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New Caledonia

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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.
  • Use common sense and avoid any demonstrations. Large public gatherings of this nature can turn violent. See Safety and security
  • ​​On 27 December 2018, local health authorities declared a dengue epidemic across the entire territory of New Caledonia. Confirmed cases are highest in the metropolitan area of Greater Noumea. Protect yourself from mosquito-borne illnesses. See Health
  • Cyclone season is normally from November to May but tropical storms, cyclones and associated flooding can occur year-round. Bushfires are a risk, especially from September to February. See Natural disasters
  • Security incidents can happen with little warning, particularly on the RP1 road through to the south-east, between Noumea and Mont-Dore. 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
  • Industrial relations and political disputes can create localised tensions and cause disruptions to transport and the supply of essential services. Monitor developments and plan accordingly. See Local travel
  • Medical costs in New Caledonia are very high. Make sure you have the right insurance, including for any pre-existing conditions. In recent years, several Australians have been evacuated from cruise ships to hospitals in Noumea. Many insurance claims made by cruise passengers have been refused. See Health and Cruises 

Entry and exit

Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Australian Government can't intervene on your behalf if you don't meet your destination's entry or exit requirements.

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 website of the French Consulate-General in Sydney  or contact an Embassy or Consulate of France for up-to-date information.

Passport

Check the expiry date of your Australian passport before you travel. Some countries won't let you enter unless your passport is valid for six months from when you plan to leave that country.

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're forced to hand over your passport, contact the nearest Australian mission for advice.

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

Money

The local currency is the Pacific Franc (XPF). Declare all amounts over 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 cash if travelling in remote areas.

Safety and security

Civil unrest and political tension

Use common sense and avoid demonstrations. Large public gatherings of this nature 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 local authorities' instructions.

Crime

Serious crime is rare but you could encounter petty crime and theft. Car theft and vehicle break-ins are increasing. Drink spikings 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.
  • Avoid carrying bags that are easy to snatch.
  • 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 and political 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're going to do adventure activities:

  • check if the activity is covered by your insurance policy
  • check the operators' credentials and safety equipment before booking
  • 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.

Beaches and water activities

Few beaches are patrolled. Obey warning signs and follow lifeguards' and local authorities' advice. A red flag means don't swim. Shark attacks have occurred, including in the lagoons.

Road travel

The road toll in New Caledonia is high. You're four times more likely to die in a road accident in New Caledonia than in Australia. Drivers may be unlicensed or drunk 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.
  • Keep your car windows and doors closed and locked at all times.
  • Follow local authorities' instructions.
  • If stones are thrown at your car, leave the area quickly and safely.

More information: Road travel

Driver's licence

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

Motorcycles

Check if your travel insurance covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Always wear a 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 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, Lifou and Ouvéa in the Loyalty Islands. A number of international cruise lines stopover in New Caledonia.

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. Medical costs in New Caledonia are very high. Make sure you have the right insurance, including for any pre-existing conditions.

If you're going on a cruise:

  • check the on-board medical facilities are adequate for you
  • understand the costs of medical treatment on-board
  • understand that Medicare benefits may not be payable for journeys between an Australian port and a foreign port or between two foreign ports
  • 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.

More information: Cruises

Air travel

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 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: Carrying or using drugs

Other laws

You must carry identification at all times.

Same-sex marriage is legal in New Caledonia. However, outside Noumea, same-sex relationships are not widely accepted.

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

More information:

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you leave 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 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 leave, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up. Discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia is 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 New Caledonia 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 take and that it's for personal use only.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Mosquito-borne illnesses

On 27 December 2018, local health authorities declared a dengue epidemic across the entire territory of New Caledonia. Confirmed cases are highest in the metropolitan area of Greater Noumea. ​

Epidemics of dengue feverZika virus and chikungunya occur from time to time, particularly during the warmer and wetter months of the year. The Australian Department of Health advises pregnant women to discuss any travel plans with their doctor. Consider deferring non-essential travel to Zika virus-affected areas.

​Protect yourself against mosquito-borne illnesses:​

  • ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof
  • use insect repellent and wear long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • if pregnant, discuss your travel plans and possible health risks with a 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. Outbreaks that are more serious sometimes occur, particularly after periods of heavy rainfall.

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 (WHO)  

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 (including health alerts and notifications):

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. Main public hospitals are located in Dumbea (Hôpital Gaston Bourret at the Koutio Médipôle) in the Southern Province, and in the Northern Province in Koumac (Hôpital Paula-Thavoavianon), Poindimié (Hôpital Raymond Doui-Nebayes) and one recently opened Koné (Pôle Sanitaire du Nord).

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

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

The only decompression chamber is in Noumea. Many popular dive sites are located on other islands and it may take several hours to reach medical facilities in the event of an accident. Make sure your insurance covers whatever activities you plan.

Natural disasters

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. In case of a natural disaster or emergency, a crisis management centre with a free-call hotline +687 050505 will be activated.

If a natural disaster occurs:

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 travel 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's 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. Seaport access could be affected. In some areas, 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:

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

  • take care leaving your shelter
  • avoid electrical wires which may have fallen.

More information:

Flooding and mudslides

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

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 5 December 2018, a magnitude 7.6 earthquake hit near New Caledonia. A tsunami alerts was issued and later lifted. There were a number of strong aftershocks.

Real-time information on earthquakes is 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:

More information: Earthquakes 

Bushfires

New Caledonia gets bushfires. These typically occur from September to February but they can occur iyear-round. Bushfire notifications on Meteo NC 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 local authorities' advice.

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.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Fire: 18
  • Medical emergencies: 15 or go direct to the medical centre or hospital
  • Police: 17 of contact the nearest police station or gendarmerie
  • Maritime emergencies: 16 or radio on VHF 16 – Inmarsat - MMSI

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.
In New Caledonia, the New Caledonian Directorate of Economic Affairs (Direction des Affaires Economiques) and the New Caledonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie de la Nouvelle-Calédonie) may also be able to assist.

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
Phone: (687) 27 24 14

Consular assistance email: consular.noumea@dfat.gov.au
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