VANUATU TRAVEL GUIDE
Vanuatu is a South Pacific Ocean nation made up of roughly 80 islands that stretch 1,300 kilometres. The islands offer scuba diving at coral reefs, underwater caverns and wrecks.
The chain of 83 islands reminded Capt Cook of the dark, forbidding, wind buffeted islands off the Scottish coast and he named them New Hebrides. The islands range from towering volcanoes to those covered in dense rainforests to those with wide beaches with deep natural harbours.
VANUATU QUICK FACTS
- Capital: Port-Vila
- Currency: vatu (VUV)
- Area: 12,200 km²
- Population: 292 680 (2018)
- Language: English, French, creole (known as Bislama or Bichelama) official; plus 100+ local languages
- Religion:Presbyterian 36.7%, Anglican 15%, Roman Catholic 15%, indigenous beliefs 7.6%
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VANUATU PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
- 21 February, Father Walter Lini Day (Father of Independence)
- 5 March, Custom Chief’s Day
- 24 July, Children’s Day
- 30 July, Independence Day
- 15 August, Assumption
- 5 October, Constitution Day
- 29 November, National Unity Day
- 26 December, Family Day
Also, Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Ascension Day.
FESTIVALS IN VANUATU
BEST TIME TO VISIT VANUATU
Vanuatu has two main seasons: the dry season and the rainy season.
- The dry season, also known as the "cool" season, typically runs from April to October. During this time, the weather is sunny and warm with little to no rainfall and mild humidity. This is the peak tourist season and the best time for outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, and snorkeling.
- The rainy season, also known as the "hot" season, typically runs from November to March. During this time, the weather can be unpredictable with more rainfall and higher humidity. The temperature is generally warmer during this time. However, it's also the best time to see the lush vegetation and waterfalls in full flow.
Additionally, Vanuatu is also prone to tropical cyclones which mostly happen between January to April. It's a good idea to check the weather forecast before planning a trip to Vanuatu during this time.
The best time to visit Vanuatu is between April and October, during the dry season. The weather is generally sunny and warm, with little to no rainfall and mild humidity. This is also the peak tourist season and the best time for outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, and snorkeling. The rainy season is between November and March, and although the weather can be unpredictable during this time, it is also the best time to see the lush vegetation and waterfalls in full flow.
VANUATU WEATHER SYNOPSIS
Vanuatu’s climate varies with latitude, from wet tropical in the northern islands, which receive over 4,000 millimetres (mm) of annual rainfall to the dryer subtropical in the southern extremes of the archipelago, where annual average rainfall measures 1,500 mm. Average temperatures range from 21°C to 27°C, and unlike many of the Pacific island nations, seasonal temperatures in the capital city of Port Vila exhibit high variability with summertime highs exceeding 30°C and minimum temperatures often reaching below 20°C. Seasonal and inter-annual variations in climate are driven by changes associated with El Niño, which affect every aspect of the climate in the Pacific. Cyclones are common during the warm months of November to April, although two recent cyclonic events were experienced outside of the traditional cyclonic season.
VANUATU TOURIST SEASONS
Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists.
Off Peak Season
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN VANUATU
HIKING & CYCLING IN VANUATU
The best time to enjoy outdoor activities in Vanuatu is during the dry season from May to October when temperatures are also a little cooler. During the rainy season, even though showers are generally brief it is much more humid.
BEACH OPTIONS IN VANUATU
The best time to enjoy the beaches of Vanuatu is during the dry season from May to October when temperatures are also a little cooler. During the rainy season showers are generally brief but it is much more humid. The water is always warm enough for swimming.
SURFING IN VANUATU
Although Vanuatu may not be typically associated with surfing, it is gaining a growing reputation among the global surfing community. With excellent conditions almost all year round, there is plenty of potential for surfing in Vanuatu. Surfers willing to travel to the outer islands islands will be rewarded with breaks that offer perfect hollow waves and ideal surfing conditions. The best time to surf here would be between March and December with consistent southern swells.
KITESURF IN VANUATU
Kitesurfing in Vanuatu will make you feel as though you have been taken back in time. The trade winds are most stable and predictable during the months of June, July and August when about half the days should be suitable for kiting. The winds are usually only around 12-15 knots, sometimes more. Make sure to take the tide into consideration as there can be shallow rocks.
For more details on kite surfing in Vanuatu expand this section!
HEALTH RISKS IN VANUATU
Be aware of possible health risks in
Yellow fever - The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure an infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.
Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
Malaria - Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.
Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.
VANUATU TRAVEL COSTS
The cost of traveling to Vanuatu can vary depending on a number of factors such as the time of year, the type of accommodation you choose, and your planned activities.
- A round-trip airfare from major cities in Australia and New Zealand to Port Vila, Vanuatu's capital, can cost anywhere from $300 to $800, depending on the carrier and the time of year.
- Accommodation can also vary widely in price. Budget-friendly options such as hostels and budget hotels can start at around $30 per night, while more luxurious resorts can cost upwards of $300 per night.
