Papua New Guinea
Earth : Oceania : Papua New Guinea
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There is evidence of human settlement as long ago as 35,000 years in what is now Papua New Guinea. This comes from an archaeological site at Matenkupkum, just south of Namatanai in New Ireland province. Other archaeological digs at several locations in New Ireland have discovered tools and food residue dating back 20,000 years.
In more modern times, 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. The Dutch had West Papua, now the Indonesian territory of Papua. The southeast part of the island, also known as Papua, was owned by the UK but administered by Australia, and thus a colony of a colony, until Australian independence in 1901, when 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. However, it was not just disinterested colonialism. Gold had been discovered in several places and was rapidly exploited. Remnants of vast gold dredges can still be seen in the Bulolo and Wau area.
During World War II, New Guinea was the site of fierce fighting on land (at Buin and on the Kokoda Track) 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 administered from the government centre 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 fulfil the dreams of independence as economic stagnation, corruption, law and order problems, and a nine-year secessionist revolt on the island of Bougainville all conspire to make the country somewhat less than a tropical paradise.
The attempts by Bougainville to break away at the time of Independence led to a decision to offer the regions of the country a certain amount of political autonomy. Decentralization led to the establishment of nineteen provincial governments and the process of dividing up the country into unviable administrative units seems to be continuing, with a decision in 2009 to split both Southern Highlands and Western Highlands provinces into three new provinces.
In 2009, Papua New Guinea received 125,000 visitors, but only around 20% of these declared themselves as tourists. The country offers the traveller a true paradox. With little tourist infrastructure outside the main tourist areas, getting around can be tough. But Papua New Guineans themselves are wonderfully welcoming people who will go to great lengths to accommodate strangers. Tourism is well developed and growing in a handful of locations. Beyond these, the country is mainly adventure travel and not for the inexperienced or faint of heart.
For people who can make it out here, the experience is unforgettable. The incredible natural beauty is simply indescribable. Its unique flora and fauna includes enormous radiations of marsupials and birds, including the Raggiana bird-of-paradise (the national symbol) and several species of tree kangaroos. Untouched coral reefs compete with spectacular World War II wrecks for the attention of divers, and the hiking is out of this world.
With rugged terrain, inter-tribal mistrust, and diverse languages, intermarriage between the peoples has, until recently, been very limited. Physical and facial appearance varies significantly throughout the country; from those who look almost Polynesian in some coastal areas, through the short, stocky Highlanders, to the tall and statuesque people of the area around Rabaul in New Britain and the dark-skinned inhabitants of Bougainville, who could almost come from Africa.
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 are as interesting as the geography, flora, and fauna. 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. 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 has not seen 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 colourful, and often idiosyncratic, experiments in modernity ever produced by human beings. Featuring ritual garb made of human hair and rolled up Instant Noodle wrappers, rap in Pidgin English, or tribal warriors named 'Rambo' for their valour 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 Papua New Guinea and the global culture industry the biggest worry is keeping Papua New Guinea from pummelling global culture to a pulp.
Papua New Guinea is just to the south of the equator and has a tropical climate. In the highlands, though, temperatures are distinctly cool. The (very) wet season runs from about December to March. The best months for trekking are June to September.
The country is situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire, at the point of collision of several tectonic plates. There are a number of active volcanoes, and eruptions are frequent. Earthquakes are relatively common, sometimes accompanied by tsunamis.
The country's geography is diverse and, in places, extremely rugged. A spine of mountains, the New Guinea Highlands, runs the length of the island of New Guinea, forming a populous highlands region mostly covered with tropical rainforest. Dense rainforests can be found in the lowland and coastal areas as well as very large wetland areas surrounding the Sepik and Fly rivers. This terrain has made it difficult for the country to develop transport infrastructure. In some areas, airplanes are the only mode of transport. The highest peak is Mount Wilhelm at 4,509m (14,793 ft). Papua New Guinea is surrounded by coral reefs which are under close watch to preserve them.
