New Caledonia is composed of the main island called la ‘Grande Terre’ (400km long and 50km wide) and several smaller islands, including the Loyalty Islands to the east (Mare, Ouvea and Lifou), as well as the Isle of Pines 60km south east of the mainland. New Caledonia is 17 000km from Paris, 1 950km from Sydney, 1 800km from Auckland and 7 000km from Tokyo.
Entry Requirements & Visa
No visa is required for nationals of France who just need a passport valid for 6 months after their stay. EU countries, Switzerland, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada & Japan do not need a visa and can stay for up to 3 months. A return travel ticket should be shown.
New Caledonia uses the French Pacific Franc (CPF ox XPF). Bank notes are in denominations of 10,000, 5,000, 1,000 and 500. Coins are in denominations of 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1. New Caledonia is part of the French Monetary Zone. The French Pacific Franc is tied to the Euro: 1 EURO = 119.33 CFP. Australian and New Zealand dollars are widely accepted in shops, hotels and restaurants but it is advisable to take cash with you to remote areas outside Noumea and to the islands.
Banks are open Monday to Friday, in general from 7.30am – 3.45pm. ATM machines are available all over the country. Credit cards are also widely accepted. NB New Caledonian banks no longer accept travelers’ cheques. You can change your money at the airport, with a commission fee.
Local time is GMT + 11 hours and does not change in summer/winter. In summer, i.e. from December to March it is light from 4.30am – 7pm and in winter (June –September) from 6.30am – 5.30pm.
As in metropolitan France, driving is on the right. Although most roads are in good condition, certain tracks are not tarmacked and there are certain risks – mainly of drunk drivers especially at weekends. Be careful also at night of people dressed in dark clothes walking on the road with no lights and who may even be lying on the road! Outside Noumea be careful of cattle and wild animals, notably deer, crossing the road and make sure you get owner permission to cross any private property.
Electricity is 220V and is available throughout New Caledonia. In some remote areas generators are used to supply electricity at certain times of the day. Plugs are the same as in the rest of France.
1st January / Easter Monday / 1st May / 8th May / Ascension Day / Whit Monday / 14th July / 15th August / 24th September / 1st November / 11th November / 25 December. The main school summer holidays are from mid-December to mid-February.
Climate & Clothing
New Caledonia is nicked named the ‘island of eternal spring’ where 2 seasons prevail: summer and the cool season. The hot summer season is from October – March/April, with January to March being the rainy season. The cool season is from May to September, but daytime temperatures rarely go down under 20°C. Dress in light clothes (shorts, T shirts) in the summer and warmer clothes (trousers, pullovers, jackets in the cool season). Nudity and going topless are strictly forbidden even in tourist areas.
French is the official language spoken everywhere. About 30 local Kanak dialects are also spoken. English is also spoken in most main hotels and tourist attractions.
Although New Caledonia is generally a healthy place, it is prone to certain tropical diseases transmitted by mosquitos and rodents, notably dengue and chikungunya fever as well as leptospirosis. You should dress appropriately and regularly use insect repellent especially in the hot humid weather. Some fish that feed on certain types of coral can also give you ciguatera or the ‘gratte’ disease. Make sure that you have adequate medical insurance.
The international dialing code is 687. The mobile network is called Mobilis – various options are available including pre-paid phone cards available from post offices called OPT, petrol stations and press stands. 3G is widely available all over New Caledonia, and 4G is increasingly widespread. For more information call 1000.
ADSL is widely available, with many bars and hotels offering free wi fi.
Useful Contact Numbers
- SAMU (medical emergencies): 15
- SEA RESCUE: 16
- POLICE: 17
- POMPIERS (Accidents): 18
- Hospital Gaston Bourret : 256 666
Local Customs – ‘La Coutume’
Local tribal customs are prevalent in New Caledonia and are very important for the Melanesian (Kanak) population. All Kanak land belongs to one tribe or another and is marked by legends, taboos and other sacred practices. It is therefore important once you are away from the main tourist areas to show respect for these places and customs by offering a small gift – cigarettes, food, special ‘manou’ cloth, bank note… – and stating why you want to go there – with a smile!