Papua New Guinea

Travel Guide Oceania Melanesia Papua New Guinea



Huli Man with Bird Of Paradise Head Dress

Huli Man with Bird Of Paradise Head Dress

© japaine

Papua New Guinea has a remarkably wide appeal, perhaps wider than any other country: its diving rivals the best of the Caribbean; its wild, unobstructed inland wilderness is perfect hiking ground for any intrepid adventurer; ecotourists are astounded by the wealth of plant life, numbered at some 9,000 species; bird lovers are equally astounded by the 700 species of birds; and linguists could find no better source of inspiration than Papua New Guinea, a country with more than 750 languages.

Why, then, has Papua New Guinea not rocked to the fore of the tourist world? A bad reputation earned through violent clashes in sun-blessed Bougainville is accented by the rampant crime so prevalent in Port Moresby. Nature hasn't exactly lent its helping hand in recent years either, first burying Rabaul in the volcanic outpourings of Tuvurvur in 1994 and then hitting hard again in 1998 with a triad of hurricanes destroying villages along the northwest coast.



Brief History

Human remains have been found which have been dated to about 50,000 years ago. These ancient inhabitants probably had their origins in Southeast Asia, themselves originating in Africa 50,000 to 70,000 years ago. New Guinea was one of the first landmasses after Africa and Eurasia to be populated by modern humans, with the first migration at approximately the same time as that of Australia. Little was known in the West about the island until the nineteenth century, although traders from Southeast Asia had been visiting New Guinea as long as 5,000 years ago collecting bird of paradise plumes, and Spanish and Portuguese explorers had encountered it as early as the sixteenth century (1526 and 1527 Dom Jorge de Meneses). The northern half of the country came into German hands in 1884 as German New Guinea.

During World War I, it was occupied by Australia, which had begun administering British New Guinea, the southern part, as the re-named Papua in 1904. After World War I, Australia was given a mandate to administer the former German New Guinea by the League of Nations. Papua, by contrast, was deemed to be an External Territory of the Australian Commonwealth, though as a matter of law it remained a British possession, an issue which had significance for the country's post-Independence legal system after 1975. Peaceful independence from Australia, the de facto metropolitan power, occurred on September 16, 1975, and close ties remain (Australia remains the largest bilateral aid donor to Papua New Guinea).

A secessionist revolt in 1975-76 on Bougainville Island resulted in an eleventh-hour modification of the draft Constitution of Papua New Guinea to allow for Bougainville and the other eighteen districts of pre-Independence Papua New Guinea to have quasi-federal status as provinces. The revolt recurred and claimed 20,000 lives from 1988 until it was resolved in 1997. Following the revolt, Autonomous Bougainville elected Joseph Kabui as president, but he was succeeded by deputy John Tabinaman. Tabinaman remained leader until a new popular election occurred in December 2008, with James Tanis emerging as the winner. Anti-Chinese rioting, involving tens of thousands of people, broke out in May 2009.




At 462,840 km2, Papua New Guinea is the world's fifty-fourth largest country. Including all its islands, it lies between latitudes 0° and 12°S, and longitudes 140° and 160°E. The country's geography is diverse and, in places, extremely rugged. A spine of mountains, the New Guinea Highlands, runs the length of the island of New Guinea, forming a populous highlands region mostly covered with tropical rainforest, and the long Papuan Peninsula, known as the 'Bird's Tail'. Dense rainforests can be found in the lowland and coastal areas as well as very large wetland areas surrounding the Sepik and Fly rivers. This terrain has made it difficult for the country to develop transportation infrastructure. In some areas, airplanes are the only mode of transport.[citation needed] The highest peak is Mount Wilhelm at 4,509 metres. Papua New Guinea is surrounded by coral reefs which are under close watch, in the interests of preservation. The country is situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire, at the point of collision of several tectonic plates. There are a number of active volcanoes, and eruptions are frequent. Earthquakes are relatively common, sometimes accompanied by tsunamis. The mainland of the country is the eastern half of New Guinea island, where the largest towns are also located, including the capital Port Moresby and Lae; other major islands within Papua New Guinea include New Ireland, New Britain, Manus and Bougainville. Papua New Guinea is one of the few regions close to the equator that experience snowfall, which occurs in the most elevated parts of the mainland.




