Vanuatu Travel Tips for Staying at Holiday houses, apartments in Vanuatu
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VANUATU TRAVEL TIPS 

Espiritu Santo – Turtle Bay Beach House

Everything You Wanted to Know About….Food, Kava, Security, Vanuatu Weather , Transport, Internet/Phone Services, Island Time, Language, Water, Creepy Crawlies, Medical Issues, Money Exchange, Cleaning, Laundry and More!

Vanuatu travel tips

Vanuatu travel tips

vanuatu travel tips

WEATHER/CLIMATE

VANUATU TRAVEL TIPS

WEATHER & CLIMATE 

Vanuatu weather can be described in two categories – hot and wet or slightly less hot and dry. It’s a typical tropical climate and there are only a few months of the year when you would actually need long pants or a long sleeve shirt (generally June/July and generally only at night). For up to date daily forecasts of Vanuatu weather click here  or for a more comprehensive weather summary go to our Weather page.

FOOD + DRINK

VANUATU TRAVEL TIPS
FOOD & DRINK

In general food is very safe to eat in Espiritu Santo and Vanuatu. Santo is the organic beef capital of the south Pacific so there is lots of fantastic quality, cheap beef on offer. And in addition to the tropical fruit and vegetables on offer, you can always try “lap lap”, the Vanuatu version of a Maori hungi with chicken and grated yam or manioc/taro smothered in freshly made coconut cream, wrapped in leaves and baked in an earth oven under hot volcanic stones.

In terms of groceries, there are plenty of supermarkets and Chinese stores in Luganville, Santo  that supply the basics,  including Aussie wine, local and imported beer, spirits and cheese (LCM, Wong Sze Sing, Daming, Unity Shop/Pacific Petrol , Esah etc). Just don’t expect a lot of variety or luxuries like blueberries and strawberries and expect to pay a fortune for lettuce or other imported western veges! The good news is there’s a great local produce market at the south end of town on the left hand side which sells a variety of cheap fruits and vegetables as well as nuts, homemade sweet potato chips and occasionally tomatoes and avocados! Opposite the markets is a butchers owned by ex-pats so its clean and sells a variety of reasonably priced chicken, beef pork and (sometimes) fish.

There is a also fresh fish store on the right about halfway along the main street (ask someone for directions to this). Keep in mind many reef fish in Santo have ciguatera which is a toxin and can make you very sick. Eat only deep water fish like snapper, tuna poulet etc.

Our favourite store Daming, can be found first right after the markets (look for the COLD BEER sign), they have a great variety of alcohol, food, ice cream and even a cheap butchers which also sells fish!

Our favourite cafe is the Natangora Cafe in town, great food cheap prices and free internet. If you want a bargain meal stop at one of the little huts opposite the vege markets and you can get a huge meal of beef or chicken, rice and vegetables for the grand sum of around $4-5 Australian – its what the Ni-vans do and we have never gotten sick from the food there (as it is prepared daily). It’s nothing fancy but it is filling! There are more of these huts in the park behind the markets as well as a traditional Vanuatu fast food/takeaway kitchen near the water run by a group of Ni-Van ladies. If you prefer your food with a view try Deco Stop Lodge on the hill above town.

On the east coast we are lucky to have a large choice of fantastic places to eat and drink. Closest is Turtle Bay Lodge, food is reasonable in price and tasty. They also have a great bar and a beautiful outdoor eating area overlooking Turtle Bay.

Then there is Oyster Island Resort just down the road about 5km, a free barge gets you out to the island, food is reasonable, views and atmosphere to die for , best value is their Sunday lunch buffet (they also do massage!). Lope Lope Bar/restaurant and Moyyan B & B are back down the road towards Luganville about 10 kms. Both have great food, great atmosphere, and they’re right on the water – Moyyan is particularly good and the view from the restaurant is to die for (so bring your swimmers) – they also do massage packages. There is small Ni-Van run cafe at Jackies Blue Hole (about 5 kms north). And if you are heading into Champagne Beach stop in at Lonnoc Beach Bungalows for lunch (again average food, awesome location). Same goes for some beautiful beachfront restaurants in Port Olry (make sure to order first then go for a swim as the wait is often quite long).

