Planning a trip to Vanuatu is not an easy task, since there is not much information you can find to visit this archipelago of islands in the South Pacific. Therefore, we want to make it easy for you with this Guide to travel to Vanuatu where we have collected all the useful information you need to travel to the Vanuatu islands.
If you have not yet decided to travel to Vanuatu, we encourage you to read our article Why Vanuatu? , in which we tell you our reasons for visiting these unknown islands in the South Pacific.
Guide Index (Follow the links to go directly to what interests you)
Vanuatu is a country made up of 83 islands located in the South Pacific and surrounded by the Solomon Islands, Fiji and New Caledonia.
The official language is French, although a large part of the population speaks English, Bislama or one of the 100 dialects of the islands.
The Vanuatu Islands are one of the richest regions on the planet culturally speaking, it is a melting pot of languages and customs that change from island to island and even from town to town: Masks, traditions, customs, costumes and dances are some of the characteristics that differentiate them. Also cannibalism, ablation, patriarchal or matriarchal societies and measuring wealth in how much you give and not how much you possess, are some more examples of these cultural differences within Vanuatu itself. Cannibalism luckily has completely disappeared, or so they say?
Its population comes from the Austronesians belonging to the Lapita culture of Southeast Asia and has lived on these islands since approximately 2000 BC.
The first arrival of a Westerner to Vanuatu occurred in 1606 by a Spanish expedition that called one of its islands Espiritu Santo. Later it was part of the English and French empires, until 1980 when it was declared an independent country.
With a population of approximately 250,000 people, Vanuatu is in the fourth position in the ranking of the happiest countries in the world, according to the Happy Planet Index , an organization that uses variables such as well-being, life expectancy or care for the environment to compile this list. Vanuatu ranked first in this ranking for a few years.
Traveling to Vanuatu to lie in the sun doesn't make sense, at least not for us. The beauty of these islands is exploring them, getting lost in their deserted beaches, taking a bath in their famous blue holes , stopping in some villages to buy fresh fruit and see how their people live, and soak up a culture and traditions completely different from ours. .
Each island has its peculiarities, and not all have the same infrastructures, so it is advisable to do some research on the island in question before arriving to decide how you are going to explore it. In the itinerary that we leave you, you can get an idea of how we did it, but to summarize:
Espiritu Santo : We rented a quad bike to tour the eastern part of the island, the only one with a paved road.
Tanna : We hired a local guide who took us in a 4 × 4 to all the places on the island that we wanted to see.
Efate : We rented a car with which we traveled the main road that surrounds the entire island.
Snorkel in the Vanuatu Islands
It is probably one of the biggest attractions in Vanuatu. There are many places on any of its islands to enjoy coral reefs. In most hotels they have snorkeling equipment to lend or rent you.
If you are a diving lover you can dive between coral reefs, tanks and planes from World War II and millions of fish, diving is beautiful in Vanuatu
Vanuatu is not known for its good waves, but Erakor Point, very close to Port Vila, has a good left.
In Vanuatu you can do hiking trails through the jungle, or through volcanoes. The islands offer walks for all levels. Some of these routes must be done with local guides, such as the Millienium Cave route.
Millenium Cave Tour : It is a demanding route, a mix between hiking and canyoning, its price is 7,000 Vatus and we recommend it 100%. A walk through the heart of the beautiful jungle that will surprise you, a Vanuatu trip is not complete without doing some route to know the interior of the islands.
In most hotels they lend or rent you kayak. We take the opportunity to take a kayak at our hotel in Espiritu Santo and try to get to Matevulu Blue Hole, the route between beaches, islands and then jungle is spectacular.
Travel to Vanuatu, our itinerary:
Day 1. Port Vila
We flew from Sydney to Port Vila International Airport, spent the night in Port Vila, and before taking another plane we took the opportunity to take some photos from the Federal Bank viewpoint.
Day 2. Espiritu Santo / Kayak
We flew from Port Vila to the island of Espiritu Santo and took a kayak to paddle from our hotel to the famous Matevulu Blue Hole.
Day 3. Espiritu Santo / Quads
We rented an ATV to explore the island on our own and visited Port Orly,Champagne Beach , Matevulu Blue Hole, and the town of Luganville .
Day 4. Espiritu Santo / Millenium Caves
We did the Millenium Caves tour with a local company and it was one of the best experiences of our trip.
Day 5. Espiritu Santo / Tanna
Before leaving Espiritu Santo, on the way to the airport, we stopped for a few hours to take a bath at Ri Ri Blue Hole . We flew to Tanna where we took the opportunity to see a spectacular sunset at Coral Beach before having dinner at the hotel.
Day 6. Tanna / Mount Yasur
We hired an excursion with a local guide from our hotel to explore the entire island (We ourselves chose the places we wanted to visit). We took photos of Mount Yasur from different locations, visited Shark Bay and Port Resolution , witnessed the Circumcision Festival celebrations in a local village, climbed Mount Yasur volcano from where we enjoyed the wildest dusk of our lives. Back at the hotel we stopped to listen to reggae music at the Slow Food Festival in Tanna.
