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Papua New Guinea

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Quick Facts
CapitalPort Moresby
Governmentconstitutional monarchy with parliamentary democracy
Currencykina (PGK)
Areatotal: 462,840 sq km
land: 452,860 sq km
water: 9,980 sq km
Population5,172,033 (July 2002 est.)
LanguageEnglish spoken by 1%-2%, pidgin English widespread, Motu spoken in Papua region
note: 715 indigenous languages
ReligionRoman Catholic 22%, Lutheran 16%, Presbyterian/Methodist/London Missionary Society 8%, Anglican 5%, Evangelical Alliance 4%, Seventh-Day Adventist 1%, other Protestant 10%, indigenous beliefs 34%

Papua New Guinea is an island nation in Australasia.

papua new guinea Travel Guide :

Papua New Guinea


PNG has 11 regions (7 on the main island and 4 island regions):

  • BougainvilleBougainville
  • Highlands (Papua New Guinea)Highlands -- includes Enga, Chimbu and the Southern, Western and Eastern Highlands
  • Huon GulfHuon Gulf -- Morobe province
  • MadangMadang
  • Manus IslandManus Island
  • Milne Bay
  • New BritainNew Britain
  • New IrelandNew Ireland
  • Port Moresby (region)Port Moresby -- includes the city of Port Moresby and the Central and Northern provinces
  • SepikSepik -- includes the West and East Sepik provinces
  • South-western provinces (Papua New Guinea)South-western provinces -- includes the Western and Gulf provinces
Papua New Guinea


What Papua New Guinea lacks in a developed tourist infrastructure, it more than makes up for in, well, pretty much anything else. Typical highlights for the traveler include:

  • The capital city of Port MoresbyPort Moresby, with its interesting Zoological gardens, the Parliament building, the museum, and general Melanesian atmosphere.
  • The island of New BritainNew Britain, home of heart-rendingly beautiful diving and RabaulRabaul, the city at the foot of a volcano.
  • Mt. Hagen, the 'wild-west' frontier town in the Highlands which will introduce you to the cool, crisp highlands weather and Highlands culture
  • 'Beautiful MadangMadang' - a city with breath-taking flights of bats in the evening (it's illegal to hurt them), and yet more breathtaking diving.
  • WewakWewak, 'the gateway to the SepikSepik', where you can check out Sepik culture, the river itself, and the elaborate carvings typical of the region.
Papua New Guinea


Papua New Guinea (known popularly as 'PNG') - the eastern half of the island of New Guinea (which is the second largest island in the world) - was divided between Germany ('German New Guinea') and Great Britain ('British Papua') in 1884. Papua was owned by England but administered by Australia - and thus a colony of a colony - until Australian independence, when in 1906 it became an Australian colony. In 1914 the Australians did their part in the Allied war effort and took control of German New Guinea, and continued to administer it as a Trust Territory under the League of Nations and (later) the United Nations.

During World War II New Guinea was the site of fierce fighting on land (at Buin and on the Kokoda trail) and sea (at the Battle of the Coral Sea) - it was the first place in the war where the Japanese advance was checked and then reversed. After the war, both New Guinea and Papua were adminstered from the government center of Port Moresby on the south coast, in Papua. In 1975, the country - now united as 'Papua New Guinea' - achieved independence from Australia. Today Papua New Guinea continues to be the foremost country in Melanesia. The country struggles to fulfill the dreams of independence as economic stagnation, corruption, law and order problems, and a nine-year secessionist revolt on the island of BougainvilleBougainville.

Papua New Guinea offers the traveler a true paradox. With little to no tourist infrastructure, getting around can be tough. Illness and crime are also obviously a problem in a place without a well-developed healthcare system or a strong police force. But Papua New Guineans themselves are wonderfully welcome people who will go to great lengths to accommodate strangers. Don't be under any illusion - apart from a very few, very expensive package tours, PNG is 120% adventure travel and not for the inexperienced or faint of heart.

