What makes Papua New Guinea a unique country to travel to?
Papua New Guinea is a developing country in the Southwest Pacific. The capital is Port Moresby. Tourist facilities outside major towns are limited, and crime is a serious concern throughout Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea has a high crime rate. U.S. citizens have occasionally been victims of violent crime, including rape, carjacking, and armed robberies. You are at a greater risk of violent crimes such as robbery or rape if you travel alone, especially if you plan to hike in isolated rural areas. You may want to consider travelling as part of an organized tour or escort. Crime rates are highest in and around major cities such as Port Moresby, Lae, Mount Hagen, and Goroka, but can occur anywhere. Pickpockets and opportunistic bag-snatchers frequent crowded public areas including parks, golf courses, beaches, and cemeteries. Bag-snatchers may try to open doors of automobiles that are stopped or moving slowly in traffic. Please consult the State Department’s Primer on Personal Security for Visitors to Papua New Guinea.
Organized tours booked through travel agencies remain the safest means to visit Papua New Guinea although on rare occasions, even persons participating in organized tours may be subject to violent robbery, assault, serious injury, or death. In Papua New Guinea, avoid using local taxis or buses, known as Public Motor Vehicles (PMV's). Rely on your sponsor or hotel to arrange for hotel transportation or a rental car. Road travel outside of major towns can be hazardous due to criminal roadblocks near bridges, curves in the road, or other features that restrict vehicle speed and mobility. Lock your doors and keep your window rolled up. Please consult with the U.S. Embassy or with local law enforcement officials concerning security conditions before driving between towns. (See the Traffic Safety and Road Conditions section below.) Travel to isolated places in Papua New Guinea is possible primarily by small passenger aircraft to the many small airstrips throughout the country. Security measures at these airports are often inadequate.
Hiking Trails: Exercise caution if you plan to hike the Kokoda Track, the Black Cat Track, or other trails in Papua New GuineaTravel with guides from a reputable tour company. This is particularly important given the occasional threats by villagers to close parts of the track due to local land and compensation disputes. Check with your travel agent and/or tour operator for contingency plans in the event that the track is blocked. Hikers have been attacked even though they are part of an organized tour, sustaining serious injuries and death. You should purchase appropriate travelers/medical insurance before arriving in Papua New Guinea. The Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) has stationed rangers along the track and at airports to collect fees from trekkers who have not obtained a valid trekking permit. The KTA can be contacted by telephone at 675-325-5540 or 675-325-1887 regarding payment of applicable fees.
While you are traveling in Papua New Guinea, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. If you break the law in Papua New Guinea, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. Laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. Criminal penalties will vary from country to country. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.
Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral agreements, and customary international law, if you are arrested in Papua New Guinea, you may request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby of your arrest. You may request to have communications from you forwarded to the U.S. Embassy.
In Papua New Guinea, languages fall within two basic language stocks: Melanesian and Papuan. English is the official language and is taught in public schools. The language used at home, however, is almost always that of one’s language group. Melanesian Pidgin (Tok Pisin) is the most widely used language. Motu is the most common indigenous language, used primarily in the Papuan region.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Medical facilities in Papua New Guinea vary greatly between larger towns and remote areas. Medical facilities in larger towns are usually adequate for routine problems and some emergencies. However, equipment failures and shortages of common medications can mean that even routine treatments and procedures (such as X-rays) may be unavailable. Medical facilities may be inaccessible in some rural areas. A hyperbaric recompression chamber for diving emergencies is available in Port Moresby. Pharmacies in Papua New Guinea are found only in urban centers. Pharmacies are generally small and may be inadequately stocked. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for medical services. Please see the U.S. Embassy website for a list of medical facilities in Papua New Guinea.
Diving injuries will almost always require medical evacuation to Australia, where more sophisticated facilities are available. Medical evacuation companies could charge thousands of dollars for transport to Australia or the U.S. If you anticipate the possible need for medical treatment in Australia, obtain a visa or entry permission for Australia in advance.
Safety and Security
Tensions between communal or clan groups may lead to localized conflicts involving bush knives, machetes, or firearms. Always consult with your tour operator, the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby, or with Papua New Guinean authorities for current information on areas where you intend to travel.
If you plan to travel to the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, please contact the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby for updated security information. South Bougainville continues to suffer from intermittent factional violence. Law enforcement in this area is weak, and tourist and transportation facilities are limited. If you travel to Bougainville, exercise a high degree of caution. Areas near the Panguna mine, located on the southern part of the Island of Bougainville, have been officially designated “no go zones” by the Autonomous Government of Bougainville; we strongly recommend that you avoid those areas.
Unexploded ordinance and mines may be found in Bougainville, East New Britain, and throughout the Papua New Guinea islands. Exercise caution when walking or hiking off marked roads and trails.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in a foreign country, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Papua New Guinea is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Traffic in Papua New Guinea moves on the left. Travel on highways outside of major towns can be hazardous. Motor vehicle accidents are a common cause of serious injury in Papua New Guinea, especially to passengers sitting in the open bed of a pickup truck. Whether the driver or a passenger, you should wear a seatbelt at all times. There is no countrywide road network. Roads, especially in rural areas, are in a poor state of repair. Other common safety risks on PNG roads include erratic and drunk drivers, poorly maintained vehicles, and over-crowded vehicles. During the rainy season, landslides occur on some stretches of the Highlands Highway between Lae and Mount Hagen. Criminal roadblocks on the Highlands Highway are often encountered during the day and widely after dark.
Police roadblocks to check vehicle registrations are a regular occurrence at night in Port Moresby. As a driver, you should ensure that your vehicle registration and safety stickers are up-to-date in order to minimize difficulties at roadblocks.
Crowds can react emotionally and violently after road accidents. Crowds form quickly after an accident and may attack those whom they hold responsible by stoning and/or burning vehicles. Friends and relatives of an injured party may demand immediate compensation from the party they hold responsible for injuries, regardless of legal responsibility. People involved in accidents should go directly to the nearest police station instead of stopping at the scene of the accident.
For specific information concerning Papua New Guinea driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, road safety and mandatory insurance, please call the Papua New Guinea’s Motor Vehicle Institute Limited at 675-325-9666 or 675-302-4600.