The country can be divided into 9 regions:

  • Southern Papua New Guinea - This region covers the National Capital District of Port Moresby and the Central and Northern provinces. The starting point for all visits to Papua New Guinea.
  • Western Papua New Guinea - The Western and Gulf provinces. Fascinating but little visited provinces. Birdwatchers' paradise.
  • Madang-Morobe - Madang has volcanic islands and good diving, while Morobe is beginning of the Highlands Highway and an original Gold Rush area
  • Highlands - Consist of Enga Province, Chimbu Province and the Southern, Western and Eastern Highlands, amazing culture and the rare tribal fight
  • Sepik - The Sandaun (West Sepik) and East Sepik provinces and the mighty Sepik river.
  • Milne Bay - The eastern region with many fascinating islands, like the Trobriand Islands.
  • New Britain - New Britain still has many visible ruins from World War II, above and below water.
  • New Ireland and Manus - Consisting of New Ireland and Manus; Land of the country's first human settlements. Fishing, diving, sailing and surfing, plus interesting culture.
  • Bougainville - An autonomous island region, culturally and geographically more akin to the Solomon Islands




  • Port Moresby - The capital
  • Alotau - laid-back capital of Milne Bay province and gateway to some fascinating but remote islands
  • Goroka - an attractive highland town with pleasant climate and the annual Goroka Show, centre of the country's coffee industry
  • Daru
  • Wewak - the gateway to the Sepik river, where you can experience Sepik culture, the river itself, and the elaborate carvings typical of the region
  • Madang - a beautiful city with breathtaking flights of bats in the evening (it is illegal to hurt them), and even more breathtaking diving
  • Rabaul - the city at the foot of an active volcano which was evacuated and severely damaged by a major eruption in 1994
  • Kimbe - New Britain
  • Kieta
  • Lae - the country's second city, main commercial centre and gateway to the highlands
  • Kavieng
  • Mount Hagen - the 'wild-west' frontier town in the Highlands, which will introduce you to the cool, crisp Highlands weather and Highlands culture
  • Vanimo - the border town if you want to make you way to or from the province of Papua in neighbouring Indonesia; popular surfing destination



Sights and Activities

Isolated Cultures

The Dance

The Dance

© andrewpbc

Papua New Guinea is one of the most heterogeneous countries in the world. Due to the geography of the island with high isolated mountain valleys led to the formation of hundreds of individually distinct cultures. As an example on this island there are over 820 indigenous languages, representing 12% of the world's total. The only country with a greater density of languages is Vanuatu. In order to see some of these remote peoples takes time and resources and well worth it.

Bird Watching

There is over 781 species of birds on Papua New Guinea that are amazing to spot. The most famous birds in Papua New Guinea are the stunning birds-of-paradise. These birds are known for their striking plumages possessed by the males. In the majority of this species the males have extremely elaborate feathers extending from the tail, wings and even head. The plumes are used to court female that have much more mundane feathers. On top of this many of the males actually build extremely elaborate nests also. Of the 44 species of birds-of-paradise 35 can be found in Papua New Guinea.


Dense forests and mountains cover most of Papua New Guinea. The Ekuti Mountain range is one of the most remote places in the world and is truly amazing. These stunning mountains cut through the clouds and slowly descend to the ocean where the woods turn into dense rain forest and jungle. Exploring this country by hiking is very difficult although possible and rewarding.


