New Caledonia

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Wednesday, 19 August 2015.   Ongoing protest action has led to roads into and out of Noumea and the road to Tontouta International Airport being blocked. There have also been traffic disruptions in regional towns. Petrol supplies may be affected. Travellers to Noumea should expect disruptions. The level of this advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in New Caledonia.

New Caledonia overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in New Caledonia. You should exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia, and monitor the media and other sources for information on local travelling conditions.
  • Ongoing protest action has led to roads into and out of Noumea and the road to Tontouta International Airport being blocked. There have also been traffic disruptions in regional towns. Petrol supplies may be affected. Travellers to Noumea should expect some disruptions and delays to services during this time. We advise you to monitor local media and avoid protest activity. See Safety and security.
  • Cyclone season in New Caledonia normally lasts from November to April, but tropical storms and cyclones may occur outside this period. See Additional information.
  • In recent years, a substantial number of Australians have been evacuated from cruise ships to Noumea for hospitalisation. We are aware of a number of cases where the insurance claims made by cruise passengers have been refused. Check your travel insurance policy to make sure that you understand exactly what your policy covers. See Health.
  • Minor security incidents continue to occur in the Saint Louis area, including Route du Sud, the highway to the southern areas of New Caledonia, southern national parks and the popular tourist destinations of Yaté and Prony. See Safety and security.
  • Epidemics of mosquito-borne diseases, including dengue fever, Zika virus, and chikungunya occur in New Caledonia, particularly during the warmer wet months of February to May.
  • You should avoid all demonstrations and large public gatherings as they may turn violent.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Australians tourists can enter New Caledonia without a visa in most circumstances. Information about visas for French territories, including New Caledonia, can be found on the website of the Consulate of France in Sydney.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of France for the most up-to-date information.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia.

Safety and security

Civil unrest/Political tension

Since August 2015, ongoing protest action between the mining contractors’ union and the Government of New Caledonia has led to roads into and out of the capital Noumea and the road to Tontouta International Airport being blocked. There have also been traffic disruptions in regional towns. Petrol supplies may be affected. Travellers to Noumea should expect some disruptions and delays to services and possibly flights during this time. We advise you to monitor local media and avoid protest activity.

You should avoid demonstrations and large public gatherings as they can become violent. There has been political tension regarding the choice of flag for New Caledonia, and other symbols of national identity.

Minor security incidents continue to occur in the area of Saint Louis, such as road blockages, car-jackings, and throwing stones and shooting at cars. This includes Route du Sud, the highway to the southern areas of New Caledonia, southern national parks and the popular tourist destinations of Yaté and Prony. Further violence is possible in these areas. Australians should follow the instructions of local authorities.

Crime

New Caledonia has a low incidence of serious crime. Petty crime does occur. You should be aware of your personal belongings at all times and not leave your bags or valuables unattended or unsecured. There is an increasing incidence of car theft and vehicle break-ins.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin for more information.

Money and valuables

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Local travel

For information on driver’s licence requirements in New Caledonia, contact your nearest French Embassy or Consulate or the New Caledonian Department of Infrastructure, Topography and Terrestrial Transport (in French).

Rocks are sometimes thrown at vehicles in areas outside of Noumea. In the event of an incident, you should leave the area as quickly as possible.

New Caledonia’s road toll is very high. Drivers may be unlicensed or intoxicated and vehicles may be neither roadworthy nor insured.

See our road travel page.

If you intend to hire a car, motorcycle, jetski or any other motorised water sport equipment, talk to your travel insurer first to check if your planned activities will be covered.

The safety standards you might expect of tour operators are not always met, especially for adventure sports such as diving and yachting. Sufficient life jackets and adequate safety equipment may not be provided. Recommended maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be observed. Check operators’ credentials and safety equipment beforehand, and appropriate safety equipment is not available, use another provider. Always use available safety equipment, such as lifejackets or seatbelts, even if the locals don't.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in New Caledonia.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

You are subject to the local laws of New Caledonia, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you’re arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

New Caledonia is an overseas territory of France, and a mix of French and local laws apply. See our travel advice for France for more information.

Penalties for drug offences, even possession of small amounts, include fines and imprisonment. See our Drugs page.

France has passed laws allowing same-sex marriages, which also applies in New Caledonia. Other than the capital, Noumea, New Caledonia is a conservative society and we recommend that same sex couples avoid public displays of affection. See our LGBTI travellers page.

You are required to carry identification at all times.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Local customs

When travelling outside of tourist areas, you should dress and behave modestly.

Information for Dual Nationals

See our dual nationals page.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Medical facilities

The standard of medical facilities in New Caledonia is good for treatment of uncomplicated conditions. Noumea's central hospital can handle routine and emergency matters but complicated conditions require evacuation to Australia.

There is only one hyperbaric (decompression) chamber in New Caledonia, located in Noumea. Many of the popular dive sites are located on other islands and it may take several hours to reach facilities in the event of an accident. Many dive companies require participants to have insurance cover for diving. You should ensure that your insurance covers whatever activity you intend to undertake.

Search and rescue facilities are limited. The difficult terrain severely limits rapid access and there is no mobile phone coverage in some parts of the main island.