There are many great books about Papua New Guinea, including great fiction as well as non-fiction. An excellent book for the general reader about Papua New Guinea is Sean Dorney's Papua New Guinea: People, Politics, and History Since 1975. The third edition is the best, but it is pretty hard to find outside of Australia (and is not that easy to find there).
John Laurel Ryan, a former employee of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), also wrote an excellent book, "The Hot Land" which was published about 1970. Among other fascinating historical information it contains accounts of various manifestations of cargo cult, John Teosin's "baby garden" on Buka Island, and eye-witness reports that have been rigidly suppressed in other media about the Indonesian takeover of what was formerly Dutch West Papua. This excellent and at times disturbing book will also be hard to find, and sadly its author even harder!
There is also a lot of anthropological work that has been done in Papua New Guinea (leading some to term the area an "anthropologist's laboratory"), which can contribute greatly to an understanding of the different groups in the region. Some of the more accessible volumes include Malinowski's "Argonauts of the Western Pacific", centred on the Trobriand Islanders, living just north of Papua New Guinea itself; Reading the skin - Michael O'Hanlon; Coaxing the spirits to dance - Welsch, Webb et al; The Art of Kula - SF Campbell; Inalienable Possessions - AB Weiner.
Most foreign nationals who wish to enter Papua New Guinea are required to obtain a visa.
Nationals of all European Union/European Economic Area member states, Andorra, Argentina, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Cook Islands, Ecuador, Fiji, Guam, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Kiribati, Macau, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Monaco, Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Peru, the Philippines, Samoa, San Marino, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, the United States, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Uruguay, Vanuatu and Vatican City may obtain a free visa valid for 60 days (extension is possible for a fee) on arrival, provided that they arrive through the airports at Port Moresby or Tokua (Rabaul).
Nationals of Australia, Brunei, Chile, China (PRC), Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam who possess an APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) which states on the reverse that it is valid for travel to Papua New Guinea can enter visa-free for up to 60 days.
Alternatively, a visa (also known as an 'entry permit') can be obtained in advance at a PNG embassy, high commission or consulate. The application fee (per person) is 75 kina (tourist/visitor), 200 kina (yachtsperson), 500 kina (businessperson/journalist) or 50 kina (sportsperson). The application form is available at .
As of August 2014, 60 day tourist visas are issued by the PNG consulate in Jayapura free of charge. Processing time is five business days.
If you live in a country that does not have a Papua New Guinean embassy or consulate, you may be able to apply for a PNG visa in advance at an Australian or British embassy, high commission or consulate. For example, the Australian Embassy in Copenhagen  accepts applications for PNG visas from residents of Denmark, Iceland and Norway; the Australian Embassies in Budapest  and Warsaw  also issue PNG visas. The British Embassy in Minsk  and Riyadh and the British Consulates in Al Khobar and Jeddah  accept applications for PNG visas (this list is not exhaustive). British diplomatic posts charge £50 to process a PNG visa application and an extra £70 if the PNG Department of Immigration and Citizenship requires the visa application to be referred to them. The PNG Department of Immigration and Citizenship can also decide to charge an additional fee if they correspond with you directly.
More information about the PNG visas is available at the website of the PNG Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
Jacksons International Airport in Port Moresby is the nation's main international airport.
The ports include Madang, Lae, and Port Moresby on the mainland, Kieta on Bougainville, and Rabaul and Kimbe on New Britain. However, they are only internal ferries. International ferries are unavailable.
There are cruises stopping here.
Few travellers travel between Buin in Bougainville and Shortland Island in the Solomon Islands by a banana boat. There are flights between Shortland Island and Gizo or Chiusel in the Solomon Islands (alternatively banana boats on very rough seas). This route has been described on a few blogs and older editions of the Lonely Planet.
The only land border is with Papua (Irian Jaya), Indonesia, and crossing it involves some preparations but is not that difficult as it might have been. In Jayapura, Indonesia, there is a consulate to apply for a tourist visa. The consulate is located in Mendi, a 10min green bus ride away from Jayapura's capital. As of August 2014 the tourist visas are free of charge. The visa processing time is usually 3 working days. There's a currency exchange office nearby with good rates to buy kina.