Day 7. Tanna / Blue Caves
We had hired an excursion with a local guide to the Blue Caves from the hotel, but as these things do not always go well, there was a communication problem between our hotel and the local who organized the boat trip and they canceled the excursion, a shame . At noon we took a plane to Port Vila.
Day 8. Port Vila / Relax / Snorkel
A day of total relaxation in our aparthotel, we take the opportunity to do some snorkeling, enjoy the sunset on the beach and have a tribute dinner on the beach by candlelight.
Day 9. Port Vila
We rented a car and drove the road that runs along the entire island to visit Blue Lagoon, Eton Beach, Sara Beach, the island markets and the Mele Cascades , although at the last minute we decided not to go in to see the waterfalls because there was not much water. We ended the day watching the sunset and enjoying a live reggae music concert at The Beach Bar .
How to get to Vanuatu
Vanuatu is four hours by plane from the east coast of Australia. You can fly to Vanuatu from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne with Virgin Australia and Air Vanuatu companies. Vanuatu International Airport is in Port Vila, on the island of Efate.
To compare and choose the cheapest airline tickets that best suit the dates you are looking for, we advise you to use the Skycanner search engine . It is the website that we use whenever we are going to travel by plane because it allows you to compare between many airlines.
Another very popular way to travel to Vanuatu is on one of the large ocean liners for the Pacific Islands cruises.
How to get around Vanuatu
There are internal flights to move from one island to another with the Air Vanuatu company. All flights stop at Port Vila airport and there are only one or two departures a day, so it is advisable to buy flights in advance.
Once again, we recommend using Skyscanner to find the best flights around the islands of Vanuatu.
In Vanuatu there are no buses with many seats, they are vans in which the locals travel the island looking for customers who want to move to some area.
The vans are shared, you just have to stop at one and tell the driver where you are going, he will tell you the price and the route he is following. The price can be negotiated, but it is still quite high, especially for foreigners.
Depending on the island you are on, you are interested in this means of transport or not: On the island of Efate there are many buses, especially in Port Vila and surroundings; but in other islands like Espiritu Santo or Tanna there are very few buses and they are also very expensive.
On islands like Efate or Espiritu Santo it is possible to rent cars to explore the island at your own pace, because the road is in good condition.
We fully recommend the car option to get to know the island of Efate in depth, stop where you want and enjoy all the corners of the island without having to worry about waiting for the bus (which is not very frequent in remote places of Port Vila) , or haggling with taxi drivers who always charge you dearly.
We did the math and if we had picked up and left the car at the airport we would have saved a lot of money.
During our last days in Port Vila we rented a car, we toured the entire island and the day our plane left we used it to go to the airport. We rented a compact 4 × 4, perfect for the roads and paths of the island.
If you want to rent a car in Port Vila, you can do so through Airport Rentals Cars . It is a comparison of rental car companies that will allow you to see the different prices and offers and decide on the car that best suits your needs.
In Efate and Espiritu Santo there is taxi service, but it is very expensive. It is much cheaper to book transportation in the same hotel where you are staying.
As in all places where there is a bit of tourism, there is always the option of signing up for one of the excursions in Quad, 4 × 4 or bus that practically all the hotels on the island offer.
We like to travel at our own pace, and we always try to rent some transport to go on our own, but on some islands like Tanna we do recommend hiring an excursion with the hotel: There are practically no roads and those that exist are in terrible condition You cannot enter the roads or towns if you do not ask permission from a member of the tribe and very few people on the island speak English, most of them communicate in Bislama.
You can also rent motorcycles on some islands. We decided on the car and the quad bike because we read that the roads were not very good, but when we were there we thought that in Espiritu Santo and in Efate they are quite good.
The quad is a very popular means of transport among foreigners in some islands of Vanutu. You can sign up for a Quad excursion in Efate or Espiritu Santo, or rent a Quad on your own.
We rented a quad bike on the island of Espiritu Santo, picked it up in Luganville early in the morning, and traveled the entire east of the island, about 120 kilometers in total. It was one of the best experiences of the trip: The practically deserted road, the sensation of the wind in the face, the panoramic view of the landscape and the freedom to stop where we wanted.
Although we are not usually so direct in our recommendations, in this case we would like to give you some advice based on our experience in the islands we visit:
Rent a car to pick it up and drop it off at the airport, especially if you are not staying in the town of Port Vila, because even the bus service is very expensive and in the end you will be forced to use the transport of your accommodation which is also very expensive.
We recommend arranging transportation with the hotel, in Espiritu Santo it is cheaper than doing it with taxi drivers and we found very few buses that would take us to our hotel (and all of them are very expensive).To explore the island we recommend that you rent a quad for a day, it is super fun.
We advise you to use the shuttle service offered by your hotel to go to and from the airport. To explore the island, it is best to contact a local guide who will take you where you want to go, because the roads are terrible, you will have to enter some roads and you cannot do it if you do not ask permission from a member of the tribe that owns the land .
