- Exercise normal safety precautions in Vanuatu. Use common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the media and other sources for changes to local conditions.
- On 4 – 15 December 2017, the Pacific Mini Games will be held in Vanuatu. See Safety and security.
- Vanuatu can experience natural disasters, including volcanic activity, earthquakes, cyclones, flooding and tsunamis. See Additional information.
- There are a number of active volcanoes in Vanuatu located on the islands of Tanna, Ambae, Ambrym, Lopevi, Vanua Lava and Gaua, as well as several under-sea volcanoes. Vanuatu authorities monitor volcanos visited by tourists and provide advice on the level risk. Alert levels and accessibility to volcanoes can change quickly. See Additional information.
- Cyclone season in Vanuatu is from November to May, tropical storms and cyclones may occur in other months. See Additional information.
- Medical facilities in Vanuatu are limited. Costs for treatment can be very expensive. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for their services. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation would be necessary.
Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
Entry and exit
Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest
Embassy or Consulate of Vanuatu or the Vanuatu Department of Immigration on (+678) 22 354 for up-to-date information.
Visitor visas for stays of up to thirty days are issued on arrival subject to physical evidence of an onward or return ticket. For visitors to Vanuatu holding E-tickets, provision of the confirmation advice email will satisfy this requirement.
Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. Carry copies of a recent passport photo in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.
Customs authorities enforce strict regulations on importing items such as food, weapons and sexually explicit material. For more information on customs requirements see the
Vanuatu Customs and Inland Revenue website.
Safety and security
The rate of crime in Vanuatu is generally low. However, robberies, assaults and sexual assaults against foreigners, when alone or in the company of others, have occurred. Due to the risk of crime, exercise caution when taking buses or taxis, particularly at night. Avoid going out after dark alone or to isolated locations, especially on foot.
Theft, unlawful entry and trespassing are increasing problems. Thieves have struck when the occupants are present. Lock your accommodation at all times and, if possible, store valuables in a safe. The incidence of crime may increase in the weeks leading up to holidays such as Christmas and Independence Day (July 30).
Pay close attention to your own security, monitor the media for events that may affect your safety and security and follow the instructions of local authorities.
Civil unrest and political tension
Civil disorder is uncommon in Vanuatu. Avoid large crowds, protests and public demonstrations as there is always the possibility they may turn violent. Monitor local media reports about civil unrest, follow the advice of local authorities and consider travel plans accordingly.
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our
Terrorist Threat Worldwide bulletin.
Money and valuables
Australian dollars are accepted at some shops, restaurants and hotels in Port Vila. Local currency (Vatu) is recommended for use in smaller establishments and local market stalls. Credit cards are accepted in Port Vila, but less widely accepted elsewhere in Vanuatu. Consult with your bank to find out whether your ATM card will work in Vanuatu.
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You're required by Australian law to
report a lost or stolen passport online or contact the nearest
Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate.
Vehicles in Vanuatu drive on the right-hand side of the road. Local law permits visitors to drive in Vanuatu on an Australian driver's licence for up to three months. Take extra care when driving in Vanuatu. Roads are not well maintained, many roads are unsealed and often poorly lit. The presence of pedestrians on the roads can make driving difficult, especially at night. Public transport vehicles are often in a poor state of repair. Many vehicles may not be insured. For further advice, see our
road travel page.
Inter-island boats and ferries are required to have a current seaworthiness certificate, but many do not, and their seaworthiness cannot be relied upon.
If you intend to hire cars, motorcycles, jet skis or any other motorised vehicle, talk to your travel insurer to check if these activities are covered by your insurance policy. Seek advice on any restrictions that may apply (such as insurance cover being voided if you are not licensed to ride a motorcycle in Australia).
The safety standards you might expect of tour operators are not always met, especially for adventure sports such as diving and yachting. Sufficient life jackets and adequate safety equipment may not be provided. Recommended maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be observed. Check operators' credentials and safety equipment beforehand. Ensure your travel insurance policy covers your planned activities.
If appropriate safety equipment is not available, use another provider. Always use available safety equipment, such as lifejackets or seatbelts, even if the locals do not.
To avoid trespassing, permission should be sought from local landowners before accessing non-public areas, including beaches. Some landowners may charge a fee for access.
Individuals with disabilities may find accessibility a problem in Vanuatu. Footpaths are often uneven or absent, and many buildings don't make provision for wheelchair access.
Travellers should note that the outer island routes are serviced by small aircraft, and airports and airstrips have quite basic facilities. Airstrips are generally short, runways are mostly not sealed, and operations can be limited by weather conditions.
The Australian Government doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the
Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Vanuatu.
Refer to our
air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.
You're subject to the local laws of Vanuatu, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. 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. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.
It is illegal to import, possess, distribute, display or manufacture obscene publications. Penalties for committing the offences include prison sentences. The definition of 'obscene publications' is stricter in Vanuatu than in Australia.
It is illegal for supermarkets and similar outlets to sell alcohol between midday Saturday and 7 am 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. See our
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in Vanuatu. Take care not to offend.
Homosexual acts between adults are not illegal in Vanuatu, but social and cultural attitudes towards same-sex relationships can be conservative. Open displays of affection between same-sex partners could attract adverse attention and may offend. See our
LGBTI travellers page.
