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New Caledonia Travel Guide

Accommodations

Prices at the hotels are manageable for two, but high for one. Expect 5 percent tax (TSS) to be tacked onto all accommodation rates. In South Province, an additional room tax of CFP 350, 600, or 900 depending on the category of the hotel is added to the price. A small French country hotel is called a relais, while an auberge de jeunesse is a youth hostel.

New Caledonia's well-developed system of gîtes is unique in the Pacific. Basically a gîte offers simple Melanesian-style accommodations in thatched cottages, usually near a beach. Toilet facilities may be private or shared, and electricity may or may not be installed. Since the gîtes are operated by the Kanaks themselves, you'll be accepted in the community if you're staying there. Though some are poorly run, the best gîtes are a good value.

The main flaw in the system is that Air Calédonie and the tour operators require the gîte owners to charge exorbitant prices to allow for the high commissions paid to travel agents for their bookings. Airport transfers are way overpriced. Bargaining isn't possible because the package tourism people have created strict rules to prevent any undercutting of their prices. About the only way for independent travelers to get around the absurdly high package tour tariffs is to ask to camp on the premises, which in most cases the Kanak owners will happily allow for a reasonable fee.

Some gîtes offer accommodations in Kanak case (pronounced kahz), a conical thatched hut, and this is always much cheaper than European-style accommodations. For food, the gîtes are also required to charge prices similar to those at top Nouméa restaurants and the price may not correspond to what you get. The gîtes are concentrated on the Loyalty Islands and Isle of Pines, but many are also found around Grande Terre. If you only want to camp at a gîte, you can just show up.

Women should keep in mind that while mono-kini sunbathing is okay in Nouméa, it could lead to serious problems anywhere else in the territory. Never swim topless or naked in front of a Kanak village. There are lots of isolated beaches where you can do it, and if you want to be seen, there's always Nouméa.

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