The local shop is really just a stall, very native with the homemade bags and clothes- sarong, dresses, etc..hanging by the branches of trees! There are no modern clothes hangers here, no fitting rooms, etc..The atmosphere is truly tropical so if you like something and needs to try a dress for instance, just use your towel or improvise, ask someone ( a relative for instance) to cover you up and then you do what you gotta do! Make sure you don't pay the first price quoted you as you can still haggle, no matter what, expecially if you're buying several items!
So the order of the day is flexibility when you are in the islands! Even when Mother Nature calls, my boys just hide among the bushes or better still, plunge yourself in the water and you're done,LOL! ( Make sure it is just one's ok? Shhhhhh!!!
What to buy: Colourful islander dresses are very comfy and coll to wear in the stinking Vanuatu heat so I bought a couple for me and my relatives! The handmade cloth bags are also great for shopping- at $3-5 each, they are a steal!
What to pay: Expect from $3- 5 for clothes and bags, probably the same for little purses and keycains. I also got surf wallets for my boys at $5 each, bargain! They are brightly embroidered with tropical landscape, fantastic!
There's not a lot of local craft to be found in Port Vila. In fact, there's not much in the way of anything souveniry to buy.
And where did all the postcards go? A very limited selection, they were the same in each shop I looked in. The best range of "traditional" souvenirs such as postcards, keyrings, magnets etc, was actually in the departure lounge of the airport. Strange, but true!
Otherwise, The Drug Store on Lini Highway seemed to have some nice things - I bought a beach towel and a couple of other things from there.
The outdoor "craft markets" near Numbawan Cafe is full of imported Chinese souvenirs, and what's more every stall seems to have the same souvenirs so there's not much of a range at all! So I'd avoid that one.
Hebrida Market Place (Vila Handprints) was good for handpainted shirts and sarongs, they're definately worth picking up.
You can find powdered Kava and Tanna Coffee beans at the Au Bon Marche supermarket near the food markets.
What to buy: Hand painted cheesecloth shirts. Handpainted sarongs. Coffee beans. Powdered kava.
What to pay: A fridge magnet at the outdoor craft market was 500VT. Nothing was cheap.
There are some good buys that can be made along the road that runs along the beach near the out door market. We found some great timber objects here that where nice and cheap. We bought boats, statues and hand carved fish the where made from solid timber.
Also there where some great little stalls that sold clothing for the ladies.
There where also some great duty free stores in town that sold just about everything you would ever want.at great prices.
All in all not to bad a place to shop.
When the ship docks and you go ashore the docks are packet full of stalls for the passengers to walk through on your way off the pier! There is no escape from these stalls as you must walk through all of them to get to the only exit into Port Vila.
The prices start off quite high when the ship first sails because it is quite busy with tourists. A few hours after the initial "rush" the prices are reduced by a few dollars because it is very quiet and they are chasing sales before they put the prices back up to their original price a few hours befoe the ship sales because it is once again very busy!!
You can find the same items in town at the big market in the main street for a little bit cheaper though!
What to buy: Sarongs, shells, necklaces, bags, wooden carvings, t-shirts, local produce, postcards etc.
Au Bon Marche Nambatu and Au Bon Marche Downtown are the supermarkets with the widest variety of food, drink and other necessities of life in Vanuatu.
What to buy: Be sure to bring home some Tanna Coffee - it is superb (the best I have ever had - and I'm a very picky caffeine addict -I brought home 3 kilos of it!). It is cheaper to buy it from the Au Bon Marche supermarkets in Vila (beans or ground) than on Tanna itself. I did notice that even in the supermarket the price was higher when the cruise ship was in though...
I found two duty free shops in Port Vila. Our taxi driver told me that one was cheaper.........can't remember which one! If you are visiting by cruise ship unfortunately the duty free shops comandeer your merchandise and sends them on to the ship. If it's cigarettes or alcohol you dont get it back till the night before you disembark. Beware of this if you plan to have your drinks in the cabin.
What to buy: Alcohol, ciggys, perfume...................
What to pay: I bought 40 oz bottles of Bundy Rum for $20 and cartons of ciggys for $22. There is a limit to how much you can buy.
Just walking around was a fascinating experience. Lots of stores and eateries. I found one store selling reduced brand name merchandise. Tee shirts - some were $10, shorts, sunglasses..........
I tried some locally made pastries at a little cafe. Of course plenty of touristy places - souvineers etc.
One interesting experience I had was when I was approached by an old man selling beaded necklaces. He had them in a bottle and I actually bought one - it was very nice.
What to buy: Most of the stuff I bought made it through customs. I was suspicious of a set of marakas made out of coconut shells. However they got through. Apparently if they are sealed with a clear paint they are ok. They only cost $2 anyway so no great loss if they had've been confiscated.
I was fascinated with the markets. A large outdoor market was set up in Vila and I spent quite a while browsing around. There were sarongs everywhere! - about $10. Locally made cotton beach bags $5 - $10 and beads, beads and more beads!. Every kind and combination you could think of. All very nice and very cheap. Some didn't make it through customs - avoid necklaces made with seads or beans. There were stalls where you could get your hair braided for about $10 and these places were very popular. Alot of local handicraft was for sale - you could spend half a day there.
They have a large covered fruit market as well with a huge selection of different fruits and vegetables. All quite ok to eat and the place was very clean. More pictures coming soon.
What to buy: The local handicrafts were intriguing. Hula skirts were popular as were the sarongs and timber carvings. I actually found a stall that sold old bottles and bought a coke bottle from the sixties.
In the shopping district they also have a couple of duty free shops for alcohol, ciggys and perfume etc. and one store sold bargain brand name clothing and sunglasses etc.
Pictures coming soon.
What to pay: This was not an expensive place to shop at. Most shops were reasonably priced and of course the markets had real bargains.
Unless of course, you plan on drinking it upon your return!
I purchased a large bottle to enjoy whilst away. Which is a great idea...until you factor in that a 1.25lt bottle of coke is about $8-
So, I was on rations...half a glass of Bourbon with just a splash of coke........
The supermarkets in Port Vila sell a lot of things that you'll find in the supermarkets at home. The use by dates and prices may not be so good though... A 2.25 litre bottle of Coke costed around 550 vatu (A$6.50)!!
What to buy: It's still cheaper to buy some bread and cheese/meat than to buy a meal at a cafe - just like at home - but don't expect really low prices...
The markets in Port Vila are fantastic. They sell fresh fruit and vegetables, jewellery, clothes, wood carvings, trinkets and so much more. The prices are fairly good for most things too - you will find the markets much cheaper than the shops.
What to buy: Jewellery, wood carvings, woven baskets...all of it... :)
What to pay: A necklace could cost anywhere between 200 vatu and 1500 vatu. A carving could be between 500 vatu and 12000 vatu...
Foreign cash, travellers cheques and major international credit cards (Amex, Diners, JCB, Mastercard and Visa) are widely accepted. Bankcard is not normally accepted.
Most shops close for 'siesta' 11.30am to 1.30pm. Eating places, banks, supermarkets and the Post Office do not observe siesta. Shops open on Saturday morning and some speciality shops and supermarkets open on Sunday morning. Suburban general stores
open early and close late seven days a week.
What to buy: The colourful market in the town centre
operates every day except Sundays for flowers, fruit, vegetables and handicrafts.
Handicraft Blong Vanuatu, located in the centre of Port Vila provides a wide selection of authentic handicrafts from many islands of Vanuatu.
What to pay: PAY what's asked! Usually taged wares.
No bargaining please, it goes against local tradition.
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