Vanuatu Visitor Information

Welkam long Vanuatu (‘welcome to Vanuatu’ in Bislama).  Okay – let’s see if we can find info for each letter of the alphabet to make this a genuine mini-A to Z guide to Vanuatu!


There is an ANZ ATM on arrival at the airport and there are ANZ and Westpac ATM’s outside the banks in the main street. ANZ has ATMs outside supermarkets.

Tusker BeerBEER

There is a wide variety of Australian, New Zealand and European imported beers but the local drop, Tusker, is very good and less expensive as there is a hefty import duty.


There are a number of car rental businesses. We recommend Hertz and can arrange a good deal. Driving is on the right-hand side of the road.

At one point in the joint rule French/English condominium days they drove on both sides of the road so the government decided that the next vehicle to arrive in Vanuatu would dictate which side of the road was used, depending on where it originated from – it arrived from New Caledonia (French). So there you go…

And do you know how many people you can legally fit in the back of a truck? One more!


There are three chemists in the main street – Healthwise and The Drug Store are the English ones and there is a French ‘pharmacie’. They stock everything you will get at home but it is more expensive because it has to be imported.


The climate is tropical, with the heaviest rainfall and humidity through November to February. The maximum temperature is around 28° to 30°C. The water temperature is pleasant all year round. Click here for the current Port Vila weather forecast.


If you get a scratch or graze (and it can happen without you knowing while snorkelling – it’s only when the air hits do you realise), nature’s cure is to squeeze lemon or lime onto the wound. The best stuff to cleanse the wound is Hydrogen Peroxide (if it doesn’t fizz, it’s not infected), followed by an anti-bacterial cream and cover with a dressing. In Australia or New Zealand you would leave it uncovered and let the air heal – in the tropics it’s the reverse.


The currency in Vanuatu is the vatu. The easiest way to get your head around it is to divide by 10 to get an approximation (e.g. 1000 vatu = $10.00) but at time of writing the exchange rate was 92 AUD and 72 NZD – here’s a link to currency conversion.


The inbound duty is two litres of spirits and 2.25 litres of wine (3 bottles) and 200 cigarettes (or equivalent). You can buy duty free beer and spirits on arrival.


The vast majority are three pronged plugs (same as in Australia and New Zealand) – the two pronged ones are found in just a few French built/owned properties.


It’s a good idea to take a small first aid kit to be on the safe side, and because pharmaceutical items are expensive. Include Panadol/Panadeine, Berocca, Hydrogen Peroxide for coral cuts, Bandaids and Imodium/Buscopan for possible tummy upsets, sunscreen and insect repellent.


Frangipanis are delightfully scented white flowers with yellow centres (and occasionally pink). The name comes from the Marquis Frangipani of Rome, who invented a perfume for scenting gloves in the 16th century. Just a bit of trivia…


There is an excellent 18-hole golf course at Mele, about 15 minutes from town. Saturday is competition day and visitors can only play with proof of handicap on that day – every other day, hack away!.


For a range of handicrafts from carvings, t-shirts, necklaces and coconut bras (‘basket blong titi’ in Bislama) head to the souvenir markets on the harbour next to the Nambawan Cafe. ‘Nambawan’ in Bislama means ‘Number One’ or ‘excellent’. You can take wood carvings home with you, as long as you present them at Customs for inspection.



Just a reminder that Vanuatu is in the tropics and while it never gets really ‘hot’ it can certainly feel it because of the humidity. Temps range pretty much year round between 23°C and 30°C and the water is always warm. When going on an outing or an activity like a round of golf, take a bottle of water and wear sun protection.


There are two horse riding ‘ranches’ – Club Hippique Aquatic Park and l’Hippocamhpus (The Sea Horse Ranch).


Many travellers to the tropics get mild tummy upsets. This may not be the fault of the tropics as much as a change of time zone and diet and the body doesn’t like it (who has a full cooked breakfast every day and that extra few drinks every night at home?) While there are natural remedies like lots of water, packing Imodium or similar to take with you may come in handy.


Travel insurance is cheap – because most people don’t get to use it – but if you do, it could save thousands of dollars. Flights do get delayed, connections do get missed, people do get sick or have accidents and property can get stolen or go missing. A good policy for Australians travelling to the South Pacific is SureSave Travel Insurance (even covers your pets boarding if you are delayed getting home!)


You may see a few but they will be harmless – there are no dangerous ‘stingers’ like in the Northern Territory or Tropical North Queensland.  Jellyfish eat and poo through the same orifice.  Good thing evolution, eh?

