Port Vila

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Port Vila
Capital City
Port Vila aerial.jpg
Vanuatu Parliament, Port Vila - Flickr - PhillipC.jpg
Port Vila Vanuatu Harbour.JPG
(from top: left to right) Aerial view of central Port Vila, Parliament building, Port Vila Harbour and Port Vila City Hall.
Flag of Port Vila
Port Vila is located in Vanuatu
Port Vila
Port Vila
Location in Vanuatu
Coordinates: 17°44′S 168°19′E / 17.733°S 168.317°E / -17.733; 168.317Coordinates: 17°44′S 168°19′E / 17.733°S 168.317°E / -17.733; 168.317
Country Vanuatu
ProvinceShefa Province
 • MayorErick Puyo Festa
 • Capital City23.6 km2 (9.1 sq mi)
59 m (194 ft)
 (2016 census)
 • Capital City51,437
 • Density2,200/km2 (5,600/sq mi)
 • Metro
Time zoneUTC+11 (VUT)

Port Vila (French: Port-Vila), or simply Vila (English: /ˈvlə/; French: Vila; Bislama: Vila [viˈla]), is the capital and largest city of Vanuatu. It is located on the island of Efate.

Its population in the last census (2009) was 44,040,[1] an increase of 35% on the previous census result (29,356 in 1999). In 2009, the population of Port Vila formed 18.8% of the country's population, and 66.9% of the population of Efate.

On the south coast of the island of Efate, in Shefa Province, Port Vila is the economic and commercial centre of Vanuatu. The mayor is Erick Puyo Festa, of the Vanua'aku Pati, elected in January 2018; his deputy is Jenny Regenvanu, of the Graun mo Jastis Pati.[2]

On 13 March 2015, Port Vila bore extensive damage from Cyclone Pam.[3]


Locally the town is most commonly referred to simply as "Vila", whether in French or Bislama [viˈla] or in English /ˈvlə/ VEE-lə (not like English "villa").[citation needed]

The name of the area is Efil in the native South Efate language and Ifira in neighbouring Mele-Fila language. Vila is a variant of these names. Ifira is a small island in Vila harbour where many of the area's traditional landowners reside.


The area occupied by Port Vila has been inhabited by Melanesian people for thousands of years. In Autumn of 2004, an archaeological expedition known as Teouma discovered a burial site of 25 tombs containing three dozen skeletons of members of the Lapita culture. Pieces of ceramics found at the site were dated to the 13th century BC.

Efate Island was charted in 1774 by James Cook, who named it Sandwich Island. Cook's expedition did not land but noted the presence of good harbours and land suitable for European settlement. In late 19th century when the islands were known as the New Hebrides, the British were initially the dominant European presence, though by the 1890s, the economic balance had begun to favour the French, who established large plantations. French citizen Ferdinand Chevillard began buying and clearing land around Port Vila to be converted into the largest French plantation on the island. Instead, it was converted into the municipality of Franceville, which declared independence on 9 August 1889, though this only lasted until June of the following year.

It was the first self-governing nation to practice universal suffrage without distinction of sex or race. Although the population at the time consisted of about 500 native islanders and fewer than fifty whites, only the latter were permitted to hold office. One of the elected presidents was a US citizen by birth, R. D. Polk, a relative of American president James K. Polk.[4]

After 1887, the territory was jointly administered by the French and the British. This was formalized in 1906 as an Anglo-French Condominium. During World War II, Port Vila was an American and Australian airbase.

In 1987, Cyclone Uma severely damaged the city. A powerful earthquake in January 2002 caused minor damage in the capital and surrounding areas. The city suffered massive damage from a category 5 cyclone named Cyclone Pam in March 2015, whose eye wall passed just to the east of Port Vila.



Port Vila has a tropical climate, more specifically a tropical rainforest climate, with noticeably wetter and drier months. As the trade winds are almost permanent and cyclones are not rare in Port Vila, the climate is not equatorial but maritime trade-wind tropical climate.[5] Rainfall averages about 2,338.9 millimetres or 92.08 inches per year, and the wettest month is March. The driest month is September. There are 153 wet days in an average year. The area also has south-east trade winds. Temperatures do not vary very much at all throughout the year, and the record high is 35.6 °C or 96.1 °F. The coolest month, July, has an average high of 27 °C or 80.6 °F, and an average low of 18 °C or 64.4 °F. The hottest month, February, has an average high of 31.2 °C or 88.2 °F and an average low of 23 °C or 73.4 °F. The record low for Port Vila is 8.5 °C or 47.3 °F. Humidity is often high.

