Tips to Help you Understand Noumea before you Travel

Cruise passengers will be familiar with Noumea as it is one of the most common Ports of Call on a Cruise to the South Pacific.

You might think you know Noumea… But do you understand Noumea?

Learn a little about Noumea before you travel there – some local knowledge is guaranteed to make your day more successful!

 bonjour speech bubble

Noumea is governed by the French so expect a little bit of France on your visit!

This means the main language spoken is French!

This means they drive on the right-hand side of the road!

This means they often close their businesses in the middle of the day, and that they don’t open on Sunday or Monday!

This means people carry Baguettes around the streets and the Pastries are to die-for!

This means that their currency is FRANCS – (French Pacific Francs or XPF).

This means you might be expecting the French reputation for being rude or arrogant…

Embrace these differences, don’t let the fear of the unknown put you off experiencing something unique in the South Pacific!

quote on understanding noumea 

The official language is French, so people who live here speak French, and some will also speak English. 

Begin each contact with a friendly “Bonjour” and then wait until you have had a “Bonjour” in return before you continue. You will be amazed how much it helps! 

That frosty French attitude softens swiftly when they see that you are respecting their culture and language.  No, you don’t need to be able to speak French to get by for a day in Noumea, just be open to using a couple of words!

Check out this blog post to help you with some useful words:

Be mindful that English will be a second language for most of the people of Noumea, so make sure you ask the person if they speak English before you begin!  Don’t assume that locals are rude – to you they may appear that way as they will be unsure about you and not confident they can communicate with you!

A little bit of respect and a genuine smile go a long way to having a good time in a foreign country!


Unlike many ports where AUD is readily accepted, the correct currency tends to be preferred in Noumea – that is XPF.  So start your day right and exchange a small amount of money to XPF to make your transactions much easier!

There is a money exchange desk inside the Cruise Terminal Building (you must have photo ID to exchange money), or walk directly over the road to the “Casino” Supermarket (you can’t miss it) and there is an ATM or a money-exchange machine you can use.  For the money exchange machine you can just feed in an Australian note and out comes XPF.

Use some of that XPF to buy yourself a baguette and a French pastry – nothing makes you blend in more than strolling around with a baguette under your arm!  Oh and they are Sooooooo Good.

noumea baguettenoumea pastries


Unlike Port Vila, you will not find taxi’s waiting to whisk you away from the Cruise Terminal.  Don’t expect this when you arrive, they just won’t be there.

While you are out and about, don’t forget that cars will be driving on the opposite (right) side of the road than you are used to.  Double check before you cross a street!  The roads around the terminal & city are busy – don’t be put off walking around but be careful.

Accept that if you are visiting on a Sunday or Monday you may find some businesses closed.  This is just part of the culture of the country.  These days, with tourism so popular more and more places are staying open. Not in the centre of the city though – it is not a tourist area so don’t expect tourist hours!  The tourist areas of Anse Vata and Lemon Bay will be business as usual on a Sunday/Monday for your enjoyment, so head there instead of town – it’s much prettier anyway (more on these areas later in a separate post).

Finally, don’t expect a European style city….  Noumea may be a little piece of France in the South Pacific, but the City Centre is a true South Pacific town – think small, a little rough around the edges and limited shopping options compared to what we are used to in Western countries.  My suggestion would be don’t come to Noumea expecting big city shopping!


I hope these little tips will help you to enjoy your day in Noumea.

Next week, the Noumea story continues….

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