Facts about Vanuatu

Vanuatu mapFull name

Republic of Vanuatu

Capital City

Port Vila (on the island of Efate)

Area

12,189 km2 (4,706 sq miles)

Population

Approximately 290,000
(Source: 2017 January Census, Vanuatu National Statistics Office)

Money

Vatu (VT). Foreign cash (predominately Australian dollars) and travellers cheques are widely accepted in Port Vila.

ATM's are only available in Port Vila and Luganville. While travellers cheques can be cashed on some islands; cash is preferred.

Time Zone

GMT/UTC +11. There is no daylight saving in summer.

Country Dialing Code

+678

Religion

56% Protestant, 13% Roman Catholic, 14% Other Christian, 5% Indigenous Beliefs, 10% Other and 2% None or Unspecified.

Tipping

In accordance with Vanuatu custom, neither tipping nor bargaining are practised in Vanuatu. Most fruit and vegetables at the market are priced either by a sticker on the skin or written on cardboard next to the produce.

Electricity and Electric Plug Details

230V 50HzHz.

Three Pin (Flat). (The same as New Zealand and Australia).

Languages

There are over 120 distinct languages and many more dialects in Vanuatu but only 3 official languages: English, French and Bislama (pidgin English).

Climate

The cooler, drier season is between May and October where the average daytime temperature is approximately 26°C.

The wetter and hotter season is between November and April where the average daytime temperature is approximately 29°C.

Visas

You must have a valid, ongoing or return airline ticket and your passport must be valid for six months beyond your intended stay. Visit our section on Permits and Immigration for more information.

Medical

Visitors do not need vaccinations, but anti-malarial medication is recommended if you are travelling to islands outside of Efate. There are several private doctors and hospitals in the 2 town centres, Port Vila and Luganville. There are no dangerous animals.

The urban water in Port Vila and Luganville is safe to drink, but if you're travelling to more remote areas it is recommended that you take bottled water with you.

Departure Tax

A VT3,400 depature tax per person (over 12 years) is included in all international airfares. A separate domestic departure fee of VT200 applies for departures from specific domestic terminals and is not included in fares, but paid separately.

Location

The Republic of Vanuatu is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago is located some 1,750 km east of Australia, 500 km north-east of New Caledonia, west of Fiji and south of the Solomon Islands.

Vanuatu is only 2.5 hours flying time from Brisbane and 3.5 hours from Sydney, Australia. It's a little over 2 hours from Auckland, New Zealand. There are regular flights from New Zealand, Honiara, Australia, Noumea and Fiji.

History

Many of the islands of Vanuatu have been inhabited for thousands of years, the oldest archaeological evidence found dating to 2000 BC. In 1605, the Portuguese explorer Pedro Fernández de Quirós became the first European to reach the islands, believing it to be part of Terra Australis.

Europeans began settling the islands in the late 18th century, after British explorer James Cook visited the islands on his second voyage, and gave them the name New Hebrides. In 1887, the islands began to be administered by a French-British naval commission. In 1906, the French and British agreed to an Anglo-French Condominium on the New Hebrides. During World War II, the islands of Efate and Espiritu Santo were used as allied military bases.

In the 1960s, the ni-Vanuatu people started to press for self-governance and later independence; full sovereignty was finally granted by both European nations on July 30, 1980. It joined the UN in 1981, and the Non-Aligned Movement in 1983.

You can find out more about the rich history of Vanuatu by visting our history section.

Politics

The republic of Vanuatu is an independent parliamentary democracy, for which general elections are held every four years. The parliament of Vanuatu is unicameral, and has 52 members. The leader of the main party in the parliament is usually elected Prime Minister, and heads the government. The head of state, the President, is chosen every five years by the parliament and the presidents of the six provincial governments.

Provinces

Since 1994, Vanuatu has been divided into the six provinces of Malampa, Penama, Sanma, Shefa, Tafea and Torba. The main Islands within these provinces include: Banks and Torres (Torba), Espiritu Santo (Sanma), Maewo and Pentecost (Penama), Malekula, Ambrym (Malampa), Epi, Efate (Shefa), Erromango, Tanna and Aneityum (Tafea)

Geography

Vanuatu is an archipelago of 83 islands, of which two — Matthew and Hunter — are also claimed by the French overseas department of New Caledonia. Of all the 83 islands, 14 have surface areas of more than 100 square kilometers, from largest to smallest: Espiritu Santo (3956 km), Malakula (2041 km), Éfaté (900 km), Erromango (888 km), Ambrym (678 km), Tanna (555 km), Pentecôte (491 km), Épi (445 km), Ambae or Aoba (402 km), Vanua Lava (334 km), Santa Maria (328 km), Maéwo (304 km), Malo (180 km) and Anatom or Aneityum (159 km).

Most of the islands are mountainous and of volcanic origin, and have a tropical or sub-tropical climate. The nation's largest towns are the capital Port Vila, which is situated on Efate, and Luganville, on Espiritu Santo. The highest point in Vanuatu is Mount Tabwemasana, at 1879 m (6158 ft), on the island of Espiritu Santo. There are several active volcanoes in Vanuatu, including Mount Yasur on the island of Tanna, one of the world’s most accesible volcanoes, as well as several underwater ones.

Ecology

Vanuatu is recognized as a distinct terrestrial ecoregion, known as the Vanuatu rain forests. Vanuatu is part of the Australasia ecozone, which also includes neighboring New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands, as well as Australia, New Guinea, and New Zealand. Despite its tropical forests, Vanuatu has a limited number of plant and animal species. There are no indigenous large mammals, poisonous snakes, or spiders. The 19 species of native reptiles include the rare flowerpot snake, found only on Efate. There are 11 species of bat (3 unique to Vanuatu) and 61 species of land and water birds. While the small Polynesian rat is thought to be indigenous, the large species arrived with Europeans, as did domesticated hogs, dogs, and cattle. (The wild pig and fowl appear to be indigenous.) The region is rich in sea life, with more than 4,000 species of marine mollusks. The giant East African snail arrived only in the 1970s but already has spread from the Port-Vila region to Luganville.

Economy

The economy is based primarily on subsistence or small-scale agriculture, which provides a living for 65% of the population. Fishing, offshore financial services, and tourism are other mainstays of the economy. Mineral deposits are negligible; the country has no known petroleum deposits. A small light industry sector caters to the local market. Tax revenues come mainly from import duties and a 12.5 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on goods and services.

Demographics

Most of the inhabitants of Vanuatu (98.5%) are native Melanesian, or Ni-Vanuatu, with the remainder of the population made up of Europeans, Asians and other Pacific Islanders. Most of the population is rural, though Port Vila and Luganville have populations in the tens of thousands. A few of the islands are Polynesian outliers. About 2,000 Ni-Vanuatu live and work on New Caledonia.