But then again, not every traveler is inexperienced or faint of heart, and for people who can make it out to PNG, the experience is unforgettable. PNG's incredible natural beauty is simply undescribable. Its unique flora and fauna includes enormous radiations of marsupials and birds, including the Raggiana bird-of-paradise (PNG's national symbol) and several species of tree kangaroos. Untouched coral reefs compete with spectacular WWII wrecks for the attention of divers, and the hiking is out of control.

The central highlands of Papua New Guinea were not mapped until the 1930s and not effectively brought under government control until the late 1960s. As a result, the people of PNG are even more interesting than the countryside. Papua New Guinea is a place that often markets itself as 'the Last Unknown' or a place where you can still find 'Stone Age People'. Of course, telling a Papua New Guinean that you consider them a stone age savage is incredibly rude. And while you can - if you try hard enough - find old men who remember the first time they or anyone in their society saw metal you'll also have trouble finding anyone who hasn't seem Titanic. Indeed, what makes Papua New Guinea so interesting today is not the fact that it is some sort of living museum, but its incredible dynamism. In the hundred-year shift from stone to steel to silicon, Papua New Guineans have turned the shortest learning curve in human history into one of the most colorful - and often idiosyncratic - experiments in modernity ever produced by human being. Featuring ritual garb made of human hair and rolled up Instant Noodle wrappers, rap in Pidgin English, or tribal warriors named 'Rambo' for their valor in combat, Papua New Guinea's collision with global culture has been intense and fascinating. So don't worry about the fate of 'traditional culture' - in the bar-room brawl between PNG and the global culture industry our biggest worry is keeping PNG from pummeling global culture to a pulp.

You should check it out.

Papua New Guinea

Get In

Papua New Guinea

By plane

Air Niugini ( flies to and from Cairns, Sydney, and Brisbane, Australia; Honiara, Solomon Islands; Manila, Philippines; and Singapore. Airlines of Papua New Guinea ( flies to and from Cairns.

Papua New Guinea

By boat

PNG's ports include MadangMadang, LaeLae, and Port MoresbyPort Moresby on the mainland, KietaKieta on Bougainville, and RabaulRabaul on New Britain.

Papua New Guinea

By land

The only land border is with Irian Jaya, Indonesia, and crossing it involves mountain climbing and trekking through the jungle.

Papua New Guinea

Get around

Papua New Guinea

By car

Papua New Guinea is a strange place when it comes to travel. The tropical conditions, fierce geography, and lack of government capacity means there sort of aren't any paved roads in the country. With the exception of a brief span of road connecting it to the immediate hinterland, there are no major roads linking Port Moresby to any other city. On the north coast, a tenuous highway theoretically runs from MadangMadang to WewakWewak.

The big exception to this is the Highlands HighwayHighlands Highway, which begins in LaeLae (the country's main port) and runs up into the highlands through GorokaGoroka to Mt. Hagen. Shortly outside Mt. Hagen the road branches, with southern line going through the Southern HighlandsSouthern Highlands to TariTari while the northern line runs through EngaEnga province and ends in PorgeraPorgera.

Papua New Guinea

By Public Motor Vehicles (PMV)

It is also possible to travel via bus/PMV, which is the preferred way of travelling by the locals. From Lae Madang, Goroka and Mount Hagen can easily be reached. As a newcomer it is probably adviseable to get help from locals (e.g. hotel-staff). Most towns have several starting points. A trip from Lae to Madang costs between 20 Kina, to Hagen 30 Kina.

Papua New Guinea

By plane

Papua New Guinea has historically been one of the world centers for aviation and still features some of the most spectacular flying in the world. In the 1920s, LaeLae was the busiest airport in the world - it was there that aviators in the gold mining industry first proved that it was commercially feasible to ship cargo (and not just people) by air. In fact, Lae was where Amelia Earhart set off on her last journey.

