For more than two years, it’s been impossible to see the remote beaches, rugged islands, and superlative diving sites of Vanuatu, an archipelago made up of 80-plus islands in the South Pacific. However, on July 1, the small country is reopening to tourists for the first time since the onset of the pandemic.
There are some stipulations, though. All travelers hoping to visit need to come armed with a negative COVID-19 rapid antigen test taken within 24 hours of departure, regardless of vaccination status. Alternatively, travelers can show a certificate of infection and recovery, provided the infection occurred within 28 days of departure.
No quarantine or arrival testing will be required, but travelers will be asked to wear face masks indoors. Those who test positive for COVID-19 while on the islands will need to isolate for seven days in a government-managed facility.
While more than 80 islands make up Vanuatu, only those that have reached “Health Recovery Level 1” status (which Vanuatu determines by vaccination levels and whether their COVID-19 situation is stable) will be open to foreign nationals. Popular tourism islands Efate and Sanma are two that are currently accepting visitors, though more up-to-date information on specific islands’ status is available on Vanuatu’s government website.
Nations in the South Pacific have been some of the slowest to reopen following pandemic-spurred border closures—it’s only been in recent months that such countries as Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Marshall Islands, and Palau have welcomed overseas visitors back. It’s also been announced that Samoa will allow foreign nationals starting August 1.
It’s a bit of a journey to get there (especially from the United States)—Air Vanuatu operates 16 flights a week to and from Port Vila, the capital and largest city of Vanuatu, flying from Auckland, New Zealand; Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney in Australia; and Funafuti, Tuvalu; Noumea, New Caledonia; and Nadi of Fiji. But once you arrive, you aren’t likely to be overwhelmed by crowds on the islands; Vanuatu only received 256,000 tourists in 2019.