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Vanuatu travel guide - Travel S helper


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Vanuatu is a Pacific island country in the South Pacific Ocean. Its official name is the Republic of Vanuatu. The volcanic archipelago is located about 1,750 kilometers (1,090 miles) east of northern Australia, 540 kilometers (340 miles) northeast of New Caledonia, east of New Guinea, southeast of the Solomon Islands, and west of Fiji.

Melanesian people originally settled in Vanuatu. A Spanish expedition headed by Portuguese navigator Fernandes de Queirós landed on the biggest island in 1606 as the first Europeans to explore the islands. As the Portuguese and Spanish monarchies were unified under the king of Spain in 1580 (following the vacancy of the Portuguese throne, which lasted sixty years until 1640, when the Portuguese monarchy was restored), Queirós claimed the archipelago for Spain, as part of the colonial Spanish East Indies, and named it La Austrialia del Espritu Santo.

France and the United Kingdom claimed portions of the archipelago in the 1880s, and in 1906 they agreed on a framework for jointly administering the archipelago as the New Hebrides through a British–French Condominium. In the 1970s, an independence movement developed, and the Republic of Vanuatu was established in 1980.

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Vanuatu - Info Card




Algerian dinar (DZD)

Time zone



2,381,741 km2 (919,595 sq mi)

Calling code


Official language


Vanuatu | Introduction

Geography Of Vanuatu

Vanuatu is a Y-shaped archipelago comprising approximately 82 relatively tiny, geologically younger volcanic islands (65 of which are inhabited), with a distance of about 1,300 kilometers (810 miles) between the most northern and southern islands. France claims and controls two of these islands (Matthew and Hunter) as part of the French collectivity of New Caledonia. The nation is located between latitudes 13° and 21° South and longitudes 166° and 171° East.

From biggest to smallest, the fourteen Vanuatu islands with surface areas more than 100 square kilometers (39 square miles) are: Espiritu Santo, Malakula, Efate, Erromango, Ambrym, Tanna, Pentecost, Epi, Ambae or Aoba, Gaua, Vanua Lava, Maewo, Malo, and Aneityum or Anatom. The biggest settlements in the country are the capital Port Vila on Efate and Luganville on Espiritu Santo. Mount Tabwemasana on the island of Espiritu Santo is the highest elevation in Vanuatu, at 1,879 meters (6,165 feet).

Vanuatu has a total size of about 12,274 square kilometers (4,739 square miles), with a land surface area of approximately 4,700 square kilometers (1,800 square miles). The majority of the islands are mountainous, with unstable soils and little permanent fresh water. According to one estimate from 2005, just 9% of land is utilized for agriculture (7 percent with permanent crops, plus 2 percent considered arable). The coast is mainly rocky, with bordering reefs and no continental shelf, and it drops quickly into the Atlantic depths.

Vanuatu is home to numerous active volcanoes, including Lopevi, Mount Yasur, and various submarine volcanoes. Volcanic activity is frequent, with the threat of a large eruption always present; a nearby underwater eruption of 6.4 magnitude happened in November 2008 with no fatalities, and an eruption occurred in 1945. Vanuatu has its own terrestrial ecoregion, known as the Vanuatu rain forests. It belongs to the Australasia ecozone, which also includes New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, Australia, New Guinea, and New Zealand.

Vanuatu’s population (which was projected to be rising at a rate of 2.4 percent per year in 2008) is putting increasing strain on land and resources used for agriculture, grazing, hunting, and fishing. Approximately 90% of Vanuatu families fish and eat fish, resulting in severe fishing pressure near communities and depletion of near-shore fish species. While most islands are well-forested, there are indications of deforestation on most of them. The islands have been logged, especially for high-value wood, subjected to widespread slash-and-burn agriculture, and converted to coconut plantations and cow ranches, resulting in increased soil erosion and landslides.

Many highland watersheds are becoming deforested and degraded, and fresh water is becoming rare. Proper garbage disposal, as well as water and air pollution, are becoming major concerns in and around cities and big towns. Furthermore, a lack of industrial job possibilities and market access have conspired to lock rural people into a subsistence or self-reliance mode, placing enormous strain on local ecosystems.

Flora and fauna

Vanuatu has a little number of plant and animal species despite its tropical jungles. It is home to the Pteropus anetianus, a local flying fox. Flying foxes play an essential role in rainforest and wood regeneration. They pollinate and spread seeds from a broad range of natural plants. Their food consists of nectar, pollen, and fruit, hence they are often referred to as “fruit bats.” Throughout their range in the South Pacific, they are declining. Governments, on the other hand, are becoming more conscious of the economic and ecological importance of flying foxes, and there are demands to enhance their protection. There are no big animals endemic to the area. The flowerpot snake, found exclusively on Efate, is one of the nineteen native reptile species. In the 1960s, the Fiji Banded Iguana (Brachylophus fasciatus) was imported as a wild species. There are eleven bat species (three of which are unique to Vanuatu) and 61 land and water bird species. While the tiny Polynesian rat is believed to be indigenous, the big species, as well as domesticated pigs, dogs, and cattle, came with Europeans. E. O. Wilson documented the ant species of certain Vanuatu’s islands.

