Visitor Information for Vanuatu

Firstly, to get rid of a few myths. Vila water is perfectly safe to drink. It does, however, have a high calcium content so those little white specks floating in your tea doesn’t mean the milk is ‘off’ (it will be long-life milk anyway!).

Despite what your doctor or travel agent says, malaria tablets aren’t necessary or recommended unless you are going to the outer islands. You don’t need vaccinations against exotic tropical diseases but you should take a small first aid kit containing hydrogen peroxide in case of coral cuts and take medical insurance. While there are good doctors and regular flights out, you shouldn’t travel anywhere without insurance. And you can take wood carvings home with you, as long as you present them at Customs for inspection.

The climate is hot and can be very humid. While historically November to March is the ‘wet’ season, over the last couple of years El Nino has sort of reversed the seasons. Yes, there are cyclones (there were two in my three years living there) but they come, they go and they are part of the tropics (even in Australia). There are also occasional earth tremors, as there are in any place with volcanic activity (like New Zealand).

The currency is the vatu and the exchange rate is stable. All major credit cards are accepted and there are ATM’s at supermarkets and outside the ANZ and Westpac banks. The best exchange rate is at Goodies souvenir shop.

Here are a few things that may swing you to Vanuatu – The richness of the Melanesian culture and the unique Bislama language – The accessibility to good snorkelling, diving and deep-sea fishing – The French influence.

Apart from the language, there’s the cuisine and variety of excellent, accessible restaurants. The Vanuatu beef is the best you’ll ever taste and the coconut crab is legendary! There’s also ‘island time’ – while things may happen slowly (and occasionally be frustrating) it’s this atmosphere that really makes you unwind – another time, another pace – the coconut will fall when it is ripe!

It’s a safe place with few hassles – you won’t be badgered by souvenir or copy watch vendors beating down a price – there’s no haggling or tipping in Melanesian culture – There’s the availability of luxuries and necessities – everything you get at home, you’ll find in the shops, supermarkets and chemists. While these things will be a bit more expensive than at home, things you won’t find at home include hair braiding, fresh produce from the markets, duty free shopping and baby-sitting for less $15.00 a night.

Guidebooks are pretty thin on the ground for Vanuatu. Lonely Planet is, as always, reliable. However, about half the book is on other islands apart from Efate where most visitors spend their holiday. Moon Handbooks South Pacific, written by David Stanley, is an excellent publication. Visit the Vanuatu section of David’s website, The South Pacific Organiser.

We believe the definitive information web site for Vanuatu is our own Vanuatu A to Z site, however if you have any specific queries, drop us an email and we’ll do the best to help you out.