Rabaul

Travel Guide Oceania Melanesia Papua New Guinea New Britain Rabaul

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Introduction

Rabaul is a town in East New Britain province, on the island of New Britain, in the country of Papua New Guinea. New Britain is an island about 60 kilometres to the east of the island of New Guinea. Rabaul was the provincial capital and most important settlement in the province until it was destroyed in 1994 by falling ash of a volcanic eruption. During the eruption, ash was sent thousands of metres into the air and the subsequent rain of ash caused 80% of the buildings in Rabaul to collapse. After the eruption the capital was moved to Kokopo, about 20 kilometres away. Rabaul is continually threatened by volcanic activity due to having been built on the edge of Rabaul caldera, a flooded caldera of a large pyroclastic shield.

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Sights and Activities

As a tourist destination, Rabaul is popular for scuba diving and for snorkelling sites and also offers a spectacular harbour. Because of its war-time history it attracts many Japanese visitors.

  • Bitapaka War Cemetery - Maintained by the Australian War Graves Commission this is the final resting place for servicemen from many countries who died in WWII. There is also a Japanese War Memorial at a former sea-plane base.
  • Japanese Tunnels - There are around 700 kilometres of tunnels in the hills that surround Rabaul's Simpson Harbour. Accommodation, hospitals and hiding places for barges were built in them. Some of the barges can still be seen in tunnels at Karavia.
  • General Yamamoto’s Bunker - The General led the Japanese South Pacific campaign. He was eventually shot down by the Americans after flying out of Rabaul on an inspection tour to the Solomon Islands. You can visit his underground command post.
  • Kokopo War and Cultural Museum - Good collection of Japanese vehicles, munitions and other relics.
  • OISCA Botanical Garden - Half an hour by good road from Kokopo at Warongoi. Great place for butterflies
  • Volcano Observatory (where the road from Kokopo veers right to become Rabaul's main street, instead turn left. After a few hundred metres, where the road just starts to descend towards the other coast, there is a very narrow paved road on the right, next to a white cross. Drive carefully to the top of this road.). The observatory's work in keeping watch on the volcanos was the reason why no one died in the 1994 eruption. There is a lookout here with a great view over the town, bay, and volcano. Free.
  • Mount Tavurvur and hot springs (drive down Mango Ave, turn left at the Travelodge intersection, after a few hundred metres, turn right at the white cross, a bit further on, veer left at a cross, then just follow the road towards the volcano). At the end of the road is a parking lot where you pay. You can take a look at the hot springs (don't fall in, they're deadly) and get a really good view of the volcano and the ash deposits. Locals will be selling handicrafts. Climbs start from here. K5.

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Events and Festivals

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.

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Getting There

By Plane

Air Niugini has daily flights from the nation's capital, Port Moresby, as well as flights from Lae, Kavieng, Hoskins in West New Britain, Buka in Bougainville and other locations in PNG. Rabaul Airport was completely destroyed in the 1994 eruption as it was in direct path of the falling ash from the nearby vents. The airport was later rebuilt at Tokua to the southeast, but this has also occasionally been closed by ashfall from continuing volcanic activity. Despite its new location the airport continues to use the three-letter code RAB. On arrival, you can get collected by your accommodation - but be aware of fees, often K40 or more - or get a taxi for a similar cost, or, if you're on a tight budget, get the public minibuses into Kokopo for K2. Many hotels are walking distance from the bus route and you can even connect to the 1A bus to Rabaul. On departure, the airport is horrible, very hot with insufficient seating, one small shop that doesn't even sell water, and the only working toilets are in the departure lounge, which you can't access until shortly before the flight. You still want to check in 1.5-2 hours ahead to avoid being bumped, but come prepared.

By Boat

There are several vessels that connect Lae with Rabaul, with intermediate stops. Some of these carry passengers.

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Getting Around

Tours can be organised by any of the hotels, for land (war sites, volcano) or sea (diving, Duke of York Islands). They are a great way to see everything but are expensive unless you have a big group - think minimum K700 per car.

By Car

Hire cars are available from hotels and companies. They are expensive - with base costs of maybe K240 per day plus a mileage fee and petrol, you could spend K400 on a day trip to Rabaul from Kokopo. The traffic is pretty relaxed but some of the Kokopo-Rabaul Road is badly damaged by mudslides and some of the side roads are rough - 4WD might be advisable.

By Public Transport

Buses ferry locals around for 80t for short trips. The 1A bus runs between Kokopo and Rabaul in about 40 minutes for K3.50 (K5 if it's raining as they take a longer but less muddy route) - between the 1A and walking, you could see some of the attractions quite cheaply.

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Eat

Kai bars and chicken shops abound in the towns. Lots of fruit is available from markets and supermarkets. The resorts generally have decent restaurants overlooking the sea. Seafood is obviously the most reliable dish. The Rabaul Hotel has the Phoenix Room, a striking dining room with Chinese, local and colonial decor, but with lacklustre Chinese food.

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Sleep

  • Rabaul Hotel, Rabaul, ☎ +675 982 1999. The Rabaul Hotel is situated 45 minutes from the Tokua Airport. Featuring 34 hotel rooms and catering for all budgets, the hotel's atmosphere reflects a blend of Rabaul culture (the Tolai people), and its more recent Chinese and Australian influences. The Hotel is within walking distance to the markets, historical sites, and is just 20 metres from the bus stop providing direct access to the surrounding attractions. It caters to business travellers or visitors with a special interest in war history, volcanoes, indigenous culture, the islands, diving, fishing, trekking or golf.
  • New Rabaul Guest House, Wharf St., Rabaul, ✉ isimarine@daltron.com.pg.
  • Kokopo Beach Hotel, Pockley Rd, Kokopo, ✉ taklam@daltron.com.pg.
  • Kokopo Resort Hotel, ☎ +675 982 9096, fax: +675 982 9061, ✉ kvr@global.net.pg. Good quality accommodation in the center of Kokopo.
  • Rapopo Plantation Resort, ☎ +675 982 9489, ✉ reservations@rapopo.com.
  • Kokopo Beach Bungalow Resort. Beachside resort but a short walk to the central banks and a supermarket. K550+.

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Keep Connected

Internet

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.

Phone

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

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.

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Rabaul Travel Helpers

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This is version 6. Last edited at 14:07 on May 28, 19 by Utrecht. 6 articles link to this page.

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