Vanuatu travel guide – Everything you need to know
Vanuatu – a pacific island paradise! The archipelago of Vanuatu is made up of 83 islands. Travellers come here seeking gorgeous landscapes, fantastic diving & snorkelling, rainforests, volcanoes, lagoons, stunning beaches and warm hospitality. Our Vanuatu travel guide will cover everything you need to know about this lush island nation.
Vanuatu travel guide – Vanuatu from above
This Vanuatu travel guide includes our best budget travel tips for those travelling on a budget (like us) and for travellers who have a little more to work with. Either way, you’ll be set with the best information on where to stay, what to do and how much things cost.
The dry season (the most popular season for most travellers) runs from April to October. There is much less rain and temperatures range from 18 to 30 degrees.
The wet (monsoon) season runs from November to March. You can expect humidity to be very high during and frequent showers at this time of year. Temperatures hover above 30 degrees.
Do you need a visa?
Entry visas are not required for nationals of the British Commonwealth and EU. Most visitors get a free 30-day visa on arrival. A valid passport (with at least 6 months validity), an onward ticket will be required to show immigration officials upon arrival.
Your visa can be extended for up to four months (for a fee) at the Department of Immigration in Port Vila. For more information about visas for Vanuatu, see www.governmentofvanuatu.gov.vu.
The currency in Vanuatu
Ni – Vanuatu Vatu (VUV). At the time of writing, 1 USD = 116.70 VUV.
I’d recommend bringing AUD or USD currency with you. You can change it in the money exchange shops in downtown Port Vila for the best rates. Australian dollars (AUD) are widely accepted here, however, you’re better off exchanging it for VUV to get the best price possible.
Note: We tried several different ATM’s in Port Vila to withdraw local currency and they all charge an additional 500-600 VUV fee on top of the amount you’re requesting. That’s super expensive, yet it seems unavoidable.
How to get to Vanuatu?
Vanuatu travel guide – How to get to Vanuatu
Depending on where you are travelling from, the cheapest flights to Vanuatu can be booked online. We researched a few different websites, however, Expediaseems to always have the best flights and the cheapest prices.
The best connections can be found with Air Vanuatu, Virgin Australia and Qantas. Air Vanuatu operates direct international flights to Port Vila from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
Getting connected: Sim cards & Wifi
Most hotels and many cafes have free WIFI, however, it is often unreliable. The two main network providers are TVL and Digicel. You can easily buy a sim card at the international airport or at one of their shops in town.
Data plans start from about 1000vt ($8.50 USD) for 1 GB of data, or 3500vt ($30) for 3 GB of data. Let us know if you find a better deal and we can then update this Vanuatu Travel Guide.
How to get around Vanuatu
Vanuatu has many islands on which you can stay and our Vanuatu travel guide includes all options on transport. The main island, Efate, has small local minivans that pick up and drop off around the island. Look for a ‘B’ fixed on the number plate and flag the driver down on the side of the road.
Tell him where you’re going and ask if he’s going that way. One of the quirks of this transport system is that there is no set bus route. The drop-off points are usually in the order of the people who got on, going directly to each person’s destination.
These trips cost 150vt ($1.30 USD) per person. It’s best to have a small change with you to pay the driver.
Transport options from Port Vila airport to your accommodation
This Vanuatu Travel Guide will also help you with getting from the airport:
Once you arrive at the airport in Port Vila, there are two ways to do this:
Take a private taxi – Exit the arrivals hall and find a taxi driver just outside. The standard rate quoted from the airport to your accommodation on the main island is 3500vt ($30 USD). You may be able to talk your way into a better price, but that all depends on how good your negotiating skills are.
Take local transport – This is exactly what we did and it’s very easy and much more affordable. Exit the arrivals hall at the airport and wait just outside for one of the small local minivans with a ‘B’ on his number plate. Flag the driver down when he comes past and tell him the address/road you’re going to. It’s worth just double-checking the price with him. Depending on how far away your accommodation is, he may charge you a little extra than the standard 150vt.
Our accommodation at the beautiful Nasama Resort was about 4km past the centre of Port Vila, located on Pango Road. We paid our driver 200vt each from the airport to our accommodation, he was happy with that. We were dropped directly in front of our resort, it was super easy.
The local minivans are very frequent on the main island of Efate so it doesn’t take much effort to get around using public transport.
Car hire in Vanuatu
Yes, you can also hire a car on the main island. Click here for the cheapest prices and to check availability. As a rough guide, prices start from around USD $70 per day.
