Asia and Oceania

Papua New Guinea Flag of Papua New Guinea

Still current at: 10 June 2008
Updated: 22 May 2008

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Health section (prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Papua New Guinea). The overall level of the advice has not changed. 

(see travel advice legal disclaimer)

 

Travel advice for this country


Travel Summary

  • Law and order remains poor or very poor in many parts of the country, armed carjackings, assaults, robbery, shootings and serious sexual offences, including rape, are common.  We advise you to be extra vigilant whilst travelling in all cities, particularly during the hours of darkness.  See the Crime section of this advice for more details.

  • Outbreaks of tribal fighting may occur without warning in the Highland Provinces in particular in the Southern and Western Highlands and Enga Provinces.

  • The tropical cyclone season in Papua New Guinea normally runs from November to May. The severe flood damage caused by Cyclone Guba in November 2007 continues to affect travel in and around the Oro Province. See the Local Travel and Natural Disasters sections of this advice and  Hurricanes  for more details.

  • Papua New Guinea sits along a volatile seismic strip called the “Ring of Fire” in the Pacific.  Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis are possible.  See the Natural Disasters section of this advice for more details.

  • There is a low threat from terrorism.  But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

  • Around 1,500 British nationals visit Papua New Guinea each year (Source: Papua New Guinea Tourism Office).  Most visits are trouble free.  The main type of incident for which British nationals required consular assistance in Papua New Guinea in 2007 were for replacing lost and stolen passports.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.  See the General (Insurance) section of this advice and Travel Insurance for more details.

Safety and security

Terrorism

There is a low threat from terrorism.  But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.  For further information see Terrorism Abroad.
 
Crime
 
Serious crime is particularly high in the capital, Port Moresby, and in the cities of Lae and Mt Hagen. Travel along the road between Nadzab airport and Lae, between the one and ten mile settlement areas continues to be dangerous. Armed car jackings are common in all three cities as are robberies, including those that take place inside shops and restaurants. Firearms and bush knives (machetes) are the criminals’ weapons of choice.
 
Rape and gang rape are a serious problem across the country.  It is particularly dangerous to walk after dark in most major towns.  The situation is generally safer away from large towns.
  • You should avoid squatter (“settlement”) areas of towns
  • You should avoid public protests and disputes as these may turn violent
  • You should avoid carrying large amounts of cash or openly displaying expensive jewellery and electronic equipment
  • You should be vigilant at all times
Sporadic outbreaks of tribal fighting are a normal occurrence, especially in the Highlands Provinces, particularly the Southern and Western Highlands and Enga Provinces.  Tribal fighters and criminals are becoming increasingly well armed through the trade in drugs for guns.  Although outsiders passing through are not normally targeted, you should avoid travel in areas where there is tribal fighting.  The rugged terrain and poor infrastructure limit the assistance that can be given.
 
The deployment of police reinforcements in the Southern Highlands Province has resulted in fewer police officers elsewhere in Papua New Guinea.  You should therefore be vigilant and take necessary precautions.
 
For more general information see Victims of Crime Abroad.
 
Political Situation
 
Papua New Guinea Country Profile
 
Highland Provinces, in particular the Southern Highlands and Western and Enga Provinces are subject to inter-tribal disturbances without warning and you should exercise extreme caution, as law enforcement in these areas is weak.
 
You should avoid large crowds, political gatherings and any demonstrations as these can turn violent.

Local Travel
 
Cyclone Guba hit the Oro Province in November 2007 causing severe flooding. The damage to the infrastructure of the region continues make travel in and around the Province difficult.
 
We recommend that you do not use public buses known locally as PMVs.  There have been incidents of armed hold-ups of PMVs and of passengers being attacked and robbed of their personal belongings.  There are occasional rape attacks on Port Moresby PMVs.  Many PMVs are considered to be unroadworthy.
 
Highland Provinces, in particular the Southern Highlands and Western and Enga Provinces, are subject to inter-tribal disturbances without warning and you should exercise extreme caution, as law enforcement in these areas is weak.
 
