You are about to embark on a rewarding travel adventure to the beautiful and fascinating country of Papua New Guinea. You will explore a world of the utmost natural beauty and vibrant cultures. To add to the enjoyment of your holiday and to ensure you have a smooth running trip, we provide the following advice and tips. Unlike many travel purveyors, the "warts and all" scenario is provided.
Please carefully review this information and take it into serious consideration before arriving in Papua New Guinea, also referred to as PNG.
Please also keep in mind while preparing for your visit and while traveling in Papua New Guinea, that although PNG is situated relatively close to other well developed South Pacific and Asian nations such as Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Tahiti, Indonesia and Singapore, PNG is somewhat isolated and as a result, most services and facilities including transportation and tourism, are relatively underdeveloped by comparison. Unlike these countries and Africa, you are visiting a country with a tourist trade in its infancy and thus you may have to deal with different situations along the way. PNG also has a culture which is completely different from others. Although these factors make for a unique experience, it may at times create circumstances which may become frustrating if the visitor does not remain patient and keep an open mind. If you come to Papua New Guinea with a spirit of adventure and a positive/flexible attitude, you will surely have only good memories to take home with you. We look forward to welcoming you in PNG!
THINGS TO BUY
PNG Art and handicrafts are world renowned and one of the most vital industries as such in the South Pacific. The art is extremely varied which reflects the great diversity of cultures in PNG. The Sepik River is well known for its unique art which comes in many forms including pottery, wooden carved masks and cult hooks. In other areas of the country you will find carved bowls, bilum or string bags, baskets, ceremonial axes, clay and bamboo ornaments, charms and musical instruments, just to name a few of the items you will probably have the opportunity to buy.
Please be advised that it is illegal to export the feathers of the Bird of Paradise. If you buy or even accept as a gift the feathers of these birds, you will encourage the hunting of these rare and beautiful creatures and thus help create an industry which could possibly lead to their endangerment or even extinction. PNG and Australian laws are very strict about the export/import of all endangered species. Please do not buy or accept these feathers and be advised that you will be prosecuted if you are caught trying to take them out of the country.
For those traveling on only Air Niugini domestic flights baggage allowance is restricted to 16kg or 35lbs and carry-on hand-bag. But you will likely be traveling on other small regional airlines to the Sepik and Madang areas. Flights between these lodges operate in small aircraft with limited weight and space for baggage. On these flights you must restrict your baggage to 10kgs maximum per person plus a small carry-on bag or camera bag. In addition, large hard or soft sided suitcases are not permitted on these aircraft. The small regional airlines are strict and if you come with inappropriate or excess baggage when boarding these small aircraft. Your bags will be off loaded and you will be required to re-pack, thus causing undue stress on yourself, the Pilot, ground operational staff and your fellow travelers. If taking a long trip, many find it convenient to leave excess baggage at the hotel in the country stopped at just before coming to PNG and will be returning to on the way home. Please ensure that all your stored baggage is clearly tagged with your name, address and return date. Tags are provided with travel documents upon arrival in PNG. Please always personally make sure that your baggage is properly tagged to the correct destination at time of check-in.
If you cancel your tour before the departure date, your deposit will be refunded less a cancellation fee based on the following range of notification.
Tour Cancelled 30 Days before Tour Commences = US$50.00 net per person.
Tour Cancelled 20 - 29 days before Tour Commence = 10% of Land Cost per person.
Tour Cancelled 7 - 19 Days before tour Commence = 20% of Land Cost per person.
Tour Cancelled under 6 days before tour commences = 50% of Land Cost per person.
Tour cancelled when started or 1 before the tour commences = No refund
The climate in Papua New Guinea is tropical and pleasant. You will experience two distinct types of climate in PNG. The first is in the lowland and coastal areas being hot and having a temperature range of 24-35 degrees C (79-95 F) with high humidity. The second is the highlands regions being cooler, having a temperature range of 12-28 degrees (54-82F) and with less humidity. In both areas the days are generally fine but often there are clouds in the afternoon resulting in rain late afternoon and evening. Although there are said to be dry and wet seasons in various areas of PNG, it is often difficult to distinguish between these seasons. On the one hand, it can rain for several consecutive days during the dry season and on the other, there may be lengthy dry spells during the wet season. Although it may be locally dry in the Sepik region, if it is raining heavily in the highlands, the river levels in the Sepik will rise. Weather in PNG is generally localized and PNG does not experience frontal weather as in common in more temperate areas.
