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Oceania : Melanesia : Vanuatu
Revision as of 07:18, 6 December 2009 by (Talk)

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[[File:Vanuatu Tanna Yasur.jpg|250px|frameless|Vanuatu]]
Quick Facts
Capital Port-Vila
Government parliamentary republic
Currency vatu (VUV)
Area 12,200 km2
Population 196,178 (July 2002 est.)
Language English, French, creole (known as Bislama or Bichelama) official; plus 100+ local languages
Religion Presbyterian 36.7%, Anglican 15%, Roman Catholic 15%, indigenous beliefs 7.6%, Seventh-Day Adventist 6.2%, Church of Christ 3.8%, other 15.7% (including Jon Frum Cargo cult)
Country code +678
Internet TLD .vu
Time Zone UTC+11

Vanuatu [1] (previously known as the New Hebrides Islands) is an archipelago nation consisting of 83 islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean, north of New Zealand and east of Australia.


The islands of Vanuatu are grouped into six geographic provinces, the names formed by combining the first syllables or letters of the major islands in each. Roughly north to south:

  • Torba (Torres islands, Banks islands)
  • Sanma (Santo, Malo)
  • Penama (Pentecost, Ambae, Maewo)
  • Malampa (Malakula, Ambrym, Paama)
  • Shefa (Shepherd group, Efate)
  • Tafea (Tanna, Aniwa, Futuna, Erromango, Aneityum)


Other destinations



The British and French who settled the New Hebrides in the 19th century agreed in 1906 to an Anglo-French Condominium, which administered the islands until independence in 1980. European settlers released several saltwater crocodiles on the island, although today's population on the island officially stands at 2 or 3 medium-sized individuals on the Banks Islands and no breeding has been observed. Despite its proximity to Papua New Guinea, crocodiles do not naturally occur on Vanuatu.


Get in


A long list of countries are exempted from visas [2], which includes all Commonwealth and European Economic Community Member countries. All visitors must have a passport valid for a further 4 months and an onward ticket. On arrival, you will be allowed an initial stay of up to 30 days, extended one month at a time for up to 4 months.

By boat

  • The Pacific and Orient (P&O) Cruise lines operate regular cruises through Vanuatu waters.
  • Tallship Soren Larsen, +64 9 817 8799, [[3] sails from Fiji to Port Vila and Santo and explores the northern Banks Islands once a year. 2008: Sails from Lautoka to Yasawa island then Vanuatu - 18 nights from 31 Aug-18 Sept.

Subsequent 11 night cruises explore the Banks Islands, then the isolated islands of central Vanuatu, depart from Port Vila via Tanna island to New Caledonia on 19 Oct.

By plane

The main international airport is in Port-Vila with flights to and from:

  • Solomon Islands - Solomon Airlines

Direct flights from both Sydney and Brisbane to Luganville with Air Vanuatu [16].

Get around


There are a few charter airlines, these are Unity Airlines, Sea Air and Air Safaries, however the national airline Air Vanuatu operates the domestic network.

Within Vanuatu, several companies provide boating service between the islands. These include Fresh Cargo, Ifira Shipping Agencies and Toara Coastal Shipping.

By bus

In Port Vila the buses are mini vans seating about 10 people, which largely traverse the main road and go and stop where you would like them to go. Wave at them to stop one heading in the direction you want to go. They are plentiful within the city and outside the city you can usually arrange for a bus to meet you at a particular time. If one looks full, just wait for the next one. The buses are used by locals, but are very friendly, cheap, and easy to use by tourists. Fare is usually calculated per person. The cost is usually 150 vatu per person anywhere around Port Vila. If you are travelling a longer distance, the fare may rise to 300 - 500 vatu per person.


Taxis are plentiful within Port Vila. Fare is calculated per taxi.


In addition, 113 indigenous languages are still actively spoken in Vanuatu. The density of languages per capita is the highest of any nation in the world, with an average of only 2000 speakers per language. All of these vernacular languages belong to the Oceanic branch of the Austronesian family.




The local currency is the Vatu (VT). (It's ISO 4217 Code is VUV.) As of August 2009, 100VT is worth approximately 1USD, 1.20AUD, 1.50NZD or 0.70EUR . There are notes for 200 VT, 500 VT, 1000 VT, and 5000 VT, while coins include 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 VT pieces.

Credit and debit cards on the major networks (Cirrus, Maestro, etc) are accepted by many businesses in town.

ATMs are available in Port Vila, and include the Australian banks ANZ and Westpac. The National Bank of Vanuatu has a branch at the airport and is open for all flight arrivals. Otherwise, banking hours are from 8:30AM to 3PM.

Tipping is not expected in Vanuatu, nor is haggling or bargaining.

There are two market areas along the foreshore in Port Vila. The main market sells mostly food, and you can find all kinds of local produce there. Further north, near the beach, there is a row of grass-roofed market stalls that sell clothing, bags, sarongs, and other items.

The woven grass bags and mats are widely available and very attractive.


