Plane is obviously the quickest means of transport connecting the rest of the world to New Caledonia. The trip from France (around 18,000 km) takes 21 hours for the shortest flights. You should allow for at least one stop (sometimes up to three and more rarely four), depending on the airline company and the option chosen. International flights arrive at Noumea-La Tontouta international airport, which is 45 minutes from the capital by car, shuttle bus or taxi.
- With Air France and Aircalin, there are three possibilities: from Paris, a single stop in Tokyo, Osaka (Japan) or Seoul (South Korea).
- KLM offers, with Aircalin, a Paris-Helsinki-Tokyo-Noumea or a Paris-Helsinki-Osaka-Noumea trip. - British Airways leaving from Paris, stops in London, then in Bangkok or Singapore, then Sydney (for Sydney-Noumea, you take Qantas or Aircalin). With Air Austral, you can fly Paris-Noumea without changing planes (still with Aircalin), via Saint-Denis in La Réunion and Sydney.
The length of the trip depends mainly on the length and number of stops. Ultimately, there are connections between France and New Caledonia almost daily throughout the year. Depending on the class, each passenger can transport between 20 kg and 30 kg of baggage in the hold, as well as hand luggage under 5 kg, which is regulated in size. Noumea is two hours’ flight from Australia, two and a half hours from New Zealand, nine hours from Japan and 14 hours from Los Angeles.
Some French travel agencies sell organised visits to New Caledonia. These customised packages generally include transport, transfers and accommodation. You can obtain plenty of information at the Maison de la Nouvelle-Calédonie, 4 bis, rue Ventadour, 75001 Paris, tel. 01 42 86 64 94, www.mncparis.fr.
Among French agencies specialising in New Caledonia are:
- Asia - 1, rue Dante, 75005 Paris, tel. 01 44 41 50 10, www.asia.fr
- Au cœur du monde - 31, rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris, tel. 01 53 63 84 40, www.aucoeurdumonde.fr
- Australie Tours - 25-27, rue Raymond Poincaré, 75116 Paris, tel. 01 53 70 23 45, www.australietours.com and www.iles-de-reves.com
- Ultramarina - 37, rue Saint-Léonard 44032 Nantes, tel. 02 40 89 34 44, www.ultramarina.com
- Voyageurs du monde - 55, rue Sainte-Anne, 75002 Paris, tel. 01 42 86 16 99, www.vdm.com
- JLT Voyages - 50, rue Bobillot, 75013 Paris, tel. 01 45 65 23 23, www.jltvoyages.com
- Étoiles voyages Pacifique - 45, rue de Wagram, 75017 Paris, tel. 01 43 80 97 79, www.etoilevoyages.com
- Kuoni SA - 95, rue d'Amsterdam, 75008 Paris, tel. 08 21 33 03 38, www.kuoni.fr
- Exotismes - 164, avenue Albert-Einstein, 13384 Marseille, tel. 04 96 13 96 13, www.exotismes.com
- Légendes australiennes - BP 33221, 44032 Nantes, tel. 08 25 13 45 00, www.legendesaustraliennes.com
- Un Monde Nouvelle-Calédonie - 24, rue Chauchat, 75009 Paris, tel. 01 70 37 34 23, www.unmondenouvellecal.com.
Most organised trips include insurance. This generally covers cancellation of the airline ticket and the hotel package in the event of illness, accident or death; loss or theft of luggage; medical repatriation and medical, pharmaceutical and hospital costs; legal insurance. Additional cover is also provided on request. Those who decide to travel individually will choose travel insurance from accredited specialists. Moreover, if you bring valuable equipment (laptop, video or stills camera), consider taking out additional insurance to cover you against loss, theft or any damage.
If you get to Noumea on your own, with two nights reserved in the capital, you can easily organise your own trip and get help from a local tour operator.
