Welcome to Port Vila!
I hope you enjoyed my blog post about arriving into Port Vila by Cruise Ship. Following on from last week, here are some things that may be useful to know for your day in Port Vila.
Before you leave your ship to explore for the day:
• Go to the toilet! (Loos are not always easy to find, or to the standards you would expect so best to start your day with an empty bladder)! • Buy a big bottle of water or fill your own water bottle on-board. It is hot and steamy almost year-round and you don’t want to be stuck without water. • Check you have everything in your day-bag so you don’t have to return to the ship – sunscreen, money, cruise-card, photo ID, camera, togs/towel (if you plan to swim), insect repellent if you are prone to bites, sun-hat, sunglasses. • Have an easy to carry day-bag that fits everything inside with space for some souvenirs too. You don’t want to be juggling multiple bags, water bottle, and camera – much easier to have a bag that will fit everything! • Double check your departure time (photograph the boarding info as discussed last week). • Check the correct time! Sounds silly, but remember that Port Vila is in a different time-zone to Australia and you need to make sure your watch and/or phone is set to the appropriate time before you leave the ship!
If you want to head into town you have 3 options:
1. Walk - about 40mins + free (but a very hot and sticky way to start the day!) 2. Take a Water Taxi (small speedboat that will deposit you in town) – 5mins + $5AUDpp 3. Take the local transport (usually called a “bus” this is actually a local mini-van driven by the local owner) – 10 mins + $5AUDpp
- There are literally hundreds of private vehicles (usually mini-vans) that are owned and operated by locals as public transport. These vehicles will have a red B or red PT sticker on their number plates – you can flag one down on the street. On a Cruise Ship day you will find many will slow down and ask if you want a ride or a tour.
- These drivers will be available in multitudes at the exit gates of the Cruise Docks.
- The local transport comes in all sizes, shapes and degrees of road-worthiness... These vehicles will be a different standard to what you are used to. Just remember the roads are very dusty and pot-holed so don’t ever expect a brand-new vehicle!
- There are no set routes for these drivers. If you want to visit a certain place and have them wait for you, make sure you have them agree to this before you depart. Otherwise they may leave you stranded!
- Always agree to the price (and currency) before you get into the vehicle.
- Do not pay the driver until your trip is complete.
- Usually on a Cruise-Ship day the driver will ask you to use him for either a half-day or a full-day. He is likely to suggest places that he can take you – these will be the most popular tourist attractions around Port Vila.
Port Vila – around Town:
• The town is built along the foreshore of the harbour, and extensive redevelopment of this Waterfront precinct has just been completed. There are a number of nice cafes and bars from where you can sit and enjoy watching the activity on the harbour. • There is a large produce market (“Mama’s Markets”) on the main drag that is worth a look around if you are interested in fresh local food. Be aware that you cannot take any fresh food back onto the cruise ship, so anything you purchase will need to be eaten before you re-board your ship. • For currency exchange, the well-known and trusted “Goodies” is directly opposite the Mama’s Market. We found this had the best exchange rate in Port Vila, if that is important to you. • Like most towns in the South Pacific, Port Vila is crowded, dusty and a little rough around the edges. If you really want to experience Vanuatu you need to avoid the town and get out into the surrounding countryside.
• Driving is on the Right-Hand Side of the road. Take care when crossing the road – vehicles will be coming from the opposite direction than you are used to!
There are several duty-free shops in Port Vila but the one most commonly voted the “best” by cruise passengers is Fung Kuei – housed in a large yellow building at the far end of town. They have a vast range of liquor products and the prices are excellent. You can pay with your Australian credit/debit cards and they will deliver your order to the ship for you so you don’t have to carry it around all day.
Tipping and Bargaining:
• Neither of these are customary or expected behaviour in Vanuatu.