The area is abundant in sea life, with over 4,000 kinds of marine mollusks and a wide range of marine fishes. Coneshell and stonefish contain a toxin that is lethal to humans. The Giant East African land snail came in the 1970s and has already expanded from Port-Vila to Luganville.

There are three or perhaps four adult saltwater crocodiles in Vanuatu’s mangroves, but no breeding population exists. Given the island chain’s closeness to the Solomon Islands and New Guinea, where crocodiles are abundant, it is believed that crocodiles reached the northern portion of the islands following storms.

Climate In Vanuatu

Vanuatu possesses all of the tropical variations conceivable because to its vast north-south region. The weather ranges from hot and humid in the north to moderate and dry in the south. Temperatures in Port Vila, Efate, range from 27°C in July to 30°C in January. The temperature at night may dip to 12°C. Humidity is approximately 82 percent from December to February and 70 percent from July to August.

Rainfall averages about 300mm per month from January to April, and around 200mm per month the rest of the year. The Banks Islands in the far north may get more than 4,000mm of rain each year, whereas the southern islands may only receive 2,000mm.

Cyclones are natural phenomena that must be understood and respected. Mainstream tourist establishments are well-built and have cyclone management experience. Cyclones occur (in different degrees and with plenty of warning) every couple of years from December to March on average. You will be safe if you follow the advice of the local authorities. From November through April, yachties often dodge cyclones. In Vanuatu, there are no functional cyclone holes for any size ship. Yachts usually depart for destinations north of the equator, such as New Caledonia, New Zealand, or Australia. In Port Vila, there is a modest boatyard with yacht haulout facilities.

The months of July through December are the busiest for tourism. January through June are the quietest months. Experienced travelers take advantage of these tourist troughs to travel, since airlines, lodging providers, and other tourism-related companies provide significant discounts at this time.

The months of January through June are a bit more humid, although the odd tropical rain keeps things cool. The fact that tourist numbers are low during this time period is an additional advantage. Instead of being hurried by the throng, you have more chances to interact with locals and aimlessly do your own thing (except when cruise ships are in Port).

Demographics Of Vanuatu

Vanuatu’s population is 221,506 people. Males outweigh females; the Vanuatu Statistics Office reported 95,682 males and 90,996 females in 1999. The majority of the population lives in rural areas, but Port Vila and Luganville have populations in the tens of thousands.

Vanuatuans are referred to as Ni-Vanuatu in English, a modern invention. The Ni-Vanuatu are mostly Melanesian (98.5 percent), with the rest being a mix of Europeans, Asians, and other Pacific islanders. Polynesians traditionally colonized three islands. Approximately 20,000 Ni-Vanuatu people live and work in New Zealand and Australia. The Happy Planet Index, published in 2006 by the New Economics Foundation and the Friends of the Earth environmentalist group, analyzed data on levels of reported happiness, life expectancy, and Ecological Footprint and estimated Vanuatu to be the most ecologically efficient country in the world in achieving high well-being.

Religion In Vanuatu

Vanuatu’s main religion is Christianity, which is divided into many denominations. The Presbyterian Church in Vanuatu is the biggest, with about one-third of the people belonging to it. Other popular faiths include Roman Catholic and Anglican, which each claim approximately 15% of the population. The Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Church of Christ, Neil Thomas Ministries (NTM), Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others are among the less significant organizations.

Several cargo cults arose as a result of the modern items delivered to the islands by the troops during World War II. Many faded out, but the John Frum cult on Tanna is still active, with followers in the legislature. The Prince Philip Movement, which honors the United Kingdom’s Prince Philip, is also present on Tanna. Yaohnanen tribe villagers believed in an old tale about a pale-skinned son of a mountain spirit traveling across the seas to find a strong lady to marry. Prince Philip, who visited the island with his new bride Queen Elizabeth, perfectly matched the description and is therefore regarded as a deity in Tanna.

Language In Vanuatu

The official languages are English, French, and Bislama. Bislama is a pidgin language – and now a creole in urban areas – that blends a characteristically Melanesian syntax with a mostly English vocabulary. It is the sole language that the whole Vanuatu population understands and speaks, usually as a second language.

