Vanuatu

In preparation for our trip I have been researching topics such as potential accommodations, activities, landmarks, and transportation methods for each destination. I figure this will give us a better idea of the daily cost, and therefore help determine how long we will want to stay in each country. It will be interesting to see the difference between the ideas I have researched and what we actually do when we are on the road!

Click the small arrow button on the top left of the map header (left of where it says “Potential Destination”) to expand out additional details about many of the locations and activities described below.

U.S. Visa/Travel: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/vanuatu.html
Currency: http://www.xe.com/currency/vuv-ni-vanuatu-vatu
Other Useful Sites: https://www.redvanuatu.com

Accommodations

When looking at where to stay low cost while in Vanuatu, it looks like one of the best options is renting a bungalow. This is for several reasons. From what I can gather, a lot of them are hosted by individuals/families who are very welcoming and offer to spend time educating you on the culture, area sights and must do’s of the island, as well as assist with or even host tours of local attractions or activities. Some bungalow hosts provide breakfast for free, and will provide lunch and dinner for a reasonable fee if requested. Bungalow sites can range from beachfront options, tree houses, and even at the trailhead entrance of Mt. Yasur Valcano. You can find listings for bungalows at http://vanuatutravel.info/index.php/places-to-stay/bungalows-and-backpackers, and https://www.airbnb.com.

Transportation

One of the biggest Vanuatu expenses I have read about are the flights from one island to the next. The average price for the two of us to fly from Port Vila to Tanna and back is about $300-350. I did find one site that mentioned tourists holding a return Air Vanuatu (https://www.airvanuatu.com/home) international ticket are entitled to a 20% discount on domestic fares, so that will knock down the price a little bit. On http://wikitravel.org/en/Tanna, they mention possible flights through Airtaxi and Unity airlines, which operate charter flights for tourists who want to see the volcano. These flights depart from Vila that are supposedly less expensive and maybe even have free seats available last minute. There is mention of super cheap inter-island ferry’s which sound like they are basically large tanker ships that carry seafood or other supplies from one island to the other. According to reviews, they have very minimal comforts, take forever to get you to your destination, and are crowded. Some posts mention people vomiting the entire time right next to them, basically sitting and sleeping out in the open, and very rough conditions. Personally, I think I would rather spend the money and fly.

Transportation on the islands doesn’t sound too costly, but it does seem like it can be a bit interesting finding transportation. In more developed areas like Port Vila on Efate there are taxis and city buses, but you do have to careful with the taxis because most do not have meters and they will try to rip you off. For transportation outside the city areas the main options are share-buses that you can wave down (vans that you can negotiate a price for a ride, averaging $1 for shorter distances, maybe $2-3 for long distances), and hiring a driver. A good number of the bungalow hosts’ sites I researched mentioned the host is available for hire for transportation from the airport and even around the island. It does appear that prices vary a great deal for hired drivers, so we will definitely have to do our homework when we get there.

Landmarks/Activities

Our tentative plan right now is to start on the island of Efate at the capital city of Port Vila, then fly to Tanna to see Mt. Yasur. While on Efate our main agenda is to see as many lovely beaches as possible, snorkel like crazy, possibly swim in a blue lagoon, and visit Mele Cascades (around $20 per person).

When we get to Tanna the main attraction will be Mt. Yasur, which is an active volcano that you can hike up and see active lava spraying up into the air! Pictures online look amazing and people rave about the experience. Our hope is if we stay at the bungalow right at the trailhead we can simply pay the entrance fee. It has been very challenging to find out the current entrance fee rate. Most listings are based on a tour group option, not just the entrance fee, and the price is dictated by the government and changes regularly. I have seen anywhere from $35 to $75 listed on blog posts. A tour group is going to run closer to $270 AUS per person. Some posts say a tour guide is required, where others have stated a guide is only required if you are going to be last person to leave in the evening.

Any thoughts about our ideas above, or suggestions of “must see” activities/landmarks? Please include those below!

4 Comments

Dan Thai · May 21, 2018 at 2:22 am

Hi There,

Looks exciting what the both of you are going to do.

I was surfing on YT when I stumble on your review of the Osprey Porter 30l and it led to your website.
I grew up in Port Villa from 2yrs old to 6yrs old and to the States thereafter.

In 2013, my family decided to do a reunion there and go back to where started.

Back to your travels to Vanuatu, generally the locals and people are nice but obviously you want to put on your common sense anywhere in the world.

Vanuatu or city of Port Villa is highly dependent on tourism so anything imported is very expensive, same or higher prices than the US. So if you’re simple and adventurous, then your food cost will be managable.

As you said, island hopping can get expensive unless you have local contacts. Fiji (popular surfing area now, British influence) and New Caledonia (or city Noumea, French influence) is also places you want to visit if your budget allows for it.

One thing for sure is that you’ll find lots of experienced (or inexperienced) travelers that you will connect with and have worldly friends thereafter. Both the locals and travelers will help you along the way if you’re not worried to talk to strangers.

If I could suggest, please come to whatever destination you go too and spend a few days to roam around and talk to locals and travelers and you’ll find gems and best places to stay, eat/drink, and visit. The websites and information out there only gets you to the first step. Planning is good but try to be flexible and you’ll have a lifetime experience. And take the good, bad, and ugly of each culture and/or place you visit. It will make your RTW trip a great experience without much stress.

Good luck and happy travels. Let me know if you need any further assistance.

Best!

Peter & Rachel · May 21, 2018 at 6:48 am

Dan – thanks for the message and great advice! It is terrific to meet you. “The websites and information out there only gets you to the first step” is really good for us to remember. It is also interesting how consistent the advice is to not overplan – we are planners so it will definitely be taking us out of our comfort zone to go with the flow a bit more.

It has been pretty amazing how many other travelers we have met (such as yourself) before even departing. The travel community has been extremely supportive and encouraging. We can’t wait to meet more people on the road.

Thank you again!

Peter & Rachel

    Dan · May 22, 2018 at 7:43 pm

    Hi Peter & Rachael,

    Living in the US and more developed countries, we are trained to plan everything in advance. What you’ll find in developing and emerging countries, is that everything is unplanned. It took me forever to adjust to people being late.

    Your muscles are trained to plan ahead and be organized and structured but when you visit RTW (these developing and emerging countries), generally speaking, you’ll find pleasant behaviors where locals are more open and friendly than in the US. They may not be as polite from the onset due to language barriers and cultural gaps, but definitely friendliness is up there.

    And “time is money” concept does not apply so patience is required and you’ll be able to weather any issue(s) that you might encounter. I believe the reason for this is that in these countries, the general population do not have a lot of money but a lot of time and things are not as structured as in the States. The positives with this is that locals are more laid back and go with the flow.

    Where you might get some rude people are actually usually the rowdy people are usually the first time and/or casual tourist that demand things be the same as in their countries and not as seasoned travelers. The latter, you’ll build lasting relationships if you’re able to connect with them.

    As for safety, what I’ve learned is that it’s more your comfort zone. Having visited NYC, Columbia, Philippines, etc. I read so much things about it being unsafe and high crimes. The reality was I felt like home (again using common sense) but I asked around a lot and got to know the locals who I could trust.

    Anyhow, I am sure you’ve done a ton of research and now a little over a month away to travel. Enjoy it and if there’s anything I can assist you with past experiences and/or information, do send me an email.

    Best,
    Dan

      Peter · May 22, 2018 at 7:47 pm

      Thanks, Dan. We truly appreciate your thoughts! Really terrific. Thank you.

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