For guests staying at Turtle Bay Beach House, please note that there are no nearby shops so do all your shopping in town before you come out! The main Beach House has a fully equipped kitchen complete with small bench top oven, microwave and large fridge. The cottages are equipped with a kitchenette only, including microwave, small electric wok cooker, toaster, kettle, bar fridge etc. There is also a communal electric BBQ guests can use either on the overwater deck or in the BBQ nakamal (in case of rain).

SECURITY

VANUATU TRAVEL TIPS

SECURITY

Santo in general is a very safe place, and the east coast where we are located is even safer, despite the fact that most people seem to wander around carrying bush knives (machetes!). It was voted the happiest place on Earth by Lonely Planet for a very good reason – people here are generally very happy!

Most thieves in Vanuatu are opportunists, so some simple security precautions will minimise any problems you have during your stay. Firstly lock your rooms when you go out for the day and make sure the main gates are shut. Secondly make sure you put away any money or passports/valuables in a drawer/room safe where it cannot be seen or close the curtains.

For your peace of mind, the property is fitted out with security cameras and security screens on all windows as well as a full border fence.

MONEY EXCHANGE

VANUATU TRAVEL TIPS

MONEY EXCHANGE

There are a number of banks in Luganville that change money, try ANZ or BRED bank, some of the Chinese Stores will also change money and they are faster and more efficient than the banks and give you the same rates! Try Unity Store/Petrol station at the beginning of town or the large drive in Chinese store opposite the vege markets (with Digicel sign outside). We always recommend you get some Vatu out on arrival so you can take care of taxis, trips etc. Most establishments charge a whopping 5% fee for use of a credit card and many don’t take them full stop. In other words, cash is king and usually a better deal in the long run.

INTERNET/PHONE

VANUATU TRAVEL TIPS

INTERNET/PHONE

Internet on Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu is slow and expensive. In town there are a number of cafes on the main street which provide free internet provided you buy something from them. There is also an internet/computer centre at the back of town (ask at one of the shops for directions). Turtle Bay Beach House now has basic wifi through the local mobile 3G network. Best place to access it is the nakamal. The internet is slow but we are told a new tower is being built and will be operations by end of March 2017. The next nearest internet available is at Turtle Bay Lodge up the road, you just need to buy a drink and ask for the password. Internet is also available at Oyster Island and Lope Lope Lodge.

There are two phone services on Santo, TVL and Digicel. Coverage is good in town and along the east coast. You can buy cheap Sim cards in town from any of the grocery shops and then simply load up on credit at little TVL or Digicel stands all over the island.  At Turtle Bay Beach House the best phone service is via TVL (you need to stand at the back southeast corner of the main house near the carved entrance totems to get full bars). The nearest Digicel signal is at Turtle Bay Lodge. We provide all our guests at Turtle Bay Beach House with a communal house phone (mobile) which is located in a box in the laundry. It is loaded with $10 credit so you can make local calls (to the managers, Willie’s Santo Island Taxi etc). It works on a honesty system so any calls you make simply throw some change into the nearby kayak box to cover the cost of your calls.  

LANGUAGE

VANUATU TRAVEL TIPS

LANGUAGE

Locals vary dramatically in their ability to understand English. Most speak 4 languages – a little English, a little French, Bislama (Pigeon English), their own native language and maybe one other dialect. Generally, you will get by with English and a smattering of basic bislama but keep in mind that Ni-Vans (local Vanuatu people) do not like saying NO or admitting they have no idea as to what you are asking. The only clue you will have is their eyebrows…if they go up and they smile at you with a vacant look in their eyes then you can be sure they have no idea what you’re talking about – best to say “thank yu tumas” walk away and ask someone else. To learn some basic bislama click here .

CLEANING/LAUNDRY

VANUATU TRAVEL TIPS

CLEANING LAUNDRY

The main town of Luganville on Santo apparently does have a laundromat but we’re not sure exactly where? Maybe ask at one of the local shops. Most large resorts and hotels have a laundry on site and will wash your clothes for you for a small additional fee.

For all guests staying Turtle Bay Beach House there is a fully set up laundry area complete with two industrial 10kg washing machines located at the rear of the main house. Initial washing powder is supplied out of courtesy, however we expect guests to replace any powder they use based on a honesty system.