We hire it through the same hotel where we stay.
In Vanuatu there are all kinds of accommodation: Hostels, motels, hotels, bungalows, resorts and even camping. We reserve our accommodation through the booking.com website .
In Efate the Airbnb offer is quite wide and covers most of the island. It is worth going in to see what accommodations may interest you.
In the rest of the islands it is not possible to use the Airbnb service.
Although staying in the main towns of the islands such as Port Vila (Efate) or Luganville (Espiritu Santo) can mean a significant saving in your budget (mainly in transport), it is worth scratching your pocket a little and getting lost in the islands in most charming places.
We stayed in a modest resort in an idyllic place in Espiritu Santo, we booked a hotel with only two bungalows in Tanna and rented an apartment hotel with a private pool and a beach for diving in Port Vila.
Here we leave you the name of our accommodations with the link in each of them to reserve them, they were a success:
Vanuatu has two seasons: a rainy one from November to April, characterized by tropical storms and cyclones, and a dry one from May to October.
The best time to visit the country is obviously the dry season, although earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones or volcanic eruptions can happen at any time, so it is advisable to take a look at the website www.smattraveller.gov.au before traveling to Vanuatu.
Mount Yasur volcano is one of its biggest attractions and depending on the degree of activity you are in, you can visit the crater or not. In this link http://www.geohazards.gov.vu/ you can check the degree of activity, if it is 1 or 2 the visit is allowed, if it is 3 or more, access is limited to certain areas.
Food and drink
Vanuatu food has a very international character, in Vanuatu you can find restaurants serving French, American, Italian cuisine ...
But if you want to try the true cuisine of the country, you should know that the staples of the traditional cuisine of Vanuatu are fish, tropical tubers such as sweet potatoes and yams and delicious tropical fruits such as papayas, pineapples, mangoes, bananas ... In Vanuatu they use usually coconut milk in the kitchen, and the food is cooked using hot stones or steamed.
The traditional dish of Vanuatu is the lap lap and the most typical drink is kava, which is a non-alcoholic liquor but has narcotic and relaxing effects. Do you dare to try it?
Documentation and visa
The tourist visa is valid for 30 days and is granted at the same Port Vila airport.
You need a passport valid for more than 6 months, a return flight and money in your account to finance your stay in the country and pay a cost of 3,600 VT.
Tourists from certain countries need a visa granted prior to arrival in the country, you can find the list of countries at this link . If you are a national of any of these countries, you must fill out this form and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Here we leave you an approximate budget of the cost of traveling to Vanuatu for 10 days from Sydney for two people.
We have used the Australian dollar as the currency for the budget, if you want to convert the currency you can do it by following this link: Currency Converter.
Budget 10 days to travel to Vanuatu
Sydney -Port Vila-Espiritu Santo-Tanna-Port Vila-Sydney
The official currency of Vanuatu is the Vatu (VUV). It is advisable to exchange currency in Port Vila at one of the Goodies Forex offices, which are the ones that offer the best exchange.
Follow this link to find out how much the change is right now.
It is important before making any trip to find out about the vaccines required to travel to the country, for this it is best to go to your family doctor or take a look at the website of the Ministry of Health .
The Ministry of Health recommends keeping the vaccination schedule up to date, taking a treatment to prevent malaria and going to an authorized International Vaccination Center, because other vaccines may be recommended.
Travel insurance is essential for traveling to Vanuatu.
Vanuatu is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire , so cyclones, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and even tsunamis are relatively frequent phenomena.
The health system is limited and in the event of a complication, patients may be transferred to the island of Port Vila, New Caledonia or it may even be necessary to repatriate them.
Therefore, on a trip to Vanuatu it is very important to have good travel insurance. We recommend you to do it with IATI insurance , which is the travel insurance that we use because it has good medical coverage and is very well priced.
Vanuatu has a tropical climate and the temperature is higher than 15 degrees all year round. Comfortable and fresh clothing is the best option and especially a lot of swimwear.
Comfortable footwear and for any surface. We wear sneakers for hiking in the jungle, some trekking sandals and flip flops for the beaches and blue holes.
And very important: Take warm clothes for when you climb Mount Yasur volcano, when the temperature drops a lot. And something to cover your mouth from the dust, we take panties, the truth is that it was a good night and we don't need them, but if it's windy they can come in handy.
If you are looking for adventure, wild nature and a little exploited country, a trip to Vanuatu is your ideal option. Unlike other islands in the Pacific Vanuatu is not to put on a bracelet and lock yourself in a resort to drink and eat. We spent 10 days in Vanuatu enjoying the sun, the beach and the nature that we will never forget. Climbing Mount Yasur volcano was without a doubt one of the best experiences of our lives and for Jose Vanuatu it is the country in the world that he has liked the most.
Have we convinced you to pack your bags and travel to Vanuatu? What are you waiting for?.
If you are planning to travel to Vanuatu, you are curious or you just want to do not hesitate to write us a comment, we will be happy to answer any questions.
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