Port Vila is a popular tourist town and not just for Cruise Ship Passengers. On any given Port Day, you will find that there will be as many land-based tourists as Cruise Passengers sharing this little South Pacific Paradise.
To help you make the most of your day in Port Vila here are 5 things that are good to know before you go:
ONE - Temperature:
- It WILL BE HOT! Pretty much year-round! Yah for the tropics! If you’re cruising from Australia during winter this will be bliss. During the summer be prepared to sweat!
- Port Vila has a typical tropical climate with 2 seasons.
- Wet season is from November to March when you will have higher humidity and chance of heavy (but short) showers. During this time it will be hot & sticky and you will more than likely want to have a swim somewhere along the way.
- Dry season is from April to October with warm days averaging max 26deg. During this time, it will feel warm to hot depending on your activity level, but it is highly unlikely to ever feel cold!
TWO – The Great Outdoors:
- No matter the season remember the sun will burn you if you are exposed – don’t forget to Slip/Slop/Slap during the day – holidays are not fun when you are sun-burned!
- The sea temperature is lovely for swimming all year round. The rivers and waterfalls are always cooler, but very refreshing on a hot day.
Be aware you must pay entry fees directly to the land-owner for many swimming spots – prices start at 500 Vatu/$5 AUD. A good local guide will know what is charged at each location.
- Carry Insect repellent if you are prone to bites – you will find mosquitoes in some areas of Port Vila.
- Vanuatu is relatively free of dangerous animals – centipedes being the only thing that may give you a nasty bite. There are some impressive bugs and spiders to be seen, none of which are venomous. In the water stonefish, sea-snakes and sharks are possible. Sea-snakes may be common, but their mouths are so tiny it is almost impossible to be bitten by them.
- There are local dogs everywhere you go – they do tend to carry fleas, so best not to get too friendly with them. As they live amongst the locals they are seldom aggressive towards people.
THREE - Language:
- There are 3 official languages in Vanuatu: English, French & Bislama.
- Most of the Ni-Van (Vanuatu people) speak Bislama as their first language. In addition, there are hundreds of sub-dialects of the local language.
- Bislama is a form of Pidgin-English and it is great fun to learn a few words to use on your day in Port. (Watch for a blog post coming soon to learn some Bislama)
- English is widely spoken, just remember it is a second language – so listen carefully and speak slowly – & don’t be afraid to ask again if you didn’t understand.
- The Ni-Van are incredibly inquisitive and friendly people, but they can be quite shy at first. They love to ask all about you and where you come from, and if you take the time to ask questions you will learn so much about them too. Getting to know local people can be one of the most rewarding parts of any journey!
FOUR - Money:
- Whether you are exploring independently, or taking part in a tour it is nice to have some cash money to spend on a souvenir or cold drink along the way.
- In Port Vila, you will often be dealing with small businesses who only take payments in cash. Larger resort hotels and duty free stores will have card facilities for payment.
- The official currency in Port Vila is the VATU.
- The currency comes in coins (5, 10, 20, 50, 100 vatu coins) and notes (200, 500, 1000, 5000 and 10,000 vatu notes)
- Some operators will take Australian currency (Notes Only) – you will need to check this before you pay for something.
- We prefer to deal in the currency of the country we are visiting – it makes for a more authentic experience – so convert some AUD for VATU and live like a local for the day!
- You can use your Australian ATM card to withdraw VATU from ATM machines in the town.
- The exchange rate will vary from week to week. Don’t worry too much about the exchange rate – there’s not much you can do about it anyway!
BEFORE you travel, advise your bank that you will be in Vanuatu. If you try to withdraw money from an account while overseas most banks will block the transaction if you haven’t registered your travel with them.
- Here is an exchange rate example for a day that we were in Port.
At the exchange tent on the dock: $100 AUD = 7800 Vatu
At the exchange in town $100 AUD = 8200Vatu
The difference is 400 Vatu which is about $5.00
For the convenience of exchanging your money at the dock, we think it’s worth the $5.
If you are on a Cruise Port Day your time will be precious!
FIVE - Cost of Things
- Expect to pay much the same as you would at home in Australia for food and drinks.
- Lunch and a drink for a couple will be about 5000Vatu ($60-65 AUD).
- Around 300-500 Vatu for a soft drink or juice
- Around 800 Vatu for a Cold Local Beer (*edit* depending on where you buy it and size - may be as little as 450Vatu)
- Shopping for Duty Free alcohol? Port Vila is the best place to do this on a South Pacific Cruise.
Try the local Tusker Beer.