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
Other Useful Sites: https://www.redvanuatu.com
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.
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.
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!