The Republic of Vanuatu , formerly known as the New Hebrides , is an island nation in the Southwest Pacific Ocean with about a dozen significant islands and many smaller islands extending between the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn. Most of the islands are formed from the summits of volcanic mountain ranges rising from the ocean floor. Independence was obtained in 1980 after some 74 years of joint rule by Britain and France .
Melanesians were the first people to settle in Vanuatu about 3000 years ago and were joined later by small numbers of Polynesians between the 11th and 15th centuries. Permanent settlement by Europeans didn't happen until the 19th century. Most of the Ni-Vanuatu population still live in villages amongst the islands. English, French and Bislama are the official languages and there are over 100 indigenous languages. Vanuatu 's climate ranges from tropical in the north to sub tropical in the south. The surrounding ocean moderates temperature and trade winds provide a cooling sea breeze.
In recent times Vanuatu 's outer islands, where the greatest attractions and experiences are on offer, are opening up to tourism but the numbers of visitors are still very low. Start exploring Vanuatu with our travel information and read more about our outer islands on our Island bungalow page.
Economy —The economy is based primarily on subsistence or small-scale agriculture, which provides a living for 65% of the population. Fishing, offshore financial services, and tourism (with about 60,000 visitors in 2005), are other mainstays of the economy, mineral deposits are negligible; the country has no known petroleum deposits. A small light industry sector caters to the local market. Tax revenues come mainly from import duties and a 12.5 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on goods and services.
Safety Information —Most visits to Vanuatu are trouble-free; the greatest threat to a visitors' safety comes from nature in the form of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The islands have experienced more than 40 earthquakes in the past two years, some measuring over seven on the Richter scale. Tourists have been injured, even fatally, by volcanic activity on the islands, and visitors are advised to be cautious and heed the advice of local guides when making expeditions to view active volcanoes. The tropical cyclone season normally runs from November to April. The crime rate is low, but is increasing. Take precautions against burglary and street crime, especially at night. Foreigners, especially women, have been attacked in isolated locations and it is advisable not to visit remote areas or beaches alone.
Local Customs —
Local traditions and customs should be respected, and this includes not wearing very revealing clothing away from the beaches and hotels. Ask permission before taking photographs of local people. Be aware that land-ownership is a sensitive issue in Vanuatu, and those who venture onto someone's land may be asked to pay a 'visitor fee'. The national herbal 'feel-good' drink, kava, is widely drunk by the locals, particularly at cultural ceremonies and in the evenings.