Taxis are available in some major centres, but these can be badly maintained, and you should check about their reliability with your hotel or guesthouse.  If you use a taxi, ensure that you agree a fare before getting into the taxi, irrespective of whether or not there is a meter.  We recommend that family, friends or hotel courtesy buses should meet you when arriving at international or domestic airports.
 
If you intend to walk a trail or track, including the Kokoda Trail, we recommend that you check with a reputable tour guide that the tracks are open and safe to and pay the relevant fees prior to walking the Trail. Details can be obtained through the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority (Tel: +675 3200211) or the Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) (Tel: +675 3255540). There have been serious attacks and robberies at both ends of the Kokoda Trail. Although community leaders have assured tourists of their safety and wellbeing while walking the Kokoda Trail, you are advised to exercise caution. WWII unexploded ordnance still exists in Papua New Guinea, particularly along the Kokoda Trail and at Milne Bay and Rabual.
 
Visitors to Bougainville Island should be aware that the Province has recently emerged from a period of separatist conflict.  You must provide notice of your intention to visit the island to the Bougainville Provincial Administration (Tel: +675 973 9798), and must contact the Administration again upon arrival.  The mountainous area in central Bougainville around the old Panguna mine is a ‘No Go Zone’.  We strongly advise you not to enter the ‘No Go Zone’.  Foreigners who have entered the Zone without authorisation from the PNG Government have been questioned, some for many days, by PNG authorities and had their passports withheld on departure from the Zone.
 
Road Travel
 
When driving, you must keep your driving licence with you at all times.  You may use your United Kingdom or international driving licence for a period not exceeding one month.
 
Road conditions are generally hazardous throughout Papua New Guinea, and driving is commonly erratic.  Drivers should take extra care, especially in the hours of darkness.  Drivers who are involved in, or are witnesses to road accidents may find themselves at personal risk and should seek police assistance as soon as possible.  Traffic drives on the left.
 
For further information see Driving Abroad.

Local laws and customs

As a general rule, you are prohibited from entering Papua New Guinea with fruit, vegetables and animal products due to local quarantine controls.
 
Marijuana and other narcotics are illegal in Papua New Guinea, and offences can carry substantial prison sentences.
 
Homosexual acts are unlawful; the penalty if found guilty could be imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years.
 
Murder may draw the death sentence although there is currently a moratorium on the death penalty.
 
For more general information for different types of travellers see Travel Advice Relevant to You.

Entry requirements

British nationals require visas to enter Papua New Guinea but tourists may obtain these on arrival for 100 Kina, (equivalent to less than £18), payable in local currency.  For further information contact the Representation for Papua New Guinea in London.

Health

Medical facilities in Papua New Guinea are very basic.  Hospitals often run out of basic drugs/supplies and suffer from power shortages.  Evacuation by air ambulance to Australia is available in more serious cases.  You should ensure you make provision for this in your insurance cover.

TB, malaria, dengue fever and typhoid are common to Papua New Guinea.  Malaria exits in all areas outside of Port Moresby and dengue is common in coastal towns.  Typhoid can occur anywhere in Papua New Guinea. You should drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks.  If you suffer from diarrhoea during a visit to Papua New Guinea you should seek immediate medical attention.

In the 2006 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 57,000 adults aged 15 or over in Papua New Guinea were living with HIV; the prevalence rate was estimated at around 1.8% of the adult population. This compares to the prevalence rate in adults in the UK of around 0.2%.  You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. For more general information on how to do this see HIV and AIDS.

You should seek medical advice before travelling to Papua New Guinea and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date.  For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of the National Travel Heath Network and Centre NaTHNaC and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47

For more general health information see Travel Health

Avian Influenza
 
There have been no reported cases of avian influenza (Bird Flu) in Papua New Guinea during the current series of outbreaks. But the World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed cases elsewhere in the region.
 
You should read this advice in conjunction with Avian and Pandemic Influenza, which gives more detailed advice and information.
 