CLOTHING AND CHECKLIST
Please pack lightly! This will most certainly add to the enjoyment of your trip. The climate at Sepik & Madang areas is hot and humid, thus lightweight long sleeved (preferably cotton) casual and modest clothing is appropriate for all occasions. Mosquitoes are drawn to dark colors so khaki, camel, bone or similar are preferable colors to wear. A sweater is needed for cool highlands evening and good walking shoes are essential. Bikinis or tight, skimpy clothing are not advisable in respect of the local culture.
Sun hat, insect repellent, flashlight (power is turned off at night at some lodges), sun screen lotion, rain jacket, extra pair comfortable walking shoes (the first part may get wet or muddy at some point in your PNG travels), binoculars, camera, plenty of film, malaria medication prescribed by your physician.
COMMUNICATING WITH PAPUA NEW GUINEANS
Most travelers are experienced and sophisticated and find the trip a great one. There are hassles that even the best of trips encounter. In PNG, anger, displeasure or irritability do not enhance one's chances of getting results. Such expressions reduce the recipient to a stony silence and cooperation or compassion are not extended to anger, raised or displeased voices. Please be patient as it is a waste of time complaining about arrangements. When you experience the unexpected, please be patient and avoid dwelling on mishaps, it only worsens the travel experience for yourself and your fellow travelers. It is natural to be agitated or frightened in such a remote, foreign country. Be assured all arrangements are being coordinated to make your trip as smooth as possible. Overall, past clients find PNG one of their best trips ever, but the unexpected can easily occur.
CULTURAL DISPLAYS AND VILLAGE VISITS
Daily tours may include nature walks, birding and village visits - most would include walking through the local people's land, gardens and living areas. If a development occurs - it may be a death, tribal dispute, etc., whereby we are asked by the local people not to visit them or intrude on their land or privacy, we respect their wishes and ask that you do likewise. We may not have had any prior notice of their need for privacy, and therefore arrive at the village expecting perhaps a cultural display or similar, only to find we are turned away. Don't become upset or angry with either your driver/guide or the local people. The participants in these displays and cultural events are village people, not professional performers or dance groups that are what makes the whole experience so exceptional. The operational person in charge (not your driver/guide) will try to make alternative arrangements where ever time and circumstances permit. Under the heading of "Tipping" you are asked not to hand out gifts to individuals in villages. This is a most important request that we ask you comply with. School supplies which are always in short supply, particularly in the rural areas, are most welcome and are much preferred over cheap plastic jewellery, sweets, balloons, etc.
CURRENCY, CREDIT CARDS AND EXCHANGE
The unit of currency is the Kina, pronounced "kee-nah", and sub-units of 100 are called Toea, pronounced "toy-ya. Note denominations are available in K2, K5, K10, K20, K50.and K100
Travellers Cheques and international credit cards are accepted at most major hotels. American Express, Diners Club, Master Card and Visa credit cards are accepted at the Highlanders, Bird of Paradise and Jais Aben Resort.
Kina cash can be acquired at the banks of most international ports of departure to PNG such as Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, Singapore and Manila. It is strongly recommended you acquire your Kina cash at these banks prior to departing for PNG. Although there is a bank at the Port Moresby international airport, it keeps normal banking hours. Thus if you are arriving in PNG outside of normal banking hours or if your connection time in Port Moresby to your next domestic flight is short, it is highly recommended you obtain your Kina cash outside the country. There are also banks in most major centres in PNG, but tour schedules do not usually allow time for banking. Most hotels and the Wilderness Lodges have some cash but this is greatly limited and exchange rates are not as good as the banks. Banking hours in PNG are generally from 9:00 am - 4:00pm Monday through to Friday.
The electrical voltage system in PNG is 240 volts, AC 50hzs. Some hotels provide 110 volt outlets in guest rooms. PNG uses the same electrical plug outlets as Australia.
FLYING IN PNG
The majority of flying in PNG is conducted under visual flight rules. The mainland of PNG contains numerous mountain ranges rising up to 14,800 ft (4,500 metres). A large number of flights are conducted in small unpressurised aircraft, making it difficult to fly above these mountains and the towering clouds. Therefore if you cannot see where the mountains are and you cannot go over them then you cannot go into cloud. There are only navigation aids at the larger coastal and highland towns. Most navigation is done visually or with G.P.S (Global Positioning System). While Mount Hagen, a declared city in the highlands, has some navigation aids, they are only used to position the aircraft overhead the airport for a visual approach. This is due to the high mountains at the edge of the Waghi Valley. ILS (Instrument Landing System) and radar only exists at Jacksons Airport in Port Moresby.
The Weather in Papua New Guinea can change very quickly (for the better or worse!). This is caused by the high mountains and tropical conditions. All you can do is relax, read a book and listen to your pilot. The pilots in Papua New Guinea are very experienced with these conditions and know best when to go and to stay.
