Where is Vanuatu?

The Republic of Vanuatu (previously known as New Hebrides) is an island nation located in the romantic South Pacific.

This beautiful archipelago is located east of Australia, north-east of New Caledonia, west of Fiji and south of the Solomon Islands.

Vanuatu is a Y shaped chain of islands that consists of about 83 islands with a total land area of 12,336 square kilometers.

The four largest islands are Espiritu Santo (3677sq km), Malekula (2023 sq km), Erromango (975sq km) and Efate (915 sq km). Efate is the main island of Vanuatu, where the capital Port Vila is situated and is the country’s main tourism and business destination.

 

Fast Facts about Vanuatu

  • Capital city (and island): Port Vila, Efate
  • Population: 206,000 approx (Census 2010)
  • Land area: 12,300 sq km
  • International telephone code: 678
  • Currency: Vatu (Vuv or Vt)
  • Languages: Bislama, English, French, Chinese and over 100 local languages
  • Greeting: Alo (Bislama)
  • Time Zone: +11 GMT
  • Power points are standard Australian/New Zealand type of 3-pin plugs, for 220-280 volts power/electricity supply.
  • Climate: Warm and tropical. Temperature range from 23C- 32C.

01

How to get to Vanuatu

Various airlines offer regular flights to Vanuatu, from New Zealand, Honiara, Australia, Noumea and Fiji.

Vanuatu is only 2.5 hours flying time north-east of Brisbane and 3.5 hours from Sydney, Australia. It’s a little over 2 hours from Auckland, New Zealand and less than an hour from Fiji.

The following airlines have regular scheduled flights to Vanuatu:

      • Air Pacific
      • Air Vanuatu
      • Aircalin
      • Pacific Blue

Qantas Airways acts as the sales agent for Air Vanuatu in all areas outside Australia, NZ, Fiji and New Caledonia.

Both Air Vanuatu and Pacific Blue operate direct flights from Brisbane and Sydney to Port Vila. Air Vanuatu also flies direct to Melbourne.

Air Vanuatu and Air New Zealand have direct flights from Auckland to Vila, and flights via Nadi (Fiji), Honiara (Solomon Islands) and Noumea (New Caledonia).

02

Flying distances to Port Vila, Vanuatu

  • Distance from Brisbane, Australia to Port Vila is 1904 km
  • Distance from London, UK to Port Vila is 16122 km
  • Distance from New York, USA to Port Vila is 13605 km
  • Distance from Fiji to Port Vila is 800 km
  • Distance from New Caledonia to Port Vila is 230 km
  • Distance from Auckland, New Zealand to Port Vila is 2218 km

03

Vanuatu Airports

Vanuatu has two international airports, Bauerfield, 6km from the capital, Efate Island and Pekoa 6km from Luganville on the island of Espiritu Santo. International departure tax in Vanuatu is 3,000vt per person (over the age of 12) and is included in airfares.

Domestic airports are Bauerfield Airport – Port Vila, Siwo Airport – Emae, Pele Airport – Tongoa, Valesdir Airport – Epi, Laman Bay Airport – Epi, Pekoa Airport – Espiritu Santo.  A departure tax of 200vt per person is paid separately at the airport as it is not included in passenger tickets.

vanuatu map

 

What we recommend you see and must  do in the Islands of Vanuatu

Fly directly to Port Vila and experience the local sites and tours and get a general feel for the friendly and slow paced lifestyle of Vanuatu. Take a quick flight to Tanna Island and stay for a few nights at one of the resorts. Enjoy a village and local market tour and take a night tour of the live Volcano, Mt Yasur.

For those who love to dive, continue your flight to Santo Island and dive the SS President Coolidge. Laze about on beautiful white sandy beaches and snorkel amongst glorious marine life.

 

Head back to Port Vila, and take some day tours to the outer islands of Moso, Lelepa and Hat Island. Discover deep sea snorkelling spots, turtle conservation groups and custom villages.

 

Vanuatu incites different feelings from every visitor. This island paradise is primitive in nature, slow paced and relatively untouched. It is not uncommon for many visitors to fall in love with Vanuatu and begin dreaming or planning about relocating to Port Vila. With its friendly laid back atmosphere, welcoming Expats and Ni Vanuatu and budding business opportunities, Vanuatu should be top on everyone’s “Must See List”.