Some New Caledonia travel agencies:
- Aircal Tours, tel. 28 78 88, www.air-caledonie.nc
- Arc en Ciel Services, tel. 27 19 80, www.arcenciel-voyages.nc
- Blue White Tours, tel. 27 74 01, www.bluewhitetours.com
- Calédonia Spirit, tel. (687) 27 27 01, www.caledoniaspirit.com
- Caltours, tel. 41 10 92 or 81 20 01, www.caltours-voyages.com
- Eden Tours, tel. 25 22 33
- Nouméa Discovery, tel. 28 02 18
- Nouméa Explorer, tel. 27 19 80
- Philo-Tours, tel. 28 9957
- South Pacific Tours, tel. 26 23 20
- Transat Tours, tel. 27 86 69
Aircal provides internal flights on the Grande Terre (Koné, Koumac, Touho) and also serves the Bélep Islands, from the Magenta domestic airport which is ten minutes from the Noumea city centre. The company fleet is made up of two ATR 42s, one ATR 72 and a Dornier. Magenta is 50 kilometres from the international airport and you need to allow at least three hours for any connections between internal and international flights. The Air Calédonie Pass, valid for two months, allows international clients to explore several destinations at a reduced price. All passengers must check in one hour before boarding, with an identity document and no more than 10 kg of baggage for the hold and 3 kg of cabin baggage.
Taxi-boats can take you for the day to the many small islets near the coast, whether on the East Coast or the West Coast. Remember to take water, sandwiches and something to give you shade. Furthermore, whether you prefer yachts or motorboats, whether you are experienced or not, many boat rental companies (more located in Noumea) offer their services with or without a skipper. This is an exclusive way to explore the marvels of the largest lagoon in the world.
The best way to explore the extremely diverse scenery in the north of New Caledonia is unquestionably to set off by car without a fixed plan, especially as the country’s road network, which extends over 5 500 kilometres, is in good condition overall. Here driving is on the right hand side, it is compulsory to wear seat belts and courtesy is generally mandatory. The road network continues in the North, allowing you to travel the length of the East and West Coasts. Territorial and provincial roads are sealed for the most part, whereas district roads are usually untarred. Nonetheless, the growth in traffic and the loads transported, as well as heavy rain and climatic events specific to New Caledonia, appreciably damage and weaken the roads, which regularly require major restoration. On leaving Noumea, the RT1, the road that encircles the Grande Terre, goes for hundreds of kilometres. If you take care and are patient, you will always find somewhere to fill up with fuel and acceptable food. Five cross-country roads go from West to East across the mountain chain. One of the best and most beautiful is the Koné-Tiwaka which offers lush scenery, winding through tight bends where there are still some tribal villages.
To travel around the Grande Terre freely and at your own pace, renting a car is the ideal solution. Especially since the many car rental companies in the country offer a fleet of new and well maintained vehicles (in Noumea). However, you need to have held a driver’s licence for more than two years, be at least 25 years old, and have a credit card. Average prices, depending on the packages, amount to 160 euros per week for a small car. If you intend to go a long way, consider choosing the adequate and unlimited package. From time to time, when a track runs off the sealed road, don’t hesitate to ask your way; New Caledonians will always answer you courteously.
Car rental (outside Noumea):
Koné: Auto Point Koné, tel. 47 23 23; Pony Express, Koné, tel. 42 59 25; Koné Nord Auto, tel. 47 12 02.
Koumac: Koumac Decoux, tel. 47 65 81; Koumac Auto Réparation, tel. 47 62 28.
Poindimié: ALV Auto Location Vente, tel. 42 58 00.
Buses serving the bush leave several times a week from the rue d’Austerlitz in the Noumea city centre. It is thus possible to get to the East and West Coasts in rather spartan comfort, by travelling through the main districts as far as Koumac and Pouébo. Take care, transport within the districts is not guaranteed. Information: 24 90 26.
Over the past few years, attractive sculpted wooden panels have appeared at the entrances to North Province districts and tribal villages. Written in French and the vernacular language, they have distinctive district emblems on top. The trend has also extended to rivers, creeks and localities.
Nèkö (Poya), Pwëbuu (Pouembout), Koohnê (Koné), Vook (Voh), Pum (Poum), Dau Ar (Bélep), Wégoa (Ouéga), Pweevo (Pouébo), Hyehen (Hienghène), Tuo Cèmuhî (Touho), Pwêêdi Wiimîâ (Poindimié), Pwäräiriwâ (Ponérihouen), Waa Wi Luu (Houailou), Kaa Wi Paa (Kouaoua) are thus waiting for you in the local language to transport you even more effectively into the heart of traditional Kanak land.