Shopper’s Paradise: A Guide to Shopping in Vanuatu

Guide to Shopping in Vanuatu

From bustling markets teeming with local handicrafts to fresh produce stalls, boutique stores, and everything in between, shopping in Vanuatu is almost as much of an adventure as touring these beautiful islands themselves.

So you can fully immerse yourself in the colours, flavours, and traditions of Vanuatu shopping, the team at Crown Currency Exchange has put together this ultimate guide. Below, you’ll find information on some unmissable Vanuatu products and some of the best places to go shopping. Whether you’re searching for unique souvenirs or taking advantage of duty free shopping opportunities, you’ll find all you need to know here.

What to Buy When Shopping in Vanuatu

What to Buy When Shopping in Vanuatu

You’ll find some really unique shopping opportunities in Vanuatu, with products on offer that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. These don’t only reflect the local culture but show how the islands offer up natural resources, adding to their sustainability.

Below, you’ll find some information on the produce we recommend buying when you visit Vanuatu.

Tapa Cloth

Known locally as “ngatu”, tapa cloth is a traditional fabric that is made from the paper bark of the mulberry tree and is often decorated with intricate designs and symbols that hold cultural significance.

Prices for tapa cloth vary depending on size, design intricacy, and quality, but on average, you can expect to pay between VT 500 – VT2000 Vanuatu Vatu ($6 – $25 AUD) for a small wall hanging.

Coffee and Cocoa

This isn’t the same as buying coffee and cocoa in your local supermarket! Vanuatu produces some of the best quality coffee and cocoa beans in the world, and you can buy locally grown and roasted coffee and cocoa products at most markets. These make excellent gifts for friends and family back home!

Prices for coffee beans range from around VT 1000 – VT 3000 ($12 – $37 AUD) per kilogram, depending on bean grade and processing method. Cocoa beans and products are a little more expensive, averaging VT 1,500 – VT 4,000 ($18 – $50 AUD).

Vanilla

Vanuatu is well-known for growing vanilla pods that are highly sought-after for their rich aroma and flavour. There are many vanilla products on sale throughout Vanuatu, including single or bunched pods, extract, oils, and lotions, many of which make excellent souvenirs and gifts, especially for food lovers.

On average, vanilla pods cost around VT 230 – VT 1,110 ($3 – $15 AUD), depending on quality and quantity. The price of vanilla-based products varies quite dramatically, but they are generally cheaper than buying pods in their pure form.

Local Handicrafts

As you explore Vanuatu’s markets, you’ll find some beautiful handcrafted items made by local artisans. Some of the best things on sale include woven baskets, mats, hats, and bags that are made from natural materials like pandanus leaves or coconut fibres. You can also find intricately carved wooden sculptures, masks, and pig tusk jewellery.

Naturally, prices will vary depending on what crafts you’re buying. For example, a small basket will cost around VT 1,250 ($15 AUD), while a large wooden carving can cost up to VT 20,000 ($250 AUD).

Tamanu Oil

Tamanu Oil is another of Vanuatu’s most popular products, and is made from the nuts of the tamanu tree, which is native to Vanuatu and other Pacific Islands. You’ll find this in its pure form, as well as in beauty products, where it is used for its moisturising and anti-inflammatory properties.

You can expect to pay between VT 1,000 – VT 4,000 ($12 – $50 AUD) for tamanu oil, with prices depending on whether it’s in its pure form or incorporated into other products.

Traditional Clothing

Both stylish and culturally significant, you can find a range of traditional clothing at Vanuatu markets, including sarongs and lava-lavas (wrap-around skirts for men) made from colourful fabrics.

Items like sarongs, lava-lavas, and island dresses vary in price, depending on the quality of the fabric and the intricacy of the design. To give you a general idea of prices, however, you can expect to pay at least VT1,000 – VT3,000 ($12 – $38 AUD) for most clothing.

Best Markets in Vanuatu

Best Markets in Vanuatu

To get the real Vanuatu shopping experience, you need to head to the local markets, where you’ll find a plethora of produce and products across multiple stalls. Here are some of the very best markets in Vanuatu:

Port Vila Market

Also known as “Mama’s Market”, Port Vila Market is a bustling hub for shopping in the capital city. Here, you’ll find fresh fruit and vegetables, local handicrafts, traditional artwork, clothing, and more. There is a particularly exciting feel here on Fridays when vendors from across the islands gather to sell their goods.

Port Vila Handicraft Market

Located on the Port Vila waterfront, Port Vila Handicraft Market is an extension of the Port Vila Market, and it specialises in selling locally made handicrafts and artisanal products. You’ll find woven baskets, mats, hats, bags, wooden carvings, jewellery, and anything else you can possibly imagine here, making it a great spot for souvenir shopping.

Lenakel Fresh Product Market

Offering a variety of fresh produce and local food items, Lenakel Fresh Produce Market is a wonderful place to visit if you’re in self-catering accommodation or you simply enjoy shopping for fresh food. You’ll find this market in the centre of Lenakel, which is the main town on the island of Tanna.

Vanuatu Craft Association

Despite its name, you’ll find much more than handicrafts on sale at Vanuatu Craft Association. Located on the island of Efate, here you’ll find a huge range of jams, vinegars, liqueurs and spirits on sale, along with information on how they are made and a history of the region’s craftsmanship.

Best Duty Free Shopping in Vanuatu

Best Duty Free Shopping in Vanuatu

Duty free shopping is huge in Vanuatu, and most shops offering duty free prices can be found in Port Vila, although there are also a few in Luganville and around Espiritu Island. It is important when duty free shopping, however, that you’re aware of any duty free regulations and allowances, especially if you’re planning to bring your items into your home country.

