Port-Vila

Bonjour!

We arrived and docked in Port-Vila at about 9am May 31st (Thursday). Once again, Varun and I, spent a bit too much partying the night before so did not awake until noon again. However, with advice from previous friends and travel blogs from others I had read, we were told there was not much to see at Port-Vila other than the city and waterfalls (in which we did not get a chance to see).

We ate, got ready and were off the boat at about 1pm to the yelling and screaming of about 30 taxis and their drivers vying for our attention (and money). We decided to walk the dirt road next to the port as it was lined with small shops run by locals looking to make a quick dollar off their goods and services. We also ran into a few places that were willing to stamp our passports for $2, so we decided to get them stamped. The legitimacy behind the stamps, we are a bit unsure of, but to late now! Even while walking around the shops, the taxi drivers were slowing down and asking if we needed a lift. It was a bit annoying, but my time in Fiji has taught me that people's will, especially tourists, is extremely weak and usually cave in to continuous heckling. So we continued walking around and saying no every 5 seconds to every cab driver that drove past.
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It's a bit shady as some of the vehicles do not even have a 'taxi' sign on top and NONE of the taxis have proper equipment in them to signify as taxis (fare readers, cameras, etc, etc). However, we were told the locals are friendly and just want to make a quick buck off their vehicles to take tourists around, so we booked a cab for $10 to take us to the city. His English was pretty amazing and he told us he was taught English and French growing up. We asked him to take us to the city centre as we would do most of the walking around on our own. We were also told by him that the duty free in the city centre was the cheapest compared to the other shops so we asked him to take us there as we needed to pick up items for friends back home. For all we know, it could be a family business and he would get commission off bringing us, but after looking around they all seemed to be the same price. The only difference with this one is they had a ton of 2 for 1 sales going on (2 bottles of Smirnoff for $25 or 2 cartons of Winfields for $80, DAMN GOOD DEAL!).

We decided to find an internet cafe as our bank accounts at the ATM on the ship were showing far lower numbers than what we had anticipated. After finding a run down place that I swear was running Windows 95, we were able to check our bank accounts to see that P&O and ran through our cards in increments to our bank to ensure we had the money and that ANZ had charged it as a viable transaction. P&O stated they hadn't withdrawn the money but put it on 'hold' to ensure we had the funds to pay for things on board the ship. However, ANZ ran it through as a transaction and hence why it showed up as far lower than what we had though. So we practically freaked out over nothing. Unfortunately, not many of the local shops take Australian Dollar but instead use their local currency the Vanuatu, Vatu (VUV). So we forced the poor lady to scrounge together some spare Australian coin lying around to break the $20 we had. Should have just ran for it.
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We walked around a bit more before stopping by the duty free to look around and then a souvenir shop to pick up some items and then hailing a cab to head back to the boat. Our cab driver was blaring Bob Marley music that I swear half the city could hear but we were OK with it, ha. Another $10 to him and we were back and onboard roughly 4pm. We dropped everything off and headed to the top deck to capture a few more photos as the ship sounded the horn and left port home for Brisbane.

Port-Vila while may seem run down, is a bit more caught up on the technology than other places that I've been. The local currency does produce a problem but many places accept Australian Dollar and visa/mastercards. What is cheap to us, is pretty expensive to them, so to charge $10 for a cab ride, made them an amazing amount of money off a short trip and offered us a cheap ride as well, so win win. The locals are friendly and everyone smiling with MANY people vying for your attention and money stating they will take you on 'walking tours' 'tours around the city' and best places to eat and shop. Again, we decided to do our own thing instead of book a P&O tour due to the cost and we seemed to get around just fine. Just as long as you can say 'no' a thousand times and learn to ignore the heckling, you'll be alright in Port-Vila. And with that, we headed into the open ocean bound for Brisbane.

Salut!

-H

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