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“Unique Place, Rough Diamond” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Friendly Bungalows

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Friendly Bungalows
2.0 of 5 Resort   |   Lowelkas Cove | Port Vila, Tanna Island, Vanuatu   |  
Hotel amenities
Ranked #4 of 4 Hotels in Tanna Island
Darwin
Top Contributor
87 reviews 87 reviews
37 hotel reviews
Reviews in 47 cities Reviews in 47 cities
58 helpful votes 58 helpful votes
“Unique Place, Rough Diamond”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed November 5, 2012

I spent four nights here, and sorry about the long review but this is a difficult place to rate. It is by any measure 1-star accommodation. It's little more than shacks with fly-screened windows near the beach, set in a nice garden, with power only on from 5.30-11pm each night. There is no power point in your bungalows, so to charge your camera or iDevices you may have to battle with other guests for the ONE powerpoint in the restaurant. It goes without saying, no air-con. You can't drink the tap water and have to buy bottled water. The shower is sometimes a bit warm, but mostly cold, and the floor of the shower/toilet is broken coral. There are no shops or any services of any kind nearby, and the only restaurant has only one thing on the menu each day at a fixed price.

BUT, nevertheless I enjoyed my stay. The mosquito-netted bed is quite comfortable, and going to sleep by the sound of the nearby waves crashing on the beach was wonderful. And whilst the restaurant had only one choice (so be sure to email through any dietary requirements beforehand) from the breakfast, lunch, and dinner 'menu' each night, it was really good food, varied each day, and was as good as some I'd had in Vila. Some have complained about the dinner price, currently 3000VT, but that is for a three course meal in a remote location with often only a couple of guests staying. Fair price. A good range of drinks available also at reasonable prices.

The staff all try and make you comfortable, especially the charming host Mary. The other big plus staying here is the volcano is only 30 mins away, compared to what must be close on 2-hours from the east coast. I was very thankful I was staying here on the way back from the volcano tour, in the dark, and what are very rough dirt roads.

In short, Friendly Bungalows does its utmost to make guests comfortable in what is a very remote location, with zero infrustrature, and they succeed at that. If you can handle it a bit rough, and if chilling out for a few days in a hammock with a book with the occasion swim and no distractions of any type, then this place is 5-star for that!

Room Tip: They are all the same, in a line facing the beach.
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  • Stayed November 2012, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 2 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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98 reviews from our community

Traveler rating
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    4
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Rating summary
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4 of 5 stars
  • Value
    3 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (26)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • Any
English first
melbourne
2 reviews
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed September 3, 2012

We spent four nights on Tanna - proving to be a wonderful experience. Not only did this give us time to see Mt Yasur (walking around the rim of an active volcano is a surreal experience) but also to venture down to Port Resolution. The roads are an experience - but the drivers and guides provided are excellent. The bungalows themselves were rustic and only a few steps from the beachfront. A place to relax on the hammock, watch for whales, then ready for the next adventure.

Room Tip: Remember everything runs to Island time....
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  • Stayed August 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sydney, Australia
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 26, 2012

it was important to go for 3 to 4 nights to get to know the place - inspiring people teaching us that less is certainly more. Essential to snorkel in the coral, visit the amazing volcano at sunset along the rough tracks enjoy the volcano stories over lovely fresh meals - thank we love the Friendly Bungalows

Room Tip: Enjoy relax no phones, news or stress
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  • Stayed July 2012, traveled with friends
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Australia
Contributor
13 reviews 13 reviews
7 hotel reviews
Reviews in 10 cities Reviews in 10 cities
23 helpful votes 23 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed August 20, 2012

The volcano is worth the visit; it's amazing, but expensive - we were charged $200 for the short-ish drive there and back. It's worth it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience though; the night we went, the mountain gods put on an awesome show for us. We almost didn't make it due to the car being late back from someone else's trip. If you're only staying one night, you run the risk of missing out.

Huts are traditional, basic but quite charming. There is a thin layer of ash dust on everything, which is unavoidable, but it's best to be prepared for it. Leave your smart clothes behind.

The beach is clean and the water's crystal clear and great for snorkelling.

All meals at the Friendly Bungalow are communal and there is no choice of menu. We were asked on arrival if we had dietary preferences, and I told them I don't eat meat (fish is ok). A few hours later at dinner, I was served... beef stew. Before every other meal I had to remind the kitchen staff not to serve me meat, (they were surprised each time), and at EVERY meal, I was then served a plain omelet. Tasty fresh eggs, but repetitive to say the least! And expensive, as meals are $30 or so... There is nowhere else to eat, so you're stuck with whatever they choose to serve you. You do get the impression that meals are prepared with love and care, but the ingredients are mainly imported (meat and rice, cakes and puddings with custard from a packet) which is a shame as Vanuatu has great fish, seafood and root vegetables, even if you had to get them from other islands, as Tanna is apparently not that fertile because of the ash settling on everything. We saw the locals harvesting shellfish, crabs, and catching fish, and were disappointed that nothing like that made it to our table.

  • Stayed August 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 1 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 2 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Wellington, New Zealand
Senior Contributor
43 reviews 43 reviews
16 hotel reviews
Reviews in 21 cities Reviews in 21 cities
19 helpful votes 19 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 31, 2012

very basic but somewhat charning place on the beach. we opted for the volcano side as we only had one night on Tanna. flew in on the midday flight and travelled over the island (an experioence in its own right) to arrive here around 2. welcomed by mary and her team. settled in and then venured up Mt Yasur around 4. got back around 7 to a basic but satisfying meal. good night sleep on a matress just off the floor. the shower and bathromm were interesting with a shell and stone chio floor into which the water ran - very efficient.

