Vanuatu. What a hidden gem. Most people that I talk to have never even heard of this part of the world (no shame, I didn’t know about it before we visited New Zealand and happened to move in with some people from the islands), so I hope this simple guide will inspire you to learn more!
I will say that when I visited, I was able to visit three islands, but spent most of my time on Efate. This guide is based on my experience, so you may find different info on other islands, but much of it is similar across the archipelago.
Language: Bislama, French & English
Money: Vanuatu Vatu
Conversion rate: 1USD=112VUV (as of Oct. 2021)
Tipping: Instead of tipping with cash, the locals much prefer (and feel more respected when) given a genuine smile or compliment.
Outlets: 220v and the plugs match those of Australia. If you are from the US or Canada, you will need both an adapter and a converter.
People: Ni-Vanuatu people are welcoming and helpful. A friendly smile goes a long way on the islands and they are happy to communicate whenever they can.
Safety: Efate was filled with incredibly warm and friendly locals. I felt very safe there and I can’t imagine most other islands are different.
Water: Tap water is safe to drink on most of the islands. Bottled water is available everywhere, or, I prefer to use a filter.
Emergency #: 112
Seasons of Vanuatu:
Vanuatu is a sub-tropical climate with temperatures between about 60-80 degrees (F) most of the year. It’s a true paradise, but of course, rain is necessary to keep the lush green of the interior.
Rain is most common from January to April, but the official seasons are:
Warm/wet season= November-April
Cool/dry season= May-October
My recommended time to visit: I visited during the month of August and everyday was perfect for exploring the island. Never too hot for a hike and never too cold for a dip in the lagoon or ocean.
Things to do on Efate island, Vanuatu:
Port Vila: Spend some time in the “big city”. This is an experience all on its own. The open air market is a great place to people watch, gather some fresh veggies, and chow on amazing street food.
Mangaliliu: Check out and check into “Back to Eden”. This getaway is the most romantic (even if you’re just with friends) place to watch the sunset every evening. The owners are incredible people that will swap life stories, share insider tips, or take you snorkeling on a whim. The bungalows are very well kept and the location…??
Pele island: Beware, this island may steal your heart. I certainly left a piece of mine there. If you are looking for a local experience, off the beaten track, this is it! There is one guesthouse, run by a local family. They cook you breakfast every morning and share a smile every evening. No cars on the island and you can take a short walk around the island (it totals less than 2 square miles).
Waterfalls: A fun day trip and a good chance to get into the trees of Efate. “Mele Cascades” boasts three incredible waterfalls (that yes, you can swim under, behind, or jump into) and a beautiful walk through the jungle, across a creek and along a path. It’s about $17usd to go on your own, $30usd to take a tour from your hotel and about 3 hours of exploring. WORTH IT.
Blue Lagoon: This is an amazing sight as the color of the water is unmatched. And it’s even more incredible that you get to explore it! Swim, float, jump off the docks or rope swing into the magnificent water. Well worth a day (or half day) of relaxation.
Again, you can book a tour or do it yourself. Park entrance fee is about $5usd and the bus there costs about the same.
Food: Food from the local market is incredibly cheap. We’re talkin’ a few dollars for a bag of veggies so if you have a way to cook, this is the most budget option. The supermarket is the next cheapest option.
Accomodation: Guesthouses are the usually cheapest, costing $27-$50 a night.
Transportation: Local buses run all over the island and are incredibly cheap (cents to a few dollars per ride, depending on distance). TAKE NOTE that busses don’t run often outside of the main city. (Ex. If you are on the top of the island and need to get to the supermarket, there is ONE bus that runs at 6am and returns at 6pm.)
Activities: Hiking, laying on the beach and talking to locals are all amazing, free activities.
Food: If you don’t have accommodation with a kitchen, street food is around $7-$12 per plate.
Accomodation: Airbnb has some great mid-range options around $40-$80.
Transportation: Most tours offer transportation to and from so if you are staying in one place and taking day trips, this might work out well. Price is included in tour.
Activities: Once in a lifetime experiences range wildly on the island. For about $20USD, I recommend visiting a Sea Turtle Sanctuary.
See amazing experience photo below!
Food: Restaurants around the island are typically part of the accommodation or tours so the prices are a little higher (they know you don’t have much option and there are more transportation costs) ranging about $15-$27 a plate.
Accomodation: Higher end hotels run around $125-$200 per night. USD.
Transportation: Renting a car (or buggy!) is not the cheapest option (around $30-$70usd per day) but is a great way to get off the main streets.
Activities: Some tours run $100+ for a shark swim or day of snorkeling in search of manatee (they call them dugongs), etc.
1 There is only one major supermarket on the island of Efate. It is in Port Vila, so if you plan on cooking many meals, stock up before you roadtrip the loop of the island.
2 Don’t hold back funds. I recommend splurging a little bit if/when you find an activity. This country is so cheap, that you don’t have to feel ‘bad’ about booking the tour, swimming with sharks, seeing the sea turtles, snorkling with manatees, etc.
3 Getting to Pele Island, you can pay a tour company to organize and set you up with a ride or you can book the guesthouse on your own and walk to the docks and pay a local fisherman to take you out.
4 Try the local ice cream. If you end up on Efate, the people are proud to have a successful ice cream business that started on the island. Try a scoop in downtown Port Vila.