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Day in Port Vila, Vanatua

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We had a one-day stop here in October on a cruise from LA to Sydney. After researching here and on Trip Advisor, we decided on snorkeling at Hideaway Island. If snorkeling is on your list for the S. Pacific islands, I highly recommend this small island in Pt Vila. The island is gorgeous, picture perfect really. We arrived at low tide, so we could walk across to it. On our return, though, we used their free water taxi. The cost to use the island in mid-October was 1250 VT or $15AU (no US dollars). We charged it in VT, and the conversion ended up being $27 US for two people.

 

They run a smooth operation here. They have a bar, a restaurant, bungalows to rent for longer stays, nice restrooms, a 650 VT/pp hamburger BBQ (burger only, no sides), snorkel and scuba gear for rent, scuba diving without certification, free lounges, a coral beach (walk around the whole island - it won't take long, and you can scrutinize the tidal pools for critters), and beautiful water. We did not order drinks or food, so I can't speak to the prices or variety, although the menu seemed sufficient enough. I was impressed the bar attendant filled my water bottle with fresh water without making me feel I should have ordered something.

 

We were there to snorkel, and the water wasn't warm, but it wasn't too hard to get used to either. We saw lots of fish, a bit of live coral (they are actively regrowing the reef), one huge school of fish (the type you see on nature shows, where the entire school moves as one, like a cloud - it was amazing to watch), as well as the underwater post office! We did not pay for a postcard, but we saw people posting theirs. What a clever idea.

 

Here is the negative about visiting Hideaway Island. You will need a taxi or local bus to get there, and if you are on a cruise ship, you will be literally running a gauntlet amidst aggressive, rude, loud, and ultimately, lying and scheming taxi drivers before you can ever get out of the terminal area and even hope to find a local taxi. Try not to give up, for the island is worth it. One driver shouted at us $10 (American dollars readily accepted) for all 4 of us to the island. Sold!! I had read on TA this was the going rate for a van load. But the closer we got to his cab, the higher the price became until we tried to get a policeman involved (he was no help), we tried to get another driver (same scam: one price, but then more once you're in the taxi). We got out of that van, too, and finally took a local bus.

 

So, my suggestion: walk straight though all of the drivers when you get off the ship (use your tough skin) and find a van whose license plate has a red "B" on it. Those are local buses. That driver wanted more money,too, but finally relented and took us to town for $5US each. Once there, we refused to let him take us further, and we waited just moments at a bus stop for another bus to H.Island, $3US each. You might pay $1 or $2. Drivers were not consistent in the prices the charged, according to the people we spoke with. The key is to get into town, somehow!!, and get a local bus to HI. Or you might be luckier than we were. We paid the local bus driver $5 to take us to the ship from HI.

 

Get underwater here! You won't regret it! We had friends who tried the underwater scooter and loved it! You'll find that operation in town.

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I can understand your frustrations with the local taxi's on Vanuatu, especially coming off a cruise ship.

 

We have never cruised to Port Vila - some years ago, we flew with Air Vanuatu to Port Vila, stayed at Mangoes Resort (walking distance to town), and because there were no cruise ships in port, all the "B" signposted taxis were the "normal price", but having said that we always settled on a price before we drove off.

We enjoyed Mele Cascades (visited in the morning before the tourists arrived), loved Nambawan Cafe in town (overlooking the Bay) - Hideaway Island was nice, only about 20 people there the day we visited.

 

The HIGHLIGHT of Vanuatu, was TANNA ISLAND and Mt.Yasar Volcano. Its hard to explain the thrill of visiting an exploding volcano just on dusk, and to stand on it's rim, while the volcano is spitting out red hot lava into the air above you. You will forget this experience, I promise you.

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Those are some good ideas! I trust your post and mine can help others decide what to do in Pt Vila.

 

 

Sent using the Cruise Critic forums app

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The description of the pushy cab drivers at the port is spot on and even on our cruise the police had to be called to assist a couple who were being urged physically to take a specifc taxi.

 

Based upon what I saw I would try for a ships excursion and this suggestion is coming from someone who almost never does a ships excursion. There is little to see at the port if you walk around and I would be very uncomfortable in making due on my own.

Edited by FlightMedic555

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We complained to Holland Am about the taxi drivers, but that helps the cruise ship, doesn't it, as it pushes passengers to their excursions when, given some bravado on their part, they could push past those rude cab drivers and find someone trustworthy, save considerable money, and have a longer excursion than the ship would offer.

 

One intermediary step I did not mention is that once off the cruise ship in Pt. Vila, an official tent of sorts is set up, and you could secure transportation and/or a tour there, saving some money from a ship's excursion. That is worth checking into.

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The tent, table, and personnel are before the can drivers. It's more of a covered table than tent. Seems to be an invisible line separating the table from the drivers. Take advantage of that!

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In Port Vila there are other options if people are worried about the taxi drivers and also do not want to do a ships tour.

 

There is a small boat that ferries people from the ship to shore, I believe it costs 1000vt pp (same as a bus from town to wharf).

