Vanuatu has a reputation for being one of the most beautiful and culturally-rich island destinations in the Pacific. If you’re planning a trip to Vanuatu, keep reading to discover some helpful tips that will show you how to have the ultimate island holiday while respecting island culture and local customs.
Want to impress the locals? Learn some key phrases!
Bislama, which is the local language in Vanuatu, is English based and is the most popular dialect spoken within the country. Vanuatu is unique in the way that it is the most language-dense country in the world as there are 113 languages spoken in Vanuatu.
Most locals also speak English or French so you won’t have many issues while you are within the country, but it is always wise to learn some native tongue before you arrive.
Below are some key phrases for your island holiday:
Hello = Halo (Ha-lo) Thank you = Tanku tumas (tank-you-two-m-ah-ss) Good Bye = Lukim yu bagaken (Look-em-you-bag-ah-g-e-n) The best / that is/was good = numba wan (number one) My name is = Nem blong mi…. (name- blong -me) What is your name? = Wanem nem blong yu? (won-em-name-blong-you)
Don’t be offended by these cultural differences
Ni-Vanuatu (that is what Vanuatu people are called) are some of the friendliest and happiest people on earth…Vanuatu has been voted in the top 5 happiest countries in the world numerous times. With this friendliness comes lack of boundaries in the asking question sense (not personal space sense). They will ask questions that may be considered ‘rude’ in the western world such as “how old are you?” Or “how much money do you make?” You can either tell them or politely change topics.
Another cultural difference is that Ni-Vanuatu people will tell you are either boon-boon (slim build) or fatfat (larger build). They are not trying to be mean or rude, they just like to state what they see as facts, so please don’t let comments like this ruin your island holiday. In Vanuatu, there are no negative connotations to being either boon-boon or fatfat like there are in the western world, so please do not be offended!
If something isn’t what it says it is, or you have had a schedule change on your island holiday, please do not yell, scream or be rude. In Vanuatu, that will achieve nothing. It can be frustrating or difficult to adjust at first when everything is on island time and you have come from a fast-paced environment, but this is a lesson for you to take a breath and take it as it comes. We have a motto here – it always works out in Vanuatu! It may not be the first way or the way you would like it to work out, but it will work out…we promise!
Heard of Bali Belly? Well, Vanuatu has Vanuatu Belly
And, here is how to avoid it on your island holiday
- Hand sanitise after you touch everything – and we do mean everything! Pick up something in the shop? Hand sanitise! Pay for something with local currency? Hand sanitise! Touch the bus or car door? Hand sanitise!
- Avoid drinking water from the taps. Vanuatu’s water isn’t as bad as other countries such as Indonesia, but it is always best to check with your accommodation if the water is safe to drink. Definitely do not drink water from a tap you find on a street.
- When trying local food, make sure it is freshly cooked. As few people own refrigerators in Vanuatu, it is always best to ask when the meat/fish was bought or caught.
- Only eat deep-water fish…we mean it! Most 20 vatu mamas selling their food on the side of the road will be selling reef fish so please stay clear. Reef fish include barracuda, parrot fish, coral trout, sea bass, red snapper, grouper and kingfish. Deep-water fish that is ok to eat, includes freshly caught local snapper (poulet), tuna, mahi mahi. The reason we tell you to avoid reef fish in Vanuatu is because these often carry sikatera (Ciguatera) poison, which they get by eating smaller fish that eat toxic algae. Sikatera poisoning will make you very sick and you will probably end up in hospital. More info on Ciguatera fish poisoning can be found here.
How to get the most out of your Vanuatu Island holiday
- Get authentic! Vanuatu is such an easy country to immerse yourself into the culture. By getting out of the big smoke of Port Vila, you will see the real Vanuatu. You as a visitor to Vanuatu are encouraged to be inquisitive about the culture, join in with local activities and events when you can, and just experience the feeling of Vanuatu.
- Support local. When shopping in Vanuatu support local as much as you can. Try and buy authentic Vanuatu-made products by Vanuatu people. During Covid-19, the Ni-Vanuatu began creating a large range of products, from alcohol to chocolate to woven items, so there is plenty on offer. When booking a tour, book with a local tour company as you will get a much more authentic experience. Your accommodation may advise you on local tours to participate on but ask if all money goes directly back to the guides.
- Bring something for the community. On the outer islands, it is sometimes hard to secure quality products such as medicine, vitamins, or toys. Inquire with your accommodation and find out if the community is in need of any particular item you could bring with you. Aore Island Resort supports our local school, and we advise guests to bring powdered milk, vita gummies, tough band aids etc. The community will be so grateful, and it also adds some meaning to your tropical holiday.
- Cash is King. Vanuatu is still a very cash-heavy society. It is advisable to always have local vatu on you, as you might get a funny look when you try to pay with your phone or watch. Pickpocketing isn’t something you need to worry about in Vanuatu, so make sure you have cash on you so you don’t miss out on key Vanuatu experiences!
Today’s forecast is… Who cares?!
There isn’t a weather station in Vanuatu per se, so please take the weather forecast on whatever app you are following with a grain of salt. Here is a basic weather roundup: the beginning and end of the year are hot and sometimes wet, the middle of the year has less humidity, but trade winds occur so that the glassy Pacific Ocean may become a little rough. The whole year is beautiful, rain comes in scuds and clears within an hour, hot weather means more swimming, and trade winds always mean it’s cooler. Just be conscious that most places in Vanuatu close in February due to cyclones, hot weather and being the low season.
Ready To Have The Ultimate Island Holiday at Aore Island Resort?
Aore Island Resort is the perfect destination for the ultimate holiday, and the team at our resort want to make sure you do! Located on the sheltered Aore Island just a short trip from Sydney and Brisbane, we pretty much guarantee you’ll have a fabulous time, and return home from our resort feeling rejuvenated and dreaming of your time spent with us. If you need help booking your holiday with us, please get in touch. We have guides to help you pack, and what to do and whether you’re a family, single or couple, we can help you plan the ultimate island holiday to suit your requirements. Our family can’t wait to welcome you to beautiful Aore Island Resort in stunning Santo, Vanuatu.