Visitors Guide H


A lot of tourists like this look (mainly girls but also for teenage lads like to make statement).

Depending on hair length and thickness it takes about an hour and you can get it done on some days at the larger resorts or each day at the markets (also at Head Hunters salon at the airport end of town, next to La Tentation) or Lotus Day Spa.

It costs from 1000 vatu for a big job but one or two strands may be a more stylish look.

A tip for those who want to show off when returning home – get it done the day before leaving to drag out the bragging experience.


There are a number of hair stylists in Port Vila, French and English. Prices are similar to Australia and New Zealand.


It makes sense that a language with limited words like Bislama will never produce literature as rich and complex as English or French. Even in day to day life the limitations of Bislama go a long way to gestures of affection without words because there simply aren’t the words – for example, young same gender friends might hold hands because it says more than clumsily hunting for, “I really enjoy your company and miss you when you aren’t here.”

Having said that, the famous ‘To be, or not to be’ soliloquy from Hamlet can be written/read in the Vanuatu pidgin language. It was translated by McClory Kalsakav and has been performed on stage in England. At first it may seem indecipherable, but by sounding out the words it should make some sense… for example, it starts Bae i olsem or bae i no olsem, emia nao tingting…

  • ‘that is the question’ is ’emia nao tingting’ or ‘I’m now thinking’…
  • ‘sea of troubles’ becomes ‘solwata blong warri’ or ‘saltwater of worry’…
  • ‘by opposing, end them’ – ‘stoppem olgetta’ or ‘stop them altogether’…
  • ‘The heartache and the thousand natural shocks’ is: ‘inside warri mo long fullap seksek’ – seksek being Bislama for natural shock or earthquake (from shake-shake)…
  • ‘the undiscovered country’ becomes the ‘aelan we never gat’ (island we never got)…
  • ‘to grunt and sweat under a weary life’ becomes ‘mekem noise mo swet undanit long wan rabis life’ (make noise and sweat under one rubbish life)…


The main town of Port Vila sits along the harbour. There are a number of restaurants along the waterfront and a park/walkway with a children’s playground. It is a deep water harbour and can be very pretty with deep blues and azure/greens. There is a ferry to Iririki Island that non-staying guests can use – there is a charge that is refunded if you buy a drink or snack (head to the right for the resort and restaurant, left to the beach). The harbour hosts triathlons and it looks clean, but with boats emptying bilges into the bay it may be deceptive. There are a number of excellent dives in parts of the harbour and around Efira island and Pango Point. Harbourside real estate is expensive with many homes worth more than US$1 million. Tourists and locals often gather harbour front to wind up the day with a drink and to watch a golden saucer of a sun melt into the sparkling sea. Unless of course it’s raining.


A world-wide expatriate thingy where adults introduce their children to a spirited run followed by an exhibition of beer drinking and swearing. This is a must for people who like to blow bugles, run around following arrows on footpaths, drinking, farting, belching, swearing and giving each other silly nick names. If you are a harrier, or if this appeals, phone Mark Lister on 22 977.


Hat Island is the European name for Eretoka (sometimes spelt Retoka), so named because, well, it’s shaped like a hat. It’s a small island 8km off the west coast of Efate and is a popular dive spot. Retoka has been uninhabited for 700 years but is one of the greatest archaeological sites of the Pacific. Chief Roy Mata’s (c1265) grave containing 47 skeletons was unearthed in 1967.

Once tabu, the site can now be visited by certain tours and through arrangements with the customary owners on nearby Lelepa Island. In August 2002, Roy Mata’s remains were put on permanent display at the natural museum. If you go deep sea fishing off Hat, you’ll see evidence of how Vanuatu is actually rising with coral outcrops high above sea level and a number of ‘new’ beaches.


Havannah Harbour is a large sheltered harbour on the west coast of Efate that was a naval base for US warships during WWII. Now popular with cruise boats, there are still reminders of the war presence (local kids now use the water storage dam as a swimming pool). Havannah Harbour was once a thriving main town on Efate however, after several malarial outbreaks and drought, people moved to the current centre of Port Vila.


resort-vanuatu-the-havannah-md[1]A delightful adults only property on Hanannah Harbour with villas that have their own private plunge pools and a range of other quality options with a large swimming pool.  The restaurant is excellent.

The Havannah reflects the changing face of Vanuatu.  A decade ago large resorts like Le Lagon were as upmarket as tourism got.  The Havannah was one of the first to see a niche market in adults only romantic luxury in a great location with plenty of activities for those looking for more than just relaxation.

