Getting the Taste of an Island Life in Vanuatu

Vanuatu is a study in contrasts. The lush wilderness and intrigue of the outlying islands are in carved relief to the metro, tourist-driven center of the capital. Each of Vanuatu’s varied threads weaves together to make a fantastic tapestry of existence for everyone who visits.

A beautiful place to live and work, there can be its moments, just like anywhere, but Vanuatu is the place to experience a natural and organic lifestyle. Visiting for one day — or even two-weeks — is not enough.

Since the first European, Pedro Fernandes de Queiros, landed on Espiritu Santo in 1606, the island nation grew slowly and developed nonchalantly.

When Americans arrived in the midst of World War Two, they brought a relaxed attitude and related resources. The spirit of nationalism grew, and the legend of John Frum was created.

To experience the island way of life before relocating, it is necessary to meet friends, speak with the locals, visit outlying villages and islands.

Be friendly. Stay friendly. Relax — it’s island time.


Thanks to Vanuatu stretching out on a north-south axis, the country has every tropical climate to be found. Hot, muggy in the north and temperate and arid in the south, temperatures average 27C in July and 30C in January while nights drop to 12C.

Cyclones happen and should be understood and respected. While mainstream tourism venues are well-built and have experienced in dealing with the storms, remote spots are different. But by listening to the local authorities and following their instructions, the danger is minimized.

The islands of Vanuatu are grouped into geographic provinces:

  • Torba
  • Torres Islands and Banks Islands
  • Malampa
  • Malakula and Ambrym
  • Shefa (Port-Vila)
  • Shepherd Group and Efate
  • Tafea
  • Tanna, Aniwa, Futuna, Erromango, and Aneityum
  • Epi Island
  • Ambae
  • Maewo
  • Tanna

Port Vila, the capital, is postcard scenic. The various cruise ships mean lots of resorts as well as high-end venues which aren’t found in many Pacific cities.

Along with Luganville, post offices in Port Vila also provide some level of Internet service, and there are numerous Internet cafe’s. Telsat, a WiFi provider, includes broadband, city-wide service in Port Vila and suburbs. Most of the resorts also provide WiFi for their guests.

Digicel and TVL provide mobile data packages

Safe, when compared to many Pacific metroplexes, many Australians and New Zealanders live in the tropical port especially in the winter.

The city is a host for retired — or semi-retired — people as well. The number of expats is regularly growing, and the level of comfort found in Port Vila is the perfect draw.

The tropical, island life is just a slice of the experience for expat workers. Doing business in Vanuatu can present unique challenges.

Working in Vanuatu

A working expat may come to the island nation for one project, and find one thing leads to more and the expat ends involved with ever more massive projects. Eventually, they become involved in almost everything as the life of the island works its way into one’s psyche. In a nation where the infrastructure is always improving, the work is never done.

Make sure your trade and vocation is something the government needs. There are specific types of work the government approves visas for and remember; you will be working mostly with locals — genuine, enthusiastic people who enjoy learning and helping.


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Red Tape

Despite terrific working opportunities, there is a different way to get things done. Expat workers must adapt.

Dealing with red tape is different. Customs and duties are more complicated than most nations. Unless a person is going to Vanuatu to work for existing business — or working with locals — it can be a challenge to get up and running.

Counterbalancing the often confusing bureaucracy, Vanuatu is remarkably affordable for business start-ups. In the real estate sector, for instance, many professionals are expats themselves and more than willing to help everyone get started.

Drivers Licenses and Bank Accounts

Bring your drivers permit to the police station, and you will get a local equivalent draw up while you wait. Remember: You’re not traveling on the same side of the road any longer.

Expat Entertainment

Expats are covered when it comes to leisure. The fishing is spectacular, and a person doesn’t have to go far to throw a line in and come home with yellowfin tuna.


The ease of fishing and the variety of catch available reflects the range of local cuisine. Fresh beef and vegetables available in the markets are unmatched, and many families grow — and sell — great food. While imported products will cost twice as much as ‘back home,’ the quality and quantity of local produce mean most people prefer locally grown food.


Vanuatu requires visitors to have a passport which remains valid for four months following a visit as well as either an onward or return ticket within the next thirty days. Of course, persons already holding some long-term immigration permit are exempt.

Airlines are especially vigilant about checking passports and are strict about the requirements, so plan if going for an extended visit. A visitor, depending on the circumstances, may have to buy a refundable return ticket and change the travel data or cancel the ticket later.

Permits can be extended at the immigration office in Port Vila and Luganville. Processing times can vary so don’t wait until the last day. Be prepared to complete a lengthy application and explain why the extension is needed. You will need to show immigration officials an outward ticket, have two passport-ready photographs and pay a fee of VUV6000 for up to four-months and VUV18,000 for up to twelve months.

Non-western visitors will find cheap flights from Europe and Asia transit through Australias and visas are required from everyone — even for short visits. Citizens of Western nations can discover transiting visas online. An option is to travel through Fiji which is more open to visa-less visitors than New Zealand or Australia.

The usual route from North America is through Nadi.

Vanuatu is the place people go who want to ‘get away from it all.’ Vanuatu Unified Services is the agency which can help you accomplish the dream of a lifetime. Contact us today for more information.