If planned properly surfing can be enjoyed year round in Papua New Guinea. The southern side of island has some great surfing from June to September especially at Hula Beach about 100 kilometres from Port Moresby, Milne Bay, Bougainville and East New Britain. On the north side of the island one can enjoy surfing from mid October to lat April at Madang, Wewak and Kavieng. There is also good consistent waves can be found in Vanimo.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Diving - Explore the underwater world with some of the best diving the world espicially around Kavieng, Madang, Alotau and Rabaul.
  • Markets - Go shopping at traditional markets for food and traditional arts and crafts



Events and Festivals

Mt Hagen Show

No other attraction or event puts Papua New Guinea’s magnificent culture on show than the Mt Hagen Show. First held in the 1950s, this event takes place every July at the Kagamuga Show Grounds. Mt Hagen comes alive with thousands of performers, while spectators come to marvel at the dancing, music, and colorful atmosphere.

Tumbuan Mask Festival

First beginning in 1995, the Tumbuan Mask Festival puts the ever-impressive mask making culture of PNG into the spotlight. Rabaul, the largest city’s island region, hosts this festival for three days each July.

Crocodile Festival

Held in the region of East Sepik, this fascinating festival celebrates the significance of crocodiles to PNG. The Sepik River, one of the region’s purest waterways, is home to a plethora of saltwater and freshwater crocodile communities. The Crocodile Festival takes place over two days in August, and aims to highlight the conservation needs of the stunning but scary reptile.

Enga Cultural Show

Enga Province is rich in cultural splendor, and tourists should not miss the Enga Cultural Show if in the PNG in August. Visitors get an insight into local culture through dance performances, music, arts and crafts workshops, and ritual performances, all held within the Enga Show Grounds.

Goroka Show

For three days in September, Goroka hosts one of the largest events in Papua New Guinea’s calendar. Established in the 1950s, the Goroka Show draws in more than 140,000 people every year. Kundu drums can be heard throughout the event, and thousands of dancers throng to the beat.

Hiri Moale Festival

Used to commemorate the traditional trading routes between several south-west villages, the Hiri Moale Festival takes place within the city of Port Moresby, especially around Ela Beach and the Sir Hubert Murray Stadium. Music, canoe racing, dances, and an arts and crafts competition make up most of the September activities.

Morobe Province Agricultural Show

This interesting show takes place within the city of Lae, Papua New Guinea’s second-most populated urban area. A range of agriculture and agriculture-related displays can be enjoyed at the event, including poultry, traditional architecture, rural subsistence farming displays, and school group exhibits. The festival is held across three days in September.

Papua New Guinea Arts and Cultural Festival

Held over two days in November, the Papua New Guinea Arts and Cultural Festival is a national celebration of the country’s vast cultural make-up. A host of traditional performances, dance, and music are complemented by modern displays, as local artists also get an opportunity to share their talents. The celebration is centered around the Port Moresby’s Sir John Guise Stadium.




Most of Papua New Guinea has a hot and humid tropical climate. Average daytime temperatures in the lowlying areas hoover around 30 °C during the day and 23 °C or 24 °C at night. Temperatures and humidity are about the same in most areas at sea level, including the outer islands. There is however much more variation regarding rain. While Port Moresby, the capital, has a distinct wet season from December to April, some places more to the east like Kieta on Bougainville don't have a wetter (or drier) season. In fact, the driest months here are still wetter than the wettest in Port Moresby and there is almost no variation with 200 to 300 mm each month. At higher altitudes temperatures can drop significantly and there are often cloudy and rainy conditions throughout the year. There is even a bit of permanent snow on the highest peaks, right at the equator.



Getting there


Most flights arrive at Jacksons International Airport near the capital Port Moresby. The national airlines is Air Niugini, which has connections to many international destinations including Hong Kong, Manila, Tokyo and Singapore in Asia, Sydney, Cairns and Brisbane in Australia and Nadi and Honiara in the Pacific. Air Niugini's code share partner is Qantas. Virgin Australia International flies from Brisbane to Port Moresby.

By Boat

If you are coming the Solomon Islands, it is possible to make your way by boat from the Western Province to Bougainville in Papua New Guinea.
Plenty of cargoships, cruiseliners and yachts go to and from Papua New Guinea, but it's a more expensive option compared to getting here by plane. The P&O cruise line stops six times a year at Kiriwina, Trobriand Islands.



