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“Our stay in Port Vila”
4 of 5 bubbles Review of Port Vila

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Hastings, New Zealand
Level Contributor
43 reviews
22 helpful votes
“Our stay in Port Vila”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 24 January 2009

Port Vila is very expensive.....if you are after 5 star service and awesome beaches then you can get this cheaper in NZ or OZ.

Port Vila is an experience and is heaps of fun if you have nice accommodation to come back to at the end of the day. Choose accommodation wisely, read reviews as some places are pretty basic. We stayed at Poppy's on the lagoon and it was great.

My advice is:
Take as much pre packaged food as poss as food is very expensive here.
The only food items we were asked about at customs was 'did we have any cheese or nuts?'. I still was allowed to bring in heaps of other sealed food and even a bag of sealed peanuts.
The only cheap stuff was ice blocks and French Stick (baguettes?) bread. If I was going again I'd take heaps of tinned salmon and live off baguettes, local avocadoes, cucumber and tinned salmon. Meat was the most expensive! We found some cheap meatballs at 395 vatu for 500grams and lived of that for several days as that was fairly cheap. ...1kg of frozen fish portions worked out to be $40NZ!

Bring your own snorkelling gear (even on tours that supply gear), even if its just cheap payless plastics stuff as it makes life so much easier in the long run. We bought sets for $9 before we left thank goodness! Take aqua shoes as the coral is really sharp.

Always ask the price of the bus before you start the journey as bus prices can change if cruise ships are in town.....agree on the price per person first. Buses start with a letter 'B' on the licence plate and you can flag one down anywhere. They are normally just vans but are called buses....choose and empty one if you don't want to wait till everyone else is dropped off first.

Get advice about different tours from someone like Melanesian Tours. They are a kiwi couple based in Port Vila that give good honest advice and can understand what would suit Kiwi families.....I found it hard to decide which tours would be good when looking at pamphlets and booklets as some look like a bit of a have and at a costly price too. Although the local people are very happy and helpful sometimes you just want to talk to another Kiwi or Aussie about what’s good and what’s not from a Kiwi perspective! We talked to Melanesian Tours about what we were interested in and asked their advice and they were very good at suggesting tours that were interactive for kids etc. They even were happy to talk about how to do some of the tours on our own to save money (i.e. by using the local buses) and what bus fares should cost etc.

Take ear plugs for kids prone to ear infections as water in the ears from all the swimming and snorkelling can turn to ear infections in a few days with the tropical heat as we found out.

Take some cheap giveaways like $1 beach balls and $2 shop toys for the local kids...they are shy but love to interact with tourists.

Take insect repellent ...although in January the insects were no worse than in NZ but there is a small risk of Malaria if travelling to other islands.

The roads are really bumpy in places out of Port Vila and buses don’t drive very fast out of town due to the bumpy roads...if you like long drives then do the 'round the island' tour but I'd recommend doing tours that don't go too far away unless you enjoy a bumpy ride!

You often have to pay to go on some of the beaches outside of Port Vila so if you use buses to go places rather than pay for a tour then keep this in mind.

Take some juice sachets if you have kids as the local water was fine to drink (although we still boiled ours most of the time) but it tastes funny and has a high calcium content so can be a little gritty.

Places we enjoyed.
Mele cascade falls (bused there on our own)
Hideaway Island (entry fee of 1000 vatu) .....great food at a good price and awesome snorkelling spot.
Iririki Resort (great pools for kids and can claim the 1500 vatu entry fee back off any food purchased)
Lelepa Island day long tour (great beaches and snorkelling but gear provided not in great condition).

Helpful?
Thank whymiss
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
sydney
2 reviews
12 helpful votes
“Vanuatu - Port Vila General Tips”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 13 January 2009

If you haven't been to Vanuatu before here are some things you may want to know before you go:

Transport

Taxi from airport is 1800 vanu or 200 vanu each

Mini buses are great and go everywhere around the island - for short journeys around Port Vila it is 100 vanu per person, for longer journeys about 200-300 per person.

Taxi's are expensive but you can bargain with them - if there is three or four of you it may be okay to take a taxi

Be aware that mini-buses have to drop lots of people of and they go door to door so sometime trips can take a little longer but they are a great way to see the island and you will go through villages too.

Travelling is very safe

Beaches / Resorts

Take a snorkel and mask and fins, small children may need reef shoes as some beaches are coral only - buy them before you go

There are lots of beaches and places to go snorking and it's best at high tide - ask around about tide times..we found the best places were : Hideaway Island (take a minibus for 200, it costs 1,000 vatu per person on the island for the day) and Brekas resort at pango- you may not be able to take kids as I think it is for honeymooners but this is a beautiful location and has an infinity pool

Food
Food is expensive. Most main meals in Port Vila are 2500 Vatu $35 - the best food to choose is beef as this is all local and organic.

