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Summary

  • Exercise a high degree of caution in PNG because of the high levels of serious crime.
  • Avoid large crowds and public gatherings as they may turn violent. Tribal disputes continue to flare up around the country. Disputes can quickly escalate into violent clashes. Such clashes not only create danger within the immediate area, but also promote a general atmosphere of lawlessness, with an associated increase in opportunistic crime.
  • Election-related protests in Mt Hagen have eased and services are expected to return to normal in the coming days. Security forces remain in Mt Hagen. Some post-election tensions remain across PNG and may cause disruption of normal flight schedules and transport services. Contact your airline or travel provider for the latest information. Continue to exercise a high degree of caution, follow instructions issued by local authorities and monitor local media for the latest developments. See Safety and security.
  • There is a persistent high level of crime in Port Moresby, Lae, Mt Hagen and other parts of the Highlands provinces. Armed robberies, carjackings and burglaries occur, often in locations frequented by Westerners.  See Safety and security.
  • Since June 2011, there have been a number of violent incidents in parts of the Highlands, Oro Province, Central and Southern Bougainville, and Lae. Exercise a high degree of caution when travelling in these areas and monitor local media for information about the security situation. See Safety and security.
  • Car-jacking is an ever-present risk, particularly in Port Moresby and Lae. Car doors should be locked with windows up at all times and caution should be taken when travelling after dark. We recommend that you travel in convoy if moving about at night. See Safety and security.
  • There has been an increase in reported incidents of sexual assault, including gang rape, and foreigners have been targeted. Monitor your personal security, in both public and private surroundings, and ensure you have appropriate security measures in place. Women need to be particularly vigilant. See Safety and security.
  • Due to the high level of crime, Australian officials in PNG adopt heightened security measures while in transit, at home, at work and in public places. We recommend that you do the same. See Safety and security.
  • Given the difficult terrain, extreme weather conditions and the condition of some remote airfields, flying in PNG carries greater safety risks than flying in Australia. See Local travel.
  • Wet season is from October to May. During the wet season, flooding and landslides have resulted in deaths. Roads can become impassable. Check with local sources on the condition of roads and the likely impact of rain before travel.
  • Reconsider travel to Tari in Hela Province due to recent violent tribal clashes. Clashes between clans have occurred in and around Tari in the 2016-17 holiday period. Security forces have been deployed to restore law and order. Follow all instructions issued by local authorities and monitor local media for latest developments.
  • Reconsider travel to Porgera township in Enga Province in the northern highlands at this time. Violence related to illegal mining at the Porgera gold mine has led to a number of deaths and injuries. On 2 May 2014, a State of Emergency was declared for Porgera township for an indefinite period.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Australians require a visa to enter PNG. Since July 2016, Australians visiting PNG for tourism are able to apply for a visa on arrival at Jacksons International Airport, (Port Moresby); Gurney Airport (Alotau); Kagamuga Airport (Mount Hagen); and Tokua Airport (Rabaul).

Tourist visas are valid for 30 days only and cannot be extended. This visa on arrival is free of charge but applicants must have a passport with at least six months validity from their planned date of return to Australia, a return or onward ticket, and show evidence of funds.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest High Commission, Embassy or Consulate of Papua New Guinea to obtain information before travelling to PNG.

Cruise ship passengers may be granted electronic visas that allow for disembarkation at some PNG ports. Cruise operators can provide further information.

Quarantine restrictions prevent travellers from bringing fruit and vegetables into the country.

Carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Crime

Crime levels remain high: Crime is random and particularly prevalent in urban areas such as Port Moresby, Lae and Mt Hagen. Squatter settlement areas of towns and cities are particularly dangerous. 'Bush knives' (machetes) and firearms are often used in assaults and thefts. Car-jackings, assaults (including sexual assaults), bag snatching and robberies are common. Banks and automatic teller machines are attractive targets for criminals. The crime rate tends to increase leading into the Christmas holiday period.

