Iririki, Vanuatu
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Iririki, Vanuatu

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Vanuatu Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

12,190 sq km (4,707 sq miles).

Population

270,470 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density

22.3 per sq km.

Capital

Port-Vila.

Government

Republic.

Head of state

Acting President Esmon Saimon since 2017.

Head of government

Prime Minister Bob Loughman since 2020.

Electricity

230 volts AC, 50Hz. Australian-style plugs with three flat, angled pins are used.

If you can confidently point to Vanuatu on a map then you’re a better geographer than most. Drifting like flotsam in the Pacific Ocean, this little-known nation has much to offer intrepid travellers and is all the more appealing for its obscurity.

Made up of approximately 83 islands, the geologically active archipelago is a natural playground of colourful coral reefs, bubbling volcanoes and lush rainforest. Visitors can drive up to the crater of Yasur, cited as the most accessible active volcano in the world, sea kayak round the islands' sandy shores, explore underwater WWII relics, or hike and bike through coconut plantations and steamy jungles.

Those less disposed to physical exertion can always while away lazy days on Vanuatu’s bountiful beaches, which really are the picture of tropical island idyll. Or why not charter a boat and hop from one island to the next? Wherever you go expect a good feast: the food here is absolutely exquisite, a testament not only to talented local chefs, but also the profusion of fresh ingredients that grow on this fertile archipelago.

Warm and welcoming, with a rich and sometimes mysterious traditional culture, the ni-Vanuatu people greet visitors as friends and are keen to share stories about their country, which was declared the happiest nation on the planet in 2006. The Happy Planet Index hasn’t bestowed this title on Vanuatu since, but it’s still pretty jovial by all accounts.

Tourism in Vanuatu is largely centred on the islands of Tanna, Espiritu Santo and Efaté, with most international visitors arriving on the latter. From here it is easy to travel by boat or plane to the rest of the country, which caters for travellers of all stripes. Sure, it’s skewered to the well heeled, but amongst the high-end beach resorts are a smattering of wallet friendly options. Proof that paradise needn’t break the bank.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Vanuatu confirmed its first COVID-19 case on 11 November 2020. The case was detected in a traveller in quarantine. The government of Vanuatu has advised that residents follow measures detailed on the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Update website.

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Vanuatu on the TravelHealthPro website

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International travel

All inbound travel to Vanuatu by both sea and air is suspended until 12 September 2021. Air Vanuatu is running a small number of outbound cargo services with some seats for passengers to Brisbane, Auckland and Noumea. All travellers to Vanuatu who are 18 years and older are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

If you are a British National looking to return to the UK, you will need to register for one of these flights with Vanuatu’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Port Vila. For the most recent international flight schedule to determine which flight you’d like to register for, please refer to the Air Vanuatu website.

Once you have determined which flight you’d like to register for, you should send your registration request to ekaltongga@vanuatu.gov.vu and nvuti@vanuatu.gov.vu at the Vanuatu Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Port Vila or by calling (+678) 33190.

You will also need to make your own transit arrangements at your point of arrival from Vanuatu. See Travel via Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia in ‘Entry Requirements’ for more details about the current transit procedures through these countries.

Before making your onward flight booking from your transit point, you should also check the current transit rules for any other countries you will be travelling through. Airlines may also have their own requirements for travellers including having to undertake a pre-departure COVID-19 test before boarding.

It is a requirement of entry to the UK to obtain a COVID-19 test within a strict timeframe before entry. For further information on where to get COVID-19 testing in Vanuatu as well as current UK entry requirements, please refer to the ‘Returning to the UK’ section.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Vanuatu.

Returning to the UK

When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.

You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government requirements. The Ministry of Health has advised that PCR tests are only available in Vanuatu at Vila Central Hospital (VCH), at a cost of VT25,000 per person, payable to the Government Cashier at Vila Central Hospital Administration building. Once an invoice has been issued, travellers should arrange their test by contacting Dr Vincent Atua: vatua@vanuatu.gov.vu and George Junior Pakoa: jgpakoa@vanuatu.gov.vu.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Travel in Vanuatu

Domestic travel may be affected by COVID-19. Passengers should check with their airline about any restrictions on flights operating between islands.

Public places and services

A State of Emergency is in place in Vanuatu until 31 December 2021, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are no restrictions in place on social gatherings. Restaurants, bars and supermarkets are permitted to open as usual, although some are operating a restricted service or have closed altogether in response to falling trade.

Visas

If you hold a short term visa for Vanuatu which is close to expiry, you should report to the Director of Immigration to have your visa extended.