It is a combination of phonetic English weaved into a loose French sentence structure spoken with “local sound,” resulting in some amusing results, such as women brassieres or swimming tops being referred to as “Basket blong titi”; no harm meant. ‘A New Bislama Dictionary,’ by the late Terry Crowley, is an outstanding Bislama dictionary accessible at reputable bookstores. Some examples of popular Bislama words/phrases are:

  • Me / you – mi / yu
  • Him / her / it (neither masculine nor feminine)
  • this here – hem/ hemia
  • Us /we / all of us – mifala / mifala evriwan
  • You / you (plural) – yu / yufala
  • I do not know/understand – mi no save
  • See you later / ta ta – Lukim yu/ tata
  • I am going now – ale (French derivation of allez) mi go
  • One/ two / three – wan / tu / tri
  • How much (is that) – hamas (long hem)
  • Plenty or many – plenti
  • Filled to capacity / overfilled – fulap / fulap tumas (too much)
  • Day / evening / night – dei / sava (literally supper) / naet
  • Hot / cold – hot / kol
  • What / what is that – wanem / wanem ia (literally wanem here?)
  • Why / why did you – frowanem (for why?)
  • Please / thank you / sorry (very sorry) – plis / tangkyu / sori (sori tumas) – sorry too much
  • Do you know – yu save (pronounced savee)

Furthermore, 113 indigenous languages are still spoken in Vanuatu. The density of languages per population is the greatest of any country in the world, with just 2000 speakers per language on average. All of these vernacular languages are members of the Austronesian family’s Oceanic branch.

Internet & Communications in Vanuatu


Vanuatu’s international country code is +678. To call someone in another country from Vanuatu, dial 00 followed by the appropriate country code and phone number.

Ambulance (22-100), Fire (22-333), and Police (22-333) are the emergency phone numbers (22-222).

GSM mobile coverage is available in Port-Vila, Vanuatu, and most GSM phones roam smoothly. TVI sells special tourist SIM cards that provide significant savings over roaming costs. Any post office will have it.

International roaming is accessible from New Zealand and Australia. Telecom Vanuatu offers a package dubbed ‘Smile Visitor,’ which includes a sim card and pre-purchased credit. This is available for purchase at the Vanuatu Telecom Office in town. +678 081111 is the phone number. Please contact us at [email protected]. vu

Or with the newcomer Digicel, which will provide Telecom with much-needed competition. Digicel has established a strong presence and may be found almost everywhere. They offer a variety of low-cost options available to you.


There are internet cafés in Luganville and Port-Vila. Some post offices, which can be located on the major streets of Port-Vila and Luganville, as well as on Espiritu Santo, may also offer Internet access.

Postal services

Postal services to the rest of Europe may take up to seven days. You can send letters and postcards from public mailboxes, but the incoming postal service, particularly for packages, may be spotty, so don’t depend on others mailing you stuff while you’re in Vanuatu.

Economy Of Vanuatu

Agriculture, tourism, offshore financial services, and cattle ranching are the four pillars of the economy. There is significant fishing activity, although this sector does not generate much foreign currency. Copra, kava, cattle, cocoa, and wood are among the exports, while machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, and fuels are among the imports. Mining activity, on the other hand, is insignificant.

While manganese mining ceased in 1978, a deal was reached in 2006 to export manganese that had previously been extracted but had not yet been shipped. There are no known petroleum deposits in the nation. The local market is served by a modest light-industry sector. Import tariffs and a 12.5 percent VAT on products and services provide the majority of tax income. Economic growth is hampered by the country’s reliance on a small number of commodity exports, susceptibility to natural catastrophes, and vast distances between component islands and major markets.

Agriculture is utilized both for consumption and for export. It provides a livelihood for about 65 percent of the people. Copra and kava production, in particular, provide significant income. Many farmers have abandoned food crop production in favor of kava farming, with the proceeds used to purchase food. Kava has also been utilized in clan and village ceremonial exchanges. Cocoa is also cultivated for the purpose of generating foreign currency.

In 2007, there were 15,758 families involved in fishing, mostly for consumption (99 percent), and the average number of weekly fishing excursions was three. The tropical environment allows for the cultivation of a diverse variety of fruits, vegetables, and spices such as banana, garlic, cabbage, peanuts, pineapples, sugarcane, taro, yams, watermelons, leaf spices, carrots, radishes, eggplants, vanilla (both fresh and cured), pepper, cucumber, and many more. In 2007, the following agricultural goods were valued (in millions of vatu – Vanuatu’s national currency): kava (341 million vatu), copra (195), cattle (135), crop gardens (93), cocoa (59), forestry (56), fisheries (24), coffee (12).

Tourism generates much-needed foreign currency. Vanuatu is generally regarded as one of the best holiday locations for scuba divers looking to experience the South Pacific region’s coral reefs. The wreck of the US luxury cruise liner and converted troop carrier President Coolidge on Espiritu Santo island is also a major draw for scuba divers. It was sunk during World War II and is one of the world’s biggest shipwrecks that is accessible for recreational diving. According to one estimate, tourism grew 17 percent from 2007 to 2008, reaching 196,134 visitors. The 2008 total represents a significant increase over the previous year’s total of 57,000 visitors (of which 37,000 were from Australia, 8,000 from New Zealand, 6,000 from New Caledonia, 3,000 from Europe, 1,000 from North America, and 1,000 from Japan. (Note: figures are rounded to the nearest thousand)). Tourism has been boosted in part by Vanuatu’s appearance on numerous reality television programs. The ninth season of the reality television series Survivor, titled Survivor: Vanuatu—Islands of Fire, was shot in Vanuatu. Two years later, the Australian edition of Celebrity Survivor was shot in the same location as the US version. In the middle of 2002, the government increased its attempts to promote tourism.