Air transport is still the most common way to get around between major urban centers - indeed, pretty much every major settlement is built around an airstrip. In fact, the main drag of Mt. Hagen is the old airstrip! Travel from the coast into the highlands is particularly spectacular (don't take your eyes off the window for a second!) and pilots from America, Australia, and other countries work in PNG at reduced salaries just for the great flying. If you don't like small planes (or even smaller helicopters!) however, flying in PNG may not be the best option for you.

Papua New Guinea

By boat

People living in PNG's archipelagos get around locally with the ubiquitous banana boat - a thirty or forty foot fiberglass hull with an outboard motor. In addition, two or three shipping lines also sell tickets for passengers who want to leapfrog from one city to another. Sleeping on the open deck of a ship as it crawls slowly through the South Pacific night is about as romantic as it sounds, but beware - it gets cold on the open ocean no matter where you are, so come with some warm clothes or buy a room indoor.

Papua New Guinea


With over 700 languages with names like Asaro, Gahuku, Tairora, and Podopa (or Folopa), it can be pretty difficult to get everyone talking to each other. Two pidgins grew up in this area, Tok Pisin and Hiri Motu, and when the Anglophones married the Hulis and the babies learned the only language they have in common, Tok Pisin became a creole. Tok Pisin sometimes looks like it's English written phonetically ("Yu dring, yu draiv, yu dai"), but it isn't; it has more personal pronouns than English and its own quite different syntax.

Tok Pisin is spoken in most of the country. 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.

Papua New Guinea


Papua New Guinea


PNG 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.

Papua New Guinea


Papuans are fond of their local beers - or indeed any beers for that matter.

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.

Papua New Guinea


Papua New Guinea


Papua New Guinea has two daily newspapers that include up-to-date exchange rates and other important information:

Papua New Guinea


There are many great books about Papua New Guinea, including great fiction as well as non-fiction. The best book for the general reader about Papua New Guinea is Sean Dorney's Papua New Guinea: People, Politics, and History Since 1975. The third ion is the best, but it's pretty hard to find outside of Australia (and is not that easy to find there). The best, and currently only travel guide book to PNG is the Lonely Planet Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea


Papua New Guinea

Stay safe

PNG has a reputation as a risky destination in some circles. This is due predominantly to the activities of criminal gangs (known in Tok Pisin as raskols) in major cities, especially in Port Moresby. Raskolism is generally a result of unemployment stemming from increased domestic migration from subsistence farming in the hills to the nearest urban area. Some towns in the highlands, such as Tari, are in fact effectively lawless as the police presence has been discontinued.

If you are planning a trip to PNG, the most important thing is to stay up to date on the law and order situation in the locations you are planning to visit. Most hotels in Port Moresby are secure and situated inside compounds, generally with armed guards patrolling the perimeter. Don't be alarmed, as actual gunfire in the capital is mercifully rare. If planning on taking a tour of any city, make inquiries with your hotel or accommodation provider, as many will be able to drive you to wherever you are planning to go, or just around the local area if that is what you want to do.

Stay very alert after dark if you are outside a compound, which is somewhere you should only be in the rarest circumstances.

Female travellers should take extra precautions, although reports vary as to whether the capital or regional centres are safer for solo female travellers.

Papua New Guinea

Stay healthy

Tap water in some regions can be unsafe to drink. If in doubt, ask a local.

Malaria can be a hazard as well, although many villages - particularly those connected to industry - are regularly treated for mosquitos. Take the normal precautions against mosquito and mosquito-borne diseases if in doubt.

Papua New Guinea


As in many Melanesian cultures, greeting people with a friendly handshake is very important. Be aware, however, that it is a sign of respect not to make eye contact when this is being done. The sight of hotel staff calling you by name, shaking your hand and looking respectfully at the floor is an unusual one at first, but one you will soon get used to.

Papua New Guinea


Papua New Guinea

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