Depending on your Indonesian visa there are different options to cross the border. If you have a visa on arrival, issued to you for example at the Jakarta Airport, you can only cross the border using a boat or by stamping out at customs in Jayapura and then immediately traveling to the border 30km away. Western travelers attempting the latter should expect to pay some miscellaneous fees and jump moderate bureaucratic hoops before leaving.
Boats can be rented from Hamedi.
Any other type of visa you can rent a car, or an ojek and cross the land border. If renting a vehicle for the crossing one should expect to pay approximately 300,000 rupiah from Jayapura town and travellers should expect to pay upwards of 500,000 rupiah to return from the border to Jayapura. Shared taxis to the border leave early in the morning from Pasar Youtefa, among other places. Alternatively, from the same place, you can catch a bemo to the village Koya Timur (half way to the border, 9000 rp, frequent departures) from where you can hire an ojek to the border for 70000 rp or try to hitchhike.
From the border to Vanimo a bus charges 10 kina. A few days a week there is a market at Batas, immediately on the Indonesian side of the border, that attracts many shoppers from PNG. IThe roads are busy on those days.
In April 2014, following a shooting, the land border was closed for any traffic. As of late July 2014 it seems to be back to normal. Travel by sea in banana boats is always an option, although more expensive.
Papua New Guinea is a strange place when it comes to travel. The tropical conditions, fierce geography, and lack of government capacity means there are very few paved roads in the country.
With the exception of a brief span of road connecting it to the immediate hinterland and a road that will enable you to follow the coast southeast for a few hours, there are no major roads linking Port Moresby to anywhere else.
The big exception to this is the Highlands Highway, which begins in Lae (the country's main port) and runs up into the highlands through Goroka to Mt. Hagen with a fork going back to the coast and Madang. Shortly outside Mt. Hagen the road branches, with southern line going through the Southern Highlands to Tari while the northern line runs through Enga province and ends in Porgera.
By public motor vehicles (PMV)
The most common way to travel is by PMV/bus with the locals.
Lae, Madang, Goroka, Tari, and Mount Hagen are all connected by a good highway. As a newcomer it is probably advisable to get help from locals (e.g., hotel-staff). Most towns have several starting points. A trip from Lae to Madang costs around 20 Kina, to Mt. Hagen 30 Kina.
Papua New Guinea has historically been heavily reliant on aviation and still features some of the most spectacular flying in the world. In the 1920s, Lae 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 settlements - 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 Australia, New Zealand, America and other countries work here just for the great flying experience. If you do not like small planes (or even smaller helicopters) however, flying to more remote locations here may not be the best option for you.
The two major domestic airlines are Air Niugini and Airlines PNG:
People living in the archipelagos get around locally with the ubiquitous banana boat, a 30-40 ft fibreglass hull with an outboard motor. Popular routes are Vanimo to Aitape, Rabaul to New Ireland. Motorized canoes or banana boats are used on the big rivers.
Also, two or three shipping lines also sell tickets for passengers who want to leapfrog from one city to another. These ferries run only two or three times per week and offer upper and lower class. Upper gets you a bunk to sleep on while lower gets you a hard seat.
There is a ferry twice a week between Madang and Wewak. There are also ferries to Vanimo and from Madang to Manus. Also from Lae to Rabaul.
One small ship leaves the city of Lae once a week, stopping at Finschhafen and Umboi Island. 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 take some warm clothes or buy a cabin inside.
The government of Bougainville announced in June 2014 that it had purchased a ferry to do a weekly run Buka-Rabaul-Kimbe-Lae and back as of July 2014. However, in September 2014 the ferry was still being delivered. Besides, the government also purchased a smaller ferry to service the smaller Islands in Bougainville province.
There are a number of small ships that visit the islands of Papua New Guinea, including some of the most remote islands.
The 50-passenger expedition ship 'Spirit of Enderby' visits Papua New Guinea every October and April on expedition-style voyages. They navigate waterways using the ship and inflatable zodiacs to visit out-of-the-way islands and communities in expedition-style travel. Main focus of voyages and the daily landings are cultural, wildlife, hiking and underwater snorkeling experiences. Lectures onboard unpack experiences for those onboard. They visit some of the more difficult to get to island locations.