Getting Around

By Plane

Air Niugini and Airlines PNG operate an extensive network of domestic flights. Destinations include Port Moresby, Lae, Madang and Mount Hagen, as well as some more remote islands.

By Train

There are no trains in Papua New Guinea.

By Car

Apart from some roads around Port Moresby, there is a network of roads connecting the northern coast towns of Madang and Lae with the major urban centres in the Highlands region. However, links between several provinces in the interior are missing and many roads are in bad condition, if they do exist at all. Traffic drives on the left and you can rent cars in several major cities and towns (Avis, Hertz and Budget have offices), although it is not recommended and costs are high. Your national driver's licence will be sufficient. Be careful when you have an accident, as it has happened that relatives of the local victim killed the driver.

By Bus

Public Motor Vehicles (PMV) are your main option if travelling overland between several cities and towns. From Lae, Madang, Goroka and Mount Hagen can easily be reached.

By Boat

Passenger ships, freighters, charters, outboard dingies and canoes all offer links between several ports and islands. It is cheap, though sometimes can be uncomfortable. On the rivers, you might be able to hire a motorised canoe, but regular passenger services don't exist on rivers.

The main operators along the north coast and to the islands are Lutheran Shipping ([email protected]) and Rabaul Shipping ([email protected]). Lutheran Shipping is based in Lae and operates most passenger ships along the north coast. The ships usually run at least weekly from Lae to Oro Bay, Finschhafen, Madang, Kimbe and Rabaul. From Rabaul there are regular boats to Kavieng and Manus. Be very flexible, as departures are usually only known about one month before and not entirely sure still. Some boats carry both cargo and passengers. There is tourist class air-conditioned seating and berths and deck class which usually include air-vented seats and berths. Bring as much drinks and food as possible, as supplies are usually scarce and not very diverse. Opt for tourist class if you can spare the extra buck, as deck class gets crowded sometimes. Be prepared for long journeys and sometimes rough seas.



Red Tape

Everyone needs a visa to enter Papua New Guinea, but a 60-day visa on arrival is available to all EU/EFTA citizens and to citizens of Andorra, Argentina, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Fiji, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Kiribati, Macau, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Monaco, Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Peru, Philippines, Samoa, San Marino, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Tonga, Tuvalu, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu and Vatican City. Citizens of other countries need to obtain advance visas from the nearest PNG diplomatic mission.

The immigration authorities will allow visa on arrival only for stays longer than 8 hours, so in case of a short stop off between flights, you might not be permitted to leave the airport.




See also Money Matters

The kina (code: PGK) is the currency of Papua New Guinea and divided into 100 toea.

Banknotes come in denominations of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 kina.




Tok Pisin is spoken in most of the country and short, inexpensive guidebooks on learning Tok Pisin can be acquired in the many book stores.

Hiri Motu is spoken in Port Moresby and other parts of Papua, though since Port Moresby is the capital, you're likely to find Tok Pisin speakers in the airport, banks, or government. When approaching locals, try to speak English first; using Tok Pisin or another language can make it look like you are assuming they don't know English.

You might sometimes have trouble hearing what the locals are saying because they speak very quietly. It is considered rude by some of the local groups to look people in the eyes and to speak loudly.




The food is largely devoid of spices. A typical way of cooking is a Mumu, an underground oven in which meat and vegetables, such as Kaukau (sweet potatoes), are cooked. In just about every meal, there is rice and another form of starch.




Papua New Guinea offers a wide choice of accommodation for tourists with very little of it budget. Hotels are very expensive (more than $100/night). Guesthouses are the best budget option in the towns but even then still expensive (about $40/night.) The least expensive option is to stay in village guesthouses (about $15/night). Religious groups also offer accommodations.

Port Moresby has international hotels including the Crowne Plaza and Airways International, mid range hotels such as Lamana and guesthouses. The regional areas offer International and budget hotels depending on the size of the town and some provinces have guest houses. There is a new eco-tourist lodge in Alotau called Ulumani Treetops Lodge, the place is beautiful overlooking the Milne Bay and offers a new bungalow or backpacker options.




