Driving in New Caledonia
It is almost a necessity to drive in New Caledonia. While it is possible to get between towns and cities using public transport, almost all of the main sites outside of the capital Noumea require a vehicle to access. Not to mention most of the accommodation options (and especially the more budget options) are usually a few kilometers if not more, outside of the nearest town.
Renting a car in New Caledonia
The first thing you will need to do is rent a car. I would recommend doing this when you arrive at the airport. The cost of renting a car, even for a day, is roughly the same as one way on the airport shuttle anyway, and I didn’t see any different in price between car rental places in Noumea and those at the airport. In fact, the car rental places in Noumea are few and far between, while at the airport all the offices are conveniently all lined up next to each other.
You might want to book in advance though. When we arrived many of the offices were shut as they had already rented all their cars, and the ones that were open didn’t have any of the economy cars left.
Renting a car is not cheap, but there are discounts for renting for more days. One day of rental is roughly 50 Euros, and one week around 250 Euros. This is more expensive than Australia, which is well known for being an expensive travel destination.
With your rental you will typically get 150 km’s per day. You can get the unlimited kilometre option, but this is only worth it if you know for sure you will be doing a lot of driving.
Roads in New Caledonia
The roads in New Caledonia are generally really good for a Pacific Island. It is a left hand drive, like France, it’s protectorate. However once you get out of the major centres the roads do get quite pot holed. Although there are paved roads throughout the country.
New Caledonians seem to love roundabouts… so be prepared.
One thing we were not prepared for were the toll highways. These are not marked on the map or the GPS, so you can imagine our surprise when we came upon one when driving back to Noumea one evening. During the day there is a lane where you can pay an operator in a booth – typically 150 Francs. However in the evenings you need a digital pass as no one is working. We discovered this the hard way and then had to reverse and do a quick u turn on a busy highway to the amusement (or chagrin) of several other drivers.
Dangers and Hazards
As I mentioned before, when you get away from the major centres, there are quite a few pot holes in the road. Also they seem to hide around tight corners so that you don’t have much time to slow down for them.
The roads also seem to be a bit narrower than we are used to in Australia, but this may be exasperated by the fact that New Caledonian drivers seem to have no regard for speed limits, and seem to take the painted lines on the road as a suggestion more than as a rule.
Driving in New Caledonia in Summary
- It is much easier to get to sights and accommodation by renting a car rather than taking public transport.
- Book in advance to ensure you get the best deal
- Don’t assume you will that good of a deal, as renting a car is not cheap
- There are toll booths on the main highway into Noumea. If you are driving at a time when it is unlikely to have an operator present, then take one of the smaller highways without a toll instead.
- New Caledonia is a left hand drive country
- Beware of other drivers