- Food and transportation in Vanuatu are relatively inexpensive. You can find a meal at a local restaurant for around $10 to $20, and a taxi ride within the city can cost around $10.
- Activities such as snorkeling, diving, and island-hopping can also add to the cost of your trip. A half-day snorkeling trip can cost around $50 to $70, while a full-day island-hopping tour can cost around $100 to $150.
Overall, it's possible to plan a trip to Vanuatu on a budget, but you should expect to spend at least $50 to $100 per day for accommodation, food, and activities.
Here's a sample budget for a 7-day trip to Vanuatu:
- Round-trip airfare: $600
- Accommodation (budget hotel): $210
- Food and drinks: $150
- Transportation (taxis and bus fares): $50
- Activities (snorkeling and island-hopping): $200
- Souvenirs and other expenses: $100
Total cost: $1210
Please keep in mind that this is just a sample budget and your actual costs may vary depending on your specific travel plans and personal preferences. To save money, you could opt for budget accommodation, cook your own meals, or stick to free activities like hiking, swimming, and exploring local markets.
It's also worth noting that Vanuatu has a relatively high value-added tax (VAT) of 12.5% which can add to the cost of goods and services, and is included in the prices of most things.
VANUATU TRAVEL TIPS
Here are some travel tips for Vanuatu:
- Pack light: many of the islands in Vanuatu have limited resources, so pack accordingly.
- Be prepared for the weather: Vanuatu has a tropical climate, so bring sunscreen, a hat, and light, breathable clothing. During the rainy season, bring a rain jacket or umbrella.
- Be respectful of local customs: Vanuatu is a culturally diverse country, and it's important to be respectful of local customs and traditions. Dress modestly when visiting villages and remove shoes before entering a traditional nakamal (meeting place).
- Bring cash: many places in Vanuatu do not accept credit cards, so make sure to bring enough cash to cover your expenses.
- Learn some Bislama: Bislama is the most widely spoken language in Vanuatu and is used as a lingua franca. It's a simplified version of English, and learning a few key phrases can make communication much easier.
- Be aware of tropical cyclones: Vanuatu is located in an area prone to tropical cyclones and the season is from January to April. It's a good idea to check the weather forecast before planning a trip to Vanuatu during this time.
- Take time to explore the islands: Vanuatu is made up of over 80 islands, each with their own unique culture and landscapes. Be sure to take the time to explore some of the lesser-known islands and experience the local way of life.
- Be cautious with sea activities: The sea around Vanuatu can be quite rough and currents can be strong. If you plan to go snorkeling, diving, or swimming, be sure to follow safety guidelines and be aware of any potential hazards.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF VANUATU
Vanuatu is made up of over 80 islands, which are grouped into six main regions:
- Efate: This is the most developed and most visited island in Vanuatu. It's home to the capital city of Port Vila and offers a wide range of activities such as swimming, snorkeling, diving, and hiking. Visitors can also explore the Mele Cascades, a beautiful waterfall, or take a trip to the Blue Lagoon, a popular spot for swimming and sunbathing.
- Espiritu Santo: Known as the "big island" of Vanuatu, Espiritu Santo is the largest and most diverse of the islands. It's home to several World War II relics, as well as beautiful beaches and lush forests. Visitors can also take a boat trip to the island of Aore to snorkel in the crystal-clear waters or explore the limestone caves at the Millennium Cave.
- Tanna: Known for its active volcano, Tanna Island is a popular destination for adventure seekers. Visitors can hike to the summit of Mt. Yasur, one of the world's most accessible active volcanoes, or visit the nearby hot springs and sulfur pools. Tanna is also home to a number of traditional villages where visitors can learn about the island's unique culture and customs.
- Malakula: Known as the "Island of the Cannibals", Malakula is home to a number of traditional villages where visitors can learn about the island's unique culture and customs. Visitors can also take a hike to the top of the island's highest peak, Mt. Tukosmera, or explore the beautiful beaches and coral reefs.
- Pentecost: Known for its traditional land diving, Pentecost is home to the famous Naghol, a traditional ritual where men jump from tall wooden towers with only vines tied to their ankles. Visitors can also explore the island's beautiful beaches and traditional villages.
- Ambrym: Known for its active volcano, Ambrym is a popular destination for adventure seekers. Visitors can hike to the summit of Mt. Marum, one of the island's two active volcanoes, or visit the nearby hot springs and sulfur pools. Ambrym is also home to a number of traditional villages where visitors can learn about the island's unique culture and customs.
Please keep in mind that this is just a general overview and each region have much more to offer to explore. It's recommended that you do your own research and plan accordingly based on your interests and priorities.
Vanuatu offers a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy. Here are some of the best things to see and do when visiting Vanuatu:
- Visit Port Vila: The capital of Vanuatu is a great place to start your visit. You can explore the local markets, shop for souvenirs, and enjoy the nightlife.
- Explore the island of Efate: Take a trip around the island of Efate and visit the Mele Cascades, a beautiful waterfall, or take a trip to the Blue Lagoon, a popular spot for swimming and sunbathing.
