Port Vila, Vanuatu
Situated on the south-western coast of Efate, Port Vila is the capital of the Vanuatu islands. Arguably one of the most attractive towns in the Pacific, it is located around a beautiful natural harbour, which has become a popular cruise ship destination.
Though small, Vila is undeniably cosmopolitan, combining a mix of cultures from Melanesian (indigenous Ni-Vanuatu) to French, English and Chinese. As such, it offers a wide selection of shopping and dining, mainly situated in its compact centre. Just north is the atmospheric French quarter.
Outside of town are a number of attractions including waterfalls and traditional villages. Frequent ferries also operate to other islands, including neighbouring Iririki.
The main wharf, located 5 kilometres south-east of the town, was built in 1972, when it welcomed 40 cruise ships a year. Today it has the capacity to dock some of the largest vessels around and is currently being remodelled to meet international standards.
Most cruise ships dock at Port Vila’s commercial pier at the main wharf on Wharf Road, approximately 5 kilometres south-west of the town centre.
The majority of Vila’s shops and restaurants are only a short distance away and are easily accessible by taxi or mini bus.
Like most standard commercial piers, the facilities at Port Vila’s main wharf are limited. Work on a new international wharf is currently underway to cater for the increasing number of visitors.
Taxis and buses are readily available at the pier, affording easy access to the town centre as well as to the many nearby hotels and resorts.
How to Get Around
Local taxis and mini vans are the standard forms of transport for travelling to and from Vila’s main wharf. Both are plentiful, with lines of each waiting at the pier every time a cruise ship docks. They can also be easily picked up in and around the town.
Vila also has a number of hire car companies, which operate locally and offer reasonable rates for 1-day hire – approximately A$75.
Travel times from Vila’s main wharf
- 10 minutes to the town centre (taxi A$15/shared taxi van A$3)
Ferries operate 24 hours a day between Vila and some of its islands.
- 3 minutes to Iririki (free).
- Currency - the local currency in Vila is the Vanuatu Vatu (VUV), although Australian dollars are accepted in many shops and restaurants. Coins come in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 vatu denominations. Notes are not in circulation.
- Time Zone - Vila uses Vanuatu Standard Time. It is 11 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
- Weather - Vila’s climate is subtropical and humid. Being equatorial, temperatures remain fairly consistent, averaging 26° Celsius year round. The dry season – from May to October – offers sunny days and pleasantly cool evenings. November to April is the hot, wet season.
- Port Vila Market - open every day expect Sunday, Vila Market is conveniently located next to the wharf. The stalls are run by Ni-Van women and sell a range of local produce, from seasonal fruits and vegetables to flowers, jewellery and woodcarvings. It also offers a spectacle of live traditional cooking. Prices are set around the market so there is no bargaining.
- Mele Cascades - situated only 10 kilometres from Port Vila, Mele Cascades is a series of gushing waterfalls with pools of clear, turquoise waters. A slippery rock stairway, surrounded by lush tropical flora and fauna, takes you up to the top and offers plenty of bathing opportunities along the way. Wonderful views can be enjoyed from the lookout. There is also a bar and restaurant on site.
- Ekasup Cultural Village - just a short drive from the town centre, Ekasup Cultural Village offers a unique insight into the ancient customs of Melanesia. Through a series of talks and demonstrations, Futuna islanders in traditional dress showcase village life, including how they hunt, fish, preserve food and prepare medicines. The entertainment also includes song, dance and sampling local fare.
- National Museum of Vanuatu - part of the Vanuatu Cultural Centre on the Rue d’Artois Nambatu, the National Museum displays authentic exhibits relating to the history and culture of these islands. Artefacts include masks, tools, carvings, ceremonial headdresses and examples of Lapita and Wusi pottery. It also hosts temporary exhibitions including art and sculpture, and the opportunity to watch sand drawing.