World Travel Guide > Guides > Oceania > Vanuatu

Vanuatu travel guide

About Vanuatu

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.

Key facts


12,190 sq km (4,707 sq miles).


270,470 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

22.3 per sq km.





Head of state:

President Nikenike Vurobaravu since 2022.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Charlot Salwai since 2023.

Travel Advice

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you:

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

About FCDO travel advice

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

This information is for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK. It is based on the UK government’s understanding of the current rules for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Vanuatu set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Vanuatu Department of Immigration and Passport Services.

COVID-19 rules

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Vanuatu.

Passport validity requirements

To enter Vanuatu, your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 6 months after the date you arrive.

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.

Visa requirements

You can visit Vanuatu without a pre-arranged visa for up to 30 days. Border officials will issue you with a visa on arrival. You must have a ticket for onward or return travel. 

To stay longer than 30 days or to work, study, travel for business or other reasons, you must have a visa. Contact the Vanuatu Department of Immigration and Passport Services.

Vaccine requirements

For details about medical entry requirements and recommended vaccinations, see TravelHealthPro’s Vanuatu guide.

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Vanuatu. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.


There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Vanuatu

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


Protecting yourself and your belongings

The risk of crime is generally low but there have been:

  • burglaries accompanied by violence
  • some instances of street crime and attacks on foreign nationals, including on tourists at nightclubs and bars in Port Vila

Take sensible precautions as you would in the UK.

Laws and cultural differences

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

Dress code

Do not wear beachwear away from beaches and hotels. 

Alcohol laws and bans

It is illegal for supermarkets to sell alcohol from midday on Saturday to 7am on Monday. However, clubs, bars and hotels may serve alcohol during these times.

Kava drinking ceremonies

Kava is a traditional drink in Vanuatu used in kava ceremonies, at kava bars (‘nakamals’) and at some hotels. Some nakamals, particularly outside of Port Vila, do not welcome women. Be wary of the effects of kava and consume it responsibly. Kava is banned from entry to the UK due to concerns about its health impacts.

Illegal drugs and prison sentences

Avoid all recreational drugs. Possession of even small quantities can lead to imprisonment and a large fine.

Using cameras

Most people in Vanuatu will allow you to take their photograph, but you should always get permission first.

Mobile phone coverage

Ask your service provider if your mobile will work in Vanuatu. A 4G network is available but coverage varies across the country. You can also buy SIM cards from local phone companies Vodafone or Digicel, including at Port Vila airport.

Visiting fees

Land ownership in Vanuatu is an important and often sensitive issue. If you travel off the beaten track, you may be trespassing unless you pay a ‘visiting fee’ to the landowner. At most beaches you will also be asked to pay an entry fee.

LGBT+ travellers

Same-sex relationships are legal in Vanuatu. However, showing affection in public may attract unwanted and negative attention and is likely to offend some people.

Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.

Outdoor activities and adventure tourism

Swimming safety

Take care when swimming, diving or snorkelling in the sea as currents can be extremely strong. Coral reefs can easily cause cuts and scrapes. There are reports of water quality issues in some of the lagoons, and there are sharks in Vanuatu waters. Be cautious and follow the advice and instructions of local authorities.

See water safety on holiday from the Royal Life Saving Society.

Water sports and scuba diving activities

Many visitors to Vanuatu take part in water sports, including scuba diving and snorkelling without incident. However, water sports activities have on occasion led to injuries and deaths because of a lack of basic safety measures. To reduce risks:

  • use licensed water sports centres or operators
  • get any paperwork signed in advance
  • make sure you get a safety briefing before starting

Diving schools and rescue service standards are not always as high as in the UK. Check the dive operator’s credentials and make sure your insurance covers you.

To reduce risks:

  • ask your dive operator to explain what cover they offer before signing up
  • check safety equipment is available on the boat
  • check the operator’s plans for emergencies, including their ability to evacuate divers to the nearest hyperbaric chamber

Vanuatu has 2 hyperbaric recompression chambers, both in Port Vila.

See water safety on holiday from the Royal Life Saving Society and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents watersports safety abroad guide.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in Vanuatu, see information on driving abroad.

You can use a UK photocard driving licence to drive in Vanuatu. If you still have a paper driving licence, you may need to update it to a photocard licence or get the correct version of the international driving permit (IDP) as well.

Driving conditions

Many roads in Vanuatu are not properly surfaced. A lack of street lighting and the presence of pedestrians and animals makes roads particularly dangerous at night. Take extra care when driving at night, in heavy rain or after a prolonged dry period.

Driving standards are below those in the UK and many vehicles, including public transport, are in a poor state of repair and may not be insured.

Air travel

International and inter-island travel by the domestic airline, Air Vanuatu, is often subject to delays. Natural disasters and other events can affect flights at short notice. Contact your airline or travel agent if your flight is affected. Vanuatu’s outer island routes are serviced by small aircraft, and airports and airstrips have quite basic facilities. 

Sea travel

Boat services between the islands are infrequent and can be unreliable. Boats travelling between the islands should have current sea-worthiness certificates, but many do not. Look into their safety before taking these services.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

Vanuatu is in an active seismic region known as the ‘Ring of Fire’. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis are possible. Tropical cyclones are also a risk.

Find out what you can do to prepare for and respond to extreme weather and natural hazards.

Tropical cyclones

The tropical cyclone season in Vanuatu normally runs from November to May, but cyclones can happen throughout the year. During the cyclone season there is a greater risk of strong winds, heavy rains, flooding, landslides and road closures.

Monitor local news and check World Meteorological Organization weather reports for Vanuatu and the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department.

Earthquakes and tsunamis

Vanuatu is in an earthquake zone and is prone to significant year-round seismic and volcanic activity, with an associated risk of tsunamis. There are over 2,000 seismic events reported each year. Most events are minor, but earthquakes over 5.0 magnitude happen regularly. Make sure you understand local safety procedures for earthquakes and tsunamis.

Check Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department updates on seismic activity.

The US Federal Emergency Management Agency has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake or tsunami.


In Vanuatu there are active volcanoes on the islands of:

  • Ambae
  • Ambrym
  • Epi
  • Gaua
  • Lopevi
  • Tanna
  • Vanua Lava

Volcano alert levels can change unexpectedly, and you may not be able to access an island if a volcano is active.

Before you travel to an area with volcanoes:

  • contact the Vanuatu Tourism Office for the latest advice
  • make sure your travel and medical insurance covers you
  • monitor local news and follow the advice of the local authorities

For current volcano alert levels, see the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Call 115 and ask for an ambulance.

For a fee, Promedical provide a 24-hour ambulance service in Port Vila and Luganville.

Contact your insurance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Vaccine recommendations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip:

See what health risks you’ll face in Vanuatu, including:

  • malaria
  • dengue
  • chikungunya


The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.

Healthcare in Vanuatu

Medical facilities in Vanuatu are basic and limited in range and availability. There are medical clinics in Port Vila, some with Australian-trained GPs, which offer primary care. 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.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Vanuatu

Ambulance: 115

Fire: 113

Police: 111 or 22222

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

You can also contact FCDO online.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you are in Vanuatu and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Consulate General in Sydney, Australia, who help British nationals in Vanuatu.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

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