There are brands of local beer. The local brew, SP (short for South Pacific) Lager, is owned by Heineken. While the water quality varies from place to place (and in some cases from day to day), it is generally best to stick to bottled water, even in the upper-market hotels.




See also Travel Health

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Papua New Guinea. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Papua New Guinea) where that disease is widely prevalent.

It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Papua New Guinea. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and when travelling longer than 2 weeks also typhoid. Vaccination against hepatitis B and tuberculosis are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months. In rare cases, vaccinations against Japanese Encephalitis is recommended. Contact your doctor before travelling.

Malaria is widely prevalent in the country, so take the appropriate malaria pills, sleep under a mosquito net, use insect repellent and wear long sleeves after dark. Dengue sometimes occurs as well, but there is no vaccination.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.




See also Travel Safety

The country has a reputation as a risky destination in some circles (primarily Australian ones), predominantly because of the activities of criminal gangs (known in Tok Pisin as raskols) in major cities, especially in Port Moresby and Lae.

Port Moresby is not considered a safe city. It is not safe to walk around after dark or explore some of the poorer areas during the day time.
Most hotels in Port Moresby are secure and situated inside compounds, generally with guards patrolling the perimeter. However, actual gunfire in the capital is mercifully rare. If you plan on taking a tour of any city, make inquiries with your hotel or accommodation provider, as many will be able to either walk with you or drive you to wherever you are planning to go, or just around the local area if that is what you want to do.

There are also several active volcanos on the islands that occasionally have dangerous eruptions. Tropical storms can also cause massive damage to the islands coastline every few years.

The villages are quite safe as the locals will "adopt" you as one of their own. If you must, the most important thing is to stay up to date on the law and order situation in the locations you are planning to visit.



Keep Connected


Internet usage among the people is relatively low. You can find internet cafes in major cities, towns and other tourist centers. Wifi coverage is still very low, but is growing.


See also International Telephone Calls

Papua New Guinea's international country code is 675.

Digicel is by far the better telecom provider. A new prepaid sim card is easy to purchase and can be used in any unlocked phone. Calls cost from 0.60-1.00 kina and SMS from 0.25 kina. Topup is available anywhere where there is network and also online (credit card or PayPal). Mobile Internet costs 0.35 kina per MB but it's possible to buy hourly (30 MB for 1 kina), daily (60 MB for 2.5 kina), weekly (150 MB for 10 kina) or monthly (900 MB for 65 kina) packages. There are also promotions and packages for calls and sms.


Post PNG offers postal service in the country. It is only recommended to use for sending postcards, as it is not very reliable nor fast. To send packages overseas, use international courier companies like FedEx, DHL or UPS.


Quick Facts

Papua New Guinea flag

Map of Papua New Guinea


Port Moresby
Constitutional Monarchy with Parliamentary Democracy
Christianity (Catholic, Protestant)
Hiri Motu, Tok Pisin, English
Calling Code
Papua New Guinean
Local name
Papua Niugini


as well as Lavafalls (11%), berner256 (3%), Peter (2%), hasbeen (<1%)

Papua New Guinea Travel Helpers

  • cassarina

    I know mainly about the highlands of inner Papua New Guinea, Lae, Mt. Hagen and Port Moresby. If you have any questions, feel free to ask, and I will help you to the best of my knowledge :)

    Ask cassarina a question about Papua New Guinea

    hi again

    Before coming to Port Vila, I lived in PNG for some 20 years, so I know that adventurous place quite well!!!!.If you need any information on the Land of the Unexpected, then send me an email


    Ask RASPUTIN a question about Papua New Guinea

Accommodation in Papua New Guinea

Explore your accommodation options in Papua New Guinea

This is version 40. Last edited at 11:47 on May 29, 19 by Utrecht. 46 articles link to this page.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content of this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License