Natural Disasters
 
Papua New Guinea sits along a volatile seismic strip called the “Ring of Fire” in the Pacific.  Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis are possible.  Seismic and volcanic activity is more likely to occur near Rabaul in East New Britain Province, Kimbe in West New Britain Province, and on Manam Island in Madang Province.

The “Ring of Fire” is a horse-shoe-shaped zone of frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that surrounds the basin of the Pacific Ocean.  It is 40,000kms long and is associated with a nearly continuous series of oceanic trenches, island arcs, and volcanic mountain ranges and/or plate movements.

It is understood that 90% of the world’s earthquakes and 81% of the world’s largest earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire, which is a direct consequence of plate tectonics and the movement of collisions of crustal plates.

Earthquakes

At 0740 local time on 2 April 2007 a magnitude 7.8 earthquake occurred off the coast of the western Solomon Islands, close to Gizo.  The earthquake was followed by a tsunami, which hit Western Province, Solomon Islands, 215 miles north west of the capital, Honiara.  There were no reports of casualties in Papua New Guinea.  See Hurricanes for more details.
 
Volcanoes
 
Tavurvur Volcano in East New Britain erupted on 7 October 2006 and continues to release ash clouds.
 
You should not attempt to climb any of Papua New Guinea’s active volcanoes. Please contact the Volcanological Observatory for further information:  tel:  982 1699; fax:  982 1004.
 
Floods
 
The tropical cyclone seasin in Papua New Guinea normally runs from November to May. Cyclone Guba hit the Oro Province in November 2007 causing severe flooding. Over 200 people were killed and thousands were made homeless. As a result of the damage a state of emergency was called. The damage to the infrastructure of the region continues make travel in and around the Province difficult.
 
Landslides occur in rural areas during the wet season (November to May) you should plan your trip with care and seek and follow local advice on what precautions to take before commencing your journey.

General

Insurance
 
We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before leaving UK.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake, including cover for medical evacuation by air ambulance particularly if you plan to engage in adventure sports.  See Travel Insurance for more details.
 
If things do go wrong when you are overseas then this is how we can help.
 
Consular Assistance
 
We strongly recommended that you register with and seek the latest local advice from the British High Commission in Port Moresby on arrival. You should leave travel plans with friends, relatives or reliable local contacts. An electronic copy of a consular registration form can be obtained from the High Commission’s website at: http://www.britishhighcommission.gov.uk/papuanewguinea.
 
Consular Registration
 
Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency.  More information about registering with LOCATE can be found here.
 
NB.  The British High Commission in Port Moresby does not issue passports. Applications for a new passport should be submitted to the High Commission for processing. Where possible, you are advised to apply at least four months before your passport is due to expire. You will be allowed to retain your old passport whilst waiting for the replacement to be processed and returned.
 
Urgent applications will be forwarded by commercial courier to the British High Commission in Canberra, and the courier cost will be added to the passport fee. You should be aware that our High Commissions will process your application as quickly as possible but, due to the distances involved, it is likely that there will be a delay in issuing you with a full replacement British Passport. Less urgent applications will be forwarded to Canberra via the Diplomatic bag free of charge.
 
In genuine emergencies the High Commission will issue an Emergency Passport. Emergency Passports are valid for a single journey back to the UK using agreed transit points as necessary, or to Commonwealth countries provided a prior arrangement exists with the authorities of the Commonwealth country concerned (for example, no such arrangement exists with Australia).
 
The High Commission will be able to advise you which of these options best suits your circumstances.

Travel advice for this country

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contacts

Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby, British High Commission

Address:

British High Commission, Kiroki Street, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Postal address: Locked Mail Bag 212, Waigani, National Capital District, PapuaNew Guinea

Telephone:

(675) 325 1677
683 1627 Emergency mobile number

Fax:

(675) 325 3547

Email: bhcpng@datec.net.pg

Office hours:

GMT: Mon-Thurs: 1745-0220
Fri: 1745-2210
Local: Mon-Thurs: 0745-1620
Fri: 0745-1210
The High Commission will remain open over lunch

Website: http://www.britishhighcommission.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1025869671451