Yesterday as I drove to Port Vila central district, I noticed smoke coming from under the bonnet ("hood" for you Americans) of my car.


I parked the car in a restaurant parking lot close to my first stop and popped the bonnet. The problem was easy to see. I figured I would need some spanners I didn't have in the car at the time to fix it myself. I thought "I'll buy a cheap set in the supermarket and fix it when I get back"


But as I went about my business I realised I would need some other tools and bolts, nuts, etc I did not have with me. So I called my repair shop where I get the car serviced. I had left the car unlocked (which is fine here - there is almost no car theft at all) so he could do what he needed to do. Yes, he said, he would come and get it going.


Then I flagged down a bus to take me to the biggest supermarket in Port Vila (read: "the one with the best range of imported goodies for expats).


A "bus" here generally refers to a mini-van with seats in the back.


Bus cost: 150 vatu, or a little less than USD 1.50 from anywhere to anywhere within the Port Vila town boundaries. They will take you right to the door, almost like a shared taxi. If you want to go further, or some other special arrangement like go to many places and for them to wait, you negotiate a price. I have never paid more than USD 18 even when it involved a bunch of stops over a whole afternoon and ending up at our place way out of town.


So coming out of the supermarket with 2 full bags of groceries I flagged down another bus - I was the only passenger - which took me back right to that car. On the way I chatted to the driver about the breakdown. He offered to take me all the way home if the mechanic could not fix it on the spot.


However, arriving at the car, there was my repair shop owner, who had brought along a couple of mecanics to work on the car. He was chatting with friends while they got into the messy stuff. Confidence was high that it was almost mended.


It turned out the job took longer than expected because of unforeseen complications. (Don't they always?) The owner of the repair shop wanted to leave, so he asked me to drop the guys back to base when they had got it fixed.


They had it running about an hour later, and I did drop them back, whereupon they wanted to tighten some belts with tools they didn't have back at the carpark.


Now the owner of the repair shop had already told me their call-out fee is 3,500 vatu, and on top of that there would be the labour cost of the 2 guys working for several hours on the car. Total 6,000 vatu, or USD54.


Note how it did not really impact my day - the Vanuatu bus system - at least in Port Vila - is so convenient and cheap that I just carried on as I would have if I had driven myself.


Also note how fast the guys came and fixed it.


Please compare the time and the cost with the last time you took YOUR vehicle to a repair shop... even without them coming out to where it was broken down.


If this is a lifestyle you could get used to - temporarily or permanently - book a consultation: https∶//  


Lance (going again) in Vanuatu