The island is quite easy to drive around – but mind the potholes! Driving is on the right-hand side of the road in Vanuatu. Renting a car can definitely save you time exploring different beaches and reaching highlights of the islands.
Vanuatu Travel Guide: Where to stay in Vanuatu?
Efate (main island) – There are many options for accommodation in Efate. Most travellers will book a resort with access to the beach and facilities such as pool and restaurants etc and base themselves there.
We booked a beach view studio apartment at Nasama Resort for our stay in Vanuatu, and it was perfect.
Our beach view studio self-contained apartment at Nasama Resort
A great feature about the apartment is that it was fully self-contained, so we had our own kitchen to cook meals. It was nice to be able to cook breakfast and enjoy it with a coffee on our patio overlooking the beach each morning.
Alternatively, for those who don’t wish to cater for themselves, there is an on-site restaurant at the resort. Cafe Vila offers a breakfast, lunch and dinner menu in a very comfortable setting.
Our infinity pool at Nasama Resort
Our studio included a flatscreen TV with A/C and a ceiling fan too. The location of our apartment was literally on the doorstep to a beautiful little beach with turquoise blue waters and an infinity pool too.
Our fully self-contained kitchen at Nasama Resort
We’d definitely return to Nasama Resort on our next visit to Vanuatu – we didn’t want to leave!
CLICK HERE to check prices and availability for Nasama Resort.
Aside from the delicious and affordable market food, there are a few great places to eat in Port Vila – I’ve mentioned them below:
L’Houstelet – a French restaurant that has been open for over 45 years. If you’re looking for some well-cooked French-style cuisine, don’t look further than this restaurant, located directly across from the main supermarket in the centre of Port Vila. We enjoyed a delicious beef fillet with pepper sauce here, highly recommended.
Cafe Vila – This restaurant is part of the Nasama Resort, however, everybody is welcome to dine here and enjoy their fresh menu. The fresh fish here is delicious. It’s less than 10 min drive from town, take a local minivan for 150vt per person.
Chill Restaurant and Bar – Great views and some fantastic food at this restaurant in the centre of Port Vila. It’s a little on the pricey side, but a memorable dining experience.
Don’t miss out on eating some of the best food on the island. Located at the rear of the fresh central markets, you can find ‘mamas’ cooking home-cooked dishes. There are a number of different stalls set up here and you can choose who to dine with. Just take a seat at the comfortable tables – there are menus and prices on the tables.
I ate a coconut fish curry, served with rice and tropical salad – the price was 500vt ($4.25). It was delicious and a very generous portion. I’d highly recommend eating here for lunch during your stay.
My coconut fish curry from the market stalls. Delicious
You’ll also see ladies selling ‘ready meals’ in the markets, for takeaway. The food is home-cooked and wholesome. Different options available were chicken with vegetables (sweet potatoes, yams and green water spinach) and dried fish plus the national dish in Vanuatu, laplap.
The local ladies with home-cooked meals ready for take-away
Try the local food
Laplap is prepared by grating breadfruit, bananas and taro and making a vegetable paste. Coconut cream is added and a piece of meat such as chicken, beef or pork. It is wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in an underground oven. We purchased some chicken laplap from the markets to eat for lunch, later on, the price was 200vt.
The dish literally tastes like mashed vegetables and bananas with coconut cream added. It was tasty, yet a little bland. The serving size was huge and we struggled to eat the entire meal.
It can get very expensive to eat out for every meal, so if you choose to book an apartment as we did, having access to a full kitchen is priceless. We cooked quite a few meals during our stay here.
Our portable coffee machine was our saviour! It’s hard to find a good coffee on the island, and if you do, you’ll be paying at least $5 for one. We always travel with our espresso machine and a bag of freshly ground coffee.
A portable minipresso coffee machine is perfect for our travels
Things to do in Vanuatu
Vanuatu has some of the best beaches and diving/snorkelling in the world. Most guesthouses and hotels can organise daily excursions. However, I’d recommend saving yourself quite a bit of money and booking activities online.
These are the 3 most popular activities & day trips in Vanuatu
Vanuatu Travel Guide – The cost
How much does stuff cost from the supermarket?
