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Summary

  • Exercise normal safety precautions in New Caledonia. Use common sense. Look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the media for changes to local conditions.
  • Cyclone season is normally from November to April but you could encounter tropical storms or cyclones at any time of year. Bushfires are a risk, especially from September to February. See Additional information.
  • Security incidents can happen with little warning, particularly on the RP1 road through St Louis. Road blockages, car-jackings, stone-throwing and shootings are infrequent but can be dangerous. RP1 and other major roads can be closed without warning. See Safety and security.
  • Avoid all demonstrations and large public gatherings as they could turn violent. See Safety and security.
  • Industrial relations disputes can create localised tensions and cause disruptions to transport and the supply of essential services. Monitor developments and plan accordingly. See Local travel.
  • Outbreaks of dengue fever, Zika virus and chikungunya occur from time to time. See Health.
  • Medical costs in New Caledonia are very high. Make sure you have adequate travel and medical insurance, including for any pre-existing conditions. In recent years, several Australians have been evacuated from cruise ships to hospitals in Noumea but their insurance claims have been refused. See Health and Cruises.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Visas

If you are visiting New Caledonia for tourism and you have a return ticket, you generally won't need a visa. In other circumstances, you'll need a visa.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. New Caledonia is an overseas territory of France. Visit the Consulate of France in Sydney website or contact an Embassy or Consulate of France for up-to-date information.

Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to obtain access to your passport by deception. If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact the Embassy for advice..

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible. You can either:

Money

The local currency is the Pacific Franc (XPF). Declare all amounts in excess of 10,000 Euro or equivalent on arrival and departure. Some service providers and commercial establishments accept Australian dollars. You can exchange Australian dollars for XPF at banks and authorised currency exchange offices.

ATMs and credit cards facilities are available in Noumea and other major centres. Take a sufficient supply of cash if travelling in remote areas.

Safety and security

Civil unrest and political tension

You could encounter demonstrations and protests. Large public gatherings can turn violent.

Serious roadside security incidents can happen with little warning. Road blocks, car-jackings, stone-throwing and shootings are infrequent but can be dangerous. Major routes have been affected, particularly the RP1 road to the south-east, between Noumea and Mont Dore, and the highway north from Noumea to Tontouta International Airport. Local authorities can close RP1 and other major roads without warning.

  • Avoid all demonstrations, protests, large public gatherings and roadblocks.
  • Monitor the news and other sources for advice of possible unrest, protest locations and road blocks. Avoid those areas.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.

Crime

Serious crime is rare but you could encounter petty crime and theft. Car theft and vehicle break-ins are increasing. Drink spiking can occur, leaving victims more vulnerable to theft and assault.

  • Don't tempt thieves – avoid wearing expensive watches, jewellery and cameras.
  • Carry only what you need. Leave other valuables, including your passport, in a secure location.
  • Avoid carrying bags that are easy to snatch.
  • Take care of your belongings, especially in crowded places.
  • Keep your vehicle locked at all times.
  • Don't leave food or drinks unattended, particularly in bars and nightclubs.
  • Never accept drinks, food, gum or cigarettes from strangers or new acquaintances.

More information: Partying safely

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world.

More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Local travel

Industrial relations disputes can result in disruptions to transport and the supply of essential services. Monitor developments and plan accordingly.

Tours and adventure activities

The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators, including for adventure activities such as scuba diving, are not always met. Recommended safety precautions and maintenance standards may not be followed. Safety equipment such as lifejackets and seatbelts may not be provided.

If you plan to participate in adventure activities, first talk to your travel insurer to check if the activity is covered by your insurance policy. Check operators' credentials and safety equipment before booking. Don't be afraid to ask about or insist on minimal safety requirements. Always use available safety equipment, even if others don't. If appropriate safety equipment is not available, use another provider.

Road travel

You are four times more likely to die in a road accident in New Caledonia than in Australia. Drivers may be unlicensed or intoxicated and vehicles can be poorly maintained and uninsured.