Although most crime is opportunistic, there have been incidents of robbery in which expatriates have been targeted in their homes or workplaces. There has been an increase in reported incidents of sexual assault, including gang rape, and foreigners have been targeted. These crimes are primarily opportunistic and occur without warning. Women need to be particularly vigilant at all times.

Local authorities have advised of a heightened risk of armed robbery and attack at well-attended shopping centres, hotels, restaurants and other areas frequented by Westerners in urban areas, including Port Moresby. Firearms have been used in the majority of the armed robberies.

Car-jacking and crime hotspots: Car-jacking and robbery can occur throughout PNG at any time. Known high risk areas include the area around Parliament House in the Port Moresby suburb of Waigani, particularly outside of working hours, and along the highway between Lae and Nadzab Airport. Criminals use roadblocks on roads outside of towns to stop and loot vehicles and then attack the occupants. If you intend to travel in these areas, exercise a high degree of caution and consider using a security escort.

Travel at night: In major urban centres such as Port Moresby and Lae, it is dangerous to walk the streets, particularly after dark. Travel at night, if essential, should be made by car, with doors locked and windows up. You should also consider travelling in a convoy or with a security escort. Taxis are not a safe option, especially for women.

Use of private security companies: The Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary faces a number of obstacles, including limited resources, and this may affect police response times in the event of crime. Many businesses, including the High Commission, employ private security companies to help deliver a prompt response to calls for assistance and as security escorts during travel. Groups travelling to PNG should carefully assess their security arrangements and may wish to consider hiring a private security company.

Arrangements for Australian officials in PNG: Due to the high level of crime, Australian officials in PNG adopt heightened security measures at all times. This includes at home, at work, in public places and while travelling domestically. Officials are given specific pre-departure security training and adhere to strict security guidelines. We recommend that all Australians in PNG closely monitor their personal security, in both public and private surroundings, and ensure you have appropriate security measures in place.

Civil unrest and political tension

Tension between tribal, communal or clan groups can happen without warning and may occasionally lead to outbreaks of fighting, often involving the use of firearms, rioting and looting. Outbreaks of violence have occurred in squatter settlements and marketplaces in Port Moresby, Lae, Bulolo, Mt Hagen, Mendi, Porgera and other major towns in the Highlands as well as in Oro Province and Central and South Bougainville.

Local tensions and tribal disputes continue to flare up around the country. Election-related protests in Mt Hagen have eased and services are expected to return to normal in the coming days. Security forces remain in Mt Hagen. Some post-election tensions remain across PNG and may cause disruption of normal flight schedules and transport services. Contact your airline or travel provider for the latest information. Continue to exercise a high degree of caution, follow instructions issued by local authorities and monitor local media for the latest information about the security situation.

Disputes can quickly escalate into violent clashes and can result in the widespread destruction of property, disruption of normal services and serious injury. Such clashes not only create danger within the immediate area but also promote a general atmosphere of lawlessness, with an associated increase in opportunistic crime. To keep up to date with any new developments or issues causing local unrest, monitor the local newspapers and consult local contacts, such as airlines, accommodation or other service providers, before travelling to a new area.

Tari in Hela Province: Reconsider travel to Tari in Hela Province due to ongoing violent tribal clashes. Follow all instructions issued by local authorities and monitor local media for latest developments. Seek local advice on the security situation before travel.

Porgera Township: Reconsider travel to Porgera Township in Enga Province in the northern highlands. Violence related to illegal mining at the Porgera gold mine has led to a number of deaths and injuries. On 2 May 2014, a State of Emergency was declared for Porgera Township for an indefinite period.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Worldwide bulletin.

Money and valuables

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You're required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Australian currency is not accepted locally but can be exchanged at local banks for PNG Kina. If taking cash, PNG Kina is the most appropriate currency to carry. Consult with your bank to find out whether your ATM card will work overseas. Most banks and ATMs in PNG will accept credit cards from Australian banks.