Here are some of the best duty free shops in Vanuatu:

Prouds Duty Free Vanuatu

One of the best-known duty free shops in Vanuatu, Prouds Duty Free can be found in multiple locations, but the most popular is in Port Vila International Airport. Here, you’ll find alcohol, tobacco, perfume, and cosmetics at duty free prices.

Fung Kuei Duty Free Vanuatu

Located along the Port Vila waterfront, Fung Kuei Duty Free offers some of the best duty free prices in Vanuatu and offers a huge selection of products, including luxury brands like Rolex and Tudor. It’s easy to spot this shop as well, thanks to its famous bright yellow facade. They even have a store aboard a cruise ship!

Paris Shopping Duty Free

Boasting the largest range of duty free goods in Vanuatu, Paris Shopping Duty Free is another store in Port Vila that offers amazing prices on authentic brands. It is closed on Sundays, though, so keep this in mind when planning your travel itinerary.

Au Bon Marche Duty Free

Another popular choice for anyone looking for duty free shopping, Au Bon Marche Duty Free offers a range of products at duty free prices, including cosmetics, alcohol, perfume, and tobacco. This is also one of Vanuatu’s oldest duty free shops, having been in business for over 40 years.

Best Shopping Centres in Vanuatu

Best Shopping Centres in Vanuatu

While Vanuatu doesn’t have large malls like those you’ll find in other countries around the globe, there are smaller shopping centres and complexes in the main towns, particularly in Port Vila. Here are some shopping centres we recommend visiting:

Market House

One of the most popular shopping centres in Port Vila, Market House offers a range of retail stores and eateries, making it a great place to visit if you’re looking for a full day out shopping. Here, you’ll find clothing, gifts, jewellery, and souvenirs to take home with you, as well as fresh fruit and flowers.

Tana Russet Plaza

One of the biggest shopping complexes in Port Vila, Tana Russet Plaza houses a supermarket, pharmacy, electronics store, clothing shops, and a cafe. This is a great place to visit if you’re running low on essentials throughout your trip or if you want to get as close as possible to Vanuatu’s take on a modern shopping mall.

Pandanus Vanuatu Ltd

Ideal if you’re looking for an eclectic mix of products, Pandanus Vanuatu Ltd sells a range of items, including spices, homewares, jewellery, books, and many other things that would make excellent mementos and souvenirs. They are also passionate about locally sourced products, with around 80% of their stock being made in Vanuatu.

Top Tip: Regardless of where you’re shopping in Vanuatu, it’s best to use cash as many markets and even some stores in shopping centres won’t accept card payments. You can find the best rates on Vanuatu Vatu here.

Tip for Shopping in Vanuatu

Tip for Shopping in Vanuatu

With so much beautiful fresh produce, amazing handicrafts, traditional fabrics and more on offer, it’s impossible to visit Vanuatu without treating yourself to a shopping spree. However, there are some important things you need to keep in mind before you head out on your shopping trip.

Shopping Etiquette and Cultural Sensitivity When Shopping in Vanuatu

One of the most important things to know is that bargaining is quite common in local Vanuatu markets, but it is important to make sure you act respectfully when negotiating a price. Start your interaction with a friendly “Bislama”, which means “Hello”, and then ask the price and go from there. Keep in mind that some crafts and products will have a set price, so don’t push to bargain in this case.

It’s also important to dress modestly, especially when you’re visiting markets in rural areas or traditional villages, as revealing clothing may be considered inappropriate or disrespectful. Also, if you want to take photographs in a shop or market, make sure you ask permission first, as some shop owners may not be comfortable with this.

You should always keep local traditions in mind when shopping in Vanuatu, too. Ask questions respectfully and listen attentively to any explanations provided, and if you’re handling items, be sure to act with care to avoid any damage or accidents.

Practical Advice for Shopping in Vanuatu

The biggest piece of practical advice we can offer you when shopping in Vanuatu is to carry cash! While some larger stores and hotels may accept card payment, cash is the most widely accepted form of payment in Vanuatu and is essential for shopping in markets.

You should also note that paying by debit or credit card (where accepted) will likely result in your bank charging an International Transaction Fee, adding to the overall cost. So, take cash and stick to cash payments!

Vanuatu has a tropical climate, too, so another important thing to consider is staying cool and hydrated while hitting the shops. Make sure you have plenty of sun protection and carry a reusable water bottle with you at all times.

While you need to remain respectful at all times, don’t be scared to inspect items before you purchase them. This is particularly important when buying items like wooden carvings, artwork, and jewellery.

Budget Your Money for Shopping in Vanuatu

Just as you would have when planning your accommodation and travel expenses, it’s a good idea to create a shopping budget when visiting Vanuatu. Think about what items you know you want to buy (such as souvenirs, clothing, etc) and then prioritise these items by importance.

Once you’ve done that, decide how much money you can realistically afford to spend on each prioritised item and then allocate funds specifically for those. You can also do some research before your trip to find the markets and shops with the best prices for what you want to buy, potentially leaving more money in your shopping budget.

Get the Best Rates on Vanuatu Vatu at Crown Currency

Whether you’re looking for intricately designed handicrafts or want to indulge in some duty free shopping, Vanuatu has something for everyone. The most important thing to keep in mind, however, is that you will definitely need cash, no matter what you’re planning on buying.

At Crown Currency Exchange, you’ll find the best rates on AUD to VUV with no commission fees or hidden costs. To find out more and speak with a member of our expert team, visit one of our many locations today.

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