Some of Papua New Guinea's most remote islands and areas including Mussa Island, Kavieng, Rabaual, Nissan Island, the Trobriand Islands, D'Entrecasteaux, Arawe, Tuam and Umboi Islands can be accessed by Heritage Expeditions expedition ship.
With over 820 languages - 12% of the world's total - spoken in Papua New Guinea, it was pretty difficult to get everyone talking to each other.
Two pidgins grew up in this area; Tok Pisin (based on English) and Hiri Motu (based on the local Motu language). When the Anglophones married the Hulis, and their children learned the only language they had in common, Tok Pisin became a creole. Tok Pisin sometimes looks like it is English written phonetically ("Yu dring; yu draiv; yu dai" means "You drink; you drive; you die"), but it is not; it has more personal pronouns than English and its own quite different syntax.
The primary lingua franca of the country is Tok Pisin - much of the debate in Parliament, in addition to many information campaigns and advertisements are presented in the language. Short, inexpensive guidebooks on learning Tok Pisin can be acquired in the many bookstores.
The only area where Tok Pisin is not prevalent is the southern region of Papua, where people often use Hiri Motu. Although, since Port Moresby is the capital, Tok Pisin is more commonly used.
In addition to Tok Pisin, Hiri Motu and the Papua New Guinean Sign Language, standard English is also an official language, and is commonly used in education and government publications. However, few people actually speak standard English.
When approaching locals, try to speak English first; using Tok Pisin or another language can make it look like you are assuming they don't know English.
You might sometimes have trouble hearing what the locals are saying because they speak very quietly. It is considered rude by some of the local groups to look people in the eyes and to speak loudly.
South New Guinea
The Kokoda Trail is a 60-mile trail, beginning in the Port Moresby area and leading up into the Owen Stanley Range. This trail was first used by gold miners in the 1890s and is most known as a historical World War II site as the Japanese tried to reach Port Moresby along it. It takes about five days to hike this track, which includes plenty of ups and downs between mountain ridges and streams.
The Highland region is made of long string of fertile valleys, each separated by mountains, that mean the Highlands are composed of many distinct tribal regions.
In the Chimbu (Simbu) Province is Mount Wilhelm, Papua New Guinea's highest mountain (14,880 feet). Climbing Wilhelm is relatively easy; but three or four days are recommended to allow for sightseeing. Do not try it by yourself. Local guides are ready to help you with a reasonable cost. There are views of both the north and south coasts of New Guinea from the peak. The Wahgi River in this area is considered one of the best whitewater rafting destinations in the world.
The Northern Coast
Go scuba diving, using one of more than a dozen local scuba diving operators. The national Scuba Diving industry body  is a good starting point. Papua New Guinea has some of the very best tropical reef diving anywhere in the word.
This a birdwatching mecca with over 700 species of birds including many birds of paradise. Definitely bring a pair of decent binoculars and ask in the villages for a volunteer to help you find the birds. An amazing experience! Heritage Expeditions run voyages through PNG on an expedition ship also carry a Birding Expert/Lecturer onboard who acts as a guide and to unpack birding opportunities.
Another popular attraction here is trekking through the mountains, coastal lowlands and rolling foothills of the Kokoda and other trails. The Kokoda Track attracts many hundreds of walkers a year.
The most popular activities for tourists here are festivals such as the The Sing-Sing performances at the annual Goroka and Mt. Hagen shows. During these shows, there are usually more than fifty ensembles that turn up. The festivals are competitive and the winning ensemble is rewarded by being invited to give concerts at many restaurants and hotels during the following year. This beauty and colourfulness of New Guinea’s festivals is both pleasing to watch for tourists and helps the locals financially.
Fishing is becoming increasingly popular. Species include Black Marlin, Blue Marlin, Sailfish, Yellow Fin, Skipjack and Dogtooth Tuna and the Giant Trevally. Mahi Mahi (Dolphin Fish), Mackerel and Wahoo. A particularly challenging fish is the black bass, which, pound for pound, is considered to be the toughest fighting fish in the world.