  • Stayed July 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Melbourne, Australia
Senior Contributor
21 reviews 21 reviews
8 hotel reviews
Reviews in 12 cities Reviews in 12 cities
19 helpful votes 19 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 28, 2012

Our family - parents and two teens - spent three nights at Friendly Bungalows and loved it, with some qualifications.

First the good news: location is fantastic. After an adventurous ride over hills and down potholed rides in the back of a truck, with plenty of waves from friendly Tanna residents - we pulled into the most idyllic setting on a palm fringed black sand beach. Water was clear and conducive to snorkelling and swimming and we also enjoyed walks on the beach, watching the fishermen out on the reef and in their outriggers or just swinging on the hammock watching the sun go down.

Our traditional bungalow was basic, but adequate and had a flush toilet and luke warm water - luxury. I was worried about insects or critters, but there were none and we slept well after the generator lights went out and about 9. After we marvelled at the starry sky, the sound of the waves breaking on the beach lulled us to sleep.

Took a trip to the volcano the first night with our guide, Danny, who was fantastically helpful and informative. The cost was 30,000 VATU for the four of us. Be sure to get to the volcano when there is still light (arrive around 4, I'd say). We got there too late and it was hard to really picture the environment, but the fireworks were outstanding!

The people who looked after us all tried their best with the resources they had. Mary, the manager, is friendly and really engages with her guests. Donald and Danny readily shared their knowledge about the island. It was generally a great experience.

There are some points I would be aware of next time (and I hope there is a next time) ... We met a family who organised their own transport at the airport and arranged for them to come get them on the next day for a volcano tour. This was a good idea as it did not leave them hostage to the Friendly Bungalows' limited transportation resources. We had planned on a second trip to the volcano (to get there earlier), but both cars were late in returning so we missed out.

Also be aware that days out arranged by F.B. are expensive and you should ask ahead of time about costs. In addition to the volcano tour, we paid another 24,000 vatu for a half day tour to the white sand beach and hot springs - okay, but not really worth $240 Aussie. We also saw a kastom dance, convened just for us (we didn't understand that would be the case; thought it was to be more a community event) and it seemed unusually touristy for Tanna (and I felt sorry for the women who seemed to be uncomfortable, bare breasted, as would be the custom, but covering themselves self consciously; wouldn't do that again).

Food at Friendly is a communal affair and we met many nice people at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Be prepared for the bill though -- figure about $50 Aussie pp per day in addition to your accommodation. Food is fine, but not luxurious. Alcohol is available unless they run out - figure $7 Aussie for a small glass of basic wine.

This establishment is owned by expat's (they own Poppy's in Port Vila) and I think that they could use the high tariffs to give more to the local communities. I know that fuel and imported food/wine is expensive there, but I don't see how they can justify these prices.

If you can, bring some writing materials to give to the local schools, or to people in nearby communities to share with the children whose parents have to buy all of their materials for school. It's hard for them to get these and they are expensive.

If you are prepared for the cost (all counted for the four of us, about $1350 Aussie for three nights including transfers, accommodation, food, two tours but not airfare), are relaxed about when and where you go (eg., adjusting your plans for 'Island Time' or vehicle issues) and can cope with basic, but quite special, accommodation then you will find that Friendly Bungalows is a unique and awesome destination.

Room Tip: Try to get one of the two bedroom bungalows closer to the dining area. They are raised up a bit and...
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  • Stayed July 2012, traveled with family
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Melbourne, Australia
Reviewer
5 reviews 5 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 24, 2012

Bungalows were a good experience, but the location is quite a bit more remote than I was expecting )even after reading all teh reviews and seeing all the photoes), meaning that there is no alternative but to use the services provided by the bungalows. Our booking included Airport transfers and breakfast, but not lunch and dinner. Make sure you take enough cash as the costs mount up for a few days stay. Prices for an adult - Lunch 2,000vt, Dinner 3,000vt or lunch + dinner 4,500vt. Kids half price. Meals were good. (The beef one night was excellent). Staff were helpful. Just remember that you are on an island a long way from anywhere and therefore don't expect capital city meals or service. Electricity only at night (when you need it). However the kitchen was happy to provide us with ice for drinks when we asked, making the sunset gin and tonic on the veranda a very pleasant experience.

Make sure that you take plenty of cash.

Tip - take some tins of tuna and biscuits etc. so that you can have a light lunch meal, rather than purchase every meal.

Trip to the volcano was worth doing, but also not 'cheap'. 100,000Vt per person (kids half price). The idea is to go very early in the morning or at around 4-30 in the afternoon so that you can see the glow of the lava. (Difficult to see INTO the crater from the vantage point, but you do see the eruptions when they occur.)

Activity quite safe PROVIDED you listen to the advice of your guides who go up there every day.

Volcano put on a show for us while we were there with many booms and eruptions, lots of stuff flying up in the air, culminating in a couple of red hot lava "bombs" actually falling on the path a few metres from where we were standing. That was the volcano's way of telling us it was time to go. Respect. Remember - there are old vulcanologists, and there are bold vulcanologists. But there are no old, bold vulcanologists.

  • Stayed July 2012, traveled with family
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Friendly Bungalows

Address: Lowelkas Cove | Port Vila, Tanna Island, Vanuatu
Location: Vanuatu > Tanna Island
Amenities:
Beach Free Breakfast Restaurant Spa
Hotel Style:
Ranked #4 of 4 Hotels in Tanna Island
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Hotel Class:2 star — Friendly Bungalows 2*
Number of rooms: 8
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Also Known As:
Friendly Bungalows Hotel Tanna Island
Friendly Hotel Tanna

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