Meats, fish, vegetables, and tropical fruits are served Australian style. Some of the world's best coffee and tea is grown in the Highlands of PNG. An excellent beer is locally produced and a variety of good imported wines is available. At the respective hotels/lodges, apart from vegetarian meals, special meal requests are not available as the meals are table d'hote and set menus. If vegetarian meals are required, this should be advised to the Manager at the time of check-in. Local food is made up of bland starchy foods with very little protein and to a Western palate is unacceptable. There is no national cuisine such as can be found in Thailand and Indonesia.
HEALTH REGULATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The only health requirement is a certificate of vaccination against yellow fever or cholera if arriving from or traveling through infected areas prior to arrival in PNG. Visitors are advised to take malaria precautions, but only your doctor can recommend and prescribe the appropriate medication for you. As a precaution, most travelers keep their tetanus, typhoid, hepatitis, and polio inoculations current. Although the problem of diarrhoea and dysentery does not seem to be nearly as severe in PNG as in some of the neighboring Asian countries, it is possible you will get some kind of diarrhoea at some stage of your trip. This is normal for travelers whose bodies are adapting to strange food and water. In most cases the problem is short term, not severe and is easily treated.
INSURANCE AND MEDICAL FACILITIES
All travelers to PNG are strongly recommended to acquire Travelers Insurance for trip cancellation and delays, for baggage loss and damage, and for illness, accident and medical evacuation. Government owned general hospitals, church affiliated hospitals, private doctors and pharmacies are available in all major centre of the country. Services at both public and private medical facilities in PNG are not to the same standard as those found in Western European countries, USA, Canada, or Australia.. We recommend you bring a personal first aid kit including ample supply of medication, and pack this in your carry-on hand-bag.
There is an estimate of 850 traditional languages in PNG. The official national language is English. The two most commonly used languages are Hiri Motu and Melanesian Pidgin.
Laundry service is available at respective hotels/lodges Hotels in main centers have daily laundry services.
PASSPORT, VISA AND IMMIGRATION PROCEDURES
Ensure your passport is valid through your return date home. Tourists are required to have a visa to enter PNG. Currently a 30 day tourist visa is available upon arrival for nationals of many countries including Australia, Japan, New Zealand, UK, USA and most western European countries at either the Port Moresby or Mt Hagen gateway airports only. This visa is non-extendable and the fee is about USD30.00
As only Kina cash is accepted it is suggested you purchase some Kina at your international departure port prior to arrival in PNG. To acquire a visa upon arrival, you will need a valid passport, proof of sufficient funds for your stay, an onward airline ticket with confirmed bookings and Kina cash. Alternatively, you may acquire your visa prior to leaving your home country with either the nearest PNG Embassy or in some cases at the Australian Embassy in your country. Always check with these embassies for current visa requirements prior to leaving home.
If stopping at or even just passing through another country on the way to PNG, please check with nearest Embassy of that country before departing your home country to ensure you have all the required visas and documents. Currently Australia allows citizens of many countries including USA, Canada, Japan, and most Western European countries to stop in transit for less than 8 hours without a visa. But if you are stopping for 8 hours or more, changing airports within Australia, or leaving the transit lounge, you will be required to have a tourist visa which you must acquire prior to arrival in Australia. Note that there is no smoking allowed in any transit lounge in Australia. If you have long waiting hours and need to leave the transit lounge for any reason, you will require a visa. Visa requirements do change from time to time, so always check with the nearest Embassy of the country in question for current details.
Be certain your baggage claim checks are clearly marked "POM" for Port Moresby on your international flight into PNG. Allow plenty of time to arrive at the airport to conduct immigration, security, and check-in procedures. On arrival in Port Moresby, the procedure is quite orderly but can take up to one hour. If you have a tight connection, be sure you go to the head of the line in Immigration and request special assistance at Jackson's Airport in Port Moresby. Remember that you will need about USD35.00 cash to pay the Department of Civil Aviation Terminal Facility Fee when departing Papua New Guinea.
Important: The Air Niugini transit counter at Jackson's airport in Port Moresby is located in the Customs Hall for those with connecting flights. Check-in at the transit counter before leaving the Customs Hall.
PEOPLE AND POPULATION
The population is estimated at around 5.2 million with over a third being concentrated in the Highlands Provinces. Western residents are almost always referred to as "expats". The indigenous people are Papua New Guineans, never refer to them as natives. Tribal or regional names, such as Papuan, Tolai, Southern Highlander, Simbu, Huli are also acceptable.