Vanuatu KavaKAVA

Vanuatu kava is more potent than other places in the Pacific and is readily available – the packet stuff is even okay to take home.  A guide to kava, a bit like martinis or breasts – one is too few, three is too many.  Happy numb tongue!


There are three ‘official’ languages in Vanuatu – English, French and Bislama. Bislama is ‘pidgin English’ with a few French words.

To say thank you in Bislama, “tank yu” or “tank yu tumas” which means “thanks a lot” (thank you too much).

On Erakor Island you will find a unique way to call the ferry – “Sipos yu wantem ferry, yu kilim gong”.  “Killim means “hit” – so a little hit is “killim smol” a hard hit is “killim strong” and if a hit results in death, well, “killim ded”.  The best way to read Bislama is to say it out loud – this sign is asking you not to climb.


Malaria tablets aren’t necessary for a Vanuatu holiday but insect repellent might be handy for comfort. Doctors will tell you that Vanuatu is a ‘malaria country’ but these days that’s only on the outer islands, not in Port Vila or the main island of Efate.  We don’t take them on Tanna or Santo either.


These are the dimly lit places you find kava.  In Vila, Ronnie’s Nakamal is popular with expatriates, some of whom are real characters – they will make you welcome.


Unlike Noumea where topless bathing is de rigueur nudity in Vanuatu is a no-no.


Touristy businesses, banks and supermarkets stay open all day but government offices like to retain the tradition of siesta and close from 11:30am to 1:30pm.


Your passport should have six months validity from your arrival date. If you lose you your passport the Australian High Commission’s number is 22 777 and the New Zealand High Commission is 22 933.


Qantas only code shares with Air Vanuatu in case you are wondering why you had a Qantas ticket but found yourself aboard the NF flight.  The Air Vanuatu plane is serviced once a week by Qantas maintenance in Brisbane.


Very handy for walking on reefs (preventing coral cuts or urchin spikes) and waterfalls, which can be slippery.  They’re not expensive and if you don’t take your own, there are cheap canvas slip-ons in the Chinese stores.


You may see sea snakes in the lagoons from time to time, often banded black and white – probably est to leave them alone but the story is that their mouths can’t open wide enough to bite the webbing between a baby’s fingers.  To date we haven’t found a mother willing to assist with the experiment.


The buses are arguably more reliable than the taxi services and certainly cheaper. Ask the taxi driver for a rate before hopping in. Taxis have a ‘T’ in front of the number plate. Buses have a ‘B’ in front of the number plate and are plentiful – they also drop door-to-door for 150 vatu around town.


In non-daylight saving time Vanuatu is an hour ahead of east coast Australia and is on the same time zone as the states that have daylight saving during that time. New Zealand is normally two hours ahead of Vanuatu

Vanuatu money vatuTIPPING

Tipping is not encouraged in Vanuatu. Tip with a smile and “tank yu tumas”. Melanesian custom says that if you give something for nothing, the person receiving will owe you – and that’s how a tip is perceived. Bargaining at the markets can also be taken as an insult.  Here is a money tip for Australians – the exchange rate is close to parity so when you see a big number, whack a decimal point in there – that’s ten bucks on the right.


It can rain in Vanuatu and most resorts will have a colourful umbrella in your room or at reception for loan.  If not, they cost less than $10 at the Chinese stores.  In fact, these stores have an amazing array of stuff from hot dim sims to cold rat traps!


There is a 12.5% Value Added Tax on all goods and services. This is usually included in the quoted price.


The tap water is safe to drink but if you are worried, bottled water is readily available. Whatever you decide, the important thing in the tropics is to drink plenty of it to stay hydrated.

There is a high calcium content in Port Vila water so you may get white specks in your tea or the shower rose can become clogged (a paper clip sorts that out).

And water temps for swimming don’t change that much throughout the year – around 24 degrees Celsius.


Okay, a bit of an excuse to find an X-word but pornography is frowned on whether in magazine or online – just be tidy!


Yessir, got away with ‘Y’ coz Mt Yasur is the active volcano on Tanna.


A reminder that the tropical sun can burn easily and sunburn can get in the way of a good time. Use SP30+, but for total protection on tops of ears, lips, nose and other sensitive areas, nothing beats impenetrable zinc cream! Use it with zest!!

Lukim yu (Bislama for “see you”)…

We have compiled what we believe to be the definitive information web site, Vanuatu A to Z, but if you have any specific queries, drop us an email and we’ll do the best to help you out.