 

Vanuatu Weather and Climate

vanuatu climate chart

Vanuatu has two distinct seasons the Green season; November to April and the Dry Season; May to October. Cyclone season in Vanuatu is from November to April; however, tropical storms and cyclones may occur in other months.

Earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions also occur. It is advisable to check with www.smarttraveller.gov.au for up to date weather warnings and reports but do not worry this is all part of travelling to a foreign country and to date no major disasters have hit the area.

Typical temperature ranges are:

Summer: December – March: 21°C – 33°C

Autumn: April – June: 19°C – 29°C

Winter: July – September 15°C – 26°C

Spring: October – November: 18°C – 30°C

vanuatu taxi

vanuatu transport

vanuatu bus

VANUATU TRANSPORT

There is no public transport system in Vanuatu. Mini buses are privately owned and are identified by the letter “B” fixed to their number plates. These buses are everywhere, and with few bus stops in Vila, they are simply flagged down on the side of the road. Taking a local bus is an experience itself (around $1.20 AUD for an around town trip) and you may find yourself getting a rather cheap round island tour as there is no set bus route.

Taxis also operate and although they do not have a meter their costs for local town travel are not much more than a bus. Motor vehicles in Vanuatu are renowned for their poor quality, condition and fume expulsion. Recently the Government have been enforcing stricter penalties often involving high fines or confiscation of vehicle to address this problem. Port Vila also hosts an array of car rental properties where you can hire scooters, motor bikes, cars, vans, tray backs and buses. Please note the roads around Efate are full of pot holes and need to be negotiated carefully.

 

Vanuatu Shopping

Vanuatu shop

Shopping in Vanuatu is good with Port Vila offering plenty of shops to chose from. These include high class duty free shops to cheap clothing and souvenir shops and boutiques. Major supermarkets stock both local and international food that is easily recognised. 

 

The markets in Port Vila (every day except Sunday) provide an opportunity to buy local crafts and fresh fruit and vegetables as well as shells, beads, jewellery, carvings and artwork, clothing and artifacts. As you drive around the island you will also come across little market stalls on the side of the road selling local produce, eggs, shells and old World War 11 memorabilia.

Vanuatu market

Vanuatu restaurant

Vanuatu liquor outletVanuatu seafood

Vanuatu Local bakery

Vanuatu Restaurants

Resorts and stand alone Restaurants in Port Vila offer a wide selection of foods, including Sushi, Chinese, Korean, Italian, French, Melanesian, Polynesian, Ni Vanuatu and standard Western fare. There are waterfront deli’s, bars, cafes, bakeries, patisseries, restaurants and bars offering a varying standard of meals, service, prices and local and international food. Generally prices are high in Vanuatu, yet the quality and quantity is plentiful.

Local seafood and organic beef is a customer favourite and for those who want to experience the real taste of Vanuatu, the local markets sell lap lap, tulak and nems. The taste will not appeal to everyone!

For those wishing to self cater the local markets offer an array of cheap and fresh, pesticide and fertiliser free, seasonal fruit, vegetables, herbs and seafood (including coconut crab but please do not purchase them as they are on the endangered list and do not taste as good as they sound). Local bakeries offer fresh and inexpensive, (often preservative free) bread, pastry and cakes. The supermarkets have an extensive range of international food available at high prices.

Beverages: In Port Vila, Alcohol can be purchased from local supermarkets, some corner stores and liquor outlets. Prices for imported, beer wine and champagne are expensive. Tusker the local beer is cheap and enjoyable. It is illegal to purchase alcohol in Vila from midday Saturday to Monday morning, although bars and restaurants are allowed full service all weekend.

 

 

 

 

European Settlement, Independence, Religion, Cannibalism

The first missionaries arrived on Erromango Island, an island abundant in Sandalwood trees, in 1839 and despite an unfriendly welcome the church persisted slowly for the next 10 years introducing their religious and cultural beliefs. Presbyterianism became the major Christian denomination in Vanuatu and its representatives took an uncompromising stand against many of the Melanesian customs such as cannibalism, grade taking, ancestor worship and polygamy and some barred their converts from smoking, drinking kava and dancing.

