Wallis and Futuna
In December 2012, cyclone Evan passed through the area. While the smaller of the two islands, Futuna, was relatively untouched, the damages to buildings and infrastructure on Wallis was extensive. It is common to see buildings stripped to nothing more than its frame, particularly in the village of Liku, located near the main centre of Mata-Utu. Some villages in the south are still (mid 2013) without telephone and internet.
Wallis and Futuna comprises two archipelagoes:
Hoorn Islands group (also known as the Futuna Islands, and as Îles Horne)
Alofi Island is the smaller of the two. According to legend it was as densely inhabited as Futuna up until the 19th century, when the Futuna people slaughtered and ate the population in a single raid.
Wallis Islands group (also known as ʻUvea, as is Wallis Island)
Wallis Island is surrounded by 15 smaller islands, all of which are uninhabited.
Although discovered by the Dutch and the British in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was the French who declared a protectorate over the islands in 1842. In 1959, the inhabitants of the islands voted to become a French overseas territory. There are still three ceremonial kingdoms within the territory: Alo, Sigave, Wallis.
The islands are volcanic in origin, with low hills, and fringing reefs. The highest point is Mont Singavi, at 765 m. The climate is tropical: hot, rainy season (November to April); cool, dry season (May to October); rains 2,500-3,000 mm per year (80% humidity); average temperature 26.6 degrees C.
During the 2000s, the islands witnessed a large exodus of its young working-aged population as many left for better work and study opportunities mostly in New Caledonia and France. A 2012 survey of the two islands estimated the population at approximately 12,000.
Citizens of any EU country(including Metropolitan France), Andorra, Iceland, Liechenstein, Monaco, San Marino, and Switzrland can visit and stay visa-free for a unlimited time in Wallis and Futuna. Whats more is that citizens of the countries mentioned only have to use their national identity card as a travel document, if taking flights from Metropolitan France to Wallis and Futuna. This can also be done if flying from French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, and Réunion.
Citizens of Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City, Venezuela, BOT citizens and subjects, and holders of a valid EU long-term visa or resident permit issued by a Schengen country can visit visa-free for up to 90 days. Countries listed below can also visit-free for up to 90 days, but other requirements are needed.
Uvea and Futuna each have an airport. The airport on Wallis (WLS) is located in the northern district of the island called Hihifo. Access to the airport is by the RT2 road. The only airline to serve the islands is Aircalin, and as such, travel to and from is reasonably expensive. Aircalin operates three flights a week between Noumea and 'Uvea. The flights on Saturday and Monday afternoons pass through Nadi (if you are travelling from Australia or New Zealand, it is highly recommended you fly to Fiji first as it is significantly cheaper than flying with Aircalin from Nouméa) and the early morning flight on Wednesday morning arrives directly from Noumea. The flights leaving Wallis are on the same days as the plane stops for little more than an hour before heading back to New Caledonia.
Aircalin offers flights between Wallis and Futuna several times a week. It is advisable to book in advance as seats are limited to no more than 18 on the short 50-minute flight.
The port of Mata-Utu is on Uvea. Leava (Sigave) is on Futuna. No commercial boat company exists, therefore travel to, from and between the two islands is exclusively by plane.
Flying is the only option between Wallis and Futuna. Costs start at around $400(US) return and seats are limited. Note that due to winds on Futuna, the flights are frequently cancelled. Be sensible: take out insurance and don't plan your flight too close to your departure date from Wallis.
There is currently no ferry connecting the islands of Wallis and Futuna, although one has been discussed for years. Charter boats can be hired between Futuna and Alofi as well as from Wallis to the surrounding islets in the lagoon.
Uvea has 120km of roads, much of which are paved. All the main villages on Futuna can be accessed on paved but rough roads.
There is no public transport on the island, nor do taxis exist. If walking along the side of the road, it is highly likely locals will stop and ask if they can take you to your destination. Don't be alarmed if you are told to jump in the back of the pick-up as this type of travel is a common sight.
Car hire is available for 8,000CFP (€67) per day from the car yard located approximately 1km south of the airport along the RT2.
The collectivité recognises three official languages: French, Wallisian ('Uvean) and Futunian. About three quarters of the population in Wallis is bilingual. All official documents will be written first in French and then in the language of the island it is on.
English is not very widely spoken among the Wallisian population. Most of the French population will have at least basic conversational English. It is however, highly recommended to arrive with a working knowledge of the French language.
Banking facilities are limited, with no bank located on Futuna. Also, the BWF bank in Wallis will not directly change US $100 bills. Travelers are advised to do their currency exchanges in Noumea, New Caledonia or Nadi, Fiji prior to arrival.
Wallis and Futuna is, for the traveller, one of the most expensive places in the world; even New Caledonia and French Polynesia seem cheap by comparison. Knowing somebody you can stay with really helps cut costs. The cheapest hotels go for $120 for a basic room with fan and no cooking facilities, necessitating eating at restaurants, making things even more expensive. Dinner with a glass of wine will set you back a minimum of $35.
Eating out is an expensive affair on these islands. Restaurants are limited and bland on Wallis and even more so on Futuna. There are two supermarkets on Wallis and have (by Pacific standards), a nice selection of goods, many of which are imported from France. Keep in mind that ALL shops close between 12 PM and 2 PM for lunch
Wallis and Futuna are both among the safest places in the world. Locals are, more often than not, helpful. Mosquitoes and sunburn are likely to be your biggest concerns but the usual precautions apply. Drunk driving and intoxicated locals are a problem on both islands. Stay alert whilst driving, especially at night.
Internet and Wi-fi are very limited, slow, and expensive on both islands.