Many people visiting Vanuatu on holiday often find themselves dreaming of a sea change and wondering what life as an expat in Port Vila would be like. So what do the locals do here? Well, we enjoy the slower pace for a start. To give you a little glimpse, here’s a 12 hour itinerary that allows you to get a taste of expat life – if only for a day.
Get up early and head down to Nambawan Café for a sunrise swim with the Port Vila Masterbathers Open Water Swimming Club. This group of swimmers have been meeting here for years. Some swim in the morning, others at lunch time, but there is always someone to follow and if you’re lucky, a mother dugong and her baby may even join you.
After you’ve dried off, hang around Nambawan Café for breakfast. Enjoy one of the best coffees in town and eavesdrop some local gossip from nearby tables occupied by long term expats. You’ll often hear them discussing current news, so grab a newspaper from a local seller, so you can follow the conversation. Nambawan Café is a popular spot frequented by locals at any time of the day.
Visit any expat home and you will notice that EVERYONE has a number of Vanuatu handicrafts on proud display. After breakfast, head next door and peruse the local handicrafts at the new seafront Haus Blong Handikraf market. Here you will find the best and newest handicrafts, so don’t leave without purchasing at least a hand carved tamtam or a colourful pandanus mat or bag.
Continue into town for some more shopping. On the way through town, keep an eye out for Gaston Chocolat. This delightful store is full of handcrafted chocolate and the master French chocolatier uses only Vanuatu cocoa. The chocolate is smooth and unique tasting and has fast become a favourite with the locals.
Other essential stops are Vila Bottleshop or Sound Centre Downtown Duty Free for cheap duty free alcohol and where many expats buy their booze before leaving “the Rock”. Prouds Duty Free for watches, perfume and sunglasses and Vanuatu Bijouterie for unique handmade jewellery such as a pig tusk bangle that you won’t see anywhere else in the world (except of course dangling on the arm of many a woman in Port Vila.)
Along the way, don’t resist the urge to window shop the many Real Estate agents in town and picture yourself living the dream life in a tropical style home.
One of the things you will notice whilst in town is the mass exodus at 11.30am. Siesta time is alive and well in Port Vila and the town that was buzzing with activity in the morning is decidedly quieter as everyone heads home for a bite to eat and a nap or for a long (sometimes boozy) lunch with mates. If you too are feeling hungry, we recommend a stop at an eatery that is well populated by locals enjoying the “local” lunch specials. Try The Grand, Jungle Café, Reefers, Au Peche Minion or Jills Café.
HOTSPOTS SAVINGS TIP #1: check out page 17 of the Voucher Book for 10% off your bill at Reefers
By now, everyone should be heading back to work, so this is a good time to head to the local produce market and grab some organic, seasonal fruit, vegetables and tropical flowers. In the first world, just a couple of stems of tropical blooms will cost you upwards of $50, but here, a very generous bunch will cost you approximately $2.20!
Spend the afternoon just relaxing. Visit one of the larger resorts such as Iririki Island Resort or Warwick Le Lagon for a swim and a massage in their spas. Or take in a new release movie at Tana Ciné. Afternoon sessions usually start around 2pm and they have a Gold Class section if you want to do it in style. Check the schedule on their Facebook page and HOTSPOTS SAVINGS TIP #2: don’t forget to take your Hotspots voucher book and there is a great Gold Class offer on page 10.
HOTSPOTS SAVINGS TIP #3: Get 20% off on all spa treatments at Le Lagon’s Oasis Spa. (Page 14 of the Voucher Book)
Beer o’clock already? It’s common for locals to catch up for after work drinks or kava. Banyan Beach Bar, Lava Lounge, the Warhorse Saloon and Reefers are all popular after work watering holes. The great thing about Port Vila is everyone mixes. There are often lively discussions about anything and everything. Amongst the fray you’ll find General Managers of international banks and Peace Corp volunteers. Strike up a conversation – the reasons on why or how people came to reside in Vanuatu are varied and fascinating.
HOTSPOTS SAVINGS TIP #4: Voucher Book saves you 25% at Banyan Beach Bar or 20% at Lava Lounge
If you did the previous step of the itinerary well, you would have already made some new friends and scored yourself an invite to dinner. But if you’re the shy type, finish off the day with dinner at one of these long standing restaurants. L’houstalet, Kanpai, Harbour View Chinese, Café Vila, Chantilly’s or Stone Grill are all consistent and therefore favourites with the locals.
HOTSPOTS SAVINGS TIP #5: Get 2 free drinks at Café Vila, 25% off at Chantilly’s, a free drink at Stone Grill, 15% off at Wild Ginger or a free bottle of wine at Sunset Bungalows.