Healthcare in Vanuatu

Medical care across Vanuatu is not as advanced as you would find in the UK. Access to medical services and the availability of goods could be impaired during the COVID-19 pandemic and while international flights are suspended. View Health for further details on healthcare in Vanuatu.

The government of Vanuatu has introduced additional border protection and disease surveillance measures in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health

See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.

COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Vanuatu

We will update this page when the Government of Vanuatu announces new information on the national vaccination programme. You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.

Vanuatu’s national vaccination programme started in June 2021 and is using the AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines. British nationals resident in Vanuatu are eligible for vaccination if they choose to join the programme. Further information on the vaccination programme is available on the Government of Vanuatu’s Ministry of Health website.

Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad.

If you’re a British national living in Vanuatu, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Further information

Monitor local developments on COVID-19 at the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Updates website.

For further UK government guidance on support you can access whilst abroad, visit our waiting to return guidance. This includes guidance on finance, health, and staying connected.

If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.

Crime

Crime rates are low, but increasing. Burglaries are often accompanied by violence. Make sure you lock doors and windows at night. Street crime is also increasing and you should avoid making yourself an easy target, especially at night. There have been a number of attacks on tourists at nightclubs and bars in Port Vila. Check with the Vanuatu Tourist Office or your hotel on places where extra caution is required.

There have been several serious attacks on foreigners, including lone women, in isolated locations. Avoid visiting remote tourist sites or beaches alone. Where possible, travel as part of a larger group. 

Before you travel, make copies of your passport, travel documents and travellers cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

Road travel

You can drive in Vanuatu on your UK driving licence. General driving standards are below those of the UK.  Many vehicles, including public transport, are in a poor state of repair and may not be insured. Numerous roads are not properly surfaced, and driving can also be dangerous due to a lack of street lighting, and the presence of pedestrians. Extra care should be taken when driving, particularly at night, in heavy rain or after a prolonged dry period.

Air travel

Inter-island travel by the domestic airline (Air Vanuatu) is very expensive and subject to delays. Vanuatu’s outer island routes are serviced by small aircrafts, and airports and airstrips have quite basic facilities. 

Sea travel

Boat services between the islands are infrequent and can be unreliable. Inter-island boats should have a current sea-worthiness certificate, but many don’t.

Swimming

Seek local advice from the Provincial Council Office and elsewhere before swimming in the waters off Vanuatu, particularly around the islands of Malekula and Espiritu Santo. Sharks are known to be present in these waters and deaths have occurred.

Water sports

Many visitors to Vanuatu take part in water sports, including scuba diving and snorkelling without incident. However, deaths and serious accidents have occurred because of the lack of basic safety measures. Safety precautions and emergency responses may be less than those expected in the UK.

Vanuatu has two hyperbaric recompression chambers to provide medical assistance for dive-related injuries, both located in Port Vila.

Make sure your travel and medical insurance policy covers you for the activities you take part in.

Political situation

Following a General Election on 19 March, MPs elected a new Prime Minister on 20 April. Priorities for the government are recovery from Cyclone Harold and the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The President serves a five-year term. The current State President, Tallis Obed Moses, was elected in July 2017.

You should take extra care around political gatherings and follow instructions from the local authorities

Mobile phone services

There is a GSM mobile phone service in Vanuatu and you should contact your service provider to establish whether your phone will work in Vanuatu. Alternatively, SIM cards may be purchased from the local telephone companies Vodafone or Digicel.

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Vanuatu, attacks can’t be ruled out.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

You should respect local customs, which are strictly observed, and religious sensitivities.  

Do not wear beachwear when away from beaches and hotels. 

Homosexuality is legal in Vanuatu but open displays of affection between same-sex partners will attract adverse attention and may offend some. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

Drinking kava is an ancient tradition in Vanuatu. Kava is widely available at traditional ceremonies, at nakamals (kava bars) and at some hotels. Be aware of the British Medicine Controls Agency advice on kava consumption. It is illegal for supermarkets to sell alcohol between noon on a Saturday and 7am on a Monday. However, clubs bars and hotels may serve alcohol during these times.

Drug offences are punishable by fines, imprisonment or both. While there are no mandatory sentences for drug offences in Vanuatu, it is rare for a convicted person not to be fined or receive a jail sentence, even for ‘soft’ drug offences.

Most ni-Vanuatu (meaning people ‘of Vanuatu’) will allow you to take their photograph but you should always seek their permission first.