Financial services are a critical component of the economy. Vanuatu is a tax haven that did not share account information with other countries or law enforcement agencies until 2008. International pressure, mostly from Australia, pushed the Vanuatu government to start conforming to international transparency standards. There is no income tax, withholding tax, capital gains tax, inheritance tax, or exchange control in Vanuatu. Because of the tax advantages and favorable labor regulations, several multinational ship-management firms prefer to flag their ships under the Vanuatu flag (Vanuatu is a full member of the International Maritime Organization and applies its international conventions). Vanuatu is designated as a nation using a “flag of convenience.” Several file-sharing organizations, including Sharman Networks’ KaZaAnetwork and the creators of WinMX, have opted to incorporate in Vanuatu to escape regulatory and legal problems. As a result of international concerns, the government has pledged to strengthen regulation of its offshore financial center. Vanuatu gets the majority of its foreign assistance from Australia and New Zealand.

Cattle raising leads to the production of beef for export. The total value of cow heads sold in 2007 was estimated to be 135 million vatu; cattle were originally brought into the region from Australia by British planter James Paddon. Each family has 5 pigs and 16 hens on average, and although cattle are the “most important animal,” pigs and chickens are essential for subsistence cultivation as well as ceremonial and customary purposes (especially pigs). In 2007, there were 30 commercial farms (37 percent single proprietorships, 23 percent partnerships, and 17 percent corporations), with revenues of 533 million vatu and expenditures of 329 million vatu.

Earthquakes may have a detrimental impact on the island nation’s economic activities. A strong earthquake followed by a tsunami in November 1999 caused significant damage to the northern island of Pentecost, displacing hundreds. In January 2002, another strong earthquake caused significant damage in the city, Port Vila, and neighboring regions, and was followed by a tsunami. On August 2, 2007, another 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit.

In 2008, the Vanuatu National Statistics Office (VNSO) published its 2007 agricultural census. According to the study, agricultural exports account for roughly three-quarters (73%) of all exports; 80 percent of the population lives in rural areas where “agriculture is the main source of their livelihood”; and almost all (99%) of these households are involved in agriculture, fisheries, and forestry. Annual family income was 1,803 million vatu. Agriculture produced for their own home use was worth 683 million vatu, agriculture for sale was worth 561, gifts received were worth 38, handicrafts were worth 33, and fisheries (for sale) were worth 18.

Households spent the most money on food (300 million vatu), next on home appliances and other essentials (79 million vatu), transportation (59), education and services (56), housing (50), alcohol and tobacco (39), and clothes and footwear (17). Copra (485), kava (442), cocoa (221), beef (fresh and chilled) (180), wood (80), and fish (live fish, aquarium, shell, button) were among the exports valued at 3,038 million vatu (28). Industrial materials (4,261), food and drink (3,984), machinery (3,087), consumer products (2,767), transport equipment (2,125), fuels and lubricants (187), and other imports totaled 20,472 million vatu (4,060). There are a significant number of crop gardens – 97,888 in 2007 – with many on flat land (62 percent), slightly hilly slope (31%), and even steep slopes (7%); there were 33,570 households with at least one crop garden, and 10,788 of these households sold some of these crops over a twelve-month period.

In the early 2000s, the economy expanded at a rate of around 6%. This is greater than in the 1990s, when GDP increased by less than 3% on average.

The Asian Development Bank’s assessment on Vanuatu’s economy received mixed responses. It observed that the economy was “growing,” noting that it expanded at an outstanding 5.9 percent rate between 2003 and 2007, and praised “promising indications about government reform efforts in certain sectors,” but identified some constraining limitations such as “poor infrastructural services.” Because power is generated by a private monopoly, “electricity prices are among the highest in the Pacific” among developing nations. The study also highlighted “poor governance and invasive State initiatives” as factors reducing productivity.

In the March 2011 Euromoney Country Risk rankings, Vanuatu was rated 173rd as the safest investment location in the world. The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal rated Vanuatu as the 84th most economically free nation in 2015.

How To Travel To Vanuatu

Get In - By boat

  • Port-Vila on the island of Efate and Luganville on the island of Espiritu Santo are Vanuatu’s major ports.
  • P&O Trips offers frequent cruises through Vanuatu’s seas.
  • Tallship Soren Larsen, +64 9 817 8799, sails from Fiji to Port Vila and Santo once a year to explore the northern Banks Islands. 2008: Sails from Lautoka to Yasawa Island, then to Vanuatu for 18 nights from August 31 to September 18.