Contact us regarding The Havannah


There are a lot of unfounded misconceptions about health conditions in ‘third world’ countries. The urban water in major centres is safe to drink although some may prefer the taste of bottled water. Bottled or boiled water should be the rule on outer islands however. Because of the humidity, it’s important to keep well hydrated, particularly children. There’s no reason to take anti-malarial medication unless travelling to the outer islands – its side effects can be enough to take the edge off an enjoyable holiday. Most drugs, prescription and non-prescription are available although people with pre-existing conditions would be wise to bring enough medication with them. There are no dangerous animals or insects. To avoid stepping on sea urchins or getting coral cuts reef shoes are recommended. It’s worth packing a small medical kit (for handiness and cost saving) that includes Bandaids, a bandage, Panadol, sunscreen, insect repellent, scissors, tweezers, Imodium, hydrogen peroxide, Stingose and an antiseptic like Betadine. Travel insurance isn’t expensive and is highly recommended.


Heat is a part of the tropics, though it’s not as stifling as you would imagine, even in the summer months. The temperature doesn’t have the vast fluctuations experienced in parts of Australia and New Zealand – around 23C in the cool months of June, July, August and up to 32C in the summer months. It’s still a wise move to carry a bottle of water with you and wear sunblock when going out.


For local handprints and lava lavas (sarongs), hand printed shirts and Mother Hubbard dresses, go to the Hebrida Centre opposite Centrepoint supermarket – also sarongs etc from the women’s markets.


Simon and Jeremy have the helicopter business and their office is harbour front next to the Nambawan Café. From the gangplank there, passengers are taken by boat to the chopper that departs and lands on a pontoon in the harbour.

Take a scenic flight, arrive in style at Tamanu on the Beach or The Havannah, be dropped at a private beach with a gourmet picnic for a day or romance and relaxation or visit the volcano.

Phone 44 106 or visit Incidentally, as well as ‘helikopta’ in Bislama, you can also use the more colourful ‘mixmasta blong Jesus Krist’.


uwpoHideaway Island has a range of accommodation options from bunks to bungalows and a day trip is on most visitors’ list of things to do. It’s a 15-minute bus ride or you can take a tour. The ferry is free but there is an entry fee to the marine park.

The snorkelling is first rate and there are two platforms above the main coral bommies. It’s best if you can take your own gear, as the charge for masks, fins and snorkels isn’t cheap. Fish food packets cost 100 vatu each. Best to use sparingly as there are so many fish some people feel claustrophobic among schools of them.

There is a bar, snack bar and dive operation on the island as well as the world’s only underwater post office (waterproof postcards available at the souvenir shop).


The British High Commission closed in 2005 but the French still have diplomatic representation. Australia, New Zealand and other countries are also represented.

  • Australian High Commission Ph 22 777
  • British High Commission Ph 23 100
  • European Union EC Delegation for the Pacific Ph 22 501
  • Ambassade de France Chancellerie Ph 22 353
  • New Zealand High Commission Ph 22 933
  • Papua New Guinea Honorary Consulate Ph 23 930
  • People’s Republic of China Embassy Ph 23 598
  • Swedish Honorary Consulate Ph 22 944

The South African High Commission in Australia has responsibility for Vanuatu.


Hertz VanuatuThere are a number of car rental options – Avis, Europcar, Laho, Budget, Discount Rentals and World Car Rentals.  We recommend Hertz (top road above Parliament House).

If paying in cash, a cash deposit will be required. American Express, Visa and Mastercard are accepted, Visa and Mastercard preferred because of merchant fees. Expect to pay around VT1500 per day for Collision Damage Waiver. If shopping around for the best price be sure to ask if VAT is included.

While it only takes a couple of hours to drive around the island from Port Vila now there is a new sealed road, at least a full day should be set aside to make the most of it – swim, snorkel, stop for lunch, visit villages etc.  For a guide to around the island, see Car Rental.


Vanuatu Chief Roi Mata his skeleton found by archaeologists rsz-715851For centuries the ni-Vanuatu have recorded their history orally – passing stories, myths and legends from one generation to the next. Sometimes myths and actual events blur. For example, the story of Roy Mata, the custom chief for Efate and the Shepherd Islands, date his death around 1265. It wasn’t until 1967 that archaeologists confirmed that his close relatives and clan leaders volunteered to be buried alive with him.

Stories were told of how Chief Ti Tongoa Liseiriki survived a volcanic eruption that split the large island of Kuwae into five smaller islands in 1475. When he died, family members chose to be buried alive with him. Legend also said that he usually wore four pig’s tusks, but before dying, gave one tusk to another chief. Archeologists last century confirmed this as well.

James-CookEuropean explorers visited the islands in the 17th and 18th centuries from various parts of the globe – de Quiros came from Peru and named Santo, Bougainville came from France. The French also discovered Maewo, Ambae and Malo and named them the New Cyclades.

In 1774, Captain James Cook sailed to Malekula, Erromango, Tanna and Santo. He named Efate ‘Sandwich Island’ after his benefactor, the Earl of Sandwich.  La Perouse and Bligh also passed through.

The 19th century saw the indigenous population decimated by atrocities – bloodshed at the hands of sandalwood traders, kidnapping by ‘blackbirders’ to get labour for the cane fields of Queensland and the arrival of missionaries who introduced white man’s diseases.

