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New Caledonia has a fascinating mixture of French colonial charm and native Melanesian (or Kanak) culture. The main island, Grande Terre, offers mountains and waterfalls, river valleys and stunning beaches. You can explore rainforests, rolling plains and the rugged coastline. The world's largest enclosed lagoon surrounds New Caledonia and it is home to many endangered species of marine life as well as the world's second-longest coral reef.
The main roads in New Caledonia are good and easy to navigate. If you keep to the main routes a two-wheel-drive vehicle will be sufficient. If you plan to explore more rural areas a four-wheel-drive may be necessary.
Driving licences: a valid UK driving licence will be accepted here.
Which side does New Caledonia drive on: the right.
Motorways: 110 km per hour
Rural areas: 110 km per hour
Built-up areas and villages: 50 km per hour
Alcohol limits: the blood alcohol limit is 0.5g per litre of blood. This is lower than in the UK, which allows 0.8g per litre. You may be imprisoned for driving while over the limit.
Driving age: 18 and to hire a car it is 21.
Seatbelts: required for front and back seat passengers along with child seats.
Mobile phones and GPS: use of a mobile phone is prohibited whilst driving.
Cost of fuel in New Caledonia: it is higher than the UK.
Car hire and fuel payment: credit cards are accepted as payment in Noumea and large towns. In rural areas, cash may be necessary.
Insurance: an excess may be required by your insurance company depending on your policy. Some policies do not cover off-road driving in a two-wheel-drive car.
Traffic and parking: most hotels and some restaurants in Noumea offer free parking. Drivers are generally courteous but many locals drive fast.
Taxis are available from airports and hotels but can be expensive. In Noumea taxi fares start at US$2 and cost an additional £0.25 per km travelled. Radio Taxi is a popular choice in Noumea.
There is a good bus network throughout Grande Terre and fares are cheap, close to £1.43. A 20 minute bus ride can take tourists from Baie Des Citrons to Noumea for only £1.36, by taxi it would cost £5.80. Buses are the cheapest option for getting around New Caledonia, although buses are not regular and tourists may find themselves waiting for long periods of time.
There are regular affordable ferry services running from Grande Terre to nearby islands. Betico Ferry services the Isle of Pines from Noumea, and also the beautiful Island of Mare. Trips cost between £40 and £50 but are definitely worth the money.
The only international airport on the island is Tontouta Airport near Noumea. These other airports offer domestic flights: Magenta Airport, Ouvea Airport, Ile des Pins Airport, Koumac Airport, Touho Airport & Kone Airport.
The Tjibaou Cultural Centre in Noumea is a great place to find out more about the history and culture. Along with local artefacts and artwork, you can see examples of traditional Kanak architecture.
There are some good shops in the city centre and there are excellent markets held each morning at Baie de la Moselle, Anse Vata Bay and Bais des Citrons. Anse Vata Bay is popular for water activities as well as its restaurants and night clubs.
Take a catamaran trip to the Amedee Lighthouse, a short distance from Noumea. You can discover the fascinating marine life up close by snorkelling or from a glass-bottom boat. A short domestic flight will take you to the Isle of Pines (Ile des Pins), where you can explore soft powdery beaches and beautiful unspoilt forests. Oro Bay is ideal for swimming and snorkelling.
- The Festival of the Yam in March
- The Giant Omelette Festival at Par Fayard at Easter
- The Noumea Salsa and Latin Dance Festival in May
The temperature ranges from 27 degrees Celsius from October and March to 20 degrees Celsius from April to September. Cyclone season runs from November to April. There is a four-step cyclone warning in place.
The main language spoken is French although there are around 27 Kanak or Melanesian languages. Many people in the tourist areas will speak English but knowing some French phrases will be helpful.
Tourists should note that it is illegal to photograph members of the police or security Services. You may be fined and will have your camera confiscated. You should avoid displaying French or local flags as there has been tension in the past regarding symbols of identity.
Under French law, it is illegal not to give aid to someone in distress. If you do witness a crime or accident, do not put yourself in any danger but you must alert the police.
New Caledonia Contact Numbers
- Country code: (+687)
- Emergency medical treatment: 15
- Police: 17
- Ambulance and Fire: 18
- British consulate: (+687) 282153
The currency in New Caledonia is the French Pacific franc (XFP), which is tied to the euro. Exchange facilities are available at the airport and at main branches of most banks, but they will charge a commission. Travellers' cheques, Visa and Amex cards are usually accepted. There are ATM machines in Noumea but many have a withdrawal limit.
Health & Safety
While the crime rate is low, you should still keep your money and documents out of sight. Report any suspicious behaviour to the police.
There are no vaccinations required for travel to New Caledonia. Healthcare is good for routine problems although it is expensive. Complicated medical issues will require evacuation to Australia and you should ensure that your travel insurance will provide enough cover.
Dengue fever is a common disease carried by mosquitoes. There is no vaccination so you should ensure that you wear insect repellent and cover up with long sleeves and trousers. Water is safe to drink in the towns but in more rural areas you should boil it first or use bottled water.
The people are friendly and handshaking is common as a greeting, although you should wait for the other person to initiate it. Haggling or bartering for goods is not part of the culture here and tipping is not common.
Visas For New Caledonia
Visitors from EU countries as well as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand do not need a visa for a three-month stay. You will need a passport which is valid for the duration of your stay. You may need to prove that you have return or onward tickets and means of support and accommodation when you arrive.
Voltage is 220 volts and two-prong plugs are used.
Shops: Open 7.30am to 6.30pm and close between 11.30 and 1.30.
Banks: Open Monday to Friday; 7.30 am to 3.30pm.
Shops and supermarkets: Open Saturday and Sunday mornings.
- Hello/good morning - Bonjour
- Hello/good evening -Bonsoir
- Goodbye -Au revoir
- Please - Sil vous plait
- Thank you - Merci
- Very good - Tres bien
- Where is? - Ou est?
- Do you speak English? - Est-ce que vous parlez anglais?