Like anyone the people of Papua New Guinea resent the intrusion of privacy. So, except in the case of planned performances, always remember to ask before taking a photograph of a particular individual. It is rare but sometimes the individual may request payment prior to agreeing. In this case it is recommended you do not pay for, nor take the photo.
Plenty of photo opportunities will come up and at no cost. The paying for photos whether for money or gifts only encourages commercialization and inhibits spontaneity and hospitality. The local economy is assisted by the payment of a general fee to each village which is visited in this way the whole community benefits.
Helpful & phrases words. Here are some helpful Pidgin phrases:
Monin - Good morning
Apinun - Good afternoon
Gut nait - Good night
Tenk yu - Thank you
Em hamas? - How much is that?
Mi laik baim - I would like to buy
Toilet we? - Where is the toilet?
Halpim mi plis - Help me please
Nogat - No
Mi no laikim - I don't like it
Yumi go we? - Where are we going?
Ka - Car
Kaikai - Food
Mani - Money
Man - Man or male
Meri - Woman or female
Pikinini - Baby or very young child
Manki - Older children or teenagers
Yangpela- Young man or women
Lapun - Old man or woman
Balus - Aircraft
Ples Balus - Airport
Kago - Luggage
Wantok - Countryman or friend
Bilas - Decoration or uniform
Wara - Water
Yu stap gut? - How are you?
Mi stap gut - I am fine
Inap mi kisim poto? - May I take a photo?
Soim mi - show me
Klostu - Near or close by
Longwe tumas - A very long way or too far
Wanem nem bilong yu? - What is your name?
Ples bilong yu we? - Where are you from?
Mi no klia gut - I don't understand
Mi no save - I don't know
Tok isi - Speak Slowly
Haus sik - Hospital
Allow from 10 to 20 days for airmail delivery from North America, Europe or Australia and New Zealand. Your mail can be addressed c/- P O Box 1761 Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea. Air mail from PNG to most other countries also takes from 10 - 20 days. The following are airmail postage rates for letter and post cards: Within PNG - .70 toea To Zone 3 ie Europe, North and South America - K3.00 To Zone 2 ie. Singapore, Hongkong & Japan - K2.65 To Zone 1 ie Australia and New Zealand - K2.00
Unfortunately, on the rare occasions when Papua New Guinea does get featured in the international media, it is usually a sensationalist report which depicts PNG only in a negative light. As a result, PNG often and unjustifiably is described as a dangerous and high risk country to visit. You may get your first indication of this attitude from either your friends at home before you leave or from people you meet en route to PNG. Even the local foreign residents have their own share of gruesome stories which are usually hearsay and exaggerated. Do not let this discourage you. If you take reasonable care and use common sense you are most unlikely to experience anything other than friendliness and hospitality. As a precaution do not carry valuables such as passport, airline tickets, money credit cards or jewellery while walking around town or on sightseeing tours. Never leave valuables unattended in your room. There is seldom any place to go in the evenings, but in any case it is advisable not to leave the hotel at night. Crime is a factor everywhere these days so take all precautions possible. Be aware at all times. No need to be paranoid, but awareness helps a lot.
Smoking is not allowed on any of the vehicles. There are usually frequent stops during a tour at which time a smoking break can be taken.
PNG has a telephone system and mobile system covering most parts of the rural country. If relatives or friends need to contact you while you are in Papua New Guinea the quickest way is catch you by Mobile. You should purchase here on you should use your own mobile to contact you.
PNG is 10 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and is on the same time as winter time in Sydney, Australia, or Eastern Standard time in Australia.
It is not expected nor the custom to tip in Papua New Guinea. It is best to consult the local Tour guide before giving gifts or tips.
Please do not give gifts to individuals in villages. If you wish to do so ask your driver/guide to help you contact the Headman and leave your gifts with him or alternatively with the local Tour guide/myself who in turn will distribute same evenly amongst the people. Your understanding of this will help prevent turning the people and in particular the children of PNG into annoying beggars who are often found in other spoiled countries.
During your trip the driver/guides will make every effort to be of assistance. They are proud of their record and the contact and compliments from visitors. Remember, they are speaking in their third language, after their local language and Pidgin-English. Do ask them questions but try using an uncomplicated vocabulary and do not speak too quickly. They need not be treated patronizingly. You will find them friendly and helpful - refreshing and innocent compared to most places in the world.
Helpful tip when asking a question - to ensure a more accurate response, ask the question in such a way the response is not built into the question. Instead of "Is that a cockatoo?" Please ask "What kind of bird is that?" or in English or Pidgin, "What is the name of that bird?" Also should a guide offer you, with good intentions, artifacts or heirlooms to be mailed later, it is best to pass on the offer.
In most major centers, the public water supply is treated and is comparable to World Health Organization standards.