Subsequent 11-night excursions visit the Banks Islands, then the remote islands of central Vanuatu, sailing from Port Vila to New Caledonia via Tanna Island on October 19.

Get In - By plane

Port-Vila is the major international airport, offering flights to and from:

  • Australia
    • Brisbane – Air Vanuatu [www] (Qantas code share [www]) and Pacific Blue [www]
    • Sydney – Air Vanuatu [www] (Qantas [www] code share)
    • Melbourne – Air Vanuatu [www](Qantas [www] code share)
  • New Zealand
    • Auckland – Air Vanuatu [www] and Air New Zealand [www]
  • Fiji
    • Nadi – Air Vanuatu [www] and Fiji Airways [www]
  • New Caledonia
    • Nouméa – Air Vanuatu [www] and Aircalin [www]
  • Solomon Islands – Solomon Airlines

Air Vanuatu operates direct flights from Sydney and Brisbane to Luganville. 

How To Travel Around Vanuatu

Get Around - By plane

There are a few charter airlines, including Unity Airlines, Sea Air, and Air Safaris, but the domestic network is operated by the government airline, Air Vanuatu.

Several businesses in Vanuatu provide watercraft services between the islands. Fresh Cargo, Ifira Shipping Agencies, and Toara Coastal Shipping are among them.

Get Around - By bus

Buses in Port Vila are minivans that seat approximately ten passengers and mostly travel the main route, stopping where you want them to. If you wave at one of these, it will come to a halt in the direction you wish to travel. They are numerous inside the city, and if you are traveling outside of the city, you can generally arrange for a bus to meet you at a certain time. If one seems to be full, just wait for the next one. Locals utilize the buses, but visitors find them to be extremely pleasant, inexpensive, and simple to operate. Typically, the fare is determined per person. Generally, the cost is 150 vatu per person wherever in Port Vila. If you go a longer distance, the price may increase to 300-500 vatu per person.

Destinations in Vanuatu

Regions in Vanuatu

Vanuatu’s islands are divided into six geographic provinces, with names derived by combining the initial syllables or letters of the main islands in each.

  • Torba
    Torres Islands and Banks Islands
  • Sanma (Luganville)
    Espiritu Santo and Malo
  • Penama
    Pentecost/Pentecote, Ambae and Maewo
  • Malampa
    Malakula, Ambrym and Paama
  • Shefa (Port-Vila)
    Shepherd Group and Efate
  • Tafea
    Tanna, Aniwa, Futuna, Erromango and Aneityum/Anatom

Matthew and Hunter are uninhabited islands located to the southeast of Aneityum. The Aneityum people believe the islands are part of their ancient homeland. Aneityum seems to have supplied New Caledonia’s forefathers, and there are cultural ties, especially with the Loyalty Islands.

Other destinations in Vanuatu

  • Epi Island
  • Espiritu Santo is Vanuatu’s largest island and is known as a diver’s paradise. It has excellent ship wrecks for scuba diving, beautiful beaches, coconut plantations, rainforest, and traditional communities where young men still participate in age-old traditions to mark their coming of age, and where ladies are supplied with special accommodations during their menstruation. Champagne Beach can compete with any other beach in the South Pacific, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations.
  • Malekula is an excellent location to immerse yourself in the many cultural traditions of Vanuatu’s indigenous peoples. This is a site where legends about cannibals and spirit caves come to life, and it’s a great place to see the ceremonial kastom dances of the natives, in this instance the Small Nambas and Big Nambas people.

Accommodation & Hotels in Vanuatu

There are several levels of lodging available.


The most popular and biggest of the resorts is Le Lagon. It has been in operation for more than 30 years. It provides significant discounts for children, so there are a lot of youngsters visiting during the Australian school vacations.

Iririki Island is a private island located in Port Vila’s harbor. It used to be “adults only,” but since 2006, it has included sections for youngsters. A boat service connects the major downtown area.

The Erakor Island Resort is located on an island in the lagoon near Le Lagon. A free ferry service transports you to and from the island.

Nirvana Resort is the newest addition to Port Vila. Nestled in a peaceful location of Paradise Cove on the island of Efate, just far enough but not too far from the city of Port Vila.

Poppys on the Lagoon  is a superb self-contained accommodation located on the beaches of Erakor Lagoon. The resort is intended to benefit from the cooling breezes of the South Pacific trade winds.


Paradise Cove Resort offers direct access to a beautiful coral for snorkeling. It will cost about AU$20 one way to and from Port Vila. It is important to note that nature may infiltrate your home in the shape of ants or spiders.


There are numerous modest guest rooms that price about 2000 VT per night and provide full service while visiting other islands or towns outside of the city (meals, laundry, etc.).

Many of the hotels in Port Vila and Luganville are similarly budget-friendly, with rates starting at about 2000 VT per night. There are many websites that list such hotels.

Friendly Bungalows on Tanna Island is 6 kilometers from Mt Yasur Volcano, on the peaceful, isolated sand beach of Lowelkas Cove, on the other side of the island from the airport.