Flightseeing is a word that should have been coined here. If you can afford it, just flying around some of the remote airstrips is an adventure in itself. There are strips that seem impossibly short, strips that seem to end with a mountain, strips where if you don't take off in time you will plunge into a ravine, and airstrips surrounded on three sides by water. From Port Moresby you don't have to fly far to get the experience. There are flights to villages on the Kokoda trail and others in the Owen Stanley mountain range in Central Province and you can fly a scheduled circuit or "milk run" in one morning, although you will have to be at the airport by 5:00 a.m. Check with Airlines PNG for schedules. Fane, Ononge and Tapini strips are particularly scary. Remember your life insurance.
There is not so much shopping in the regular sense. In the major cities there are a few malls and supermarkets. Otherwise, most of the shopping is done in small markets that are held irregularly. A great place to visit is the craft market which is held once per month in Port Moresby opposite Ela beach in the car park of the IEA TAFE College. There it is possible to buy handicrafts from every part of the country. Although it is slightly more expensive than out in the villages, the prices are very reasonable. Haggling is not really an accepted custom, one can haggle a bit but to do it excessively could annoy the locals.
Don't buy bird feathers.
The 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. In just about every meal, there is rice and another form of starch.
In the lodges that tourists stay, in there is usually a blend between this type of food and a more Westernised menu.
The legal drinking/purchasing age for alcohol is 21. However, because of the high age restriction, underage drinking has become a major problem.
There are brands of local beer. The local brew, SP (short for South Pacific) Lager, is owned by Heineken. Excessive alcohol consumption, primarily of beer, is a major social problem. Beers and wines are often served fairly warm due to a lack of refrigeration in certain areas. Also, 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. Alcohol is widely available everywhere on licensed alcohol-selling premises. However, alcohol may be difficult to obtain in some isolated areas, due to transportation issues.
Local home brew (known as stim) is very strong, not safe and the drink of choice of the raskols.
Papua New Guinea offers a wide choice of accommodation for tourists with very little of it budget.
Hotels are very expensive (about USD100/night). Guesthouses are the best budget option in the towns but even then still expensive (about USD40/night.) The least expensive option is to stay in village guesthouses (about USD15/night), and that is where the fun is anyhow.
Out of the many churches in PNG, some have guesthouses that can be very expensive and nice. Others operate cheap and really basic accommodation, usually for their visiting "brothers" but they'll be delighted to host a backpacker too. The Evangelical Brotherhood Church (EBC) for example operates rustic accommodation for as low as 25 kina per person and they have centers in or around the capitals of 18 PNG provinces. Churches or missions that do not operate accommodation will probably not turn you back either and will host you for free or against a small donation. In villages without any formal accommodation you will be offered a roof for free or little money. Even in towns you might be offered to be hosted by some of the many incredibly friendly and curious Papua New Guineans you will meet and talk to on PMVs or in the previous town. Often they will also give you the contact of their relatives or wantoks in your next destination. Besides PNG's image as an unsafe destination, it is very easy to tell the troublemakers from the good people (the absolute majority). It is a good idea to bring a small tent, mat and a sleeping bag/sarong if you are planning on roughing it. If hosted by someone, you will most often be provided with some kind of roof but it's going to be a lot easier for your hosts if you have a tent and mat or at least a mosquito net. If you are hosted by a family for free it is a very good idea to go to the market and bring some rice and food for everyone's dinner. If you eat their food, offer to pay. Wild camping near people's homes without asking permission first is not a good idea - it is neither safe nor polite.
Port Moresby has international hotels including the Crown Plaza and Airways International, mid range hotels such as Lamana and guesthouses. The regional areas offer International and budget hotels depending on the size of the town and some provinces have guest houses. There is a new eco-tourist lodge in Alotau called Ulumani Treetops Lodge, the place is beautiful overlooking the Milne Bay and offers a new bungalow or backpacker options.
