Papua New Guinea travel is a chance to visit the world’s second-largest island, although tourism is a bit iffy.
The island is located in the continent of Australia, specifically in the southwestern Pacific Ocean.
The island is divided between two countries: the western part belongs to Indonesia and is known as West Papua or Papua, while the eastern part is an independent country called Papua New Guinea.
Together, these two nations offer a diverse and captivating destination for travelers.
In this guide, I will give you some information to decide whether or not you even want to go there.
Papua New Guinea Travel – Introduction
Papua New Guinea is really beautiful. This vibrant culture featuring local tribes with diverse traditions lures visitors to interact with the friendly locals and engage in local village life and traditional ceremonies.
The thriving local markets offer the opportunity to witness local arts and crafts and purchase unique souvenirs such as tribal artifacts, masks, and textiles.
The country is known for its diverse festivals showcasing colorful costumes, music, and dance, including the popular Mount Hagen Cultural Show in August, attracting tribes from across the country.
For nature enthusiasts, the pristine rainforests teem with rare flora and fauna and trekking opportunities leading to stunning waterfalls, volcanic peaks, and remote villages.
There are also diving and surfing experiences along the Coral Triangle’s vibrant coral reefs and excellent marine biodiversity, which make Papua New Guinea a paradise.
Anglers have access to abundant fish species like marlin, tuna, and barramundi in pristine rivers and coastal waters with fishing charters and guided tours for unforgettable angling experiences.
The country has fewer than 200,000 visitors annually, which makes it an ideal destination for travelers seeking untouched landscapes, authentic cultural experiences, and interaction with locals, all away from the crowds.
Papua New Guinea provides a truly unique and fulfilling travel experience, whether exploring the culture, pursuing adventure activities, or connecting with nature.
What to Know Before Going
If you’re considering a trip to Papua New Guinea, it’s important to be aware of certain factors. First and foremost, most tourists believe this is a dangerous country.
Several countries, including the United States, have issued travel warnings due to concerns about the country’s high level of violent crime, slow police response times, and poor human rights records.
Papa New Guinea is a poor country, where the average salary is 1,554 PGK or about $450 US dollars. As a result, crime is high.
Foreign nationals, especially those from wealthier countries, can be targets for criminals. Over the years, many foreigners have been kidnapped, robbed at gunpoint, and so on.
That said, certain travelers are more at risk than others. For example, lone foreign females are advised against traveling alone in Port Moresby and certain parts of the Highlands region due to the increased risk of harassment and sexual assault.
LGBT travelers are also advised to avoid visiting Papua New Guinea entirely. The country criminalizes and prohibits homosexuality, with engaging in homosexual activities a potential sentence of up to 14 years imprisonment.
It is recommended to stay informed about the current situation and rely on qualified and experienced tour operators who have extensive knowledge of the country and its customs.
For added security, tourists have the option to hire private security companies or utilize other available security protection services during their stay in Papua New Guinea.
Now that those are out of the way let’s see some travel info.
How to Get There
Jacksons International Airport, commonly referred to as Port Moresby International Airport, is the main airport in the country.
This airport is about 5 miles (or 8 kilometers) outside of Port Moresby, the capital.
Flights to and from Australia are about $200 or more, whereas flights to Thailand are like $500.
Likewise, flights to and from India start at $750, and those to and from Europe start at $1,000.
Meanwhile, there are ferries from Port Moresby to the islands, and they tend to be about the same price.
For example, there are ferries from Thursday Island in Australia to Port Moresby, and they cost about $300.
Air transport is the primary mode of travel within Papua New Guinea (PNG) due to limited road connections.
Port Moresby lacks road links to other parts of the country, and other highways are in poor condition.
The Highlands Highway serves as a crucial route connecting cities such as Lae, Goroka, Mt Hagen, Mendi, and Porgera, but the long travel times make flying to the Highlands a preferred option.
So, yeah, you have some options.
Papua New Guinea boasts various beautiful places that are worth visiting. For instance, the Varirata National Park is a stunning park and garden that can be found outside the Papua New Guinean capital city of Port Moresby.
The Port Moresby Nature Park is another popular natural attraction that is situated in the heart of the city. It’s an ideal place to explore Papua New Guinea’s unique flora and fauna up close.
Also, in Port Moresby, there is the Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery, an invaluable repository of the country’s cultural heritage.
Heading to the islands, Kitava and Kiriwina are two of the Trobriand Islands located in Milne Bay Province, wherein lie charming pristine white sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lively coral reefs.
Kuk Swamp, an archaeological site in the Wahgi Valley, is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site but also a popular tourist destination, as visitors come to marvel at the site’s historical significance as one of the few places in the world where agriculture developed independently.
Overall, Papua New Guinea offers various tourist destinations that can take visitors’ breath away.
What to Eat
Papua New Guinean cuisine is characterized by its diversity and heavy reliance on traditional foods found locally, such as root crops, sago, and bananas.
Like many other cultures in the area, the diet is mostly vegetarian, particularly in the Gulf and Highlands regions, with meat and seafood served kind of rarely.
The Mumu is a common cooking technique using an earth oven that is still widely practiced throughout the country.
Kava and coffee are famous non-alcoholic beverages. The European invasion brought new culinary elements to the cuisine, and the influence of neighboring countries can also be observed.
Some popular dishes include Mumu, Chicken Pot, Kokoda, Saksak, and Dia.
There are a few places to enjoy a good meal.
“The Dirty Kitchen” is a restaurant in the capital renowned for its mouthwatering burgers, like half-pound hamburgers with special cheese sauce and semibrioche buns. They also serve Belhat Chicken and Dirty Beef burgers and Tex-Mex prawn tacos and offer custom fillings.
Port Terrace Restaurant & Bar is in the Crowne Plaza Residences in Port Moresby’s Central Business District or CBD. For lunch, quick bites like burrito bowls and Caesar salad are available.
Another place to consider is the Savannah Heights Bistro in Port Moresby. This restaurant offers a wide range of dishes, such as laksa and fried rice, and seafood selections, like lobster and prawns. It has a Chinese ambiance to it, and the tea served is fantastic. Plus, the balcony provides a beautiful view of the city and a refreshing breeze.
In conclusion, Papua New Guinea offers a unique and captivating travel experience for those seeking to explore untouched landscapes, immerse themselves in vibrant cultures, and connect with nature.
The country’s rich cultural heritage, showcased through traditional ceremonies, local markets, and diverse festivals, provides opportunities for visitors to engage with friendly locals and witness traditional arts and crafts.
Nature enthusiasts will be enchanted by the pristine rainforests, trekking opportunities, stunning waterfalls, and vibrant coral reefs, offering diving and surfing experiences.
Despite the country’s challenges, including safety concerns and limited infrastructure, travelers can make informed decisions by staying informed about the current situation, relying on experienced tour operators, and taking necessary security precautions.
With its breathtaking natural beauty and cultural richness, Papua New Guinea promises a fulfilling and unforgettable travel experience for those willing to venture off the beaten path.
AJ Paris is a travel photographer based in New York. He is the editor of Caravanzers.
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