First Time in Vanuatu? 5 Things to Know Before You Go!

Jul 29, 14 First Time in Vanuatu? 5 Things to Know Before You Go!


Considering your first trip to Vanuatu? Congratulations! You’re sure to have an incredible time and make some truly unforgettable memories.


If you’re unacquainted with the culture and traditions of Vanuatu, there are a few things you should familiarize yourself with so you can be sure you fit right in and respect the local culture.



Here’s a quick list of 5 things you need to know before you head off on the holiday of a lifetime:


1. Be ready to embrace ‘Island Time’.



Vanuatu tends to run on what is affectionately known as ‘island time’, so don’t get too bogged down in the tight schedules you left at home, and go with the island flow!


After all, aren’t you on a beautiful island holiday to relax and slow down? Relish in the casual timing and chilled out island pace, and take the time to unwind that you deserve!


2. Catch the bus!


Vanuatu’s unique public transport system may be a little confusing to a new visitor, but it really couldn’t be simpler! Buses don’t run on any set schedule or specified route, you can just hail them from the road side and tell the driver where you need to go.


Once you’re in the bus, drop offs work on a first on – first off basis, so you’re likely to get a nice tour around town before arriving at your destination. You’ll have no problem spotting buses by the letter B on their number plate, and trips in town are around 100Vt (approximately $1.25 AUD).


3. What to wear?


For day to day wear, go for light, breathable, sun safe, and comfortable clothes, and remember a light jumper is likely to come in handy in the evenings as it cools off.


With regards to swim wear, while bikinis and swimsuits are suitable poolside or on the beach, outside your resort it’s important to dress with modesty in mind.


Exposed thighs can be considered offensive in Vanuatu so it’s probably best to leave short shorts and mini skirts at home.


4. Greetings!




Vanuatu is known for the friendliness of its locals, so be sure to return greetings, smile, and always remember to say thank you! Particularly in the main towns and more touristy areas, English and French are spoken, but to get extra points with the locals, learn some phrases in the pidgin dialect, Bislama.


Here are a few useful Bislama words and phrases to try out while you’re there:


Tankyu Tumas – Thank you very much

Halo – Hello

Gud moning – Good morning

Gud naet – Good evening/good night

Hamas Long Hem – How much is that?

Mi no save (pronounced savee) – I do not know/understand

Samting ia hemi bugarap – This is broken down/not working

Yu save sakem mi long Villa – Can you take me to Villa.

Lukim Yu / TaTa – See you later / Ta Ta (bye)

Mi harem no gud / bel blong mi I soa – I am ill / My stomach is sore

Pikinini – Child


5. No haggling & No tipping



“Image: David Kirkland

If you’re planning on picking up some souvenirs, grabbing a quick refreshment, or checking out the local markets, it’s important to note that unlike some other port towns, in Vanuatu, haggling is considered rude.


You won’t be badgered or accosted by pushy salesmen, as bargaining and ‘price beating’ isn’t a part of Melanesian culture.


Simply enjoy friendly interactions with local sellers as you browse their wares.


It’s also important to remember there’s no tipping culture in Vanuatu either, a smile and simple ‘thank you very much’, or ‘tankyu tumas’, is enough.


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