There are many restaurants and eateries in Port Vila, ranging from up-market places catering to tourists and expats, to more low-key establishments. The approximate cost of lunch would be around the 1000-1500 vatu range, depending on where and what you eat. Some examples of prices:

  • sandwiches, around 450-600 VT
  • bacon and eggs, 750 VT
  • burger with fries or salad, around 1000 VT
  • main meal, eg steak or seafood, 1200-2000 VT
  • large, fresh-squeezed juice, around 500VT


The traditional dish which you will most likely be offered once during your stay is a root vegetable cake called lap lap. Essentially this either manioc (kasava), sweet potato, taro or yam shaved into the middle of a banana leaf with island cabbage and sometimes a chicken wing on top. This is all wrapped up into a flat package and then cooked in hot stones underground till it all melts together into a cake. The best place to pick up some of this is at the food market in the town centre and should cost you about 100 vatu.


This is a variation of lap lap with the the cake rolled into a cylinder with meat in the middle. It tastes a lot like a sausage roll. You can find these again in the market (usually from mele village people) but they will be served from foam boxes to keep them warm.


Vanuatu's meat is renowned in the region. At the airports you will see signs reminding you to pack the 25kg of meat permitted to other nearby island nations. The reason the meat's so good is that it's all naturally grown, with no feedlots or other problems of westernised mass production. The result of this is that the steaks are very good indeed.



Kava is a local drink, made from the roots of the plant Piper methysticum, a type of pepper. Kava is intoxicating, but not like alcohol. Its effects are sedative. Some travellers have experienced a hangover from its consumption.

Kava is consumed in private homes and in local venues called Nakamal. Some of the resorts also offer kava on occasion for travellers to try.

Kava is served in a "shell" or small bowl. Drink the whole shell-ful down steadily, then spit. It's handy to have a soft drink on hand to rinse with afterwards, as the taste of kava is strong and not very pleasant.


Alcoholic beverages are also widely available. Resorts, bars, and restaurants serving tourists have a wide range of drinks available. The local beers are called "Tusker" and "Vanuatu Bitter".


There is a choice of all levels of accommodation.


  • Le Lagon is the most popular and largest of the resorts. It has been operating for over 30 years. It offers substantial discounts for children, as as a result there are lots of kids here during the Australian school holidays.
  • Iririki Island is an exclusive resort situated in Port Vila's harbour. It used to be "adults only" but since 2006 it has areas that allow children. A ferry runs back and forth to the main downtown area.
  • Erakor Island Resort is situated on an island in the lagoon, close to Le Lagon. A free ferry takes you to and from the island.



When visiting other islands or villages outside of the cities, there are many small guest houses that charge around 2000 VT per night and offer full service (meals, laundry, etc).

Many of the motels in Port Vila and Luganville also fall into the budget category, with prices around 2000 VT per night. There are a number of websites which list such motels.




There are many charitable organisations and NGOs operating in Vanuatu, and a strong community of volunteers in the area. If you are interested in volunteering in Vanuatu, the following organisations place volunteers there:

Other work

Many people from overseas work in Vanuatu, either running their own businesses or employed by others.

Generally speaking, work permits are only available for positions where there are not enough ni-Vanuatu to meet demand.

Stay safe

Port Vila is, on the whole, a very safe and friendly environment. You are unlikely to encounter any trouble unless you do something extremely provocative.

There are no seriously poisonous snakes, spiders, or insects on Vanuatu, however there are various poisonous aquatic animals that you should beware of if you are swimming, snorkeling, or diving in the area. The most dangerous of these is the stonefish. Saltwater crocodiles are present, but the likelihood of an attack is minimal.

Stay healthy

It is advisable to be immunised against Hepatitis A and B and typhoid fever before visiting Vanuatu.

Malaria is endemic within some areas of Vanuatu, but not Port-Vila. If you are venturing outside the resort areas, check with your doctor before you travel.

Tap water in Port Vila is clean and potable, but is best avoided elsewhere. Doctors used to treating common traveller problems are available in Port-Vila. Any more serious problems may require some form of medical evacuation.

Be careful of any small cuts, scratches, or other sores you receive while travelling in Vanuatu. As in most tropical areas, small sores can easily become infected if you don't practice proper hygiene. Most of these things require common sense.


Throughout Vanuatu, and especially outside of Port Vila in the villages, life is strongly influenced by "kastom" -- a set of traditional customs and taboos that apply to all kinds of matters. Be aware of this, and respect locals' requests with regard to "kastom".



The international country code for Vanuatu is +678. To dial overseas from within Vanuatu dial 00 followed by the relevant country code and phone number.

Emergency phone numbers: Ambulance (22-100); Fire (22-333); and Police (22-222).

Vanuatu has GSM mobile coverage in Port-Vila and most GSM mobile phones roam seamlessly. You can buy special visitor SIM cards from TVI [20], which offer considerable discounts over roaming charges. Available at any post office.

International Roaming from New Zealand and Australia is available. Telecom Vanuatu has a package called ‘Smile Visitor' which consists of a sim card with a pre-purchased credit. This can be purchased at the Vanuatu Telecom Office in town. Telephone: +(678) 081111. Email:

Or with the new player's Digicel, giving Telecom some overdue competition. Digicel have made themselves very visible, and can be found everywhere. They have a bunch of different cheap plans for you.


Internet cafes can be found in Luganville & Port-Vila. You may also find that some post offices will also provide some kind of Internet facilities, and can be found on the main streets in Port-Vila and Luganville as well as on Espiritu Santo.

Postal services

Postal services to mainland Europe can take up to 7 days. You can send letters and postcards from mailboxes in the streets, however the incoming postal service can be patchy, especially for parcels, so don't rely on people sending you things while you're staying in Vanuatu.

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!



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