Information for dual nationals
Vanuatu does recognise dual nationality. This could limit the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to Australian/Ni-Vanuatu dual nationals who are arrested or detained. We recommend you travel on your Australian passport at all times.
Dual nationals page provides further information.
Take out comprehensive
travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. 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 a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.
Consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The
World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our
health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.
Hospital and medical facilities in Vanuatu are limited. Costs for treatment, including for pharmaceuticals, can be very expensive. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for their services. In the event of a serious illness or accident (including diving-related injuries), medical evacuation to a destination with appropriate facilities would be necessary. A medical evacuation can cost tens of thousands of Australian dollars. Depending on the severity of their medical condition, Australians in Vanuatu who require medical evacuation may be transferred to a third country, where medical treatment may be more expensive than in Australia. If you have any concerns about medivac arrangements, please contact your travel insurance provider to discuss further.
Pharmacies are located only in urban centres or at local clinics, and normally only operate during business hours. A small number of pharmacies in urban centres may be open on Sunday or public holidays.
There is only one hyperbaric chamber in Vanuatu, located in Port Vila, Efate. 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. Rescue and emergency services are much less comprehensive than in Australia.
Infectious diseases such as rubella, mumps, measles and varicella (chicken pox) have been reported in Vanuatu. Discuss options with your doctor if your vaccinations are not up to date, or if you're travelling with children or babies who have not yet completed their recommended childhood vaccinations.
Malaria occurs throughout the year in some areas, particularly the north. Outbreaks of other mosquito-borne diseases, including dengue and filariasis, also occur. For more information on dengue, see the World Health Organization's factsheet. Talk to your doctor about taking a prophylaxis, and take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes, including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.
Zika virus has previously been identified in Vanuatu, although there is no evidence of an ongoing outbreak. See our
Zika Virus bulletin for more information.
Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including hepatitis, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections) are prevalent, with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. While tap water in the major urban centres of Port Vila and Luganville is safe to drink, outside of these centres we recommend you boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes. Avoid raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.
Ciguatera poisoning from eating reef fish can be a hazard. For more information on ciguatera poisoning see Queensland Health's
Where to get help
Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider. Your travel insurer should have a 24 hour emergency number.
For criminal issues, contact the local police at the nearest police station. You should also obtain a police report when reporting a crime.
To complain about tourism services, contact the service provider directly.
Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. For consular assistance, see contact details below:
Australian High Commission, Port Vila
Winston Churchill Avenue
Port Vila, Vanuatu
Telephone +678 22 777
Facsimile +678 23 948
High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.
In a consular emergency if you're unable to contact the above mission, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
Natural disasters, severe weather and climate
Vanuatu is subject to a range of natural disasters, including volcanic activity, earthquakes, cyclones, flooding and tsunamis. If a natural disaster occurs, or a warning is issued, monitor media for the latest develoments and follow the advice of local authorities.
General cyclone information
Cyclone season in Vanuatu is from November to May, when flooding, landslides and disruptions to services may occur. Tropical storms and cyclones may also occur outside cyclone season. The direction and strength of tropical cyclones can change with little warning. In March 2015 Tropical Cyclone Pam caused significant damage to some parts of the country. Tropical Cyclones Cook and Donna struck Vanuatu in April and May 2017 respectively.
In the event of an approaching cyclone, identify your local shelter. The Vanuatu telephone directory includes detailed advice on the Vanuatu Natural Disaster Management Office (NDMO)’s colour coded cyclone alert system. The directory also provides details on the basic safety procedures to follow in the event of a cyclone threat. Local media and hotels will convey cyclone alerts issued by local authorities. For information, see the
If you are travelling during the cyclone season, contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.
Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly.
Cyclones may also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe cyclone may not be available to all who choose to stay. Familiarise yourself with your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. Carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo identification) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. We also suggest that you contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts. For further information, see our
Severe weather page.
Vanuatu is situated in an active seismic zone and as a result is regularly subject to earthquakes, volcanic activity, tsunamis and landslides. Information about earthquakes is available from the
National Earthquake Information Centre of the United States Geological Survey. Comprehensive information on how to prepare yourself and what to do in an earthquake or other natural disaster is available from the New Zealand Government’s
Get ready, Get thru website. See also our
earthquake page for advice on travelling to and living in an earthquake-prone region.
All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis in the Indian and Pacific Oceans because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. Tsunamis could occur in Vanuatu, and you should be alert to warnings as a tsunami can arrive within minutes of a nearby tremor or earthquake occurring. The following websites issue information on tsunami warnings,
Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre or the
Vanuatu Meteorological Services. Consult your accommodation provider about evacuation plans in the event of a tsunami warning.
There are a number of active volcanoes in Vanuatu located on the islands of Tanna, Ambae, Ambrym, Lopevi, Vanua Lava and Gaua, as well as several under-sea volcanoes. Be aware of the risks when visiting an active volcano and follow the advice of authorities.
Vanuatu authorities monitor volcanos visited by tourists and provide advice on the level of risk. Alert levels and accessibility to volcanoes can change quickly. 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, people need to be aware of the risk of explosions and volcanic debris. Take official warnings seriously.
Contact the Vanuatu Tourism Office for the latest advice prior to travelling to areas where volcanic activity may occur. Information on volcanic activity can also be found at
Vanuatu Geohazards Observatory.