You could encounter road blockages, car-jackings and stones being thrown at your vehicle. These incidents are infrequent but can be dangerous. See Safety and security.

  • Check you have adequate insurance cover before driving in New Caledonia.
  • Familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and practices before driving.
  • Drive defensively and legally.
  • Keep your car windows and doors closed and locked at all times.
  • Don't drink and drive.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • If stones are thrown at your car, leave the area as quickly and safely as possible.

More information: Road travel

Driver's license

Visit the New Caledonian Department of Infrastructure, Topography and Terrestrial Transport website (in French) or contact a French Embassy or Consulate for information on driver's licence requirements in New Caledonia.

Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Your policy may not cover you for accidents that occur while using these vehicles. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet.

Taxis

To hire a taxi, visit a designated taxi rank or make a phone booking. Book your taxi well in advance – long delays are common. Taxis can't be hailed from the street. Payment is by cash only.

Public transport

Bus services operate throughout Grande Terre. On other islands, public transport options are very limited.

Sea travel

Passenger ferries operate from Noumea to Île des Pins, and to Maré and Lifou in the Loyalty Islands. A number of international cruise lines stopover in New Caledonia.

More information: Cruises

In recent years, several Australians have been evacuated from cruise ships to hospitals in Noumea. Many insurance claims made by these cruise passengers have been refused.

If you plan to travel on a cruise ship:

  • check the on-board medical facilities are adequate for you
  • understand the costs of medical treatment on-board
  • take out travel and medical insurance appropriate to your circumstances, including coverage for all your pre-existing medical conditions and for medical evacuation. See Health.

Air travel

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in New Caledonia.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular services charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

New Caledonia is an overseas territory of France. A mix of French and local laws apply.

More information: Travel advice for France

Drug laws

Penalties for drug offences, even possession of small amounts, include fines and imprisonment.

More information: Drugs

Other laws

By law, you must carry identification at all times.

French laws that allow for same-sex marriage apply in New Caledonia. However, outside Noumea, same-sex relationships are not widely accepted in New Caledonian society.

More information: LGBTI travellers

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

Read Dual nationals.

Local customs

Outside of tourist areas, there are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in New Caledonia. Take care not to offend. Visits to certain areas require prior authorisation from the customary authorities, through engaging in "coutume" (customary acknowledgement).

More information: Customary acknowledgement in New Caledonia (North Province Tourism Group)

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Make sure your policy includes adequate coverage for any pre-existing conditions.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel

Always carry a copy of your prescription and a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Mosquito-borne illnesses

Epidemics of dengue feverzika virus and chikungunya occur from time to time, particularly during the warmer and wetter months of the year.

Protect yourself against mosquito-borne illnesses:

  • ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including always using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • if you're pregnant, discuss your travel plans and possible health risks with your doctor before you travel
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.

More information:

Leptospirosis

Small outbreaks of leptospirosis are common. More serious outbreaks occur from time to time, particularly from March to May.

Local authorities recommend you:

  • wear closed-in shoes when walking
  • avoid swimming in rivers
  • don't play in muddy water
  • store food in enclosed containers
  • don't drink straight from cans (use a straw instead)
  • remove rubbish from around your home.

More information: Leptospirosis (World Health Organization)  

Other infectious diseases

Outbreaks of water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including scabies and conjunctivitis) occur from time to time. Town tap water is generally safe to drink.

  • Maintain strict hygiene standards.
  • Don't ignore symptoms such as itchiness and skin lesions.
  • In rural areas, boil all drinking water or drink only bottled water.

More information: New Caledonian Directorate for Health and Social Affairs (in French)

Medical facilities

The standard of medical facilities in New Caledonia is high but search and rescue facilities are limited. The difficult terrain severely limits rapid access and there is no mobile phone coverage in some parts of the main island.