Port Vila is very quiet at night - things close at about 9.30pm so don't try and go out for a late dinner. Most good meals are found at hotels.

Good places to eat for cheap food are Jill's cafe - daytime only (on the waterfront in port villa)

Also Cafe Namba Wan (No.1) which also has good pizza (A large will feed 2 hungry people for 2500 vatu) and show's movies on Wednesdays and Fridays - there is a juice bar and they serve pizza, they even carry on if it's raining. Numba Wan is located on the waterfront at Port Vila - in front of the craft market.

Moorings: reasonable price and good food and nice atmosphere
yacht club is a great place to eat and has a lively bar and live music - best to book a table

It pays to go to the main supermarket - Bon Marche next to the roundabout right at the end of Port Vila main street near the petrol station. This has a butchers within it and make sure you try to get local produce like yogurts and crisps as imported items are really expensive

Take a camp stove and a saucepan or get self catering if you are on a budget!

It is worth taking tinned foods and any favourite foods with you in your luggage - if you are on a budget

Alcohol

Very expensive in restaurants and resorts, buy it in the supermarket or in the duty free shop in town or at the airport - especially if you like wine

For example A corona in the supermarket is 250 vatu - in a resort it is 900 vatu

The local beer is called Tusker - it is disgusting

Other things to do

Cascade falls is lovely about 1500 to go up there which is a bit of a rip off but lovely to swim under the falls and good thing to do on a cloudy day

There are some good boat trips to other islands I heard but we didn't get time.

Le Meridian is on the lagoon and you can hire kayaks on the lagoon and massive pool and other activities

We stayed at Mangoes resort and loved it. Perfect for couples and beautiful roooms and pools.

Finally
Enjoy it - it is a beautiful and relaxing place

Lisa

Helpful?
9 Thank lisainsydney
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
66 reviews
158 helpful votes
“Extremely friendly people, cheap shopping”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 2 April 2008

We visited PV in March, it was extermely hot and humid during this time, so need to keep your clothes, cotton/linen and light.

Things to know that help-

-Take smaller vatu currency if you can. Not higher than 5000 vatu notes unless you plan to buy expensive items. Lots of things are paid for more with 100 vatu notes.

Aussie dollars are used in most places but you probably get a better deal if you are using vatus, exchange rate wise – can get vatus from the local atm machines which are everywhere.

(Note though that the atms did not give you the choice of which account you want to take money out of- consequently when we thought it was coming off our credit card - being in credit = no foreign exchange fee.... it turned out it automatically takes it from the cheque a/c, which means a F/E fee everytime of $7.50.)

-There is no bartering in Vanuatu (although make sure the bus and taxi drivers have agreed on the prices as above prior to getting in)

-Tobacco and alcohol are INCREDIBLY cheap- have never seen these prices in duty free before. Bottle of absoulute flavoured vodka for $18 and a 5 pack of 50gm tobacco pouches for $26!!!

- Most people here seem to use the bus style service which is very easy and convenient for getting into town and they also go right out to cascade waterfalls and hideaways island.

the buses and taxi's look the same- are all vans or cars in various states of repair and dis-repair!
The way you tell them apart is by the number plate. The buses have a "B" on the plate and the taxi's have a "T". You can wave them down anywhere and the cost (make sure you state it before getting in as one driver was going to try and rip us off) is 100 vatu ($1.40) within town limits and 200 vatu pp ($2.80) outside of that each way.

The taxis fromLe Lagon resort to town are 700 vatu each way in total ($10), while the bus is 100 vatu pp. So much chepaer to use the bus unless you have a large group.
Many of the drivers will offer to come and pick you up again or you can arrange tours etc privately with them. This is a much cheaper way to go than the resort tours which seem very over priced.

-When you go to the cascade falls make sure you wear either reef shoes or a pair of running shoes with open parts on them as the rocks are pretty slippery for bare feet and you cant keep jandals on in the water as you walk up the falls.

-Definitely take insect repellant there as we were bombarded with large mosquitoes that landed all over your legs when you stood still out of the water. The staff at the gate told us but didnt sell any repellant and I have seen no warnings in T/A. May be the hotter times of year you have this problem.

-You have to have VATUs to gain admission to the falls, people who had credit cards or aussie dollars were turned away Itis 1500 vatu pp, I think 1000 for children and under 5 free..

-Take a towel from home -Take your own snorkelling gear if you have them.