The Anglican missionaries arrived in the 1860’s and the Catholics followed much later in the late 1880’s. Today, in Vanuatu you will find every religious denomination possible (even a few that have escaped the western world) and the local Ni Vanuatu are loyal to their church beliefs and practices. Every church service will be packed to the rafters and you will hear the laughter and singing that the Ni Vanuatu is famous for. What of their traditional beliefs? The Ni Vanuatu have managed to blend their traditional beliefs and Christianity in a way that is perfect for them and are loyal to all their personal beliefs.

European settlement occurred in Vanuatu around the mid 1800’s with numbers slowly growing until in 1906 the Anglo – French Condominium of The New Hebrides was created. At the time the population was about 2000 French, 1000 British and 65000 Ni Vanuatu. Thus Vanuatu became a country governed by two countries, French and British each with its’ own set of government and laws. Two police services, two health services, two education systems, two currencies, two passports and two jails.

It is said the British law was stricter but its jails were more humane and the French jails were uncomfortable yet had better food. To date there is still the two jails operating yet plans are well underway for a new improved jail with upgraded facilities and consistent training of officers.

Driving in Vanuatu is on the right side of the road and in the early days of motoring, when Vanuatu was governed by both the French and the British, the French drove on the right side of the road and the British on the left. Legend has it that the problem was settled by agreeing that the next person to drive off the boat would determine the side of the road all in Vanuatu would travel on. Yes, the person off the boat was a French man, and now all in Vanuatu drive on the right side of the road.

Independence

In the 1960s, the Ni-Vanuatu people started to press for self-governance and later independence; full sovereignty was finally granted by both European nations on July 30, 1980. It joined the UN in 1981 and the Non-Aligned Movement in 1983.

The politics of Vanuatu take place within the framework of a constitutional democracy. The constitution provides for a representative parliamentary system. The head of the Republic is an elected President, but the Prime Minister of Vanuatu is the head of government. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

Vanuatu has a multi – party system of government. Government and society in Vanuatu tend to divide along linguistic – French and English – lines. Forming coalition governments, however, has proved problematic at times, owing to differences between English and French speakers.

 

Cannibalism

When the first Europeans arrived on the shores of Vanuatu in 1606, the islands were inhabited by tribes that commonly practiced cannibalism.

In 1839 the first two British missionaries from the London Missionary Society arrived in Erromango Island and were promptly killed and eaten.

Most anthropologists agree that Vanuatu’s last Kakae Man (or victim of cannibalism) went into the big Nambas ground oven on Malaleuka Island in 1969, however there are also unconfirmed reports of cannibalism in Efate as late as 1987.

Most cannibalism was a result of tribal warfare, though missionaries also made it to the table. Some tribes believed consuming human flesh would give them magical powers, others just enjoyed the taste. White folk, apparently, weren’t considered a delicacy, as they tasted too salty.

In present time, throughout Vanuatu, cannibalism is long gone and the locals are anything but hostile. Indeed, Vanuatu with all its colourful history, legends and customs, offers much more than just a tropical island getaway.

Vanuatu Nightlife


Interested in a night out on the town?

Port Vila offers visitors a variety of entertainment to please everyone (expat, local Ni Vanuatu and visitors), including bars and nightclubs with live music, kava bars, casinos and the occasional open air concerts.

Karaoke and trivia nights are also popular and many restaurants have live music playing over the weekend.

One harbour front cafe also hosts outdoor movie nights 3 nights per week.

Hours of operation: 8 to very late, or should I say early the next morning. With no curfew enforced, closing hours are at the discretion of the owners.

Drinks prices are comparable to Australia and most bars do not charge an entrance fee.

Vanuatu Nightlife

 

Vanuatu Language

Vanuatu has three official languages, English, French and Bislama, a creole/Vanuatu language similar to pidgin. In addition, however, there are over one hundred local languages spread throughout the islands as each Island and Village have their own dialect. The trick to understanding Bislama is to allow the words to blend together and listen to them phonetically.