Things To See in Vanuatu

Vanuatu is not on the typical traveller’s bucket list. Except for those who like scuba diving, since divers have long found the underwater riches of this South Pacific island. Even if you don’t intend to swim in the country’s clear blue seas, it’s a vibrant blend of traditional Melanesian culture, friendly people, gorgeous tropical beaches, active volcanoes, and all the contemporary conveniences you’ll need to have a good time.

The numerous islands ringed by beautiful sandy beaches provide stunning views of the Pacific. The Bank Islands include beautiful beaches as well as rough terrain. The Siri Waterfall, located on the largest of the Banks Islands, Gaua, is fed by the country’s largest crater lake, Lake Letas. Visit Mount Yasur, the world’s most accessible active volcano, on the island of Tanna. Tanna, a popular tourist destination, is also home to waterfalls and men dressed in penis sheaths and grass skirts. If you have the opportunity, stay for one of their old festivals or ceremonies.

Efate is the starting point for most visitors to Vanuatu, as well as the location of the country’s pleasant small capital, Port-Vila. It aims to bring together the finest of the archipelago and is the go-to spot for excellent wine and cuisine.

Aoba Island (renowned for the crater lakes on top of the huge volcano that defines the islands) and Pentecost Island are two more locations worth seeing (the spiritual birthplace of bungee jumping). Last but not least, the active volcanoes, lava lakes, and artwork created by local people are compelling reasons to stay in one of Ambrym’s traditional style bungalows.

Food & Drinks in Vanuatu

Food in Vanuatu

There are many restaurants and cafes in Port Vila, ranging from high-end businesses catering to visitors and expatriates to more casual options. Lunch will cost you between 1000 and 1500 vatu, depending on where you dine and what you eat.


The typical meal, lap lap, is a root vegetable cake that you will most likely be served once during your visit. Essentially, this is manioc (cassava), sweet potato, taro, or yam shaved into the center of a banana leaf, topped with island cabbage and, sometimes, a chicken wing. This is all bundled up into a flat parcel and baked underground on hot stones until it all melts together like a cake. The best location to get some of these is in the food market in town, which should cost about 100 vatu.


This is a lap lap variant in which the cake is wrapped into a cylinder with meat in the center. It tastes similar to a sausage roll. These may be found in the market again (typically from mele village folks), but they will be served in foam boxes to keep them warm.


Vanuatu’s beef is well-known across the region. There will be posters at the airports advising you to pack the 25kg of meat allowed to other neighboring island countries. The meat is particularly excellent because it is entirely produced organically, with no feedlots or other issues associated with westernised mass farming. As a consequence, the steaks are very tasty.


As you would imagine from an island country, seafood is popular, and the quality is usually good. Restaurants often serve reef fish, as well as prawns, lobster, and the delicious coconut crab.

The coconut crab is only found in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans, and its population has been decreasing so fast that it is now a protected species in most regions. The minimum legal size in Vanuatu is four centimetres, although the monster may grow to be more than eight centimetres long with a limb spread of up to ninety centimetres. The crab’s name comes from the fact that it climbs palm trees to chop down and consume coconuts – nothing to do with the taste.

Drinks in Vanuatu


Kava is a traditional drink produced from the roots of the pepper plant Piper methysticum. Kava is intoxicating, but not in the same way that alcohol is. It has sedative properties. Some travelers have reported a hangover as a result of their drinking.

Kava is drunk in private homes as well as in local establishments known as Nakamal. On occasion, some of the resorts may provide kava for visitors to sample.

Kava is traditionally served in a “shell” or tiny bowl. Drink the whole shell-full slowly, then spit. Because the taste of kava is strong and unpleasant, it’s a good idea to have a soft drink on hand to rinse with afterward.

It is worth mentioning that the kava accessible in Vanuatu is usually considerably stronger than the kava available in other Pacific islands such as Fiji, where it is relatively mild. Four or five big shells at a normal kava bar can leave an unskilled drinker dizzy (or worse) within a few of hours, and recovery can take a day.

To have the most enjoyable kava experience, go with an experienced drinker and follow their example, take the tiny shells, and quit after an hour and a half. It’s simple to locate a native kava drinking companion; just inquire around your hotel and you’ll find volunteers – maybe for the price of a shell or two.

Kava bars (or Nakamals) are often dimly lit or have no illumination at all. This is because strong lighting and kava intoxication do not mix well – therefore be cautious with flash photography, which may not be well accepted in such settings.


Alcoholic drinks are readily accessible as well. A broad variety of beverages are offered at tourist-oriented resorts, pubs, and restaurants. “Tusker” and “Vanuatu Bitter” are the names of the local beers.

Money & Shopping in Vanuatu

The Vatu is the native money (VT). (The ISO 4217 code for it is VUV.) 100VT is now worth about 0.94 USD, 1.25 AUD, 1.40 NZD, or 0.84 EUR as of March 2016. There are notes in denominations of 200 VT, 500 VT, 1000 VT, and 5000 VT, as well as coins in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 VT.

