Ramada Resort Breakas Beach Vanuatu Pango Bay, Port Vila – Image courtesy of Ramada Resort Breakas Beach

How to get around Vanuatu

The best way of getting around Vanuatu is by air. While on land, car hire and taxis offer the opportunity of exploring some of the main islands – but not all islands have roads.

In remote areas, including the west coasts of Santo and Malekula, and the east coasts of Maewo, Pentecost and Ambrym islands, the only access is by foot or speedboat.

Inter-island travel is often by small cargo and passenger boats that operate out of Port Vila and Luganville.

In Vanuatu, ownership of land, the sea and reefs is the basis of Vanuatu society. For visitors, this means you shouldn't wander off the beaten track without a local guide.

Transport options in Vanuatu

Air: Air Vanuatu (www.airvanuatu.com) operates domestic inter-island flights and has offices in Port Vila, Luganville and Lakatoro.

From Port Vila there are daily flights to the islands of Tanna and Espiritu Santo, with less regular services to the other islands in the archipelago.

Several small airlines ofer charter flights, including Unity Airlines (www.unity-airlines.com), Air Safaris, Air Taxi and Belair Airways.

Flights from Port Vila to local destinations usually depart from the domestic terminal next to the Bauerfield International Airport. Check-in is open until 30 minutes before departure.

A departure tax of VUV200 per adult must be paid in cash and in local currency for each leg of travel on domestic flights.

With the exception of Efate, Santo and Tanna islands, the smaller airports operate with grass runways and basic amenities. Apart from Port Vila, Santo’s Pekoa, Pentecost’s Lonorore and Tanna’s Whitegrass airports are some of the better equipped ones.

Note: Flight schedules are frequently cancelled or delayed and aircraft may fly to remote islands only once a week, but if you're flexible, flying is a fast, affordable and fun way of getting around the islands – the scenic views from above are magnificent.

Sea: Although Vanuatu is an archipelago of 83 islands, inter-island ferries are not a developed form of transport. Passenger ferries do operate, but schedules are infrequent and this mode of travel is not recommended for visitors.

However, if you want a sea voyage, several cruise liners call in at the two main ports of Vanuatu: Port Vila and Luganville.

On land

Traffic drives on the right-hand side of the road. Port Vila and Luganville have a speed limit of 50kph (30mph); elsewhere, speed is dictated by road conditions – it's usually not much more than 10kph (6mph).

Car hire: Major car hire companies including Avis, Budget, Discount Car and World Car have offices at Bauerfield International Airport in Port Vila on Efate Island, as well as Luganville on Espiritu Santo Island.

Cars, 4-wheel drive vehicles and jeeps are available. The minimum age for hiring a car is usually 23 years old (25 years old for a dune buggy), and hirers must have held a licence for at least one year; for a scooter it’s 18 years old.

A current driving licence from your home country is acceptable to drive in Vanuatu.

By law, insurance is always added to car and motorcycle hire – at an additional cost. Take note of any damage and check your tyres (and the spare) before setting off.

Taxi: Taxis are plentiful in the capital, Port Vila. You can easily hail them on the street or arrange for a pick-up. On other islands, a taxi cab will usually have a red ‘T’ on their licence plates.

Most taxis are metered (costing around VUV100 per km) and prices tend to be reasonable. However, you may also encounter fixed fares, such as those heading out from the airport to the resorts, as well as non-metered taxis, in which case, it is best to negotiate a price first before getting in.

In Port Vila’s main market, there are utility vehicles which hold passenger licences and can also be hired to take you to other parts of Efate Island. Two cab companies are Mitzu Taxi (+678-43-787) and Mac Taxi (+678-45-503).

Taxis in Port Vila and Luganville are mostly sedans, but elsewhere they’re 4WD trucks with open trays at the back. Charges depend on distance, but also on the state of the road.

A short trip in Port Vila might cost VUV400, but a day charter will cost between VUV8,000 and VUV12,000. On ‘cruise-ship days’ prices can rocket.

Local taxis (4WD trucks) meet flights at island airstrips, but may not be around on Sundays, public holidays, when there’s no fuel on the island or when there’s a major celebration taking place.

Bicycle: Mountain bikes can be hired in Port Vila and Luganville. Some resorts have pushbikes for guest use. Vanuatu Ecotours offers mountain bike tours.

Bus: Public buses – mainly minivans with a ‘B’ on their licence plate – are available and inexpensive in Port Vila, Luganville and northeast Malekula. There are no fixed routes. Passengers tell the driver where they are headed and they get dropped off there on a first in, first delivered system.

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Latest update: How to get to Vanuatu: 13 June, 2020

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