There is a very expensive lodge (USD200/night) that sits on the edge of Tari basin, called Ambua Lodge that is run by Australians. This lodge is "an inspired mixture of local architecture, spectacular views and modest luxury off the beaten track." It is in the Tari Gap 210 m in the Southern Highlands, which is the homeland of the Huli clan with their human hair wigs adorned with colourful flowers. It borders on the mid-montane rain forest and grasslands which gives a spring feeling all year round. This lodge won the 1991 Pacific Asia Travel Association's Pacific Heritage Award which cited it due to its "superb example of culturally sensitive and ecological responsible tourism."
A stone's throw down the road from Ambua Lodge is the more rustic Warili Lodge, which is run by locals, is only $20/night, and offers birdwatching as good as, or better, than that offered at Ambua Lodge.
There is a workforce of close to two million people in a few different industries. There is high demand for skilled people but it is still difficult for women and men that are considered to be "unskilled" to find work. Many people have informal small businesses to make money.
PNG has a reputation as a risky destination in some circles (primarily Australian ones), predominantly because of the activities of criminal gangs (known in Tok Pisin as raskols) in major cities, especially in Port Moresby and Lae. That is generally a result of unemployment stemming from increased domestic migration from subsistence farming in the hills to the nearest urban area. Armed gangs can also be active on some spots of Highlands highway. Travellers are easy prey for these bandits. They can take everything and even rape women. Find out a current safety situation before taking a tour.
There is no history of heavy settlement in the Port Moresby and Lae areas. Hence, they are colonial cities comprised of a mix of tribal people which fosters instability. Madang, Wewak, Goroka, Mt. Hagen, and Tari are much safer with longer periods of settlement and a more stable tribal homogeneity.
The villages are quite safe as the locals will "adopt" you as one of their own. In many places, if you are alone, someone will want to escort you to where you want to go even if they have to go out of their way and you haven't asked for it. Most people are extremely friendly, curious and helpful and it is easy to tell the bad guys from everyone else.
Avoid conflicts at all costs and stay calm whatever the situation. Many people are very temperamental and local conflicts (that will normally have nothing to do with you) might quickly get out of proportion. Superstition is very widespread. If you get mugged, stay calm and hand over your cash. Fortunately few people have guns but most people carry bush knives (they need them for their everyday business, which includes self defence). Most crime is related to alcohol or marijuana.
In case you get involved in any type of traffic accident, continue driving and find the nearest police station. If anyone gets hurt (a person, pig or chicken), no matter whose fault it is, there's a risk that someone might decide to take immediate reciprocal measures without much discussion.
If you are planning a trip to Papua New Guinea, avoid spending time in the cities as they are boring and devoid of the culture to be found in the villages.
If you must, the most important thing is to stay up to date on the law and order situation in the locations you are planning to visit.
At least in Highlands region tribal warfare can happen occasionally. Especially national elections can spark hostilities among tribes. The warring groups are primarily targeting each others but an atmosphere of violence is present. Unfortunately there is a large number of illegal high-powered weapons in Highlands that can be used in tribal warfare. It is wise to stay away from war zones and places with recent history of war.
Most hotels in Port Moresby are secure and situated inside compounds, generally with guards patrolling the perimeter. However, actual gunfire in the capital is mercifully rare. If you plan on taking a tour of any city, make inquiries with your hotel or accommodation provider, as many will be able to either walk with you or drive you to wherever you are planning to go, or just around the local area if that is what you want to do.
Avoid going out after dark, but if you must, stay very alert.
Flying in small planes can be very risky. Hardly a year goes by without at least one fatal accident (the most recent in August 2009 when 12 people were killed). While the planes are usually well-maintained and the pilots technically proficient the problem is the mountainous terrain. Many smaller airfields are situated in steep valleys. When there is cloud cover planes have difficulty in finding them and sometimes crash into a mountain. The national airline, Air Niugini, which flies internationally and to the major cities of the country has, however, an unblemished safety record in 32 years of operation.
