What 1000 vatu can buy you

The currency in Vanuatu is vatu, abbreviated "vt." The word is from my island's local language, and it means "stone," which originally was used as currency a long time ago here in Vanuatu.

Living on the island is cheap...most food is provided to you by your host family, friends, and neighbors from their gardens. Of course, people still make a living in the village by selling their goods to their fellow villagers.

Every island is different, with those far away from a provincial center having higher prices on imported goods that are brought into the stores.

1000 vatu is approximately $10 USD.  Here's a list of how far 1000vt can get you on the island.

Vivi and I eat banana cake (50vt a piece)
  • 20 slices of cake, sold at the local co-operative or from a mama's house
  • 12oz homemade coconut oil
  • 10 ice cream cones from the mama's in the village who own freezers
  • 50 "ice blocks" aka ice popsicles made with juice concentrate


Ready to pay for two shells of kava (100vt each).


School lunch (100vt) on this particular day was rice and a "soup" or a stew consisting of ground beef, noodles, susut (chayote squash), pumpkin and onions.
  • 10 school lunches from the canteen
  • 5 or 6 meals of fried fish and rice at a fundraiser
  • 20 snack samosas with ground beef and noodles inside, sold at the school canteen
  • 50 glasses of iced lemonade from the school canteen
  • 2 kilos of fresh fish

Selina, wearing an island or "mama's" dress, weaves a large 1000vt tote out of dried pandanus leaves
  • 1 large woven basket made of pandanus
  • 1 pre-sewn mama's dress
  • 2 custom mama's dresses (the cost of a tailor, you must provide the fabric)

These small woven baskets are almost finished, only missing a long shoulder strap. These are tiny, just enough for a small Nokia phone and loose change, and cost about 300vt.
  • 3 tiny small woven basket purses with zippers

Piles of pandanus mats (1000vt each) at Jessica and Timothy's village wedding. Mats are a common gift during ordinations, peace-making ceremonies, sorry ceremonies, deaths, and weddings.
  • 1 pandanus mat
  • 50 fresh green coconuts
  • approximately 40 meters of raw sugar cane
  • 10 weeks of village day care at a local mama's house
Local firewood (200vt a bundle)
  • 5 bundles of firewood
  • 1 extra large bag of raw manioc (an empty bag of flour, approximately a cement bag size)
  • 20 eggs from the village store (packaged in Vila and re-sold on-island)
  • 5 bags of sugar (packaged in Vila and re-sold on-island)
  • 20 cups of flour (packaged in Vila and re-sold on-island)

Here's baby Kalmataku pawing at some kato I have hanging from the rafters

My host papa Jeffery and his nephew Jason on the boat ride (500vt) across the channel.
  • 1 way trip to Port Vila from the northern Efate islands (500vt boat, 500vt bus, for about 2 hours travel time total).


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