Medical costs are very high. An intensive care bed in Noumea could cost in excess of A$5,500 per day. Ambulance transfers, even for short distances, can cost over A$1,250. A helicopter evacuation to Noumea costs over A$6,500.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you may need to be evacuated to Australia. Medical evacuation from Noumea to Australia can exceed A$40,000.

There is only one hyperbaric (decompression) chamber in New Caledonia. It is located in Noumea. Many of the popular dive sites are located on other islands and it may take several hours to reach facilities in the event of an accident. Make sure your insurance covers whatever activities you plan.

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergencies

  • Fire: 18
  • Medical emergencies: dial 15 or go direct to the hospital
  • Criminal issues: dial 17 of contact the nearest police station

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular services charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas. For consular assistance, contact the Australian Consulate-General in Noumea.  

Australian Consulate-General, Noumea

Norwich Building
Level 2
11 rue Georges Baudoux
Artillerie, Noumea, New Caledonia
Telephone: (687) 27 24 14
Website: noumea.consulate.gov.au
Facebook: Australia in New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna.

Check the Australian Consulate-General website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are unable to contact the Consulate-General in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

New Caledonia experiences cyclones, severe weather, flooding, mudslides, earthquakes, tsunamis and bushfires. The New Caledonian Department of Emergency Management leads responses to natural disasters and severe weather. If there is an emergency, a crisis management centre with a free-call hotline +687 050505 is activated.

If a natural disaster occurs:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag).
  • closely monitor local media, Meteo-France in New Caledonia (in French) and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

Stay up-to-date on weather conditions and forecasts, natural disaster watches and warnings throughout your stay in New Caledonia and plan accordingly. Monitor local and regional weather and disaster sites:

If you are travelling during cyclone season, or after a natural disaster, contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.

Cyclones and severe weather

Cyclone season in New Caledonia is from November to May.

Flooding, landslides and disruptions to infrastructure and essential services can occur. Tropical storms and cyclones may also occur in other months. The direction and strength of tropical cyclones can change with little warning.

If there is a cyclone or severe tropical storm, you may not be able to leave the area: flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended, and available flights may fill quickly. Access to sea ports could also be affected. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe cyclone may not be available for all those who stay.

New Caledonia has a four-phase cyclone alert system:

  • PRE-ALERT: potential cyclone activity in the weather observation zone of New Caledonia – follow weather forecasts and bulletins;
  • ALERT 1: a cyclone is approaching and may reach New Caledonia within the next 18 hours – prepare for a cyclone;
  • ALERT 2: a cyclone will hit New Caledonia in less than six hours – protect yourself and stay indoors; and
  • SAFEGUARD PHASE: a cyclone is moving away – remain vigilant.

If a cyclone is approaching, follow the advice for all natural disasters above and:

Once the cyclone has passed, and SAFEGUARD PHASE has been announced:

  • take care leaving your shelter
  • look out for debris
  • avoid electrical wires which may have fallen.

More information:

Flooding and Mudslides

Heavy rains can cause dangerous flooding and mudslides. These can result in deaths and injuries, destruction of property and the evacuation of inhabitants.

Earthquakes and tsunamis

New Caledonia experiences earthquake and tsunamis. Tsunamis can arrive within minutes of a nearby tremor or earthquake occurring. There is a higher risk to the east coast, Loyalty Islands and Isle of Pines.

On 20 November 2017, a magnitude 7 earthquake struck near Loyalty Islands in New Caledonia. A tsunami alert was issued and subsequently lifted.

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

If there is an earthquake, follow the advice for all natural disasters and:

More information: Earthquakes 

Bushfires

New Caledonia can be affected by bushfires. Typically these occur from September to February but they can also occur in other months. Bushfire notifications are available from 15 September to 15 February each year.

More information: New Caledonian Department of Emergency Management

  • Look and listen out for bushfire warnings.
  • Follow the advice of local authorities.

Additional Resources