Booking your holiday to the incredible paradise of Vanuatu is the easy part and in preparation for your time away, it’s also the most exciting part. But there are still some finer details which you need to consider if you’re going to enjoy your time in Vanuatu to the fullest. Money, mobile phones, Internet usage, passports – these are all things which you should be across before your flight.
So, to help you get the most out of your holiday in Vanuatu, we’ve put together some handy things to know before you set off.
The local currency used in Vanuatu is the vatu (VTU), which comes in denominations of coins and notes. You should have in mind that you need to exchange your currency once you get over there because even though some of the restaurants and businesses in Port Vila may accept Australian dollars, the vatu is more widely accepted and it’ll make things much easier if you’re just using one currency. The main banks you’ll find in Vanuatu are Westpac (which has a branch at the international airport), ANZ and the Bank of Hawaii.
ATMs and money exchange
If you’re bringing cash with you to exchange into the local currency, you’ll be happy to know that there’s a money changer at the airport arrivals, so you can have your money exchanged for vatu while waiting to collect your luggage. You’ll also find that in Port Vila, the store called ‘Goodies’ provides an exchange service, just in case you forgot to get it done at the airport.
When it comes to withdrawing money in Vanuatu, there are several ANZ ATM machines in Port Vila and Luganville on Espiritu Santo – so if you’re in those areas you should be ok to take out money as you need it.
Generally, it's handy to carry at least 500 to 2,000 vatu with you around town (don't worry - that's only around AU$5-25!), as some cafes and tours don't have EFTPOS or credit card facilities. Market stalls only take cash as well, so you'll want to keep some on you just in case you spot that perfect souvenir.
When visiting more remote areas, it's important to plan ahead and take a good supply of vatu with you, as credit cards and other currencies aren't accepted outside of Port Vila and Luganville. For rural areas, it's best to take coins and smaller-denomination notes.
Plugs in Vanuatu are fairly straightforward for Aussie travellers. Most of the resorts and other accommodation predominantly have wall sockets for three-pin plugs, like the ones used in Australia and New Zealand. However, some of the smaller boutique resorts use French two pin wall sockets, so you might want to double check with your accommodation before leaving. If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve brought three pin plugs and your hotel only offers two pin sockets, don’t worry! You can find adaptors in most general stores in Port Vila and Luganville so you should have easy access to electricity no matter which type you’ve prepared for.
Electricity in Vanuatu is 240 volts, 50 hertz. You can usually use your electrical appliances in Vanuatu without issue as this voltage is more or less the same as in Australia (220-240 V).
Australian passport holders don't need a visa for visits of 30 days or less. However, you must have an ongoing or return airline ticket, and your passport must be valid for six months beyond your intended stay in Vanuatu. This is a requirement of the Vanuatu Immigration department, so if you don't check it, you risk not being able to board your flight.
You don’t have to worry about airport taxes for international departures because the tax is included in your airfare. However, if you’re planning on travelling to the outer islands by air, there is a provincial departure tax of 200 vatu for departure from domestic airports which you can pay on checking in to your flight. Some of the domestic airports where this tax is applicable include Bauerfield International Airport in Port Vila, Pekoa Airport in Espiritu Santo and Whitegrass Airport on Tanna.
Vanuatu does have roaming agreements with some international mobile phone companies, so check with your mobile provider to see if this is a possibility for you. Mobile coverage extends throughout most of the country, but in remote areas reception can be patchy and frequently drops in and out. Some carriers have better coverage in different areas, so it can depend on who your provider is.
Roaming may not be an option for you, in which case you can get a mobile phone package upon arrival in Vanuatu. The two main telecommunications companies - Telecom Vanuatu Limited (TVL) and Digicel - both have plans specifically designed for tourists. TVL's 'Smile SIM card' package costs 3,000 vatu and includes 2,500 vatu worth of credit. Digicel offers a 'Digicel Tourist SIM' package which is 1,000 vatu and comes with 1,000 vatu credit. It's easy to add credit to these local SIM cards - you'll find top up cards in most stores.
Alternatively, TVL and Digicel both have physical stores in Port Vila. You can stop by between 8 a.m. and 4.30 p.m. Monday to Friday and 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Saturday for help with any enquiries.
If your Vanuatu travel plans include trips to the more remote islands, a mobile phone with dual SIM capabilities might give you better coverage.
Most hotels and resorts in Vanuatu offer Wi-Fi to their guests, although at some it is not included in the room rates and will come at an additional cost. Accessing the Internet in Port Vila and Luganville is fairly easy. A number of cafes in these towns offer Internet access free of charge when you purchase a drink or a meal, and some post offices have Internet facilities.
It's important to remember, though, that while you may be able to get online it may not be at the speeds you’re used to. Connection speeds are improving but you should expect to be accessing the internet at around 100 kilobytes per second on a good day.
On most outer islands, it won't be possible to get online at all. It’s possible to purchase mobile Internet from TVL or Digicel, but issues with reception are common, so you will need to be patient. We recommend embracing the chance to turn your digital devices off - if you organise your trip in advance with us, your travel plans will already be in place so you won't need to worry about booking transport or accommodation online.
One of the best ways to know exactly what you are getting into before you travel to Vanuatu is to book your holiday through the experts. Our friendly team will make sure you are fully equipped and ready to go so that your trip to Vanuatu is all smooth sailing!