John_HigginsonJohn Higginson, a naturalised French citizen arrived in the 1880s and acquired large tracts of land. He wanted the French government to annex the country but the British didn’t want that to happen. In 1906, it was decided (without any consultation with the indigenous people) that the New Hebrides (Nouvelles Hebrides) become an Anglo-French Condominium which was colloquially known as the ‘pandemonium’.

It was basically chaos, requiring three organisations – the French, English and Condominium – to agree before any project could be undertaken. There are still shades of this today. A book was commissioned to celebrate ten years of independence (1990), which had to be written in three languages. There were even two currencies (French and English) up until Independence.


Hitchhiking isn’t encouraged and, if it was, it would be frustrating. As just about every second vehicle is a bus or taxi, people with their thumb out would be inundated with cars wanting to give them a lift in exchange for 150 vatu.


Holiday Inn 2Formerly the Radisson and the Intercontinental, then Le Meridien and now the Holiday Inn, this is a fine resort but reality means it may be half a star less than the brochure advertises.

Most of the accommodation is ‘motel’ style, there are two pools (one with poolside swim up bar for drinks and snacks), tennis courts, watersports (catamarans and kayaks) and a 9 hole golf course. The Villa Bungalows are 5-star, on their own little island, and are ideal for romantic getaways. The restaurant, La Verandah is very good for a resort. There are weekly Melanesian feasts (Thursdays) which non-staying guests can attend.

There’s a Kids Club and the resort is home to Palms Casino. Weddings can be arranged.

Contact us regarding Holiday Inn Vanuatu


All newlyweds want is a memorable and romantic honeymoon, and the tropics make for both – sunsets, warm water and weather, colourful cocktails and a laid back atmosphere. Ian, the author of this site and consultant to Tropical Holiday Deals, was inspired following a deep sea fishing trip from Port Vila with a honeymoon couple.  In a nutshell, the groom didn’t stop throwing up, which meant his delightful child bride and I caught a lot of fish and had time to chat.  Their travel agent had booked them far-from-romantic accommodation and they were so disappointed after seeing other really nice options. This gave the germ on an idea philosophy for personal service, local knowledge and competitive prices.

Contact us regarding Vanuatu Honeymoons


Horse riding is popular with expatriate residents and horses can be hired by the hour, half day or day from Club Hippique (on the road to White Sands and Tamanu) and l’Hippocampus (The Sea Horse Ranch on the road to Devil’s Point). Both offer beach and rainforest rides for experienced and inexperienced riders. The Sea Horse offers trick riding lessons as well as regular lessons and Club Hippique has lessons in dressage, jumping and polocrosse. There is a snack bar and drinks are available.


The Port Vila Hospital isn’t a place you would visit by choice, but in the case of an emergency, skilled doctors will treat you. There are anaesthetists, paediatricians and general surgeons. Insurance is still highly recommended, especially if a Medivac is necessary. There are limited outbound flights, so if the emergency didn’t coincide with one and a plane had come to get you, the meter would tick over to in excess of AUD$40,000. There is a good Medical Centre in Vila. There is also an excellent mobile paramedic (ProMedical). The phone number is 25566.


erakor_island_resort_fullyservicedEvery expatriate home has a housegirl (hausgel). This is not as ‘colonial’ as it sounds. If an expatriate chose not to have a housegirl, that family would be frowned upon for denying a local employment. Sure, there are some colonial types who enjoy being called ‘Masta’ and see it as a ‘master-servant’ relationship but, on the whole, house girls become an extended part of the expatriate family and vice versa. Expatriates often assist with accommodation, school fees and so on, house girls bring fresh fruit and vegetables and often name their children after people in the expatriate family (or what they found in the medicine cabinet, ‘Glycerine’ is one such example). A tradition, when it’s time for an expatriate family to ‘go finis’, is the house girl presenting the expat woman with a Mother Hubbard dress. Most homes also have a ‘garden boy’ (no matter what his age).  Photo: Erakor Island Resort.


“What humidity?” he asked, wringing out his shirt. Humidity is the reason your sheets are damp, why your papers go limp, why your books get fatter and why their pages curl. It’s why your CD’s, floppy’s and videos go mouldy and why your clothes smell like mushrooms and have a coating of fine green fur. Of course it’s not that bad all year round. The worst time of year is around January and February, February being the hottest time. The good thing about humidity is, it plumps up your skin and keeps it moist.


A very handy mix for coral cuts, scratches, nicks and abrasions. Pour onto the wound to cleanse it. This usually results in a fizz – depending on the amount of blood, think creaming soda shaken. The fizz means there is bacteria and the wound should be cleaned with peroxide each time the dressing is changed. After the peroxide, use some antiseptic powder or Betadine, and then cover the wound. Unlike in Australia and New Zealand, fresh air is not good for wounds. Peroxide is available from the chemists who will tell you how best to treat the wound. Don’t ignore coral cuts – they can get nasty in a short time.

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