New Caledonia

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Thursday, 18 December 2014.   This advice contains new information relating to changes to New Caledonia's cyclone alert system. 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.
  • Cyclone season in New Caledonia normally lasts from November to April, but tropical storms and cyclones may occur outside this period. 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 Saint Louis areas, requiring the intervention of security forces. Security incidents and delinquency have continued since this time in the Saint Louis area, including 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 including 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.
  • There are currently ongoing epidemics of the mosquito-borne diseases dengue fever, Zika virus, and 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.
  • See also our general advice for business travellers.
  • 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) 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. 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. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin for more information on terrorism and our General advice to Australian travellers for tips on staying safe overseas.

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 Saint Louis areas, requiring the intervention of security forces. Security incidents and delinquency have continued since this time in the Saint Louis area, including 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 including 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 belongings unattended or unsecured. There is an increasing incidence of car theft and vehicle break-ins.

There are currently no limits on the number of firearms (or the amount of ammunition) New Caledonians can hold, and estimates are that there are more than 50,000 guns in circulation. While there are a large number guns due to deer and pig hunting a being popular pastime, gun-related crime is relatively low.
In an emergency, call 17 for police or 18 for fire or ambulance services.

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.

Review the general advice to Australian travellers for further information on being safe and prepared abroad.

Local travel

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.

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

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

New Caledonia’s road toll is very high. Between January and August 2014, there were 44 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. If appropriate safety equipment is not available, you should 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

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. Research local laws before travelling.

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: 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 (in French) of the New Caledonian Directorate for Health and Social Affairs.

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

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.

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

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 and cyclones. We recommend that you monitor the weather 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 Caledonian Department of Emergency Management and the local weather bureau 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 Caleedonia 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 at their website.

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 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 (NC) (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.

Tsunami

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.