837-8413.

Licensing and Pet Laws

Dogs and cats over four months of age in Honolulu must be registered, and must have a rabies vaccine to register. The cost of a dog or cat tag is $10 each for spayed or neutered animals and $28.50 for fertile animals. The Hawaiian Humane Society,, 808-356-2227, has more information as well as the forms you need to register your pet.

The city’s leash law prohibits dogs and cats from roaming unattended within the city limits, though this law is rarely enforced unless there is a specific complaint. Dogs must remain leashed while in public, unless they are in a designated off-leash area. Dogs are also not allowed on private property except by the owner’s consent, so be sure to walk your pet only in public or designated areas. Roaming dogs and cats will be brought to the Humane Society, To report a roaming animal, call 808-946-2187.

Local laws mandate that pets receive adequate food, water and shelter. Pet owners are also required by “pooper scooper’ laws to clean up after their dogs and cats.

Because of the unique environment in Hawaii, certain animals are not allowed into the state. Other animals may have to be quarantined for a period of 5 days before being released to their owners.

Spay/Neuter and Rabies

The only mandatory spay/neuter law in Honolulu applies to cats aged 6 months or older that are allowed outside. Indoor cats are not required to be spayed/neutered, nor are dogs, though it is highly recommended.

Acquiring a Pet

There is no shortage of rescue groups and shelters where cats, dogs, or even rabbits and birds await new owners. Even purebred dogs are available, largely through rescue groups who focus on particular breeds. Most will charge an adoption fee of about $65 that covers vaccinations and spaying or neutering. A good place to start any pet search is with your local shelter, where knowledgeable staff can find your pet of choice or point you to another source: Hawaiian Humane Society, 808-356-2218,

Pet Recreation

Honolulu runs several parks and beaches where dogs can roam free for a spell without running afoul of local leash laws.

  • Ala Wai K-9 Playground, next to Ala Wai Elementary School (not an official dog park)
  • Bark Park, Diamond Head Rd. at 18th Ave.
  • Hawaii Kai Dog Park, Keahole St. at the end of the Hawaii Kai Park & Ride
  • Moanalua Dog Park, Moanalua Community Park off Pu’uola Rd.
  • Mililani Dog Park, 95-1069 Ukuwai St.
  • McInerny Dog Park, Hawaiian Human Society
  • Area 19 Dog Park: Ewa Gentry Beach

Crime and Safety

If you’ve been looking for a place with a low crime rate, congratulations! In 2008, Honolulu was found to have the lowest per-capita crime rate out of cities with a population of over 500,000.

Like any urban area, Honolulu has its share of high-profile crimes. In recent years, the island town has also seen an uptick in property crimes and drug use in both urban and rural areas. But generally, the crime rate in Honolulu is below average for its size. Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take precautions such as being aware of your surroundings and avoiding poorly lit, solitary or otherwise dangerous situations. If you want to know how often certain crimes occur in certain areas, the Honolulu police department keeps an online mapping system that allows you to search reported crimes:

Should you need to contact law enforcement, Honolulu (and the entire island of Oahu) is served by the Honolulu Police Department. To find them during an emergency, though, use only one number: 911. For all other matters, here is a list of the non-emergency numbers and jurisdictions for each department:

  • Honolulu Police Non-Emergency Number, 808-529-3111
  • Criminal Investigative Division, 808-529-3115
  • Juvenile Services Division, 808-529-3202
  • Fatal or critical accident investigations, 808-529-3499
  • Central Receiving Division, 808-529-3331


Hawaii is also served statewide by the sheriff’s department, 808-587-3621, which has jurisdiction across all islands and counties. They provide security to many of the state’s hospitals, visiting dignitaries and Fort Ruger. Their particular duties vary in scope and function, but their mission is to always work in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies throughout the state, including the Honolulu police department.


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