Climate data for Port Vila, Vanuatu (Bauerfield International Airport)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 35.0
Average high °C (°F) 31.3
Daily mean °C (°F) 26.4
Average low °C (°F) 22.5
Record low °C (°F) 15.8
Average rainfall mm (inches) 316.1
Average rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm) 15.4 16.6 18.5 17.1 12.9 11.3 10.3 9.8 8.1 8.4 12.1 13.2 153.7
Average relative humidity (%) 84 85 86 87 85 85 83 82 80 81 82 83 84
Average dew point °C (°F) 24
Mean monthly sunshine hours 220.1 155.4 198.4 165.0 170.5 162.0 148.8 167.4 174.0 198.4 180.0 195.3 2,135.3
Mean daily sunshine hours 7.1 5.5 6.4 5.5 5.5 5.4 4.8 5.4 5.8 6.4 6.0 6.3 5.8
Source 1: Deutscher Wetterdienst[6]
Source 2: Time and Date (dewpoints, between 2005-2015)[7]

Economy and transport[edit]

Port Vila is Vanuatu's most important harbour and the center of the country's trade. The international airport, Bauerfield International (VLI) is also located in the city. Air Vanuatu has its head office in Vanuatu House in Port Vila.[8]

Major industries in the city remain agriculture and fishing. Tourism is also becoming important, especially from Australia and New Zealand. There were over 80,000 visitors in 1997.[9]

Vanuatu is a tax haven, and offshore financing in Port Vila is an important part of the economy.

Vanuatu is still dependent on foreign aid, most of which comes from Australia and New Zealand, although in recent years aid has also come from the People's Republic of China. One example was New Zealand paying to train doctors selected from the local community, then paying part of their wages during the first year after qualification. Australia has paid consultants to work in Port Vila Central Hospital.

35.7% of exports leave from Port Vila and 86.9% of imports arrive in Port Vila.[citation needed]



The population is around 45,000; predominately Melanesian, with small Polynesian, Asian, Australian and European populations, mainly French and British.


Port Vila is home to many languages, reflecting the country's high linguistic diversity.

The day-to-day lingua franca in the capital city is Bislama. In addition, English and French are also widespread.

Among Vanuatu's 100 indigenous languages, many are spoken in the capital, as people from rural areas come to live in the city, either temporarily or permanently.


Christianity is the predominant religion across Vanuatu, followed by more than 90% of the population. The largest denomination is the Presbyterian Church in Vanuatu, followed by one third of the population. Roman Catholicism and the Church of Melanesia are also common, each about 15%. Cathédrale du Sacré-Cœur is a modern Roman Catholic cathedral in Port Vila. The seat of the Diocese of Port Vila,[10] the church is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.[11] On October 5, 2020, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints announced plans to construct a temple in the city, and the Bahá'í community is also established in Port Vila.[12]

Culture and education[edit]

Highlights of the city[edit]

The capital of Vanuatu has various sights to offer. There are several memorials, e.g. opposite the Parliament where two traditional totem poles and a monument representing a pig's tusk can be seen. The Presbyterian Church of Port Vila is an impressive and sightworthy building opposite the Independence Park. A colourful wall painting can be seen on the administration building opposite the market hall. Another noteworthy wall painting is on the façade of the post office. The City Hall of Port Vila is an oblong and sightworthy building on a hill in the city centre.

Vanuatu Cultural Centre[edit]

The Vanuatu Cultural Centre, hosting the Vanuatu National Museum, is located at the Saralana Park in front of the national parliament, close to the National Library and the Malvatumauri (Vanuatu National Council of Chiefs). This institution is an important place for the preservation and promotion of the different aspects of the local culture. Traditional artifacts from several islands are on display in the museum. The centre host also the National Audiovisual Archives which is the most important fund of documents from the late 19th century until today.

World Heritage[edit]

Port Vila was the location in August 1999 for the ”2nd World Heritage Global Strategy Meeting for the Pacific Islands Region" held by UNESCO. One of the major topics related to Vanuatu and the Pacific region was the question of the suitability of underwater heritage for inscription on the World Heritage List.[13]


Port Vila is one location of the University of the South Pacific, an educational institution co-owned by twelve Pacific countries. The Vanuatu campus is the only law school in the university, and it also teaches languages.

