Things you need to know before you go to Vanuatu.

Based in Port Vila. 

Money exchange

If you do not have transfers to your hotel or resort you will need to catch a bus or taxi there and for this you would require a little local cash. The currency is vatu and works out to about $1.20 to 100vatu or in reverse about 83 vatu to the Australian dollar. The Australian airports do not give a very good rate so if you exchange there make it the absolute minimum.  There is a National Bank of Vanuatu money exchange and Seven Eleven (7/11) Money Exchange at the Vila airport so keep that in mind.

The resorts will exchange your money yet their rate is only a little better. The two best places to go is Goodies near the El Gecko café, or Seven Eleven (7/11) opposite Sound Center, both downtown. Seven Eleven is open 7 days/week.

Best to change your Vatu back into your home currency before you leave for the airport (save enough for your taxi ride!!). 

Banking

There are only 2 Australian banks you'll be familiar with in Port Vila. They are the ANZ and the Westpac. You may not be able to get cash from a minor bank or building society so be prepared with plenty of cash if you don't bank with one of the above.  Fees for withdrawals usually work out to about $5 per transaction.  There is also the National Bank of Vanuatu and the new BRED bank.

They do have 24hr ATMs at the bank but as before, building societies and minor banks may not be linked.

Health

Bring some antibacterial cream and bandaids as these can be expensive here. If you get a tiny weeny scratch that you can barely see. Put the cream on it immediately. This is the tropics and you must do this. It's also good to get a small bottle of peroxide or Betadine to bring with you in case you scratch yourself on coral.

Time

Add one hour to Australian Eastern Standard time and allow some for what is known as Island time which means that nobody is in hurry. It is not unusual to wait 30mins or more for a shop assistant to find you a cardboard box to pack your duty free treasure in so be patient and allow plenty of time.

Footwear

High heels will last about two milliseconds on the rough pavement so consider this.
For swimming you will need a pair of reef shoes. You can buy these at Anaconda, Big W, or Target in Australia and in Port Vila there are a number of shops that sell them. Remember that you might be busting to get into the water so perhaps being prepared ahead of time is a good thing.

Swimwear

Bring a mask and snorkel if you have one. They are expensive to hire if not provided gratis by your accommodation and come in two sorts:- crappy ones that don't fit and even crappier ones that don't fit. The cost of hiring them once is about as much as you'll pay for a cheap set in Australia. Don't be thinking that you won't need a mask because you can forget all your ideas of snorkelling that you may have done in other countries.  Few places compare to the underwater world you can wade into from some of the beaches in Vanuatu. Fins are also a good idea but the small board fins will be good enough. So for snorkelling take dive boots or reef shoes, fins, snorkel & mask.

Duty Free

Fung Kuey is sometimes the best priced duty free shop for alcohol but sometimes Paris Duty Free is better for some spirits so its best to shop around. There are also good fake designer shops around and some dodgy fake designer shops. These things you'll discover for yourself. You can buy Tusker beer direct from the brewery or at the Airport Duty Free on arrival or in any supermarket and you can buy Vanuatu organic beef in packs to bring home as long as you arrange it with Customs in advance. Traverso (near Wilco Hardware) can help with the paperwork if you would like to bring some beef home.

Dress

The locals are modest and it is inappropriate to go to town in brief clothes. Around the resort togs and shorts are ok but in town cover up or you may get unwanted attention. When the cruise ship comes in the locals tend to keep a low profile in Port Vila except for taxi and bus drivers. So to enjoy the usual friendliness go to town when the cruise ship is not in port.  

These days cruise ships arrive 2-3 times a week so don't stress too much about this.  Just be aware if you've arrived on a cruise ship, you are in someone's else's country with its own culture and you will not "see it all" in one day so just relax a bit and sync with Island Time if you can.

Wine and Beer

You can purchase this from the Au Bon Marche supermarket downtown and at Nambatu but not between 12 noon on Saturday and Monday morning. You can also purchase a carton of Tusker beer straight from the brewery or duty free at the airport on arrival.   Water is cheaper from the supermarket than the resorts and can be purchased at any time. Local water is quite safe to drink but does have a high mineral content that can give you a belly ache until you get used to it.  

Mobile Phone services

Vanuatu has two providers of GSM-class mobile services. SIM cards (prepaid from about VT500) are abundantly available in Vila - supermarkets and even roadside stalls. Is it cheap? Yes! Essential and convenient for anything from booking taxis/drivers/restaurants/ rentals and events. You can also buy mobile data from the same providers if you can't do without the internet.

For both carriers, calls are billed per second, no flag fall and no minimum charge per call. Even international calls are cheap! Voice service only. A VT500 prepaid SIM card can easily last a week.

Tip 1 :  Store your "home" SIM somewhere safe where you won't lose it.

Tip 2: Before you leave home, ensure your GSM phone is unlocked so you can use any SIM.

Tip 3: Look up your phone manual and recheck phone security procedures. Your phone may prompt you for a password when you change SIMS. Get the passwords sorted before you leave home. "12345" is often the default code.

Tip 4: You can also just buy a cheap prepaid phone in Vila.

Check the forum link for more mobile info.

Photo Printing

 There is a photo printing place in town, sort of opposite Bred Bank, which is at the airport end of town.

 

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