Please note that Turtle Bay Beach House is self-contained accommodation so there is no room service. We supply all initial linen and towels (we recommend you bring extra beach towels). If you would like our cleaners to service/clean your room (s) daily/weekly please let us know and we can arrange this however it will be at an additional cost of 2000vt /per room. 

Save water and wash only full loads!!! And make sure to use only approved front loader washing powder.

 

There is a clothes line located at the rear of Dugong Cottage, a retractable indoor clothes line (retractable) located on the main Beach House balcony (northeast corner), some folding clothes rack in the laundry and another retractable clothes line in the BBQ nakamal behind Turtle Cottage.

 

Note – Guests staying at TBBH are expected to clean up any dirty dishes on leaving. A fine of 2000vt applies if this is not done.

Finally any issues with room cleanliness or faulty equipment please let our managers know while you are there so we can fix it ASAP!

CUTS/CREEPY CRAWLIES/MOSSIES AND MEDICAL EMERGENCIES

VANUATU TRAVEL TIPS

CUTS AND MEDICAL

Cuts in Vanuatu can get infected very quickly, especially coral cuts. Treat all cuts immediately with hydrogen peroxide, tea tree oil, antibiotic cream or betadene. Normal antiseptics like dettol don’t work well here. There are no poisonous snakes or spiders in Vanuatu (the closest thing is large centipedes which can give you a nasty bite) and no crocodiles or nasty stinging jellyfish so you can breathe easy. There have been no outbreaks of dengue or malaria in Santo but check with the house managers on arrival for the latest updates (or click here for the latest travel advice) . If you are near the beach at sunrise or sunset you may get bitten by midges (small flies that bite), so cover yourself with insect spray to avoid lots of itchy red dots the next day! And if you do have a medical emergency, don’t panic, there are fantastic Western trained  paramedics in Luganville (Pro Medical – Ph. 115) as well as a local hospital.

KAVA

VANUATU TRAVEL TIPS

KAVA

Kava is made from the kava root and tastes like dirty grass, it numbs your lips and has a mild narcotic effect. If you really want to try kava like the locals head down to the Sunset Bar on a Thursday night – its located at the corner of the Oyster Island Resort turn-off, about a 5 min drive south of us). Kava is served in “shells” and costs around 100vt a shell. Take a beer chaser with you (it helps with the aftertaste)! Be warned – this is a local hangout so its basic and the drinkers have a nasty habit of spitting everywhere after they drink the kava.  Aqua Bar in Luganville has the best kava on the island (its clear and distilled) and its where all the local ex-pats hang out. For a more personalised and in-depth description of drinking kava read Andrew Gray’s travel blog here .

TRANSPORT

VANUATU TRAVEL TIPS

TRANSPORT

Santo has no Government funded public transport. There are only privately run “transports” – mostly mini-vans and utes (they have “PT” on their license plates) that run at random times and pick up and drop off passengers as and where required. So if time is an issue, then local transports are not a good option. On the east coast around Turtle Bay these transports only run regularly in the early morning and later afternoon. Cost is around 200-300vt for a trip into town one way from Turtle Bay. Alternatively there are privately run taxis, most of which have a TAXI sign on their roof. None of the taxis on Santo have a meter and trip costs vary dramatically depending on how much they think you can pay! We recommend Willie”s Santo Island Taxi (Ph. 7788590) as he has set rates for Turtle Bay Beach House guests and is your cheapest “taxi” style option for getting in and out of town or for doing guided tours. Willie has a small mini-van and a dual cab 4WD that can each seat about 6-7 people. A trip into town by taxi costs 1500vt one way. Direct airport run is 2000vt or airport pick up with side trip into town to do shopping/money exchange is 3000vt.  A half day tour (car + driver – 4hrs – morning or afternoon) costs 5000vt for up to 6 pax, while a full day tour (car + driver – 8hrs) costs 10,000vt for up to 6 pax. Extra passengers 500vt each. Alternatively if you want to hire a car Turtle Bay Beach House offers special rates to in-house guests starting from $85 AUD/day for a dual cab 4WD ute. Alternatively Turtle Bay Lodge just up the road also hires out small cars. And if you are after a scooter try Deco Stop Lodge in Luganville. Remember they drive on the right in Vanuatu, the opposite side of the road to Australia and New Zealand!