**Index of prices** Price shown in VUV/USD
1.5L bottle of water 150vt / $1.30
Small NZ butter 220vt / $1.85
Canned tomatoes 160vt / $1.35
Baguette 60vt / $0.50
eggs (each) 40vt / 0.33c
1 x small bottle Tusker beer 225vt / $1.90
Tinned tuna 100vt / $0.85c
2min noodles 50vt / $0.42c
UHT milk 1L 150vt / $1.30
Bag spaghetti 500g from 150vt / $1.30
Bottle of wine 870vt / $7.40
Cost of fresh produce from the fresh markets
**Index of prices** Price shown in VUV/USD
Bunch of 12 small bananas 200vt / $1.70
Small punnet of baby tomatoes 200vt / $1.70
Pineapple 100-250vt / $0.84c – $2.10
Eggplant (x3) 200vt / $1.70
Avocado from 60-200vt / $1.70
Potatoes/sweet potatoes (sml bag) 200vt / $1.70
We picked up a few groceries at Au Bon Marche, a larger supermarket which is located next to the fresh central markets in Port Vila. It’s convenient to visit both at the same time. After shopping for food, we caught a local bus to our resort from the front of the markets for 150vt per person.
Best Beaches in Vanuatu
What would our Vanuatu travel guide be without telling you about the best beaches to visit while you’re here?
Eton beach – This is arguably the nicest beach on the main island of Efate. Expect white sand, palm trees and turquoise blue waters – just like you’ve seen in those travel magazines. The nearby reef cradles a natural pool where you relax and watch small tropical fish swim around you.
Paradise Cove beach – This beach is conveniently located near Port Vila. Bring your snorkel and enjoy some fantastic swimming and snorkelling while you’re here. This is a beautiful beach in a lush setting.
Hideaway beach – A popular place to come and enjoy a lazy day of swimming, snorkelling and relaxing. We noticed that the coral reef here has unfortunately suffered heavily due to the number of visitors trampling over it, yet it was still teeming with some beautiful tropical fish and underwater life. There is a beach restaurant here where you can enjoy lunch or a cold beer. You can also hire snorkelling gear at reception for a fee.
Hideaway Island is also home to the world’s only underwater post office, so kids (and adults) can get a kick out of swimming underwater to send that postcard from paradise!
Note: You must pay an entrance fee of 1250vt or $17 AUD for adults.
Champagne beach – A popular beach located on the island of Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu. The beach is famous for its shimmering crystal clear waters and powdery white sands. See the bubbly water rising up in the lagoon, caused by volcanic gas forcing the water to fizz through the rocks at low tide. This island receives many visitors on cruise boats from Australia.
Bokissa beach – Powder white sands, turquoise water and swaying palm trees. To the south of Espiritu Santo, Bokissa Island is an ideal place to escape and relax in paradise. Perfect for swimming, snorkelling and enjoying the warm tropical breezes of Vanuatu.
Other islands in Vanuatu worth visiting
Tanna Island – This is one of the other most popular islands to visit in Vanuatu. The biggest drawcard for visitors is to visit Mt Yasur Volcano. You can reserve simple accommodation in bungalows or even in a treehouse for incredible views of the volcano.
There are daily flights to Tanna with Air Vanuatu. Check availability and the cheapest flights can be found here.
Espiritu Santo Island – This island is popular for its fantastic beaches, its range of basic or luxury accommodations, hiking, relaxing and scuba diving and snorkelling.
Accommodation options in Espiritu Santo:
The Hidden Lodge – A great budget option with breakfast incl in the rate. Clean and comfortable rooms and staff are super friendly.
Beachfront Resort – A great mid-range option. Guests can enjoy a swimming pool, a restaurant and a bar on this property. Free Wi-Fi and continental breakfast.
Turtle Bay Lodge – A beautiful property with excellent reviews, included breakfast and set on a waterfront location. If you’ve got the budget to stay here, with prices starting at around $100 per night, then book it!
Things to remember about travel in Vanuatu
To visit many island beaches, hot springs, blue holes and caves, you’ll have to pay the landowners (in the form of entrance fees), so ensure you have some local currency or AUD with you.
Bring your own snorkelling gear to save on hire fees.
Tap water is OK to drink
English and French are widely spoken here.
Use local (shared) transport and boats to get around to keep costs down.
And that’s our Vanuatu Travel Guide. Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments.
Rach is a self-confessed travelling foodie. Her passion for food and culture has seen her eat her way through 187 countries. She's currently on a big food adventure to visit EVERY country in the world!
When Rach isn't travelling, you can find her at the beach, drinking coffee or wine with friends or chowing down on the best eats around her home city of Melbourne, Australia.