Many establishments in town accept credit and debit cards from the main networks (Cirrus, Maestro, and so on).

ATMs from the Australian banks ANZ and Westpac are accessible in Port Vila. The National Bank of Vanuatu maintains an airport branch that is available for all aircraft arrivals. Otherwise, banking hours are 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Tipping, bartering, or negotiating are not anticipated in Vanuatu; it is not the norm and merely promotes a “master-servant” relationship. Presents, on the other hand, are much appreciated, and the exchange of gifts for services performed fits well with local customs (western governments have a difficult time accepting this practice since it is perceived as bribery and corruption). However, in Melanesian culture, this is a common method to do business…well, the White Man brought that “Cash” thing).

A bag of rice may be received with gratitude and dignity by a village chief, but offering three times the value in cash may be perceived as patronizing, plus it will artificially inflate the price for the next traveller; set wrong expectations, and quickly destroy the genuine spontaneous friendship so easily given to you.

Giving phone cards, T-shirts, school pads, pencils, and other little gifts to youngsters is a kind gesture. There are a lot of youngsters here! We obviously do not suggest sweets and the such since it simply promotes junk food addiction, and providing cash to local males is frequently spent at the Kava bar and is of little value to his family. If you must donate money, make sure it goes to women, especially moms who are in charge of the family budget. The installation of poker machines has definitely not improved the issue, given that these establishments are mainly frequented by locals (mostly males) who cannot afford to squander their little earnings in this manner.

In Port Vila, there are two market places along the beachfront. The main market mostly offers food, and you may get a wide variety of local products there. A series of grass-roofed market booths offer clothes, bags, sarongs, and other goods farther north, near the beach.

Woven grass bags and mats are readily available and very appealing.

Traditions & Customs in Vanuatu

Throughout Vanuatu, and particularly in the communities outside of Port Vila, life is heavily affected by “kastom” – a collection of ancient traditions and taboos that apply to a wide range of issues. Be mindful of this and heed residents’ demands for “kastom.”

When visiting villages, ladies should dress modestly, covering their shoulders and knees.

The Christian faith is extremely powerful. On a Sunday, it seems to be customary to invite and welcome guests to local church services.

Wearing revealing and seductive clothes (particularly in the capital) is not recommended, since over 100 years of missionary activity has influenced the idea of what is considered acceptable dress in the islands. Regardless, it is considered insulting to the local people and may be regarded as an offer to sex by certain indigenous residents.

Because Vanuatu is not a “fashion aware” country, no one will notice or care if you are wearing the newest from “the Paris Collection.” Bring a practical tropical wardrobe with you, such as light cotton summer clothing that can be hand washed, a’sloppy joe’ pullover, and a lightweight waterproof wind jacket. Bring a strong flashlight (with extra batteries, you’ll need them! ), lightweight walking shoes, sandals or excellent thongs (flip flops/croks) for rainy weather, and old clothing if you’re going to the outlying islands.

Tip: When visiting the outlying islands, bring all the old clothing you can carry, wear them, and then give them away to the locals when you’re done. In other ways, you and your children will be appropriately rewarded. Rather of throwing your used clothing in a charity collecting bin at your local shopping center and never knowing who really gets them (if they ever do…), your children will engage with the individuals who will receive those items (most NiVanuatu people buy these second hand clothes from shops in Port Vila).

Sharing and giving are normal parts of everyday life in Vanuatu. The T-shirt you gift to one individual will also be worn by all of his buddies. Their winter attire will consist of three T-shirts layered on top of one other…. You will give them with items that are difficult for them to acquire, saving them the cost of purchasing clothing (basic salaries in Vanuatu are very cheap), and you will leave with precious memories, as well as extra space in your baggage for bought local arts and crafts.

Communicating with the people of NiVanuatu:

  • In Vanuatu, expressing anger, dissatisfaction, or irritation against a person or circumstance can result in a stony silence and a lack of cooperation or understanding for your point of view. Please be patient since complaining is a waste of time. It will make no difference to the result. If you are verbally abusive, you will elicit one of three reactions: a smile, suppressed laughter, or a fist in your face.
  • Don’t pose a question that already has an answer. Locals will always agree to avoid contradicting you. “Is this the path to X?” will get a Yes. If you ask, “Where is the route to X…?” you may receive a different response.
  • Be warned that direct eye contact or increased voice level communication may be perceived as intimidation on the islands. A local’s voice tone and body language may be diametrically opposed to that of a European. He or she may nod in agreement with everything you say to avoid offending you, yet he or she may not have heard a word you said!
  • If you’re on a bus and people on the sidewalk turn their backs on you, don’t be offended: they’re just letting the driver know that they don’t need him to stop. Vanuatu has few bus stops, and those that do exist are seldom used.
  • It’s not what you think when you see guys or women holding hands. There is no sexual connotation to men holding hands with other men or women holding hands with other women. A guy holding a woman’s hand in public, on the other hand, is very uncommon since it is considered a public display of sexual relations.