- Visit the World War II relics: Espiritu Santo is home to several World War II relics, including the Million Dollar Point, where you can see the remains of US military equipment that was dumped into the ocean at the end of the war.
- Hike to the summit of an active volcano: Tanna and Ambrym are popular destinations for adventure seekers, as they are both home to active volcanoes. Visitors can hike to the summit of Mt. Yasur or Mt. Marum for an unforgettable experience.
- Explore the island of Malakula: Known as the "Island of the Cannibals", Malakula is home to a number of traditional villages where visitors can learn about the island's unique culture and customs. Visitors can also take a hike to the top of the island's highest peak, Mt. Tukosmera, or explore the beautiful beaches and coral reefs.
- Visit the traditional land diving on Pentecost: See the famous Naghol, a traditional ritual where men jump from tall wooden towers with only vines tied to their ankles. Visitors can also explore the island's beautiful beaches and traditional villages.
- Snorkeling and Diving: Vanuatu offers some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world. With crystal-clear waters and an abundance of marine life, you can explore the coral reefs and shipwrecks, and see a wide variety of fish and other sea creatures.
- Visit the hot springs and sulfur pools: The volcanic islands of Vanuatu are home to a number of hot springs and sulfur pools, which are popular attractions for visitors. Relax in the warm waters and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
- Learn about the local culture: Vanuatu is a culturally diverse country, and visitors can learn about the local culture by visiting traditional villages, attending cultural shows, and experiencing the local way of life.
- Relax on the beautiful beaches: Vanuatu has many beautiful beaches, which are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and relaxing. You can also try water sports such as kayaking, surfing and windsurfing.
WHAT TO EAT IN VANUATU
Vanuatu offers a diverse range of cuisines, with influences from its Melanesian, Polynesian, and European heritage. Here are some of the best foods to try when visiting Vanuatu:
- Lap-lap: A traditional Vanuatuan dish made from grated yam or manioc, mixed with coconut cream and meat or fish. It is then wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in an underground oven.
- Coconut crab: Often considered a delicacy, coconut crab is a type of land crab that is found on many of the islands in Vanuatu. They are usually cooked in a curry or grilled.
- Taro: a staple root vegetable in Vanuatu, it is often boiled, baked, or mashed and served as a side dish or mixed with meat or fish to make a traditional dish.
- Fresh seafood: Vanuatu is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, so it's no surprise that seafood is a staple in the local cuisine. Try some of the local seafood such as tuna, mahi-mahi, and prawns.
- Fresh fruit: Vanuatu has a wide variety of tropical fruits, including pineapples, papayas, and mangoes. Many of these fruits can be found at local markets and make for a refreshing snack or dessert.
- Kava: A traditional drink made from the root of the kava plant. It is usually served in a bowl and is often consumed before meals or at special events.
- Bamboo shoots: a delicacy in Vanuatu that is usually cooked in coconut milk with meat or fish and served as a side dish.
- Palusami: A traditional Samoan dish made from taro leaves filled with meat or fish and coconut milk, then wrapped in banana leaves and
- Roasted pig: Roasted pig is a common dish at special events and ceremonies, and is usually served with a variety of side dishes and vegetables.
It's also worth noting that many local restaurants and hotels in Vanuatu offer international cuisine options such as Asian, Italian, and French.
LGBTQ IN VANUATU
WHERE TO STAY IN VANUATU
When visiting Vanuatu for the first time, there are several options for where to stay depending on your budget and preferences. Some popular options include:
- Port Vila: This is the capital and largest city of Vanuatu and offers a variety of accommodations, from budget-friendly guesthouses to luxury resorts. There are also many restaurants, bars, and shops in Port Vila, making it a convenient base for exploring the island.
- Efate Island: This is the main island of Vanuatu and is home to Port Vila. It is a good option for those who want to explore the island's beaches, forests, and waterfalls. There are also many resorts and bungalows on Efate Island that offer comfortable and affordable accommodation.
- Espiritu Santo: This is the largest island in Vanuatu and is known for its beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and diving and snorkeling opportunities. There are many resorts, bungalows, and guesthouses on Espiritu Santo, offering comfortable and affordable accommodation.
- Tanna Island: This island is known for its active volcano, Mt. Yasur, and its traditional villages. There are a variety of accommodation options, including traditional thatched-roof bungalows and more modern resorts.
- Ambrym: This island is known for its black-sand beaches and its ancient culture. There are many traditional villages on Ambrym, where you can stay in a traditional thatched-roof bungalow and experience the local culture.
- Malakula : This island is known for its diverse culture and traditional way of life. There are a variety of accommodation options, including traditional thatched-roof bungalows and more modern resorts.
- Epi island: This island is known for its beautiful beaches and crystal-clear waters, ideal for swimming, snorkeling and diving. There are several resorts and bungalows on Epi Island that offer comfortable and affordable accommodation.
Ultimately, the best place to stay will depend on your interests and what you want to see and do during your visit to Vanuatu. It's recommended to research the different options and choose the one that best fits your needs.
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