Ticket, Passport, Bags – ready to go! Not quite. There are a few other things to consider before embarking on your holiday in order to minimize avoidable travel hassles later. Here is some advice on travelling; depending on how long you are travelling for and where.
Read good travel guides such as Lonely Planet. Although sometimes out of date, (room rates have changed, restaurants have closed, etc., since the printing of the book) it is still considered to be a very reliable source of information for Vanuatu by industry and the travelling public. Websites such as this one; or "Google" your interests. Make sure you have at least 6 months validity on your passport or you may find yourself unable to travel.
Early planning is essential: contact the embassy, consulate or diplomatic mission of the countries you are travelling to and through and acquire all the necessary information on issues such as visa requirements, health and medical issues, local laws, differences and cultural norms. If in doubt, do it before you leave
If you are arriving on weekends or late night (ie., when many hotels/guesthouses will not have reservation staff on) you are making it more difficult for yourself. It is often better to book the first couple of nights as a hassle-free start to your holiday especially if the destination is out of the tourism mainstream such as an outer island.
Vanuatu customs are becoming increasingly vigilant in their search for drugs and pornography (both big no no’s in Vanuatu. For example "Playboy" magazine is not sold in Vanuatu). Ensure your luggage cannot be tampered with, that all parts of your luggage are lockable.
In Vanuatu, the most economical and reliable transport is by bus. Sadly, there are too many buses (last count around 520 buses for a 100 square kilometre) all burning up fuel unnecessarily, all competing for an ever decreasing portion of the business as the different government authorities issue licenses to all and sundry. As a result, you, the traveler are over serviced. Second best is by taxi, but a little on the expensive side. Mopeds, and scooters are available, but the potholes can be dangerous – ensure that your travel insurance covers this. Also, don’t allow rental agencies to convince you that a helmet is not necessary, riding without one is fool hardy as some local truck and car drivers in Vanuatu are oblivious to sharing the road with others, especially the two wheel variety.
Spare your family and friends’ needless worry, stress and waste of their time. If you can, scan or photocopy all your papers: passport, visas, bank accounts, prescription for medicine especially credit cards, medical records, identification, birth certificates (keep a copy with you and give one hard copy to someone you trust on their computer for immediate access in case you lose and need a new passport), Marriage certificates; in other words, everything you would need if you lost everything overseas (it happens; even worse, on a public holiday!). Everything you need to identify yourself, or access your financial and medical records.
Don’t carry more cash than you think you need and be aware that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras are targets for thieves. Whenever possible, leave valuable documents such as passports, etc., in a safety deposit box or safe at your hotel. If you must carry them, ensure you have them on your person not bags. (bag snatching on motor bikes are a specialty in Asian countries). Lock your baggage when unattended, especially at airports, train stations and on buses.
Don’t be a total idiot, don’t do drugs overseas. This is one thing you should be paranoid about, because it can bring you trouble you never imagined; even the death penalty.
In Vanuatu, the possession of small quantities of "soft or person recreational drugs" can attract jail sentences or serious fines. Regardless, kiss your holiday goodbye!
Take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover all overseas medical costs. Make sure that your insurance policy covers your whole time travelling, and all the activities that you plan to do. i.e., ride motorcycles, scooters, bicycles or scuba diving. Repatriation back to your country etc.
Daily hospitalization costs is very expensive (for example in Noumea, New Caledonia, you are up for AUD$1,500 a day in a general ward, AUD$3,000 in intensive care. Vila Central Hospital starts at $50 a day up to $200 a day for a bed and basic support systems.
It is wise to have a dental and general health check-up before travelling. Further information on health travel, can be found on the following sites:
If heading "off the beaten track" it pays to be cautious. Being prepared could save you falling ill and avoid your holidays being a costly health disaster.
Take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes (it is rare for mosquitoes to carry Malaria or Dengue) – don’t get paranoid, just be smart. Mosquitoes are not born with Malaria; they have to find someone with Malaria to transfer contaminated blood. Wear light coloured, loose fitting clothing. Added advantage is they are also cooler to wear. Cover your arms and legs, regularly apply insect repellent and sleep in mosquito-proof accommodation. Also burn mosquito coils at night. If you have to go to a kava bar, and if people are coughing, you may be exposing yourself to TB as it is transferred through air by coughing. If you must stay, then move upwind!
If you intend to do outdoor activities check if the weather is likely to change quickly otherwise you could find yourself stranded and/or injured without any means of communicating for help. Ensure you have advised where you will be or going, and when to expect your return, so they can raise the alarm if you do not return on time.
The most common health problem in the tropics is infection from coral cuts or insect bites as coral is everywhere, (roads are built of crushed limestone/coral), and hence you don’t have to be at the beach to have a cut infected.
Some countries have these in place but many do not. Ensure you know before travelling and note that these health care agreements are not a replacement for travel insurance; they will not cover you if you need to be repatriated home.
99% of people that visit our shores do not fall ill, so let’s not get carried away, but ensure an enjoyable holiday by being cautious. A big part of that 99% was.
In order to avoid unwanted attention from local men in Melanesian countries, it’s probably best to say you’re married when asked.
Vanuatu is a developing country and some local men see marriage to a "Westerner" woman as their ticket to a better life. Some local men are quite direct in their intentions and regrettably this produces tension between Vanuatu men and single western women.
We also suggest that sexy, skimpy or see through clothing is interpreted as intentional to attract attention from local men.
Port Vila is not a beach town, hence walking through it in a bikini or very brief clothing is not only a beacon for attention, but foolish. This warning is especially pertinent to tourists visiting the destination by Ship.
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