Vanuatu language

Simple Bislama – tok blong ni-vanuatu phrases

English Word Bismala Word
The Best Nambawan (Number One)
Please Plis
Thank You Tangkyu
Sorry sori
Very Sorry Sorry Tumas
One Wan
Two Tu
Three Tri
Plenty Plenti
Filled to Capacity Fulap
Overfilled Fulap Tumas
Me Mi
You Yu
Him Her It (No Masculine or Femenin) Hem
This Here Hemina
Us or We Mifala
All of Us Mifala Evriwan
You Yu
You (Plural) Yufala
Day Dei
Evening Sava
Night Naet
Hot Hot
Cold Kol
We have a short wait Weit smol
I am ill Mi haren no Gud
My stomach is sore Bel blong mi i soa
What Wanem
What is that Wanem ia
Why Forwanem
Water Wota
Drinking Water Freswoto
Cold Water Kolwata
Ocean Solwata
How much is that Hamas
Do you know Tu save
I do not know mi no save
This is broken Samting ia hemi bugarap (Something here is buggered up)
Can you take me to Port Vila Yu save sakem mi long Port Vila
I am very happy Mi glad tumas
See you later Mi go

Kava

Trying Tannese kava is quite an experience. If you haven’t already tried kava, it’s a strong herbal drink made from kava root that is a major component of traditional Melanesian culture.

It will be served to you in a coconut half-shell. It tastes like dirt and plant roots and leaves your mouth feeling like you have just had an injection at the dentist. Don’t be fooled by how easy it is to gulp down. After a few minutes, you’ll be heavily sedated and wonder how this innocent concoction could have had such an effect. Kava bars are a common sight in Vanuatu, identified by the lantern or red light hanging from the roadside. Traditionally, kava huts were men only but now it is accepted as a quiet place for men and women to gather at the end of the day. Often constructed from pieces of loose tin and dirt floors, the atmosphere within these huts is one of peace, quiet and calmness. Tannese kava is known for its potency, so be careful how much you have in one sitting.

Black Magic

Black Magic is a part of NiVanuatu culture and the power of village chiefs and medicine men (‘klevers’) is still strong. Does it work? Definitely. Like the Australian Aboriginal ‘pointing of the bone’ there are too many documented cases of magic working for it to be ignored. Black Magic is strongly believed and feared throughout the Vanuatu and the Ni Vanuatu will blame “Black Magic” for almost every illness, death, weather pattern and other unexplained occurrences.

Playgrounds, there are only a few children’s playgrounds in Port Vila, the most popular one is old but safe right, on the foreshore. Sports fields Rugby union, league and soccer are favourite pastimes amongst Ni Vanuatu and expats alike. Korman stadium has been closed down due to its dilapidated condition, but the fields are still in operation. Local schools also use these facilities for their sports carnivals and fetes.

Picnic spots and public BBQ’s, there are no council parks or picnic areas in Port Vila, you simply pack a picnic, portable BBQ, grab a blanket and set off to find your own private piece of paradise. There are some beaches that charge an entrance fee. Honeymoon Bay is a beautiful bay with beach huts and “Bush toilet” the entrance fee of 500vt (approx $7) is worth it, with its sparkling blue water, deep blue hole with amazing marine life including a rather large eel. Dugongs and turtles are often sighted in this bay and are quite friendly.

Vanuatu general store

General stores

General Stores are plentiful in Port Vila. Selling everything from fruit, toiletries, bread, household products and gas bottle refills. There are also local stands on the side of the road selling fresh produce and seafood.

Vanuatu hospital

Hospitals

With limited and outdated facilities the Port Vila Hospital isn’t a place you would visit by choice, but in the case of an emergency, skilled local and international doctors will treat you. There are anaesthetists, paediatricians and general surgeons. Insurance is still highly recommended, especially if a Medivac is necessary. There are good Medical Centres in Vila.

There is also an excellent mobile paramedic service (ProMedical).

There is a private hospital in Port Vila that offers quality care.

Public Toilets in Port Vila are scarce and not well serviced. Purchase a beverage at a local cafe or restaurant and use their facilities. These at least will be clean.

Swimming pools While there are no public swimming pools in Port Vila, most resorts provide swimming pool facilities. Most resorts are happy to allow you full use of their facilities even if you are not staying there, provided you purchase food or beverage from their restaurants or bars.

Kids clubs are available at the major resorts.

vanuatu health

Vanuatu Health

No vaccinations are required. Vanuatu is situated in the malarial belt so anti – malarial medication is recommended especially if you intend to visit the outer islands. Check with your doctor one month prior to departure. There are private and public hospitals in Port Vila and medical centres. In the unlikely event that you require extensive medical care, ProMEdical can arrange medical evacuations. There are no dangerous animals or insects on land in Vanuatu, however contact with some marine life such as stone fish, blue bottles, and sea urchins will be painful but easily treated.