How To Get Around Vanuatu (Don’t Fall For This Scam)

Tristan Balme best things to do in vanuatu hire a scooter

Vanuatu’s main island of Efate is tiny.

There are around 66,000 inhabitants. One ring road around the coastline. And you can drive around it in less than 2 hours!

But figuring out how to explore Vanutau (and make the most of your trip) can be tricky – with limited public transport and few rental options.

I recently spent a week exploring the island, and figured out what rental agencies to avoid, how much it costs to hire scooters, and how to ride the buss like a local.

Here’s how I got around the island.

Local Buses, are actually really good!

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I found local buses to be a fantastic way to enjoy the local culture on a budget. 

These minibuses are marked with a red ‘B’ on their license plates. Don’t expect bus stops or schedules–just keep an eye out and wave one down when you see it. 

(Well, there are bus stops. But it didn’t seem to make a difference if we were waiting at a bus stop or not)

So you can think of these buses more like shared taxis.

Fares are affordable, ranging from 150-500 Vatu per person depending on distance. Be sure to check the fare before hopping on. 

Local Taxis

For a faster, more direct option, look for taxis – these are typically 4WD utility vehicles marked with a red ‘T’ on their license plates. Taxis are more expensive than buses, but they offer convenient door-to-door service. 

Negotiate your fare before starting your trip, especially for longer journeys or late-night rides. 

Some busses will also try and become a taxi for you – because you’re a tourist. What I mean by this is if they’re empty the dude might just say ‘yeah we’ll go wherever you want’ and by doing so will charge taxi rates (1000vt and up, rather than 150vt).

This was a bit frustrating at one point because every bus that came past was giving us taxi rates, rather than treating us like locals and doing the bus thing.

Scooter Hire, Was The Best Thing We Did!

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Scooters are particularly handy for short distances and exploring around towns and villages. Here are some scooter hire options:

eBikes Vanuatu

eBikes Vanuatu offers a variety of two-wheeled fun, including electric bikes, traditional mopeds, and electric scooters.

  • Prices: Electric Scooters: AUD 35 per day, mopeds: around AUD 55 per day (depending on the model), electric Bikes: Starting from AUD 55 per day.
  • Inclusions: Helmets, maps, USB chargers, phone pockets, lockable storage, optional drop-off and pick-up service for an additional fee.

On Wheels Vanuatu

On Wheels Vanuatu offers scooter rentals with a focus on freedom and exploration.

  • Prices: Scooter rentals are priced at AUD 700. This may be a weekly rate, but be sure to check with them for details.
  • Inclusions: Helmets, maps, phone pockets, lockable storage.

Car Hire

Renting a car gives you the ultimate freedom to explore the island at your own pace. This is particularly appealing if you want to discover hidden beaches, waterfalls, or villages off the beaten track. 

A few of my recommendations include: 

World Car Rentals Vanuatu

World Car Rentals Vanuatu offers a diverse fleet, including the quirky and fun Mini Moke.

  • Prices: You can expect to pay around  10,000 Vatu per day for a Mini Moke Fun Car. A compulsory daily insurance fee of 1,500 Vatu applies. 
  • Inclusions: Your rental includes unlimited kilometers, 24-hour roadside assistance, and complimentary infant and child seats.
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Budget Vanuatu

Budget Vanuatu has a wide selection of vehicles, from compact, economical choices to powerful 4WDs.

  • Prices: Prices start from around VT 6,500 depending on the car category.
  • Inclusions: You’ll enjoy unlimited kilometers, Collision Damage Waiver Insurance, VAT (government tax), free delivery and collection (subject to terms and conditions), SOS Alarm, and 24-hour roadside assistance.

Hertz Vanuatu 

Hertz is an internationally recognized brand with a reliable reputation. They offer a range of vehicles to suit different needs and budgets.

  • Prices: Prices start from around 12141.13 VUV for economy cars and go up to approximately 15792.94 VUV for Dual Cabs and larger vehicles.
  • Inclusions: Expect your rental to include Total Sales Tax, administrative recovery fees, roadside assistance, and unlimited kilometers. Double-check the exact inclusions for your chosen package.

On Wheels Vanuatu

On Wheels Vanuatu offers a mix of economy cars, electric options, and even luxury vehicles.

  • Prices: Prices range from approximately VT 7,400 for economy cars to as high as VT 14,500 for premium, luxury vehicles.
  • Inclusions: Insurance and unlimited mileage. But some mileages are capped, so read the fine print properly.  
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Getting to Other Islands

Flights

Air Vanuatu, Vanuatu’s domestic airline, provides a fast and efficient way to reach those more remote islands. They service various destinations and are perfect to maximize your vacation time.

Also, the aerial views of the islands and ocean are an unforgettable bonus. 

Since seats can fill up quickly, I recommend booking your flights well in advance. You can find flight details and schedules on Air Vanuatu’s website.

nb: At the time of writing, Air Vanuatu is on the brink of going into receivership. (and they were already highly unreliable). I’d avoid flying with them if at all possible if you want to get to your destination on time, or at all!

Ferries

Ferries are also another budget-friendly option and allow you to relax and enjoy the sea breeze. 

Companies like Vanuatu Ferry and Big Sista offer ferry travel primarily between Port Vila (Efate), Malekula, and Luganville (Espiritu Santo). 

Smaller, local ferry companies might offer routes between less frequently traveled islands or provide more specialized services (like cargo transport with limited passenger space). These are less likely to have online booking systems but you can find schedule updates or route information on a company’s Facebook page, like Vanuatu Ferry.

For less-traveled routes, try these tactics:

  • Ask the Locals: Your hotel, tour guides, or friendly locals may know of other ferry options.
  • Explore Ports: Check harbors for signs or information about smaller ferries.
  • Be Flexible:  Most smaller operators often don’t have online booking systems, so be ready to purchase tickets on the spot and have a backup plan.

In Summary:

In summary, I spent waaay too much time on my holiday trying to find an affordable and convenient way to get around Efate, the main island of Vanuatu.

Car rental is EXPENSIVE and kinda overkill for such a small island.

1️⃣ The best options were in fact taking the local bus, which is surprisingly easy and fast (Efate has a ring road and most drivers will happily take you

2️⃣ As well as hiring a scooter (from eBikes Vanuatu) which gave us the freedom and independence to get wherever and whenever we needed.

3️⃣ For those traveling as a family, a car still might be the best option but just be aware they are pricey, and of limited supply. Make sure to book in advance of your trip. I’d recommend Budget Rentals as they were the only company to reply to my inquiry emails and actually had some availability.

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