- If the water sports are important to you in your choice of resort, email them prior to ascertain what is available as my husband was very disappointed to find that none of the windsurfers had masts (as they had disappeared).

- I copied and pasted bits and pieces from other TA reviews and took this with us, which was great when working out where to go for meals, prices for things here etc. Was really helpful.

- It is very helpful to make a small conversion chart to put in your wallet for vatu to your local currencies- i did this then covered it in sellotape so it didnt fall apart. I used xe.com to get an idea of this, and really helps when trying to work out prices as vatu is such a large currency.

Port Vila is a town of cheap copies, watch the dvd's- they are all the latest films most only just out at the movies- highly illegal at home i would say. But the quality is very poor and you need to check you do have an english version- look for the the word/symbol in the very bottom right hand corner saying english. Basically you are getting what you pay for here and at $13 each or older ones 5 for $22 they are cheap.

Last thing, make sure you have travel insurance- I had an accident and suffered a large laceration through my knee. We went to the private hospital, it is better than the public one but was very very basic. Not a lot of resources, little pain relief, no drains for wounds, limited suture material etc.

The wonderful doctor there told me they have to airlift people out if it is bigger as they just dont have a lot to work with- even the hospital bed had been donated!.

Helpful?
8 Thank deliverygirlnz
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
wanaka
Level Contributor
16 reviews
38 helpful votes
“so amazing”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 11 November 2007

our hoilday would not have been the same anywhere else, we really felt that the people of vanuatu is what made our holiday so enjoyable.
they were the friendliest happiest people, always saying hello to you and having a laugh with you, the children are so beautiful i wanted to
bring some home with me! coming from a tourist town it made me realise that we arent like the ni-van people at all! they make such an effort to make you feel welcome. I would definately go back to vanuatu again because not only is it a beautiful place but the people and the culture make it special.

highlights for us were the cascade waterfalls which are well worth the
visit, dont bother getting a tour just get a bus out there, its a lot cheaper and you dont need a guide at all. Erakor island on a sunday for the bbq which was fantastic and the snorkelling was great there too. Hideaway island is a must because the beaches on that side are gorgeous, snorkelling there is really good, nice and deep and clear and nice relaxed feel to the little island resort. Tamanu on the beach
was absolutely amazing, we hired a 4wd for one day and went to this boutique resort for dinner, its about 20min drive from town but well worth it if you have transport. this was on a white sand beach and the food was probably the best we had, beautiful seafood and eye fillet and crabs all over the beach! Other fantastic restaurants we went to were, chantillys which is nice and romantic, waterfront bar and grill which was right on the harbour were the boats all sit, great service too. Kanpai japanese which was awesome, really good sushi, miso and sashimi. We found it just as cheap to eat out as the supermakets are pretty expensive. overall the meals were really impressive, seafood is amazing. im a vegan and found it quite hard explaining what that was! so i ended up eating seafood over there for fear of starving! but im glad i did because it was worth it.

Helpful?
4 Thank wanakachick
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
South Auckland
1 review
8 helpful votes
“Beautiful Vanuatu”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 2 October 2007

Vanuatu is just the bestest place on Earth. The landscape is similar to certain areas in New Zealand, but the people are amazing! Life is so simple there, smiles a million, friendly greetings and locals who bend over backwards to help you. The hospitality of the natives is unbelievable!

Alot to see and do or not do, yummy affordable food to eat (no McDonalds...yay!) both local and overseas, meet great people from all over the world who actually want to talk to you.

My friend and I stayed at Mangoes Resort, 18+, and we highly recommend it. The accommadation is lovely and comfortable, pools are great, but the main attraction at Mangoes are their staff, namely Margaret, Carlos, Set and Frank (along with others). Carlos makes a mean cocktail, Margaret will do anything to make your trip enjoyable, Frank holds great conversation along with Set, and all were a wealth of information. There was nothing these people wouldn't do for us....nothing was a problem, and we weren't high maitenence either...honest!

Would also like to mention Glenda and her staff from Melanesian Tours. Freindly greeting at the airport with much needed ice flannels to semi cool you down as it is hot! Awesome relevant information about the island and it's people, along with recommended tours all organised for you! Love the way Glenda (ex-teacher in low socio-economic area in New Zealand) thought about the kids of Vanuatu, by asking her clients if they had room in their luggage to bring pens, pencils, excercise books for the kids of Vanuatu as alot of them cannot afford to go to school....cheers Glenda.

Well that's my speil...can't rant enough about the place....words cannot express the lasting impression Vanuatu had on me...will definately be returning there yearly!

See ya there! Kiwi Girls x

Helpful?
8 Thank Maori_Teina
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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