Vanuatu’s people are a joy to shoot; they are polite, cooperative, and photogenic, particularly the youngsters, who are just stunning. Yes, they like being shot, but please do not offer to pay to shoot locals; this will rapidly discourage spontaneity and promote commercialization. Always seek permission before photographing locals.

Some individuals may be hesitant to be photographed for reasons you may never know. It is advisable to inquire about the price for shooting cultural events, since they may be very expensive. The rationale behind this is that they put on the event, people snap pictures, and they earn money selling these images of their show – therefore they want to be compensated appropriately (makes sense). Shooting an erupting volcano at night requires a minimum ISO of 800 and the use of a tripod.

Culture Of Vanuatu

Vanuatu culture maintains a high level of variety due to local regional differences and international influence. Vanuatu is split into three cultural areas. Wealth in the north is determined by how much one can give away, as determined by a grade-taking system. Pigs, especially those with rounded tusks, are seen as a sign of prosperity in Vanuatu. Traditional Melanesian cultural systems predominate in the center. In the south, a system of title grants with accompanying privileges has evolved.

Young males are initiated into manhood via different coming-of-age rites and rituals, which often include circumcision.

Most communities have a nakamal, or village clubhouse, that serves as a gathering area for males and a place to drink kava. There are also male and female-only sectors in villages. These portions are located throughout the villages; in nakamals, specific areas are given for ladies during their menstrual cycle.

There are a few notable Ni-Vanuatu writers. Grace Mera Molisa, a women’s rights activist who died in 2002, rose to worldwide prominence as a descriptive poet.


Vanuatu’s indigenous music is still alive and well in the country’s rural regions. Musical instruments are primarily made up of idiophones, which include drums of different shapes and sizes, slit gongs, stamping tubes, and rattles, among other things. String band music is another musical form that became popular in all regions of Vanuatu throughout the twentieth century. It mixes guitars, ukuleles, and well-known tunes.

Vanuatu’s music industry developed quickly in the 1990s, and many bands have established an unique ni-Vanuatu identity. Zouk music and reggaeton are two popular genres of contemporary commercial music that are presently being played in metropolitan areas. Reggaeton, a Spanish-language version of rap/hip-hop performed with its own unique rhythm, is particularly popular in Port Vila’s local nightclubs, where it is mainly heard by Westerners and visitors.


Vanuatu cuisine (aelan kakae) includes seafood, root vegetables such as taro and yams, fruits, and vegetables. Most island households produce their own food in their gardens, and food scarcity is uncommon. Throughout the year, papayas, pineapples, mangoes, plantains, and sweet potatoes are plentiful. Many recipes are flavored with coconut milk and cream. The majority of food is cooked on hot stones or by boiling and steaming; relatively little food is fried.

The lap lap is Vanuatu’s national dish.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Vanuatu

Before visiting Vanuatu, it is recommended that you get immunized against Hepatitis A and B, as well as typhoid fever.

Malaria is prevalent in certain parts of Vanuatu but not in Port-Vila. If you want to go outside of the resort regions, consult with your doctor beforehand. Malaria may not be prevalent, but you may come into touch with mosquito vectors and tourists from outlying islands who have malaria, especially during the rainy season and in hospitals. Dengue fever is also transmitted by mosquitos in Port Vila and elsewhere, especially during the rainy season. Be acquainted with the symptoms since there is no treatment for Dengue and Malaria, and the symptoms may be intermittent, leading to misdiagnosis. There are several local clinics on the outlying islands that can test you for Malaria, so find out where they are. Malaria preventive medications include adverse effects that may interfere with sun exposure, scuba diving, overall stability, and digestion.

The tap water in Port Vila is safe to drink, but it should be avoided elsewhere. Check with local customers. Outside of the major cities, bottled water is not accessible. Outside of the major cities, fizzy drinks but not beer may be accessible. In ten years of traveling and living in Vanuatu’s remoter regions, this writer has only heard of one yachtie contracting Giardia after drinking local water with permission. However, the water supply issue is becoming increasingly critical as a result of tourism, livestock rearing, fast growing population, and so on. Doctors experienced in treating typical traveler issues may be found at Port-Vila and Luganville. Any more severe issues may need medical evacuation.

While traveling in Vanuatu, be cautious of any minor wounds, scratches, or sores. Small sores, as in most tropical regions, may quickly get infected if appropriate hygiene is not practiced. The majority of these items require common sense. However, the sea water in Vanuatu will not cure your wounds; instead, it will make the condition tragically and quickly worse, requiring IV antibiotics and perhaps amputation. The iodine solution does not function and is said to aggravate the condition. Gentian Violet and Mercuro-Chrome [Cumulative Poison] are superior.



South America


North America

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