General info for the first-time traveller
Here's the sort of thing I like to know about a place if I know nothing about it and am about to go ther! (Obviously not comprehensive. ^_^.)
General: Vanuatu is a smallish tropical country in the Pacific, about 2 1/2 hours' flight from Brisbane, Australia. It comprises over 83 islands; the capital Port Vila is on the island of Efate. Vanuatu used to be called the new Hebrides and was co-ruled by the French and British; recently it became independent. The local people are Melanesian and are called the 'ni-Vanuatu'. The official language is Bislama, a pidgin language, but most people also speak English and/or French. The currency is called 'vatu'.
Cost: Vanuatu is not cheap, though not prohibitively expensive. Prices are comparable to Australia, though some things (like taxis) are cheaper. Accommodation, travel between islands, and food, are not particularly cheap, but the markets offer cheap fresh fruit etc. The reason for higher costs are that the things foreigners buy are imported specifically for tourists and ex-pats - the ni-Vanuatu can't afford them and are rarely found in restaurants etc.
Health risks: Not many if you stick to the beaten track. A little danger of wasp stings or dog bites (off the beaten track). Malaria can be a problem if you go beyond Efate. It's actually safe to drink the water in Vanuatu, though I was warned against some of the more disreputable-looking food stalls. (If it looks safe to eat, it usually is. Fresh fruit and vegetables should be fine too, since the water is safe as mentioned.)
Size/population: The population of Vanuatu tend to live in villages scattered throughout the islands; the 'metropolitan centre' and capital, Port Vila, is quite small, like a country town - like, two main streets and a few back streets. If you're expecting something like Kuta in Bali, it's nothing like - the traffic is low, there are no traffic lights, it's quite quiet and low-key. Safety: Vanuatu is a relatively safe place. There's some political instability and anti-foreign sentiment, but I think it rarely (never?) translates itself into violence or nastiness against foreigners. That said, take obvious precautions about safety: don't rile the animal and insect life; don't go swimming without finding out if it's safe; if you're a woman don't go around alone at night. I had the recommendation not to, as a woman, take a taxi alone. But I've never heard of anyone having bad experiences here, safety-wise.
Conservatism: Because of the missionary influence, the women dress quite conservatively; a lot of them wear distinctive 'Mother Hubbard' dresses. The rules are different for foreigners - you can wear what you like - but when you're out and about (and not in a resort or something) it's probably polite not to walk around in bikini tops etc.
Weather: Hot and humid; tropical climate. The wet season corresponds to Australia's summer; it's probably more pleasant in the middle of the year. The sun can be quite hot; sunscreen is recommended. People living in Vanuatu tend to go to bed earlier and get up earlier than in Australia as both sunrise and sunset are quite early.
Things to do: If you don't like swimming or relaxing, you probably won't want to stay a very long time. The pace is slow and sleepy; take it easy! Snorkelling, scuba diving and going on cruises are popular; there are also traditional village tours, a fantastic active volcano (on Tanna island), various resorts, tours around islands... If you're away from Efate (the island where the capital Port Vila is), you can probably go a long while seeing hardly any other foreigners. There isn't a great deal of good shopping around.
Getting around: Getting around is very easy; buses are prevalent and cheap - they can be flagged down like taxis and they take you where you want to go. Taxis are not much more expensive than buses if there are more than two or three of you.