The currency in Vanuatu is called vatu. It is broken into 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 vatu coins, and 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, and 10,000 vatu notes. For current exchange rates, please check out http://goodiesforex.com/rates/.
It is best to bring cash from home if possible to change either at the airport or in town. If you are unsure of where to go to change money throughout Port Vila you can use a local company called Goodies or withdraw cash using ANZ, BSP, BNP or Bred Bank ATMs. Outside Port Vila and Luganville, take cash with you. Smaller notes are essential. Rural villages and roadside stalls will not be able to change a 5000 or 10,000 vatu note.
In Luganville, there is a money exchange office near Hotel Santo. Alternatively, there are ANZ and local bank ATMs to use.
For ANZ go to: http://www.locate.anz.com/anz/international
There are local bank ATMs located near most large supermarkets, service stations and through the main road of Port Vila.
On Tanna, there is a local bank ATM in Lenakel, the main town, but from past experience this is sometimes out of action and there is no alternative. Take cash with you from Port Vila before you leave.
Shopping in Vanuatu
Cash is king in Vanuatu. Electronic banking is still relatively new and therefore fees are high. Between 3 and 5% credit card fee will be charged on top of the purchase price. This isn’t profiteering, but a reflection of what the bank is charging the shopkeeper. The larger supermarkets, petrol stations, western style resorts and shops will generally have a credit card payment facility. Local shops, market stalls, and anything outside Port Vila or Luganville will be cash only.
Vanuatu has some real bargains. Local fruit and vegetables are organic, generally picked within 12 hours of you buying them, are cheap and plentiful. Local beef is also cheap. You will pay around AUD $12 for the best scotch fillet steak you have even eaten! Imported products can be expensive due to steep import taxes. Although you will be able to purchase everything you need, the range will be different from home.
As a general rule, budget to spend the same money on food as you would if holidaying at home, adding just a bit more for your imported items like cheese and wine. Contact local tour operators from home or check out their websites for tour prices. Prices are very stable. They don’t increase very often and sometimes if booked in advance, tour operators will offer a discount. This may mean you can also pay in advance.
Locally made bags, mats, and other products are crafted from local materials and are well priced. Bartering or asking for the ‘best’ price isn’t common practice in Vanuatu. Sometimes a stall holder will offer a reduced price, but it is considered rude to initiate the bartering process.
If you are heading to any of the outer islands, take cash with you. Your card will be a thing of mystery here!