New Caledonia on a Budget
I always wanted to visit a pacific island and since I grew up very close to France (and have very francophile parents) I decided it would be one of the former French colonies. There’s a lot to chose from and after listening to my mother for once I decided to ditch Tahiti and visit New Caledonia, a place I’d never heard of before. Google images looked very promising, showing a wild mountainous island paradise, white sand beach and corral reef. What else do I need? I booked the flights from New Zealand and visited the place for two weeks.
I found the lonelyplanet guidebook to be a bit inaccurate but still very helpful.
1. The Language
Polish your French a bit because outside of Nouméa, it’ll be the only language that is spoken, maybe besides some melanesian dialects or so. In the capital, you’ll find some people who speak English, but don’t expect it. Learn some basic sentences like „Where is…“ „How much is…“ and if you have a special diet (like gluten or lactose free), write it down when you go to a restaurant.
Everyone will be patient and try their best to understand you, promise!
2. Getting to and
from the airport
There’s an expensive shuttle service (around 3000CFP) that gets you from the international airport to Nouméa, 47km away. Or you take the public bus CARSUD LIGNE C that leaves hourly on weekdays for just 400CFP to the city center and either take the public bus from Place de Cocetieres for 250CFP to your hotel, a taxi or you walk. The Auberge de Jeunesse is just a ten minute walk from the bus terminal.
Just check the timetable in advance, public transport is especially rare on Sundays.
Try and bring some basic stuff like pasta, cous cous, rice, oil, salt, etc. from home since food is very expensive in New Caledonia. The cheapest thing you’ll find is baguette for around 100CFP but let’s be honest, you can’t just survive on baguette. In Nouméa, try out some of the Snacks, little cafés you’ll find everywhere. They’re reasonably cheap and have a good choice of French and local food. A sandwich from one of the Snacks is always a good choice.
The big supermarkets like Casino, Carrefour and Champion are quite alright for grocery shopping, but maybe try the market at Baie de Mosselle from 5-11am Tue-Sun where you can get fresh fruit, vegetables and fish directly from the producer!
4. Places to Stay
The Auberge de Jeunesse/Youth Hostel is in the heart of Nouméa, just behind the big cathedral and has a panoramic view over the city. It’s extremely clean and very cheap (just 1800CFP for members). Linen included, as well as good advice on what to do in New Caledonia.
When you travel around I’d advise you to choose camping and bring your own tent from home, that’s about 1000CFP/night/person on very snuck and neat campgrounds. Accomodation can be very costly, although I’d have loved to try out a night in a tribal community.
If you don’t like camping, a stay in a bungalow is always the next cheapest thing.
Hiring a car is not very expensive in New Caledonia and you’ll need one if you want to explore the Far South and North, unless you’re in for a bit of hitchhiking, which is really easy here.
At VISA you can rent a car with unlimited kilometres for about 21.000CFP/week when you’re (unlike me) over 21. That way you’ll see much more of the island. Just be aware that the road conditions vary between „Alright“ and „Is this pothole the size of Australia??!“
Otherwise, the west coast is well serviced by cheap public transport and for about 2000CFP you can get the Intercity Bus to Kone or the East Coast. These busses leave from the Gare Routiere just opposite of the market, check the timetable the day before. You pay the driver in cash or buy your ticket in advance at the office.
Yeah, the most important thing comes last. Who needs food anyways?
Well, it is quite hard to find public wifi spots outside of Nouméa. At the Auberge de Jeunesse you pay 200CFP/hour and some hotels have free internet for their guests but at Place de Cocetieres, you’ll get unlimited high speed wifi for FREE, you just have to sit there, connect, apply for a code and BAMM! There you have your awesome free wifi!
So don’t forget your snorkeling gear, pack a nice bikini and hiking clothes and off you go to visit the beautiful island of New Caledonia!