New Caledonia

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Friday, 27 June 2014.   This advice contains new information in the Summary and under Safety and security: Civil unrest/Political tension (possibility of further violence in the Goro and St. Louis areas following protests against Goro mine in May and June 2014 that turned violent. Australians should follow the instructions of local authorities) and Local travel (high fatality rates on New Caledonian roads). 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.
  • Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia.
  • Cyclone season in New Caledonia is from November to April, however, tropical storms and cyclones may also occur in other months. See under Additional information: Natural disasters, severe weather and climate for further information.
  • In 2013 and 2014 there have been a substantial number of Australians 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. This has adversely affected a number of Australian travellers, including older travellers with pre-existing medical conditions. Check your travel insurance policy to make sure that you understand exactly what your policy covers. See under Health for more information.
  • In May and June 2014, protests against Goro mine turned violent in the Goro and St.Louis areas, requiring the intervention of security forces. Security incidents and delinquency have continued since this time in the St. Louis area, including road blockages and rocks being thrown at vehicles. Further violence is possible in these areas. Australians should follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • There are currently ongoing epidemics of the mosquito-borne diseases dengue fever and Zika virus, and a health alert for chikungunya in New Caledonia. Local prevention measures are in place. See under Health for more information.
  • You should avoid all demonstrations and large public gatherings as they may turn violent.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest French French Embassy or Consulate 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. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General Advice to Australian Travellers.

Civil unrest/Political tension

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

In May and June 2014, protests against Goro mine turned violent in the Goro and St. Louis areas, requiring the intervention of security forces. Security incidents and delinquency have continued since this time in the St. Louis area, including road blockages and rocks being thrown at vehicles. Further violence is possible in these areas. Australians should follow the instructions of local authorities.

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

Crime

New Caledonia has a low incidence of serious crime. Petty crime does occur. Travellers should be aware of their personal belongings at all times and not leave their belongings unattended or unsecured.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work overseas.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

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.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

See our road travel page.

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

For information on driver’s licence requirements in New Caledonia, contact your nearest French Embassy or Consulate.

New Caledonia’s road toll is very high. Between January and June 2014 there were 32 recorded fatalities on New Caledonian roads. Drivers may be unlicensed or intoxicated and vehicles may be neither roadworthy nor insured.

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 ensure your travel insurance policy covers your planned activities.

Airline safety

Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in New Caledonia, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. New Caledonia is an Overseas Territory of France and French laws apply. See under Laws in our France Travel advice for more information. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Penalties for drug offences, even possession of small amounts, include fines and imprisonment.

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 it is generally recommended that same sex couples avoid public displays of affection. See our LGBTI travellers page.

You are required to carry identification at all times.

French Customs and Border Police operating in New Caledonia are very strict on importation of counterfeit (non-genuine) goods. If found in your possession, the counterfeit goods will be confiscated and you will be fined an amount equivalent to the assessed purchase price of the genuine item. Detection methods include conducting searches of arriving tourists.

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

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

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.

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.

Cruise passengers: In 2013 and 2014 there have been a substantial number of Australians 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. This has adversely affected a number of Australian travellers, including older travellers with pre-existing medical conditions. In these cases, the Australian Government will not pay your medical costs. You will be responsible for settling your own medical bills.

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.

Medical costs in New Caledonia are high: Australians visiting New Caledonia should be aware that medical and hospital costs are extremely 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 A$1,250 or more. 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 and you are responsible for settling your own medical bills.

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. Regardless, 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 across large parts of the main island.

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.

Mosquito-borne diseases: There are currently ongoing epidemics of dengue fever and Zika virus, and a health alert for chikungunya in New Caledonia. Outbreaks of dengue fever are particularly common during the warm 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 as they are symptoms of both dengue fever and Zika virus. 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 (in French) of the New Caledonian Directorate for Health and Social Affairs.

Where to get help

In New Caledonia, Australians can obtain consular assistance from the:

Australian Consulate-General, Noumea

7th Floor, Immeuble Foch
19 Avenue du Maréchal Foch
Noumea, NEW CALEDONIA
Telephone (687) 27 24 14
Facsimile (687) 27 80 01
Website www.noumea.consulate.gov.au

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.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

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, 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, the French High Commission in New Caledonia provides alert information to the public on a phone hotline (+687) 26 63 20 (only in French) and the French High Commission in New Caledonia’s website (in French).

New Caledonia has a four-level cyclone alert system: PRE-ALERT (potential cyclone activity in the region of New Caledonia, follow weather forecasts and bulletins), ORANGE (a cyclone may hit New Caledonia in coming hours; all activity should progressively cease during this alert phase, except that which is directly concerned with the maintenance of public safety and security), RED (cyclone is imminent; the population must remain indoors until the lifting of the cyclone alert; all movement is forbidden) and GREY (the period immediately following the passing of the cyclone; this level signifies that not all danger has passed and that public and private agencies are at work, ensuring key services return to normal operation; movements should only take place where strictly necessary).

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. You should 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 with updates about your welfare and whereabouts. Once the cyclone has passed, and GREY alert 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.

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 French).

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.

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. French authorities have a tsunami warning system in place. Visitors should be alert for warnings. For more information on tsunamis see the Tsunami Awareness brochure.

If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

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.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.



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.