Vanuatu Travel Tips
The archipelago of Vanuatu is made up of 83 islands, and they all offer fantastic island views, landscapes, rainforests, great diving, lots of fish, and unforgettable Pacific hospitality. Prices here are a lot lower here than the other more well-known Pacific Islands as it’s not yet a “hotspot” to visit. But just because people don’t come here, doesn’t mean it isn’t paradise. In fact, it’s probably even more of a paradise because of the fewer people. The best time to visit between April and October.
Accommodation – Vanuatu doesn’t have many hostels but there are lots of budget hotels. A night in one of these will cost from $40-60 USD for a double room.
Food – Lunch and casual local meals cost around $15 USD, or closer to $40 USD if you’re going for a hotel dinner.
Transportation – Bus tickets cost around $1.50 USD each way. A few islands offer free ferry rides, such as the ferry to Hideaway Island. There are plenty of taxis in Port Vila, costing just slightly more than a bus ride.
Activities – Entrance to the Cascades waterfalls costs $22 USD, while snorkel hire will cost around $28 USD per day.
Money Saving Tips
See the Cascades with the bus – Get the bus to the Cascades for $4.50 USD and pay the $22 USD entry price. This will save you huge amounts on a tour cost.
Exchanging Money – Try to exchange your money in Port Vila as it offers a better return rate than everywhere else in Vanuatu.
Avoid the resorts – The big resorts overcharge for everything. You can get pampered at a local hotel for a fraction of the cost and your money moves around the local economy more. It’s win-win.
Top Things to See and Do
Go scuba diving – There is amazing diving here in Vanuatu with underwater tunnels, caves, grottoes as well as a great diversity. Try to check out the SS “President Coolidge” – the troop ship which sank during world war two as it is the largest wreck dive in the world.
Watch some Naghol – You might have thought that the bungee jump is a relatively new pursuit. However, it is in fact thousands of years old. On Vanuatu’s Pentecost Island you can watch the performance of early bungee-jumping techniques in traditional Naghol (land-diving) ceremonies. Vines are used to tie the legs together as jumpers leap from trees.
Go on a Village Tour – The tours the tribal villages are pretty informative and shed light on the people who live here- from farm life, economy, architecture, and more controversially, cannibalism. On some tours you will be greeted by the chief of the tribe. I think it’s important to learn about the places you visit so try to consider one of these cultural tours.
Visit Port Vila – In the capital of Vanuatu, you will notice the shared colonial influence of France and Britain. The food seems to be French-influenced while the language is a Pidgin English called Bislama. Along the main street you will find duty-free shops and shops selling crafts. It is very small for a capital city and is not very crowded and not too touristy.
Hike to the Mele Cascades – These waterfalls are some of the most famous in the whole country. They are easy to get to and the surrounding area is filled with jungles to take a hike in. Many people come here to picnic as well as cool off in the water.
Visit Chief Roi Mata’s Domain – This World Heritage site is half an hour drive north from Port Vila: the area of northwest Efate and the islands of Lelepa and Artok represent the Chief’s immediate area of influence. You can go on the ‘Roi Mata Cultural Tour’ which is a good way to support the local people. On the tour you will visit the National Museum and Cultural Center and then it is off to the Northwest of Efate to check out the domain.
Fly to Mystery Island – Just off the coast of the island of Tanna lies Mystery Island. This island is largely uninhabited, save for travelers who take the twice-weekly plane here to walk on its golden beaches, hike the jungles, and go snorkeling. It’s a nice and secluded place to visit.
Go ziplining – The Vanuatu Jungle Zipline will give you an adrenaline rush as you reach speeds of over 100 miles/hour on one of their six lines. Cross suspension bridges over an 80-meter canyon, and give yourself a thrill.
Snorkel at Hideaway Island Marine Reserve – Located near Port Vila, this marine reserve is a great area for snorkeling and diving, or just relaxing on the beach. There’s even an underwater post office in the area which lets you mail waterproof postcards!
Go boating – Rent a kayak, sailboat, or go on an organized boating tour around the islands. Kayaking tours will take you to a small coral island, which is a beautiful sight to see. An island nation needs to be explored by water!
Get in some watersports – Whether it’s kitesurfing, paddle boarding, or parasailing, you’ll find something on the beach that will tickle your fancy.
Soak in the hot springs – In the northeast of Efate, you can find some thermal hot springs. A local family runs the springs, but they are open to the public. Beware of the strong sulphur smell.
Go fishing – Fishing is a popular pastime (and job!) in Vanuatu, and there are many competitions held throughout the year. If you’re just looking for some fun, you can arrange a deep-sea fishing trip. These are not cheap, but they give you the opportunity to reel in catches like swordfish, marlin, Dorado, and Wahoo, Dorado.