There are airports on most of Vanuatu's large islands which are serviced regularly by Twin Otter or Islander aircraft. This is not cheap, but believe it or not, it is the way most ni-Vanuatu travel when they go from island to island, usually from home island to Vila and back. Don't be surprised if you are asked to hold your small child in your lap; you can refuse if you have purchased a ticket for the child (only one life jacket per seat, remember).
Air Melanesia planes (Twin Otter left, Islander right) before the Australian company owner was harassed into selling the airline to the Government, which repainted them and renamed the business VanAir. Photo ©S. Combs, 1987.
Copra trading vessels regularly travel the "inner sea" of Vanuatu; i.e. Vila-Malekula's east coast-Luganville-Pentecost's west coast-Vila and points between. Their stops are irregular and the schedule is subject to change on no notice. There are a few cabins, but most travel is deck class. Few people travel this way, although a group will charter a ship to travel en masse to, for example, a church gathering in Vila. Perhaps I should mention that when I was in Vanuatu, many of the inter-island ships had been long used and abused in other parts of the Pacific. Upon reaching the state where they could no longer meet safety standards, they were sold to owners in Vanuatu, where seaworthiness standards were less rigourously enforced.
The Alize II, a Vanuatu Government Ship. My transport for a two-week tour of northern Vanuatu from Port Vila to the Torres Islands. Photo ©S. Combs, 1991.
Forget about hitch-hiking. In rural Vanuatu, virtually every truck you see is a taxi, and expects to be paid a fare. They can be relatively expensive. There are a few mini-buses from time to time on Tanna, Malekula, rural Efate, and Espiritu Santo. These, along with Port Vila and Luganville's urban buses are reasonably priced.
Crossing a river where a bridge stood a few weeks previous, before Cyclone Bola washed it out. Photo ©S. Combs, 1988.
Known locally as "Speedboats", see taxi trucks above. Also relatively expensive. Be sure you make firm arrangements for pickup when you are let off miles down the coast from where you started, unless you intend to walk back.
Tourists board a "Speedboat" taxi en route to the Pentecost Land Dives. Photo ©H. Morgan, 1992.
Continue to Modes of Transport In Rural Vanuatu, Part 2.
©Stan Combs, 1996.