Saltwater Crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) are common in Papua New Guinea and are capable of growing to immense lengths of 7 m or more (although individuals over 6 m are rare). They occasionally devour humans and should be shown respect at all times. They are equally at home in coastal waters as they are in freshwater lakes and rivers. Swimming is generally not advised except at higher elevations and in hotel swimming pools. Papua New Guinea, along with Australia, has the highest and healthiest population of large Saltwater Crocodiles in the world.
Great oceans accommodate also a large number of sharks species. Some of them are dangerous to humans. You may have seen beautiful, but partially misleading videos about divers who are feeding friendly sharks and everybody is happy. This image can not be applied worldwide. Villagers are not usually swimming in open waters in some parts of PNG. There is a reason for that.
Papua New Guinea is home to many active volcanoes and several of the most popular treks involve getting close or actually climbing one or more of these. Always heed local advice and a regular check of The Smithsonian Institute's Volcanic Activity Report  would be wise.
There are some rogue travel operators in Papua New Guinea who have taken people's money and then failed to provide the itinerary agreed or even in some cases have not bought the flights that were paid for, leaving travellers stranded or having to buy new tickets themselves. It is wise to use a search engine and travel forums to investigate the operator you are considering before paying any deposits. Be aware that these operators will often change their names from time to time.
Although PNG is definitely not a place where bargaining is expected or tolerated (many things might have a "second price" though, especially souvenirs and art), there are some dishonest people who might try to make a buck from the white man. Inform yourself beforehand or ask other passengers about bus fares. Shop around before chartering boats or canoes. Since there are some very rich tourists in PNG who pay ridiculous amounts of money for certain services, it is easy to understand why someone might think that Caucasian visitors have bottomless pockets. When chartering boats always make sure if the fuel is included.
Instead of bargaining beforehand, many guides, boat skippers etc. might try to extract extra money at the end of your journey, no matter what you agreed on beforehand. This is sometimes due to an honestly bad calculation on their side, but most often it is simply a way to make some extra money. If possible, be prepared to show that the previously agreed amount is all the money you have on your person. Otherwise, just stay firm but friendly!
Tap water in most regions is unsafe to drink.
Malaria can be a hazard as well, although many villages, particularly those connected to industry, are regularly treated for mosquitoes. Take the appropriate precautions against mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases.
Malaria medication can be purchased at the pharmacies and, in addition to warding of malaria, will keep your stomach happy as well.
Some people consider long term malaria prophylaxis (especially doxycycline) not a good option. In all cases, ample mosquito repellent applied even before dusk + a good mosquito net (bring your own, best if it's treated) are absolutely essential. Local pharmacies also sell a home malaria test (very much like a pregnancy test or a quick blood sugar test) for around 20 kina that you can use by yourself to quickly tell if you have malaria, should you get the symptoms. It is a very good idea to have one of those, especially if you are planning to visit any even slightly remote areas. Malaria treatment medication is of course available and cheaper than in developed countries. Bring some and be sure to know how to use it in case you get malaria far from a health care provider. In case your home test shows you have malaria or you suspect it otherwise, it is absolutely essential to seek medical assistance as soon as possible. Some types of malaria can be very nasty and even cause sudden death if not treated immediately.
Dengue fever (borne by mosquitoes that are active during the day) can have symptoms similar to those of malaria and other common diseases. It is a virus infection that can cause internal haemorrhage. Therefore it is a bad idea to treat such symptoms (headache, fever, joint pains) with aspirin since it can cause bleeding in case you have Dengue fever. Use paracetamol or ibuprofen instead.
All wounds and ulcers shall be treated with antibiotic cream as they might get seriously infected as in all tropical areas.
PNG, especially the Sepik river area, is one of the places in the world with a specific ringworm infection (fungus) locally known as grille. It is spread by direct contact and is treatable.
Some places in PNG have had cholera outbreaks recently. It is a very good idea to bring iodine drops and purify all drinking water, even if it is collected rain water. There are areas with leprosy and tuberculosis.
HIV and AIDS is a serious issue in PNG and many consider the prevalence much higher than the official figures.
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. The sight of hotel staff calling you by name, shaking your hand and looking at the floor may seem unusual at first.
Papua New Guinea has two daily newspapers that include up-to-date exchange rates and other important information:
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.