 

You can also prearrange a private tour with one of the many tour companies not affiliated with the cruise ships. They are the ones you will see at the 'tent' at the wharf.

 

By the way, a 'B' plate is a bus, not a taxi and bus fares are set at 150vt within the city scaling up depending on distance. These prices do not change when there is a cruise ship in but people seem to expect that the price will still be 150vt even if they are travelling out to Cascades or Hideaway when they are 20 to 30 minutes out of the city!

 

I am bemused at why some people accuse the drivers of being a rip off.

 

Fuel is very expensive here and the drivers are not charging a fortune.

How much does it cost for a 30 minute taxi ride in Australia or America?

How much is the flagfall to just enter the cab?

 

My last trip in a taxi in Brisbane was less than 30 minutes and I was charged $80! In Port Vila you can get a private driver for almost a whole day for that price.

Yet some visitors to Port Vila bitterly complain at having to pay 1000vt (about $10) for a 20 minute trip :(

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Thanks for that guys. Can you tell me if the markets are near the cruise terminal or do you need to get into town first?

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Thanks for that guys. Can you tell me if the markets are near the cruise terminal or do you need to get into town first?

 

There are a few different markets.

 

Right at the wharf there are general markets with clothes, souvenirs etc, they are only open on cruise ship days.

 

In town there are the fruit and veg markets with an area for cooked food.

 

At the top end of town are the "Mama's" markets with handmade clothes, sarongs, souvenirs, hair braiding etc.

 

On the mainland near the Hideaway Island jetty another small general market. Also only open on cruise ship days.

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I posted this on another thread, but will repeat it here for those that never saw the other one, and want some information on Vila based on my experienecs:

 

When I was there last year with my family (5 of us in total) we arranged a taxi for the day when we arrived at the port.

 

You will see literally hundreds of them and the drivers will swarm on you like bees. What I did was negotiate a $100 rate for the taxi for the day for all 5 of us, and I did this through the fence before getting out the gate and swarmed by the drivers, so when I got to the gate, I just told all the drivers I had a can arranged and they left me alone.

 

I got the driver to take me to Cascade Waterfalls as our first stop, of many. We had such fun there that we actually spent a few hours there.

 

From here the driver took us to Hideaway island nearby, where we spent the rest of the afternoon snorkelling and posting some postcards at the underwater post office. By the time we were done there, we just got dropped back at the ship, walked the market stalls set up outside the ship, and the day was done.

 

I am looking forward to my retrun to Vila in April next year, and I plan to do some different things and see some new locations.

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I stayed a few years ago at Mangoes Resort in Port Vila, and its amazing how different the prices are (eg taxi's/market items/etc) are when there is NO cruise ship in port, and how peaceful the little town of Port Vila is then.

 

I guess the locals just view the passengers getting off, as $$$$$'s

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We were there last April and are returning in May.

 

The taxi drivers are so agressive, i was with my 8 year old so it was a little scary, in the end we went back behind the fences and negotiated and ended up getting $50NZ return to Hideway Island in car for 4 of us, we thought that was bargain. We did overhear people saying they had paid $100AUD.

 

We loved Hideway Island, spend about 3 hours in the water and will head back next month.

 

Any others suggestions for Villa which are not the P&O trips?

 

Anyone been to Iririki Island - how does the snorkelling compare?

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I'd also like to hear answers to your Iririki Island question.

 

Sent from my GT-I9100T using Forums mobile app

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We were there last April and are returning in May.

 

The taxi drivers are so agressive, i was with my 8 year old so it was a little scary, in the end we went back behind the fences and negotiated and ended up getting $50NZ return to Hideway Island in car for 4 of us, we thought that was bargain. We did overhear people saying they had paid $100AUD.

 

We loved Hideway Island, spend about 3 hours in the water and will head back next month.

 

Any others suggestions for Villa which are not the P&O trips?

 

Anyone been to Iririki Island - how does the snorkelling compare?

 

I'd also like to hear answers to your Iririki Island question.

 

Sent from my GT-I9100T using Forums mobile app

 

I have only snorkelled Iririki (Snorkellers Cove) once and it was a cruise ship day. We were snorkelling at the same time as the glass bottomed boat was doing fish feeding a few hundred metres away. We just assumed all the fish were over at the boat since we didn't see a single one where we were ;)

Having said that, we hear good feedback about the snorkelling there and others have said they enjoy it. I recently spoke to a lady that was staying there and she said she would take leftover sausage out and feed the fish while she snorkelled.

Hideaway is a personal favourite of mine and we always take bread when we snorkel there to attract even more fish.

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Thank you bellamariya.

 

Sent from my GT-I9100T using Forums mobile app

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Do you have to pay to go on to hideaway island?

 

Yes you do. When you arrive on the island you pay an entry fee, last time I checked it was $15.

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Thank you for that. I wonder if you could help me...we have $20 aud each, ( for noemea as well! But I hear there is a free bus and a hop on bus, so will use them) so $40. Yes, we shouldn't be cruising, but there you go! What would you do with that $40. ?

