Vanuatu travel guide
If you can confidently point to Vanuatu on a map then you’re a better geographer than most. Drifting like flotsam in the Pacific Ocean, this little-known nation has much to offer intrepid travellers and is all the more appealing for its obscurity.
Made up of approximately 83 islands, the geologically active archipelago is a natural playground of colourful coral reefs, bubbling volcanoes and lush rainforest. Visitors can drive up to the crater of Yasur, cited as the most accessible active volcano in the world, sea kayak round the islands’ sandy shores, explore underwater WWII relics, or hike and bike through coconut plantations and steamy jungles.
Those less disposed to physical exertion can always while away lazy days on Vanuatu’s bountiful beaches, which really are the picture of tropical island idyll. Or why not charter a boat and hop from one island to the next? Wherever you go expect a good feast: the food here is absolutely exquisite, a testament not only to talented local chefs, but also the profusion of fresh ingredients that grow on this fertile archipelago.
Warm and welcoming, with a rich and sometimes mysterious traditional culture, the ni-Vanuatu people greet visitors as friends and are keen to share stories about their country, which was declared the happiest nation on the planet in 2006. The Happy Planet Index hasn’t bestowed this title on Vanuatu since, but it’s still pretty jovial by all accounts.
Tourism in Vanuatu is largely centred on the islands of Tanna, Espiritu Santo and Efaté, with most international visitors arriving on the latter. From here it is easy to travel by boat or plane to the rest of the country, which caters for travellers of all stripes. Sure, it’s skewered to the well heeled, but amongst the high-end beach resorts are a smattering of wallet friendly options. Proof that paradise needn’t break the bank.
12,190 sq km (4,707 sq miles).
270,470 (UN estimate 2016).
22.3 per sq km.
Acting President Esmon Saimon since 2017.
Prime Minister Charlot Salwai since 2016.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. Australian-style plugs with three flat, angled pins are used.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Crime rates are low, but increasing. Burglaries are often accompanied by violence. Make sure you lock doors and windows at night. Street crime is also increasing and you should avoid making yourself an easy target, especially at night. There have been a number of attacks on tourists at nightclubs and bars in Port Vila. Check with the Vanuatu Tourist Office or your hotel on places where extra caution is required.
There have been several serious attacks on foreigners, including lone women, in isolated locations. Avoid visiting remote tourist sites or beaches alone. Where possible, travel as part of a larger group.
You can drive in Vanuatu on your UK driving licence. General driving standards are below those of the UK. Many vehicles, including public transport, are in a poor state of repair and may not be insured. Many roads are not properly surfaced, so extra care should be taken when driving on them, particularly in heavy rain or after a prolonged dry period.
Inter-island travel by the domestic airline (Air Vanuatu) is very expensive and subject to delays. Vanuatu’s outer island routes are serviced by small aircrafts, and airports and airstrips have quite basic facilities.
Boat services between the islands are infrequent and can be unreliable. Inter-island boats should have a current sea-worthiness certificate, but many don’t.
Seek local advice from the Provincial Council Office and elsewhere before swimming in the waters off Vanuatu, particularly around the islands of Malekula and Espiritu Santo. Sharks are known to be present in these waters and deaths have occurred.
Many visitors to Vanuatu take part in water sports, including scuba diving and snorkelling without incident. However, deaths and serious accidents have occurred because basic safety measures weren’t taken. Safety precautions and emergency responses may be less than those expected in the UK.
Vanuatu has two hyperbaric recompression chambers to provide medical assistance for dive-related injuries, both located in Port Vila.
Make sure your travel insurance policy covers you for the activities you take part in.
Party politics in Vanuatu is in a continuous state of flux with frequent splits and coalitions. Although slowly diminishing, the Anglo/French divide continues to be important in politics, with parties generally being either predominantly anglophone or francophone.
The President serves a five year term. The current State President, Baldwin Londale was elected in September 2014.
14 MPs have recently been convicted of offences relating to corruption.
You should take extra care around political gatherings and follow instructions from the local authorities
Mobile phone services
There is a GSM mobile phone service in Vanuatu and you should contact your service provider to establish whether your phone will work in Vanuatu. Alternatively, SIM cards may be purchased from the local telephone company (TVL).