Many of the locals ferry tourists round in their cars for a reasonable fee. Our driver took the four of us on a tour around the country roads and villages. I think we paid $15 each for about 2 hours. We loved it, especially when a little boy in one of the villages ran over and gave us some beautiful ginger flowers. The villages were primitive but quite clean. I highly recommend visiting them.
Fondest memory: Vanuatu seemed to me to have stopped in time. It has an unspoilt beauty enhanced by the happy, friendly people who live there. It is not over commercialised yet is developed enough to cater for todays tourists. The people there are real characters, living by their local laws and customs. Apparently drink driving is not an offence and they seem to drive all over the road......fast!! If you want a true feeling of being in a tropical paradise without the hype and glamour Vanuatu is the place to go. More pictures coming soon.
Make sure you check that you can use your bank cards in Vanuatu before you get there. We had trouble getting money out of our savings account using our credit card (which we normally use). In the end we had to take money out of our credit card account just to have some cash. I would recommend taking your debit card as well as your credit card.
Most restaurants and resorts accept credit cards but the markets and some shops will not.
The Mele Cascades are beautiful!! It is about a 10 minute drive from Port Vila out to the cascades - about a 200 vatu bus trip.
There is a 1000 vatu charge on entry to the cascades and if you're lucky you will get a guide to show you around. Robert was our guide and he was excellent.
Favorite thing: Everywhere you drive around Efate you will see coconut plantations. One of our guides told us that they aren't native to Vanuatu but were introduced by the British and French many years ago. The coconuts are used for so many things these days though and the local people are very happy to have coconuts on their land.
The best thing you can do is get out and explore. There's not much in Port Vila except for shops and hotels, so hop on a bus or a boat and get around there's lots to see. I have different pages for all the islands we went to...it's really worth getting around and checking them out!
Fondest memory: The landscapes- blue green water, the friendly people and the fact that everything runs on Island Time- so relax! soon enough you'll be on your own time and turning up late yourself. I love the locals, they're so happy and friendly despite having so little. Very infectious and inspiring attitude.
Vanuatu, with its colourful past of English-French influences, has created
a great atmosphere of excellent dining, unsurpassed in the Pacific.
There are many excellent restaurants serving the complete variety of International cuisines.
Fine dining is also available in the main hotels.
Fondest memory: Do you speak french or english?
Which do you prefer?
only after this exchange ordering at the restaurant would commence.
Quite amazing to find both languages together in a people plus their 115 bislama dialects very much alive.
It seems to be a pretty common occurence in Port Vila for power shortages and/or blackouts.
Usually doesnt last long wheather the problem is rectified or if they start working on a generator, I'm not sure??? But I guess its just handy to have the little torch just in case.
Favorite thing: This is the place where you will see the most fish when snorkelling of all the Port Vila/ Mele popular spots. There are a lot of other people in the water with you, and the coral is damaged by storms, but the huge number and variety of fish more than make up for it. It costs 200VT to take a minibus from Vila, and there is a free little boat that runs people over to the island. If you aren't a local and don't work in Vila, it is 500VT to enter the island (more than worth it though). Tip: swim out to the fish holding a little bread out of the water - break small pieces off and toss them and watch the wall of fish swimming around you!
Favorite thing: Visit a backstreet store that makes the best homemade jams and pickles in The South Pacific go scuba diving, charter a seaplane to a deserted island look into the heart of an active volcano or stand in awe as you witness the primitive origins of bungy jumping.
TRAVEL TIPS TO VANUATU:
In order to minimize avoidable travel hassles later there are a few things to consider before embarking on your holiday to Vanuatu (or anywhere else for that matter).
1. Research your destination:
• Read good travel guides such as The Lonely Planet "Vanuatu & New Caledonia" (now in its 6th edition). Although sometimes out of date, (room rates have change, restaurants have closed, etc.. since the printing of the book, and sometimes criticized (for other destination) it is still a very reliable source of information on Vanuatu.
• Check out websites such as: www.vanuatu.travel , www.vtoa.toursvanuatu.com , www.vanuatu-hotels.vu , David Stanleys' (Moon books) site: www.pacific-pictures.com and naturally Google all your specific interests, i.e.: "diving Vanuatu", "horse riding vanuatu", fishing vanuatu" etc, this will provide a mountain of info.
• Make sure you have at least 6 months validity on your passport or you may find yourself unable to enter the country.
