The island nation of Vanuatu is a South Pacific Tax Haven archipelago made up of 83 small islands that are of volcanic origin and cover around 12000sq kms. Around 65 of the islands are inhabited. The total population of Vanuatu is just over 200,000.
First inhabited by Melanesian people, Vanuatu is the island nation formerly known as the New Hebrides. Named by Captain Cook in 1774, the islands changed their name to Vanuatu in 1980 when they gained independence from the UK and France. The new name was founded from the word vanua ('land' or 'home') and the word tu ('stand') these meanings put together represent the independent status of the new nation.
The largest towns in Vanuatu are Port Vila, which is also the capital, and Luganville which is situated on the largest island of Espiritu Santo. The capital can be found on Efate which is the third largest island. The international airport is Bauerfield, which is only 10 minutes from Port Vila.
The main economic industries in Vanuatu are agriculture, tourism, offshore financial services and cattle. There is also substantial fishing activity. Exports include copra, kava, beef, cocoa and timber. Agriculture provides a living for 65% of the population while tourism brings in much needed foreign exchange.
The island nation of Vanuatu is an important offshore financial centre which began in 1971. The offshore financial center of Vanuatu provides the following offshore services to clients from around the globe; the incorporation of offshore companies, Vanuatu trust management, offshore banking, the registrations of ships and vessels and electronic gaming. Vanuatu has also grown popular as a tax haven.
Vanuatu can be considered to be one of the tax havens of the world as it provides its clients with tax incentives. Among other factors which make the offshore jurisdiction of Vanuatu a tax haven is the fact that it has banking secrecy laws in place and also provides privacy and confidentiality for its clients.
English and French are the official languages of Vanuatu while Bislama is a pidgin language which has evolved from English. Bislama is the first language of many urban residents and the most common second language spoken elsewhere.
There are over 100 indigenous languages that are also spoken across the rest of Vanuatu. The country is considered to have the highest density of languages per capita in the world. Many ni-Vanuatu people speak four or more languages, some of which only have a handful of speakers and are in danger of becoming extinct.
Everyone involved in the tourism industry speaks English and about 40% also speak French.
Vanuatu maintains a strong cultural diversity through local and foreign influence and can be divided into three major cultural regions. The North measures wealth by establishing how much one can give away. Pigs with rounded tusks are considered a symbol of wealth throughout the islands. In the centre, more traditional Melanesian cultural systems dominate. In the south, a system involving grants of title with associated privileges has been developed.
Young men undergo various coming-of-age ceremonies and rituals to initiate them into manhood, the drinking of kava is also a popular ritual amongst ni-Vanuatu men. Villages also have male and female only sections.
Around 90% of the population is Melanesian. The remaining residents are made up of small numbers of Europeans, Australians, New Zealanders, Micronesians, Polynesians, Vietnamese and Chinese. The two most populated urban areas are Port Vila and Lunganville. Christianity is the predominant religion in Vanuatu and consists of several different denominations. About one third of the population adhere to the Presbyterian Church. Roman Catholic and Anglican are the other common denominations.
The cuisine in Vanuatu incorporates fish, root vegetables and fruit. Food shortages are rare as most families grow food in their gardens. Food is still cooked using hot stones or through boiling. Very little food is fried.
Air Pacific, Air Vanuatu, Aircalin, Pacific Blue and Quantas have regular flights to Vanuatu. Air Vanuatu and Pacific Blue offer direct flights to Port Vila from Brisbane and Sydney; Air Vanuatu also flies directly from Melbourne and Auckland. Flights via Nadi, Honiara and Noumea are also available.
Air Pacific and Aircalin also provide flights from Nadi and Noumea.
Vanuatu is 11 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT +11). There is no daylight saving in Vanuatu.
Republic of Vanuatu
Port Vila (on the island of Efate)
12, 189 km2 , (4,706 sq miles)
234,023 (2009, National Statistics)
Vatu (VT). Foreign cash, travellers cheques and credit cards are widely accepted in Port Vila.
GMT/UTC +11. There is no daylight saving in summer.
Christian (84%), Other (16%)
In accordance with Vanuatu Custom neither tipping nor bargaining are practiced in Vanuatu.
Three Pin (Flat)
There are over 120 distinct languages and many more dialects in Vanuatu but only 3 official languages: English, French and Bislama (pidgin English).
Cooler, drier Season May-Oct, Average daytime temp 26C. Wetter, hotter season Nov – Apr average daytime temp 29C. Light weight casual clothing plus a sweater is usually sufficient, year round.
Visitors do not need vaccinations, but anti-malarial medication is recommended if you are travelling to islands outside of Efate. There are several private doctors and hospitals in the 2 town centres, Port Vila and Luganville. There are no dangerous animals and urban water is safe to drink.