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The best way to get around the main Island of Efate is by Bus or Taxi. If you are a group you could hire a mini bus but try and use the local bus operators as that is supporting local employment. If it's just the two of you, choose buses or taxis or for fun hire a quad bike! (See later.)
The cost of a Bus around town is 150 vatu and a trip out to
Hideaway Island or Secret Gardens/ Mele Cascades is 300 vatu (per
person). Further trips should be negotiated (not bartered, there is a
difference). Additionally, riding buses gives you the opportunity to experience the Vanuatu’s life experience from within, you’ll feel inside a movie. Some vehicles are quite worn, some are new with Air-Con, mainly mini-vans, anything with a red B at the start of the number plate is a bus. The buses don’t follow a scheduled route, travelers should hail them on the street. In consequence, each time you board a bus the route will be different according to the destinations of the passengers on board. You can have a bit of a wait on a Sunday or
when a cruise ship is in, but that wait may blow out to 5 minutes so it
isn't a huge drama. Also note that local custom means that if you are
the last on, you are last off, so your trip can be a bit of an
adventure, just relax and take in the sights, the people are shy but
very friendly. If you are the only people in the bus, get to know the
driver, you may find that the most talkative drivers come from the
Islands of Tanna and Pentecost.
The taxis are more expensive and are hailed on the street. Here, you are the sole passenger, you won’t have the fun that buses offer, but you’ll be faster at your destination. They charge an average of 300 to 400 vatu for trips in towns. Ask the price before setting off.
To go to destinations faraway in the island, your best choice is to hire a tour, or negotiate with a bus driver.
In recent years, the main road around the island of Efate has been completely upgraded, it is a very good road and it now has road signs (Nov 2011), including distance to places, speed advisory etc. Wow!
You can hire a quad bike in Port Vila and explore; the cost of hire with insurance/ taxes and helmets is about $50 Aus plus fuel. The hire is for 24 hours and you will have a ball.
Every village you pass you will be met by kids waving and smiling, it's a great way to get about, lather up on sunscreen though and be prepared to get very wet ( well the driver anyway) by the afternoon downpour if visiting during wet season. It's not a problem as you will be dry in about 5 kilometres. Take towels and snorkelling gear ( there is storage on the bike) and ask permission before swimming anywhere and you may have to pay a small fee, this goes to the village who's land the beach is on so it is fair and reasonable.
The bikes are automatic and you only require a car license (they do not handle like motorbikes so if you have no bike experience do not worry) BUT, do have your wits about you in town, negotiating round abouts driving on the wrong side of the road requires a bit of concentration, just smile and give way to your left!
Also the roads around town are the worst on the island, watch for potholes, they are everywhere and often deep! There are brochures for the bike hire place at most hotels and resorts and around town.
* A note for non cruise ship travellers: Avoid Mele Cascades and Hideaway Island when a ship is in, it gets a bit too crowded.
** A note for females, mostly cruise ship travellers : Don't walk around town in your swimmers, the people are beautiful, friendly and shy. Bare thighs are not acceptable, respect their culture and cover up.
Most importantly relax and enjoy and talk to the people, they are Vanuatu's biggest asset.