I’ve only met a handful of people who’ve been to this fascinating country. This could be due to several different factors, such as a lack of interest, lack of information and infrastructure in the country itself. Or just because of the bad reputation, like cannibals and it being extremely dangerous. One thing is for sure, this is not the place to be if you want to sip on Pina coladas on the beach. So why go? Because no other place will you find the diversity of bird species, a country so unexplored and mysterious. It’s worth every penny, and you will be left with amazement over the stunning scenery, and the colorful culture. With all places that lacks information, you should sit down and do some research. Here are my 17 must-know before visiting Papua New Guinea.
- Papua New Guinea is expensive. There is no way around it. The lack of public transportation, means internal flights. Tour operators and travel agency cost a lot of money, often food is included with accommodation. Yes you can try to arrange a tour with locals, but too many times have tourists been stood up, or they took the money for themselves unwilling to share with their village. But there are ways to make it cheaper.
- You will need a VISA, this can be arranged at the airport. We read it would take a lot of time, cost 35 USD, and that you would have to pay a departure fee. It went smoothly for us. We didn’t arrange a visa beforehand, and neither did we pay a arrival or departure fee. I can imagine this is something that varies on the person behind the counter. We we’re lucky I guess.
- Plan ahead when and where you want to go. You can’t wing it in PNG. Due to a lack of infrastructure, this is incredibly hard. Flights only leave on certain days, for example a flight to Tufi only fly on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, often only once a day. There is also a weight restriction. The norm is 10-16kgs. They didn’t really check this or didn’t care, because we both had more than 17kgs in our luggage. But I can imagine if you meet the wrong person on the wrong day, it will cost a whole bunch of $$, if you have overweight.
- Port Moresby is your first port of embarkation when entering the country. It’s wise to spend your first and your last night here, this way you have an extra day in case anything should go wrong or you miss your flight. Or if you land in the country a day before your next flight. I can’t stress enough how important it is to plan before coming here.
- Be flexible with your traveling dates. PNG is not a country you can rush your way through or island hop. Again, the lack of infrastructure makes this incredibly hard.
- Don’t go seeking adventure in the jungle by yourself. GPS don’t work, it’s incredibly dangerous and if you end up in the wrong territory it can end up badly. The majority of the citizens live in villages and tribes, and there are on going conflict between some of the tribes. Most conflicts get solved by communicating, but fighting do happen. Don’t be that idiot we read about in the newspaper, who ignored the warnings and ended up dead.
- This should be a rule wherever you go, but try to avoid conflict. Papua New Guinea is not like most places. You can’t just call the police and expect them to solve the issue. 1. It will take forever for them to come. 2. Eye for an eye. If there is a conflict they will solve it then and there. This is where it can get ugly. We heard crazy stories about some poor fellow who got his home burned down.
- If you are prone to mosquito bites, cover up and lather up in mosquito repellent. We used the brand Bushman with 80% deet that we picked up in Australia. I still got bit at least 5 times a day. The mozzies are huge, and the bites can sting. If you tend to swell, I suggest bringing some anti histamines, and some tiger balm to rub over the bites. This really helped me.
- And this leaves me to the second point of wearing mosquito repellent. Malaria and Dengue. Yes there is both Malaria and Dengue. Getting Malaria isn’t dangerous in areas where you can seek medical attention. But there are few hospitals here, so talk to your doctor about what kind of preventative medication you can use. We used Malarone, one day before entering the country, every day while there and 14 days after leaving the country. Should you get bitten, this will help fight the infection, but if you still feel ill, seek medical attention. When in doubt, go to the doctor. No need to get paranoid, but beware of symptoms. I’ll attach a link here, so you can read about what symptoms to look after in case you do get bit, and start feeling ill.
- You need a yellow fever vaccination before entering the country, and a vaccination card to show upon arrival, in case asked.
- Cover up when walking on the streets, mostly your legs. Shorts and skirts should be knee-lenght or below. PNG is a male-dominated country. Dressing provocative will draw unwanted attention. That also goes for flashy items. Refrain from wearing items that make you look like you’re rich. In a country where most are poor, you are asking for trouble.
- Avoid going out after sunset and alone. Especially on Fridays as this day is payday. The men often gather in larger groups to drink and munch on beetlenut. If you absolutely have to go alone, bring an escort. This also goes for the ATM. If you need to withdraw large amounts do it at the airport or bring an escort. Better safe then sorry.
- Tufi resort is currently one of the more affordable resorts in PNG. Also one of the only resorts that arrange overnight village stays, where villagers still dress in traditional clothing. Now almost everyone in PNG dress in modern clothes, if this is a dream of yours, you should jump on the opportunity, before they decide to leave the old ways behind.
- You won’t see people walking around in traditional clothing, and body paint like seen in pictures. The paint and masks you might have seen, are during Sing Sing. The annual Sing sing is held in Mount Hagan, in July and August, for 3 weeks. The different tribes come together for a spectacular and colorful show. This is also extremely expensive, but they say it’s a out-of-this-world experience. Book your stay early, tickets goes fast.
- Plan ahead activities and festivals, like the sing sing in Mt. Hagan. We didn’t have the opportunity to come during the annual show, but were lucky enough to stay with a resort who helped arrange a private Sing Sing. We payed 500 pkn in total, and the money goes to the village. You can see the pictures from the Haliku tribe here.
- Don’t take taxis. There is a big chance they will drive off and rob you. Always arrange a trip with the hotel taxi, or a trusted driver recommended by the hotel.
- The red between the teeth is caused by the beetlenut. Beetlenut is the seed of the Areca nut, and grows in the tropical Pacific, Southeast, South East Asia and Africa. Chewing the beetlenut can make your mouth and lips turn red, and it gives a stimulating effect, like a high. It’s highly addictive, it destroys your teeth and gums. But due to lack of knowledge, children down to the age of 6 are given their first taste.
There you have it, if there is anything else you would want me to add to the list or you disagree with, let me know. It’s a lot to take in, but don’t let this scare you away from a visit. It’s an amazing and exotic country, and I loved every bit. I never felt scared, or in any kind of danger. Come with an open mind, and get ready to explore. May that be diving, bird watching, sunrise gazing or indulging in culture, you will be left with stories to last you a lifetime.