Foreign travel advice

Vanuatu

Summary

Vanuatu lies on the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ and regularly experiences natural disasters, including cyclones, volcanic activity, earthquakes and tsunamis, with over 2,000 seismic events reported each year. Alert levels and accessibility to volcanoes can change quickly. You should monitor the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department website for the latest updates and follow the advice of the local authorities.

The tropical cyclone season normally runs from November to May. You should monitor local and international weather updates and follow the advice of the local authorities.

The Vanuatu government has confirmed an outbreak of dengue fever in the capital city Port Vila and the provinces of Shefa, Sanma, Tafea and Torba. You should follow the advice of local authorities and take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Vanuatu, attacks can’t be ruled out.

Most visits to Vanuatu are trouble free. Crime levels are low but you should take normal precautions.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

There’s no British diplomatic mission in Vanuatu. The British High Commission in Honiara, Solomon Islands provides consular assistance for British nationals in Vanuatu. In an emergency the New Zealand High Commission in Port Vila or the French Embassy may also be able to help.

Safety and security

Crime

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. 

Before you travel, make copies of your passport, travel documents and travellers cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

Road travel

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. Numerous roads are not properly surfaced, and driving can also be dangerous due to a lack of street lighting, and the presence of pedestrians. Extra care should be taken when driving, particularly at night, in heavy rain or after a prolonged dry period.

Air travel

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. 

Sea travel

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.

Swimming

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.

Water sports

Many visitors to Vanuatu take part in water sports, including scuba diving and snorkelling without incident. However, deaths and serious accidents have occurred because of the lack of basic safety measures. 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 and medical insurance policy covers you for the activities you take part in.

Political situation

After a period of short-lived governments, the current administration has been in place for over 2 years. However, party politics is less stable with individual MPs often changing loyalties.

The President serves a five year term. The current State President, Tallis Obed Moses, was elected in July 2017.

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 companies TVL or Digicel.

Terrorism

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Vanuatu, attacks can’t be ruled out.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

Local laws and customs

You should respect local customs, which are strictly observed, and religious sensitivities.  

Do not beachwear when away from beaches and hotels. 

Homosexuality is legal in Vanuatu but open displays of affection between same-sex partners will attract adverse attention and may offend some. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

Drinking kava is an ancient tradition in Vanuatu. Kava is widely available at traditional ceremonies, at nakamals (kava bars) and at some hotels. Be aware of the British Medicine Controls Agency advice on kava consumption. It is illegal for supermarkets to sell alcohol between noon on a Saturday and 7am on a Monday. However, clubs bars and hotels may serve alcohol during these times.

Drug offences are punishable by fines, imprisonment or both. While there are no mandatory sentences for drug offences in Vanuatu, it is rare for a convicted person not to be fined or receive a jail sentence, even for ‘soft’ drug offences.

Most ni-Vanuatu (meaning people ‘of Vanuatu’) will allow you to take their photograph but you should always seek their permission first.

Land ownership in Vanuatu is an important and often sensitive issue. If you are travelling off the beaten track, be aware that you may be trespassing and required to pay a “visiting fee” to  the landowner.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Visas

British passport holders visiting Vanuatu do not require a visa and are normally given permission to enter and remain in the country for up to 30 days on arrival, provided that they are in possession of an onward or return ticket. 

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry from Vanuatu.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Vanuatu.

Health

Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.

The Vanuatu government has confirmed an outbreak of dengue fever in the capital city Port Vila and the provinces of Shefa, Sanma, Tafea and Torba. You should follow the advice of local authorities and take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, including using insect repellent, wearing long, light coloured loose-fitting clothing.

Medical facilities in Vanuatu are basic but adequate for routine treatment but are limited in range and availability. More serious cases will require evacuation to Australia or New Zealand. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad, medical evacuation and repatriation.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Natural disasters

Vanuatu sits along a volatile seismic strip called the ‘Ring of Fire’ in the Pacific. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis are possible.

Tropical cyclones

The tropical cyclone season in Vanuatu normally runs from November to May. Throughout this period there is a high risk of strong winds and heavy rains with associated flooding, landslides and road closures.

Monitor local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation, the Vanuatu Meteorological Service, local newspapers and local radio.

Vanuatu continues to recover from the impact of a direct hit from category 5 cyclone Pam in March 2015.

See our tropical cyclones page for advice about what to do if you’re caught up in a storm.

Earthquakes and tsunamis

Vanuatu is prone to significant year round seismic and volcanic activity, with associated risks of tsunamis. They are over 2,000 seismic events reported each year, most events are small scale, although larger tremors and quakes of over 5 on the Richter scale do occur on a regular basis.

Further information on earthquakes can be found on the US Geological Survey website. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and Vanuatu Meteorological Service provides real-time information on tsunamis in the region.

To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see the website of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Volcanoes

There are several active volcanoes in Vanuatu, located on the islands of Tanna, Ambae, Ambrym, Lopevi, Vanua Lava and Gaua. You should monitor local media reports and follow the advice of local authorities when visiting these areas.

The Vanuatu government’s Mines and Geology Department monitor volcanos and provide advice on the level of risk. There are five alert levels for volcanoes; from zero (normal, low-level activity) up to five (very large eruption, island-wide danger). An alert level of three will often be the trigger for warnings to avoid the summit of the volcano and nearby areas. Even at lower levels, explosions and injuries from volcanic debris can occur.

Alert levels and accessibility to volcanoes can change unexpectedly contact the Vanuatu Tourism Office for the latest advice before travelling to the areas where volcanic activity may occur.

More information on volcanic activity can also be found at the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department.

Money

The local currency is the Vanuatu Vatu (VUV). The use of credit cards is commonplace in Port Vila and Luganville but less so in the rest of Vanuatu, particularly away from tourist resorts. There are banking facilties and money exchange services in Port Vila through the following banks, ANZ, BSP (Bank South Pacific) and the National Bank of Vanuatu available 8.30am to 3.00pm Monday to Friday. Many offer ATM facilities covering most UK bank cards.

Travel advice help and support

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send us a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.