About New Caledonia (NC)
The French overseas territory of New Caledonia (NC) is an archipelago located in the western Pacific Ocean, east of Australia and west of Vanuatu.
The main island of Grand Terre is one of the largest islands in the Pacific and the primary entry point to the Loyalty Islands, the Isle of Pines, and a number of tiny, mostly uninhabited islands. Home to a variety of pristine beaches, New Caledonia’s main attractions are mainly aquatic: snorkeling, diving, and deep sea fishing; however, camping and hiking are also popular with visitors and locals alike.
Its people are comprised of five major ethnic groups including the indigenous Kanaks, Polynesian immigrants, and a mix of Asian, European, and North African settlers. The climate is semi-tropical with strong southeastern trade winds, which keeps temperatures moderate during the winter season (April-August).
The mountainous interior is known for its diversity of plant and wildlife, while the only true city in New Caledonia, Noumea, is famous for its French cuisine and luxury resorts.
The bus system on Grand Terre is described as adequate but infrequent, and thus, popular opinion holds that renting a car in New Caledonia is necessary for visitors.
The road network, while hardly extensive, is in excellent condition and probably better than half the roads in Europe. Traffic congestion is nearly non-existent, albeit theoretically possible in Noumea.
Meanwhile, ample speed limits on the coastal highways allow for speedy navigation. Some of the mountainous inland routes will present a challenge, but there’s nothing terribly scary or difficult to look out for in New Caledonia.
Local drivers are said to have a tendency to speed, and drunk drivers seem to come out at night. All road signs are in French and English, and traffic controls use international pictograms. Because the roads are tailored to the terrain, you may want to rent a car with GPS, but you could probably get by with just a simple roadmap.
Choosing your car
Cheap car rentals in New Caledonia are supplied by international companies such as Sixt, Europcar, Hertz, National, Budget, and Avis. Choose from minicars, compact sedans, economy hatchbacks, estate wagons, standard and fullsize 4-door sedans, SUVs, and 7-12 seater minivans for groups and large families.
Tips and advice
Speaking a little bit of French will go a long way in New Caledonia. English is spoken in the resorts around Noumea, but otherwise, not widely used elsewhere. This is exceedingly important if you plan to do a bit of island-hopping.
Fuel prices in New Caledonia are fixed, so there’s no need for bargain hunting.
Consider renting an SUV or 4x4 if you plan to do any mountain driving. Some of the roads are fairly rugged, and smaller cars with lower profiles may not have the clearance to manage certain river crossings.
Your car hire in New Caledonia will include a standard Collision/Loss Damage Waiver, but keep in mind that tires and wheels may not be covered.
New Caledonia car rentals in the Loyalty Island group are available, but considerably more expensive than Grand Terre.
Driving at night is perfectly acceptable in and around Noumea, but not recommended elsewhere.