Upper secondary (sixth form/senior high school) institutions include:

Junior secondary (seventh form to tenth form) institutions include:

  • Port Vila International School
  • Central Secondary School
  • Malapoa College (Formerly known as British Secondary School)
  • NTCU Port Vila Christian College
  • Seaside Community Secondary School
  • Sorovanga Self-Support Community School
  • Suango Mele Junior Secondary School
  • Ulei Junior Secondary School
  • Vila North Secondary School



The municipality of Port Vila is divided into four wards and administered by a council consisting of 14 members. The four wards are:

  1. Malapoa-Tagabe: Western and far northern neighborhoods
  2. Anabrou-Melcofe-Tassiriki: Northern and eastern neighborhoods
  3. Centre: Nambawan and Seaside neighborhoods
  4. South: Nambatu, Nambatri, and Elluk neighborhoods

Malapoa-Tagabe and South are allotted three representatives each to the council while Anabrou-Melcofe-Tassiriki and Centre have four.[14]

The municipality handles primary education, primary health care, regional planning, road maintenance and construction, trash collection, cemeteries, parks and open spaces and the promotion of tourism.

There are also informal settlements such as Blacksands which are effectively suburbs of Vila but are outside the municipality. Living conditions in some of these neighbourhoods are very poor, and lack of service provision and insecure land tenure are major problems.[15] Blacksands was squatted in the 1960s.[16]

The most recent municipal council election was held in 2022.


Port Vila is one of the eighteen constituencies in Vanuatu, and elects six Members of Parliament. Following the 2016 general election, its representatives are:[17]

Member Party
Kenneth Natapei Vanua'aku Pati
Alatoi Ishmael Kalsakau Union of Moderate Parties
Jean Pierre Nirua Independent
Kalo Seule Green Confederation
Ephraim Kalsakau Independent
Ulrich Sumptoh Union of Moderate Parties

Twin towns – sister cities[edit]

Port Vila is twinned with:


  1. ^ Vanuatu National Statistics Office 2009, The 2009 Vanuatu National Population And Housing Census[permanent dead link], Government of Vanuatu, Port Vila.
  2. ^ "Puyo-Festa New mayor for Port Vila" Archived 22 June 2020 at the Wayback Machine, Loop Pacific, 27 March 2020
  3. ^ Andrew Freedman (13 March 2015). "Monstrous Category 5 cyclone makes direct hit on tiny Vanuatu". Mashable.
  4. ^ "Wee, Small Republics: A Few Examples of Popular Government," Hawaiian Gazette, 1 Nov 1895, p. 1
  5. ^ "Climatologie" by Pierre Estienne and Alain Godard, Éditions Armand Colin (ISBN 2-200-31042-0), "CHAPITRE XVI 1. Les climats équatoriaux et subéquatoriaux 2. Les climats tropicaux 3. Les climats d'alizé 4. Les climats de montagne LES CLIMATS DE LA ZONE INTERTROPICALE : LES VARIÉTÉS", pages 314, 315 and 322.
  6. ^ "Klimatafel von Vila (Int. Flugh.) / Insel Efaté / Vanuatu (Neue Hebriden)" (PDF). Baseline climate means (1961-1990) from stations all over the world (in German). Deutscher Wetterdienst. March 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 May 2017. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  7. ^ "Climate & Weather Averages at Bauerfield Efate weather station (91557)". Time and Date. Retrieved 6 February 2022.
  8. ^ "Contact Us." Air Vanuatu. Retrieved 22 June 2010.
  9. ^ "International tourism, number of arrivals - Vanuatu | Data". data.worldbank.org. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  10. ^ "Cathédrale du Sacré-Coeur". GCatholic.org. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
  11. ^ Les Missions catholiques (in French). 1938. p. 294.
  12. ^ "Bahá'í Community of Vanuatu". bahai.org. Retrieved 26 April 2021.
  13. ^ "Second World Heritage Global Strategy Meeting for the Pacific, Port Vila (Vanuatu) 24-27 August 1999".
  14. ^ "1. Composition of Port Vila Municipal Council". Archived from the original on 9 January 2015. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  15. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 10 September 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ Hill, David; Chung, Margaret (2020). "Urban informal settlements in Vanuatu: Challenge for equitable development" (PDF). Report prepared for Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Pacific Operation Centre. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  17. ^ "Members of the 11th Legislature of Parliament" Archived 29 November 2018 at the Wayback Machine, Parliament of Vanuatu
  18. ^ "Sister cities between Borabora and Port Vila". Daily Post. 11 May 2019. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  19. ^ a b "New Caledonia Enhances Ties With Vanuatu Capital City". pireport.org. Pacific Islands Report. 13 March 2017. Archived from the original on 20 July 2020. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  20. ^ "Foshan doctors here to treat children". sista.com.vu. Sista. 10 January 2020. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  21. ^ "Mayor Sumptoh to renew 22-year-old relations with Shanghai". Daily Post. 15 October 2016. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  22. ^ "银川市友好城市及交流合作情况". yinchuan.gov.cn (in Chinese). Yinchuan. Retrieved 20 July 2020.

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Port Vila at Wikimedia Commons