Medical costs in New Caledonia are high. For example, an intensive care bed in Noumea could cost up to A$4,000 per day. Ambulance transfers, even for short distances, can cost in excess of A$1,250. A helicopter evacuation to Noumea will cost in excess of A$6,500. An aeromedical evacuation from Noumea to Australia can exceed A$40,000. When travelling in New Caledonia, you are not covered by Medicare

Information for cruise passengers

In recent years, a substantial number of Australians have been evacuated from cruise ships to Noumea for hospitalisation. We are aware of a number of cases where the insurance claims made by cruise passengers have been refused, particularly for travellers with pre-existing medical conditions.

Cruise passengers are strongly encouraged to take out travel insurance appropriate to their circumstances. Read the product disclosure statement to ensure that you understand what your policy covers. See our travel insurance page for more information about obtaining appropriate insurance cover.

Health risks

Small outbreaks of leptospirosis are common with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time, particularly during March to May. Local authorities recommend wearing closed-in shoes when walking, avoiding swimming in rivers, not playing in muddy water, storing food in enclosed containers, not drinking straight from cans (using a straw is recommended) and removing rubbish from around homes. For information on leptospirosis, see the World Health Organization website.

Town tap water is safe to drink. We recommend that in rural areas you boil all drinking water or drink only bottled water.

Epidemics of dengue fever, zika virus, and chikungunya occur in New Caledonia, particularly during the warmer wet months of February to May. It is strongly recommended you take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes, including using an insect repellent, wearing loose fitting, light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof. Seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache. Local authorities have dengue fever, zika virus and chikungunya prevention measures in place.

For further information see the World Health Organization's factsheets on dengue fever and chikungunya fever. For updates on the situation in New Caledonia please refer to the website of the New Caledonian Directorate for Health and Social Affairs (in French).

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance.

If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police at the nearest police station, or dial 17 for the police emergency number. Dial 15 for an ambulance.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and cannot do to assist Australians overseas. For consular assistance, see contact details below:

Australian Consulate-General, Noumea

Norwich building
Level 2
11 rue Georges Baudoux
Artillerie, Noumea, New Caledonia
Telephone: (687) 27 24 14
Website: www.noumea.consulate.gov.au
Facebook: Australia in New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna.

See the Consulate-General website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are travelling to New Caledonia, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact the above Consulate-General you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities. The New Caledonian Department of Emergency Management has procedures in place for natural disaster and severe weather, such as strong winds and swells, heavy rains, thunderstorms, cyclones, bushfires and tsunamis. We recommend that you monitor the weather notifications and alerts in New Caledonia for advice and up-to-date information. In the event of an emergency, a crisis management centre, with a free-call hotline +687 050505 will be activated.

If you are travelling during cyclone season, or after a natural disaster, you should contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.

Cyclones and severe weather

Cyclone season in New Caledonia is from November to April, when flooding, landslides and disruptions to services may occur; however, tropical storms and cyclones may also occur in other months. The direction and strength of tropical cyclones can change with little warning.

In the event of an approaching cyclone, you should identify your local shelter, follow the instructions of local authorities and monitor media and weather reports for the latest developments.

Detailed weather information is published by Meteo-France in New Caledonia. The Fiji Meteorological Service, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Humanitarian Early Warning Service, and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, US Navy also provide regional weather information. We recommend that Australians in New Caledonia monitor these websites during cyclone season for the most up-to-date information.

When a cyclone, or potential cyclone, enters the New Caledonia region, New Caledonian Department of Emergency Management and the Meteo-France in New Caledonia provide alert bulletins (in French) on their websites and through regular weather bulletins on local radio.

New Caledonia has a four-phase cyclone alert system:
• PRE-ALERT: potential cyclone activity in the weather observation zone of New Caledonia – follow weather forecasts and bulletins;
• ALERT 1: a cyclone is approaching and may reach New Caledonia within the next 18 hours – prepare for a cyclone;
• ALERT 2: a cyclone will hit New Caledonia in less than six hours – protect yourself and stay indoors; and
• SAFEGUARD PHASE: a cyclone is moving away – remain vigilant.

Further details on the alert system and recommended activities during each level can be found on the New Caledonian Department of Emergency Management website.

In the event of an approaching cyclone, flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly. The cyclone could also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe cyclone may not be available to all who may choose to stay. You should familiarise yourself with your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. Carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo identification) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. We also suggest that you contact friends and family in Australia to reassure them of your welfare and whereabouts. Once the cyclone has passed, and SAFEGUARD PHASE has been announced, you should take care leaving your shelter, looking out for debris, and avoid electrical wires which may have fallen on the ground. For further information, see our severe weather page.

Flooding and Mudslides

Heavy rains may cause dangerous flooding and mudslides to occur, and result in loss of life, destruction of property and the evacuation of inhabitants. If you are in an affected area, you should monitor media reports and follow the advice of local authorities. Detailed weather information is published in New Caledonia by Meteo-France in New Caledonia (in French).

Earthquakes

New Caledonia is in an active earthquake zone. Further information on earthquakes and other natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service.

Tsunamis

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. Tsunamis could occur in New Caledonia. There is a higher risk of the east coast, Loyalty Islands and Isle of Pines being affected. Visitors should be alert for warnings. For more information on tsunamis see the Tsunami Awareness brochure.

To receive immediate tsunami alerts, Australian citizens should register with an alert provider. Further information can be found on the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre, and the Global Disaster Alert and Co-ordination system

Bushfires

New Caledonia can be affected by bushfires. Typically these occur during the warmest months, from September to February, however, may also occur in other months. Visitors should be alert for warnings and follow the advice of local authorities.

Additional Resources

For additional general and economic information to assist travelling in New Caledonia, see the following links:



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.