DRINKING WATER

VANUATU TRAVEL TIPS

DRINKING WATER

Generally, most water in Santo is safe to drink as it is filtered through limestone underground resevoirs or collected from rainwater tanks. Vanuatu weather usually means that there is always some fresh rainwater available. The water at Turtle Bay Beach House is supplied by two 5000L tanks at the rear of the house (covered in bamboo) as well as an underground bore.  It is pumped to the house via a small electric pump located in the laundry shed. The rainwater is generally safe to drink, however if the tanks have been filled from the bore due to lack of rain we suggest you use the water from the laundry tap for drinking – just in case! (it has a kick ass water filter hooked up to it). Alternatively, you can buy drinking water from town. Check with the house managers first.

ISLAND TIME

VANUATU TRAVEL TIPS

ISLAND TIME

There are two types of island time in Vanuatu. The first is the actual clock time, which is generally 1hr ahead of the Australian east coast (except during daylight saving) and 1hr behind New Zealand. Then there is Vanuatu island time, which can vary dramatically from clock time. Maybe it has something to do with the Vanuatu weather? To a Ni-van, time is a very flexible thing, so our number one tip when visiting Vanuatu is to switch to island time. Everything takes longer here and is less efficient than other countries. They call it the V-factor. So if your lunch is late, your tour bus is late, or the service in the shops is not quite up to scratch just smile and relax, maybe have another beer or wine and enjoy being on holiday – don’t stress!! Santo is a beautiful and special place if you just give it a chance and the locals will respond better to a laugh than a complaint. 

RUBBISH

VANUATU TRAVEL TIPS

RUBBISH

There is no rubbish collection on the east coast, only in Luganville, so all rubbish is collected once or twice a week by our staff and taken to the tip (usually on a Monday or Tuesday). Separate the bottles/cans from the regular rubbish and place them in the appropriate bin (pink bin recyclables, red bin regular rubbish). When full, empty bags into the large green waste bin located near the gate. Try not to leave the rubbish outside in the sun or outside overnight as this only attracts mice/flies etc to come near the house. If possible freeze any seafood/meat offcuts until the day the rubbish is collected.

KAYAKING /WATERSPORTS

VANUATU TRAVEL TIPS

KAYAKING/WATERSPORTS

The best kayaking on Espiritu Santo is along the protected east coast.  For a fully guided expedition try Island Kayaking Santo run by Russell and Kim who operate from Suranda up to Turtle Bay. Or check out our Things to Do page (kayaking) for additional info.

 

If you are a guest staying at Turtle Bay Beach House, you have the option of using the free on-site watersports. This includes 3 double ocean kayaks, 3 sit on top single kayaks, 1 ocean single kayak, 2 stand up paddle boards and a box full of snorkelling gear. They are located at the side of Turtle Cottage or in the laundry/shed.

 

Treat our gear with respect and kindness. Do not drag kayaks, paddle boards on the ground or on the sand. Do not stand or sit in them unless they are in knee deep water! And rinse out snorkelling gear with fresh water after use.

 

Adjust steering for kayaks with straps located near back rear seat. Always ensure rudders are in DOWN position before you paddle off and fold them up when you return.

 

Paddles for stand up paddle boards can be adjusted for height. Spray skirts are available for experienced kayakers who plan to paddle outside the bay. They are located in the laundry.

 

Oyster Bay Resort is about a 15 minute paddle south, opposite the resort is an inlet/river leading to a beautiful blue hole. It is about 3km up river. You may be asked to pay 500vt each to enter this area, if so just pay it. Another blue hole Ri Ri Blue hole is located a further 15 minutes past Oyster (they might also ask you to pay a fee to enter). You can land on any island up the high tide mark but many are owned by private families so check for no trespass signs.

 

Best snorkelling is on the ocean side of Oyster Island, the ocean side of Turtle Resort and out near Turtle Island (see map for details or ask managers for advice). If you damage or lose any waterspouts gear you will be charged for the replacement value of the items – snorkel set $40, paddle/spray skirt/lifejacket – $70.