Visitor Information for New Caledonia and Noumea

Bonjour et bienvenue! Yes, Nouvelle Caledonie is French – sort of. It also has a marvellous mix of Melanesian culture and the magic of the tropics. Everyone speaks English but your school French pleasantries are appreciated to break the ice – ‘bonjour’, ‘merci’ ‘au revoir’ etc. While Noumea might look like a tropical version of the French Riviera, it is very different – yes, there’s the French efficiency, style and elegance but there’s also tropical ‘island time’..

There’s no ‘third world’ feel here (potholes, old trucks blowing diesel fumes etc) – there are sleek motorways, modern vehicles, cosmopolitan shopping and cuisine but, a short explore away from Noumea you find rich Melanesian culture, lush vegetation and unspoilt islands, sandy beaches and lagoons. In fact New Caledonia is surrounded by the world’s largest lagoon.

Yes, it can be more expensive than other Pacific destinations but there are excellent packages and it’s only 2 hours from Brisbane and 2.5 hours from Auckland and Sydney so the air component goes towards balancing the cost of living. And, if you are on a budget, consider a self-contained accommodation option so you don’t have to dine out all the time. Supermarket shopping can be fun – and you couldn’t say 50 cents for a freshly baked breadstick or $10 for a six-pack of beer expensive. And, thanks to Melanesian custom, tipping is not expected or encouraged in New Caledonia.

The climate is pleasantly semi-tropical all year round. In the warm season temperatures range from 25 to 27 and in the cool season 20 to 23. The water is warm year round, too. There are 10 flights a week from Australia and 4 from New Zealand.

The currency is the French Pacific Franc. All major credit cards are accepted and there are ATM’s that accept Australian and NZ debit cards.

The dress code is a little more upmarket than other Pacific destinations. Shorts, t-shirts and beachwear is fine by day, but think casual elegance in the evenings – this just means no shorts and thongs but light trousers and a collared shirt – you don’t need to pack a tie!

Topless sunbathing is fine on beaches in Noumea (unlike other Pacific destinations) although you should still show modesty when visiting Melanesian villages. Also, if you go to a village, you need permission from the chief or village representative and it is customary to offer a gift (a small amount of money, cigarettes, a souvenir from your own country – but never alcohol).

The electricity outlets are French, so if you take appliances from Australia or New Zealand you will need an adaptor (you can get them at the airport). The tap water is safe to drink and no vaccinations are required (unless you have recently been in an infected country). You should pack sunscreen, insect repellent and a small first aid kit. And, as with any destination, taking out travel insurance is highly recommended. Naturally, there are excellent medical facilities in Noumea.

An excellent guidebook to take as a travelling companion is Moon Handbooks South Pacific, written by David Stanley. Visit the New Caledonia section of David’s website, The South Pacific Organiser.

If you have any specific queries, drop us an email and we’ll do the best to help you out.