Land ownership in Vanuatu is an important and often sensitive issue. If you are travelling off the beaten track, be aware that you may be trespassing and required to pay a “visiting fee” to the landowner.

This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Vanuatu set and enforce entry rules. For further information contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to. You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Entry to Vanuatu

Borders are closed to non-residents. Air Vanuatu are running a small number of scheduled repatriation flights from Auckland, Brisbane and Noumea between September and December 2020 for Vanuatu citizens and permanent residents. Places on these flights need to be pre-approved by the Vanuatu authorities. Arriving passengers are required to undergo 14 days’ quarantine at a government approved location at their own expense.

The Government of Vanuatu has also issued specific instructions to crew on aircraft and foreign going sea vessels. Given the fast moving situation, you should familiarise yourself with controls in place and to check with your airline before you travel.

Travel via Australia and New Zealand

The government of Australia has announced that entry to the country will only be permitted to Australian citizens or permanent residents unless an exemption is granted. This follows a similar announcement by New Zealand from 19 March. If you’re resident in Vanuatu, you should be aware of the potential impact of the border closures and flight restrictions on future travel plans.

To transit through Australia you may need to apply for a visa and/or exemption from the mandatory 14 day quarantine arrangements currently in place for all international travellers entering Australia. . States and Territories are introducing charges for quarantine. These are already in place in New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia and are likely to be introduced to other states. For further information on the strict measures in place for travel and transit via Australia, see the Travel Advice pages for Australia

The New Zealand border is currently closed to almost all arrivals. The government of New Zealand has put in place strict measures to limit transit through their airports. For further information on the strict entry and transit requirements, see the Travel Advice pages for New Zealand. More information is also available from Immigration New Zealand.

Regular entry requirements

Visas

You do not need a visa to visit Vanuatu. British passport holders are normally given permission to enter and remain in the country for up to 30 days on arrival. You must be in possession of an onward or return ticket.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry to Vanuatu.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Vanuatu.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Vanuatu on the TravelHealthPro website

See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Vanuatu.

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate
of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Medical treatment

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Medical facilities in Vanuatu are basic but adequate for routine treatment but are limited in range and availability. More serious cases will require evacuation to Australia or New Zealand. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad, medical evacuation and repatriation.

Vanuatu sits along a volatile seismic strip called the ‘Ring of Fire’ in the Pacific. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis are possible.

Tropical cyclones

The tropical cyclone season in Vanuatu normally runs from November to May. Throughout this period there is a high risk of strong winds and heavy rains with associated flooding, landslides and road closures. You should monitor local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation, the Vanuatu Meteorological Service, local newspapers and local radio.

See our tropical cyclones page for advice about what to do if you’re caught up in a storm.

Earthquakes and tsunamis

The Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department (VMGD) issued an information update for Efate on 16 February 2021, following a recent increase in seismic activity. You should follow the VMGD website and their Facebook page for updates.

Vanuatu is prone to significant year round seismic and volcanic activity, with associated risks of tsunamis. They are over 2,000 seismic events reported each year, most events are small scale, although larger tremors and quakes of over 5 on the Richter scale do occur on a regular basis.

Further information on earthquakes can be found on the US Geological Survey website. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and Vanuatu Meteorological Service provides real-time information on tsunamis in the region.

To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see the website of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Volcanoes

There are several active volcanoes in Vanuatu, located on the islands of Tanna, Ambae, Ambrym, Lopevi, Vanua Lava and Gaua. You should monitor local media reports and follow the advice of local authorities when visiting these areas.

The Vanuatu government’s Mines and Geology Department monitor volcanos and provide advice on the level of risk. There are five alert levels for volcanoes; from zero (normal, low-level activity) up to five (very large eruption, island-wide danger). An alert level of three will often be the trigger for warnings to avoid the summit of the volcano and nearby areas. Even at lower levels, explosions and injuries from volcanic debris can occur.

Alert levels and accessibility to volcanoes can change unexpectedly contact the Vanuatu Tourism Office for the latest advice before travelling to the areas where volcanic activity may occur.

More information on volcanic activity can also be found at the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department.

The local currency is the Vanuatu Vatu (VUV). The use of credit cards is commonplace in Port Vila and Luganville but less so in the rest of Vanuatu, particularly away from tourist resorts. There are banking facilities and money exchange services in Port Vila through the following banks, ANZ, BSP (Bank South Pacific) and the National Bank of Vanuatu available 8.30am to 3.00pm Monday to Friday. Many offer ATM facilities covering most UK bank cards.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice team a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.