Acquire all the necessary information on issues such as visa requirements, health and medical issues, local laws, differences and cultural norms (from above mentioned websites & LP).
Vanuatu customs are becoming increasingly vigilant in their search for drugs and pornography (both big no no's in Vanuatu. For example even "Playboy" magazine and the likes is still banned in Vanuatu). Ensure your luggage cannot be tampered with, that all parts of your luggage are lockable.
In Vanuatu, the most economical and reliable transport is by bus (there are hundreds of them in the city). Second best is by taxi, but a little on the expensive side. Mopeds, and scooters are available, but the pot holes can be dangerous - ensure that your travel insurance covers this, and wear a helmet.
5. Plan ahead
Spare your family and friends' needless worry, stress and waste of their time. Scan or photocopy all your papers: passport, visas, bank accounts, prescription for medicine especially credit cards, medical records, identification, birth certificates (keep a copy with you and give one hard copy to someone you trust on their computer for immediate access in case you lose and need a new passport), Marriage certificates; in other words, everything you would need if you lost everything overseas (it happens too frequently and can be catastrophic on a public holiday!). Ensure that everything you need to identify yourself, or to access your financial and medical records is readily available.
Set up a variety of ways of being able to access money overseas, such as credit cards, cash etc. Your debit card will most probably not work in Vanuatu so check first.
Leave a copy of your itinerary with your family or friends.
Establish an email address that you can access whilst travelling in case of an emergency.
Take a mobile phone and obtain global roaming but remember that it may not work everywhere.
6. Whilst Travelling
Don't carry more cash than you think you need, and be aware that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras are targets for thieves (thieving from tourists is not common in Vanuatu).
Whenever possible, leave valuable documents such as passports, etc., in a safety deposit box or safe at your hotel.
If you must carry them, ensure you have them on your person not bags.
Lock your baggage when unattended, especially at airports, and on buses.
7. Personal Safety
~ Beware of local dress codes for men and women and local cultural sensitivities especially in public places. Naturally, respect the culture you are visiting.
If you must wear sexy and revealing clothing in public when in Vanuatu then you are probably having your holiday in the wrong place.
~ Stay away from unlit and back streets at night.
~ Keep your hotel door locked and meet visitors in the hotel foyer
~ Do not give out your hotel name or room number to strangers - or say it where it can be overheard
~ Think carefully before accepting an invitation to go out alone with a stranger.
In order to increase dramatically your chances of a trouble free holiday:
~ Get smart, don't buy, take or travel with drugs (remember: there is no part of your body customs will not hesitate to search).
~ Lock your bags - ensure there are no side pockets (zipper or other) left unlocked for someone to hide their stash whilst they accompany you on your trip.
~ It goes to say that you do not ask strangers to "keep an eye" on your luggage unless you trust them.
If you must, pick a family or elderly couple.
~ Never, never carry a parcel, bag or container for someone else at anytime.
~ Make sure your prescribed medicines are not considered illegal drugs overseas (contact the country's embassy) or see their website for information. Take your doctor's prescription for proof of legality (and reorder when abroad).
In Vanuatu, the possession of small quantities of "soft or person recreational drugs" can attract jail sentences or serious fines. Regardless, kiss your holiday goodbye!
8. Health and Safety Issues
Take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover all overseas medical costs. Make sure that your insurance policy covers your whole time travelling, and all the activities that you plan to do. i.e., ride motorcycles, scooters, bicycles or scuba diving. Repatriation back to your country etc.
9. Vaccinations and your health
It is wise to have a dental and general health check-up before travelling It may save you a lot of money and pain later. Further information on health travel, can be found on the following sites:
World Health Organisation
Health Services Australia
Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad
Travel Clinics Australia
Traveller's Medical and Vaccination Centres
10. Further (personal) precaution
If heading "off the beaten track" it pays to be cautious. Being prepared could save you falling ill and avoid your holidays being a costly health disaster.
Before you leave:
~ Enquire as to the condition of local tap water and food. If you have doubt, then bring/carry what you will need to sustain a healthy diet.
The type of diseases you may be exposed to are: Malaria, and TB. Assemble a small first aid medical kit for the situation you are most likely to be in (make sure to include Hydrogen Peroxide for coral cuts and Betadine antiseptic cream or Savlon antiseptic cream. Cicatrin powder is also great for nasty infections ...you can buy all these in Port Vila at two excellent chemists found in the city center: “The Drug Store” and “Healthwise Pharmacy”. (Our chemists are like family GPs here, both Australians, ask them and they will always help you out).
Precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes: note 99.99% of mosquitoes you may encounter in your travel do not carry Malaria or Dengue - so don't get paranoid, just be smart. Mosquitoes are not borne with Malaria; they have to find someone with Malaria to transfer the contaminated blood.
My wife and I lived 3 years on Tanna setting up a resort and never took any tablets and never caught anything more than a cold. Very few of our guests took anti malaria tablets. I travel extensively throughout the Vanuatu archipelago and have never ingested any pills but spray myself with Aoerogard (find 135ml plastic bottles perfect for the job) continuously if deep in jungles or around dark & wet locations. That said, it is ultimately an individual decision. But do wear light coloured, loose fitting clothing, they may get dirty faster but effect some deterrence to mosquitoes. Added advantage is they are also cooler to wear. Cover your arms and legs, regularly with insect repellent and sleep in mosquito-proof accommodation if possible. Burning mosquito coils at night is a must (light one coil at sunset whilst you will be having dinner and light a second one when you go to bed...guarantee you will have NO Mozzies anywhere near your room! If you have to go to a kava bar, and if people are coughing, you may be exposing yourself to TB as it is transferred through air by coughing. If you must stay, then move upwind!
The most common health problem in Vanuatu is not from mosquitoes but infected coral cuts as coral is everywhere, (roads are built of crushed coral), and hence you don't have to be at the beach to have a cut infected.
11. Reciprocal health scheme agreements
Some countries have these in place but many do not. Ensure you know before travelling and note that these health care agreements are not a replacement for travel insurance; they will not cover you if you need to be repatriated home.
99% of people that visit our shores do not fall ill, so let's not get carried away with health issues, but ensure an enjoyable holiday by being cautious.
That's it, it's all common sense really.
Have a great holiday in wonderful Vanuatu.
Fondest memory: The freedom and the unpoluted environment.
In all my travels, I've never seen such perfection. UNTOUCHED perfection. Not something that's been landscaped to look nice (i.e. Hawii). The whole island was like something out of a dream: friendly locals, fresh fruit growing everywhere, white and black sand beaches, thick rain forest, spiders and centipedes the size of New York rats, amazing reefs... and not a single tourist in sight.
Fondest memory: Reflecting on my two months on the island of Santo, I suppose I think most frequently of the beaches, specifically Champagne Beach (incidentally, the only beach I went to with a proper name). My day on that beach was unreal (see my "must see" tip).
Perhaps my fondest memories, though, would be riding around in the back of pick-up trucks on bumpy dirt roads through the rain forest. We would lie back and stare up at the HUGE vampire bats and flying foxes circling above the canopy.
The markets are definitely worth looking at if you're in Port Vila...they sell all sorts of things from wooden carvings to vegetables to jewellery.
The markets are easy to find...right in the main street of Vila.
Pentecost Island is where bungee jumping originated and still occurs today. This ancient rite of initiation is very sacred to the people of the island. Although, according to legend, it was a young woman who escaped an evil chief by challenging him to leap from a tree with her (she had a vine attached to her ankle, he did not), only men jump today.
Every spring young men freefall into space to test their testosterone level, from 100-foot high towers with only a vine tied around their ankles. Jump dates are scheduled throughout April and May when vines are most supple.
Make sure to get out and about. I found Port Vila to be one of the friendliest towns I have ever been to. The locals are amazingly friendly and laid back. A smile is all you need in this town.
Fondest memory: The image of this tropical paradise will stay with me forever, everything is lush and green and overgrown.
You must visit the following:
1. Drinking kava at the kava-bars of Port Villa
2. Visit Tanna Island in the far south to see the volcanoe, swim with the dugong, get on a 4-weel, drive into the bushes, and meet the locals to see their traditional dancing
Fondest memory: The people, the volcanoe, the stories of canibalism!
This pic...is right at the active volcanoe...while the volcanoe explodes every 2 minutes...this mamma is washing her kids in the neaby lake...scary...but life goes on.
OK, I have to confess I didn't actually stay at this hotel, but I did spend some time strolling...more
Po Box 24, Efate, Efate, VU
My partner and I planned 2 weeks on Vanuatu from 29 June to 13 July. We had booked 2 resorts, the...more
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