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Thank you for that. I wonder if you could help me...we have $20 aud each, ( for noemea as well! But I hear there is a free bus and a hop on bus, so will use them) so $40. Yes, we shouldn't be cruising, but there you go! What would you do with that $40. ?

 

You don't need much money to enjoy being in Vila, town is an easy walk from the wharf and local buses are cheap if you are not leaving the greater town area (150vt pp). I would exchange the money for vatu though. Goodies do the best rate and charge no fees. Yes, people here accept AUD but the exchange may not be as good.

When we travel somewhere new our first priority is to try the local food and drink. You can buy a cold Tusker (our local beer) from the grocery stores for about 220vt (about $2.50) and if the markets are open some stall holders sell banana, manioc or sweet potato chips or if you are brave, a serve of hot tulluck (yummy meat filled manioc cake) or laplap. Grab a seat along the waterfront and enjoy the view while you eat and drink!

Check out which resorts are open, most have a policy that you can spend the day and use the facilities as long as you buy a meal or a drink.

There is a handicraft market near the wharf that sells locally made goods. You can walk from there to the ship after you have finished browsing.

Hope this has helped!

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That is great, thank you!

If I'm am dieing in the humidity do you recommend the water taxi to the left of the wharf? I hear it is the same as the bus to get to town ? ( $5) if it isn't too hit, we will walk

We are coming from nz so have nzd, so are changing into aud, but might change a bit into whatever currency Vanuatu and New Caledonia use. Am changing that in auckland tomorrow.

I wanted to go to the hideaway, on the local bus from town, which would be about $16 return all up, but then $15 each to get on it...so that takes us over the $20 each, Lols.

Thank you, the markets and the food from them sound good, we can sit and watch..are there swimming holes near by? Either from the boat or in town?

We will def have a wander through the resorts, we did that in Fiji, just to see them..well nice.

We didn't eat, as they were Exy, but we didn't swim there either, but worth a thought ...ESP if I am dieing from said humidity.

Thank you again, very nice of you to share your information. :)

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That is great, thank you!

If I'm am dieing in the humidity do you recommend the water taxi to the left of the wharf? I hear it is the same as the bus to get to town ? ( $5) if it isn't too hit, we will walk

We are coming from nz so have nzd, so are changing into aud, but might change a bit into whatever currency Vanuatu and New Caledonia use. Am changing that in auckland tomorrow.

I wanted to go to the hideaway, on the local bus from town, which would be about $16 return all up, but then $15 each to get on it...so that takes us over the $20 each, Lols.

Thank you, the markets and the food from them sound good, we can sit and watch..are there swimming holes near by? Either from the boat or in town?

We will def have a wander through the resorts, we did that in Fiji, just to see them..well nice.

We didn't eat, as they were Exy, but we didn't swim there either, but worth a thought ...ESP if I am dieing from said humidity.

Thank you again, very nice of you to share your information. :)

 

The weather is cooling down now, very little humidity, but the water here doesn't fall below 25 degrees so it's nice to swim all year round :)

Most resorts are on the water, either beach or lagoon so swimming will be easy, they also have pools.

There is a good spot for swimming on the mainland across from Hideaway, at the Beach Bar. No entry fee there and a nice spot for a cold drink. The bus fare to this area should only be around 300vt pp each way and there are normally lots of buses because of people heading to Hideaway.

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Thank you so much!!! It's 3.30 am..a tad excited, we leave at 4 pm. I'll report back on my $20 experience :)

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We were the second ship allowed into Vila, we took the water taxi to town and saw the smashed boats against the rocks.( $5 still for that, ) the fruit market has gone as no fruit but the other stuff was still there in the undercover market and in the shops, we bought our kids gifts in Vila.

The supermarket had cheap sarongs, so bought a few (350 Vatu and jandals/ thongs 200)

We spent about 2 hrs in town. Very like Nadi

In Fiji

We went back to the boat and had lunch then there is a nice beach at the back of the boat dock, so walked there..took 10 mins and snorkelled, wonderful fish and a bit of coral. We had the beach to ourselves. The people on the boat watched us...some then joined us, as they could see our blue stripped towels in the distance!!!

It was so cooling as it was a warm day.

We then went to champagne bay as a cyclone prevented us going to lifou and noumea was cancelled altogether and we headed back to Auckland for three days..6 met swells , fab

Some went to the villages and it was a mess, but p and o said don't venture past the town, but we ignored that. We took books there direct, to the library .

Three weeks ago there were no leaves or grass, but now it was green again cos they had had rain and sun non stop so the vegetation is growing back quickly.

The trees had been bare...all leaves shredded off.

Was a nice day, and next time we will swim with turtles etc. but $20 got us to town and we bought other stuff on credit card.

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Good to hear you enjoyed your day here in Vila.

 

A bit sad that P&O are advising people to not go past town though, the best things here are out of town including Cascades Waterfall which is in great shape and Hideaway Island which is one of my favourite snorkelling spots.

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