Five Things First Time Travellers To Vanuatu Should Know
- The buses in Vanuatu don't run on a set schedule or specified route. If you need to get on board, hail one down from the road and tell the driver where you want to go. Drop-offs work on a first on, first off basis and tickets only cost around VUV 100 one way. While it can seem confusing at first, it's a great way to see the sights as you wait for your stop.
- Exposed thighs can be considered offensive. While it's more than okay to wear your swimwear at the beach, if you're going into town you'll need to cover up.
- English and French are widely spoken in Vanuatu. If you want to score extra points with the locals, learn some phrases in the pidgin dialect Bislama before arriving.
- Haggling is rude in Vanuatu. Unlike other destinations around the world, bargaining is not part of the Melanesian culture. When shopping at the local markets for souvenirs, treat the prices like you would at shopping centres back home.
- Tipping is not practised in Vanuatu. A smile and a simple "thank you" is more than enough to show your appreciation for good service.
Best Time To Visit Vanuatu
With a beautiful year-around climate, the best time to visit Vanuatu is different for everyone.
If you're looking for that perfect island weather, Vanuatu is at its best from April to October. The winter temperatures are at a comfortable high of 22°C, perfect for relaxing on the beach or more adventurous activities. May to July is also the best time to experience the Pentecost land diving.
Winter is also the busiest time of year. Australian school holidays are from August to October, so unless you don't mind the crowds, you might want to give this period a miss.
If you're looking to cut costs and avoid the influx of travellers, head to Vanuatu during its wet season. From November to March, you'll find some of the best deals on accommodation and airfare prices.
While there is the threat of tropical storms, temperatures will still be high, and diving conditions are excellent all year around.
Port Vila is Vanuatu's capital city and is the gateway to exploring the region.
After the destructive Cyclone Pam flattened the city in 2015, it's rebuilt itself to its former glory.
While you won't find many old buildings, the city is still full of history. Visit the National Museum and learn about the country's traditional customs and the story of Vanuatu's last Paramount Chief.
Luganville is Vanuatu's second largest city. It's one of the best places to base yourself for exploring Espiritu Santo and has a range of accommodation to suit any budget.
While it's not as upmarket as the capital city of Port Vila, Luganville still has its charms.
Make sure you visit the 24-hour open-air market. People from all over Santo come to trade their wares here, and you won't find better fresh fruits and vegetables.
While Port Orly isn't a city, this small town in the Sanma Province deserves a spot on anyone's Vanuatu bucket list.
The way of life here has remained virtually unchanged over the years, and it's one of the best places to experience the local culture.
It's also known for its rolling green hills, sandy white beaches and some of the best snorkelling in the country. If you're lucky, you might even get a chance to swim with turtles and dugongs.
Top Attractions in Vanuatu
The Mele Cascades is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Vanuatu. A series of aquamarine pools culminate in a 35m drop that plunges into a natural pool below.
It's an easy 20-minute walk to the top of the mountain and the falls. Once here, you'll find toilets, change rooms and a bar with free WiFi. Don't forget your swimming costume and spend some time exploring the tropical gardens.
If you can, avoid going to the falls on a Wednesday or Friday. This is when the cruise ships dock and the Mele Cascades is the most popular day trip stop.
Mt Yasur is an active volcano only accessible by 4WD vehicles. But once you're there, you'll be able to peer into the rim and witness the bubbling lava storm below.
While there are many group tours to choose from, it's possible to do the hike without a guide. The walk takes around 45 minutes to complete, but there are no safety rails or barriers - so don't get too close to the edge.
The best view is on the west side of the central crater. You'll be able to see three smaller vents and watch as they take turns spitting up red-molten rock and smoke.
National Museum of Vanuatu
If you want to learn more about the history of Vanuatu and the traditions of the local people, a visit to the National Museum won't disappoint.
Built in the style of a traditional building, visitors can view an incredible collection of artefacts. Some of the most interesting pieces are the ceremonial headdresses, examples of Lapita pottery and a photographic display of Chief Roi Mata's burial site.
If you have room in your budget, opt for the guided tour. It's one hour long and includes a traditional instrument demonstration and sand drawing.
Located 45 minutes from Luganville is the Millennium Cave. It's the largest cave in Vanuatu and rated as one of the top things to do in Santo.
While locals knew about the cave for many years, it only became a tourist attraction in 1997.
Today, getting to the cave is only half the fun. On your way there, you'll get to trek through the jungle, cross bamboo bridges and go past cascades before you reach the mouth of the Millennium Cave.
Guided tours are run by the local Funaspef Village, and a percentage of the proceeds go towards building schools and supporting the community.
SS President Coolidge
The SS President Coolidge is one of Vanuatu's most unique wreck dives. A luxury liner forced to carry troops during World War II, the ship sank after hitting two US mines.
Today, it's the largest, most accessible wreck in the world. There are almost 200 metres of the ship to see and over 50 different dive sites.
The dives start at 25m from the bow and go as far down as 60m to the stern. While this is deeper than most recreational dives, the lack of current and good visibility make diving here less challenging.
Million Dollar Point
If you're an avid diver and a history buff, you'll love exploring the Million Dollar Point dive site.
After World War II ended, the US troops dumped over a million dollars worth of equipment into the sea. Why? To make sure the British and the French couldn't use anything after both countries refused to buy the goods from America.
Located in Espiritu Santo, an island in the Vanuatu archipelago, the area has become an underwater history museum. Divers and snorkelers will find a fortune of military tanks, guns, vehicles and even cases of Coca-Cola resting beneath the waves.
Major International Airports in Vanuatu
- Bauerfield International Airport
- Santo-Pekoa International Airport