Local travel

Roads, especially in rural areas, are in a poor state of repair. Other common safety risks on PNG roads include erratic and drunk drivers, poorly maintained vehicles and over-crowded vehicles. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), you're three times more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in PNG than in Australia.

Large crowds can form quickly after road accidents. These crowds can become violent with little or no warning.

During the wet season (November to May), flash floods and landslides, particularly on stretches of the Highlands Highway between Lae and Mount Hagen, can result in road closures and extensive travel delays. Severe flooding in Oro Province caused significant damage to major roads and bridges throughout the province in 2011 and 2012. Restoration and rehabilitation is ongoing and travellers should expect delays when moving around these areas.

For further advice on road safety, see our road travel page.

Police roadblocks to check vehicle registrations are a regular occurrence in Port Moresby. Drivers should ensure that their vehicle registration and safety stickers are up-to-date so that they minimise difficulties at roadblocks.

In major urban centres, it is recommended that public transport such as Public Motor Vehicles (PMVs) and taxis shouldn't be used as these are unreliable due to poor maintenance and have been targeted by criminals. Vehicles hired from a reputable security company or hotel transport are safer alternatives. Women especially shouldn't use taxis.

Delays and cancellations of international and domestic flights occur on a regular basis. Passengers should check with airlines and be prepared for the possibility of extended waits at airports.

Some mobile telephone global roaming facilities are available in PNG but service can be patchy. Travellers should contact their mobile telephone service provider for more details. Landline phones occasionally suffer from local outages.

Kokoda Track and Trekking: Exercise a high degree of caution when walking the Kokoda Track and travelling through the areas adjacent to each end of the track. Consider the high levels of serious crime in PNG when participating in trekking activity. Ensure that you leave an itinerary for your trek, including the contact details of the trekking company, with your family or friends in Australia.

Australians should ensure they only travel with guides from reputable trekking companies registered with the Kokoda Track Authority (KTA), a PNG local government agency which regulates trekking along the Kokoda Track. A list of registered trekking companies is available on the KTA website. Trekkers should check with their travel agent and/or tour operator that they have contingency plans in the event that the track is blocked.

Trekkers should ensure that their tour company provides a permit in return for fees paid for this purpose. The KTA can be contacted on telephone (675) 323 6165 regarding payment of the applicable fee. Information can also be obtained from the Tourism Promotion Authority on (675) 320 0211.   

Walking the Kokoda Track is physically demanding and requires a high level of fitness. It is strongly recommended that travellers undergo considerable training and seek medical advice/medical fitness testing before attempting the walk. Each year, several Australians are medically evacuated at huge cost to these individuals, and some deaths have occurred. Given the unpredictable weather and poor services, some have had to wait several days before such evacuations took place. Adequate travel insurance is essential.

While walking, it is important that trekkers remain hydrated and protect themselves from dysentery (see the Health section). Passports are regularly damaged from water and sweat. Ensure your passport is stored in a waterproof bag or container.

Unexploded ordnance still exists in PNG, particularly along the Kokoda Track, Milne Bay and Rabaul. The exact condition and stability of these items is largely unknown. If you come across unexploded ordnance on the track or in displays do not touch them.

Bougainville: Exercise a high degree of caution in Bougainville, with particular vigilance when travelling beyond Buka Island into Central Bougainville and Southern Bougainville. Monitor local media reporting about the security situation prior to travelling.

The mountainous area in central Bougainville around the old Panguna mine has previously been declared a 'no go zone' by armed Bougainvillean factions. We strongly recommend Australians exercise caution and remain aware of their security and surroundings if travelling to the area.

Airline safety

Given the difficult terrain, extreme weather conditions and the condition of some remote airfields, flying in PNG carries greater safety risks than flying in Australia. Since 2000, over 20 aircraft accidents have occurred in PNG. Fatal incidents include the following:

  • On 13 April 2016, a Sunbird Aviation aircraft crashed in Kiunga, Western Province killing 12 people, including an Australian.
  • On 20 September 2014, a light aircraft crashed just outside Port Moresby killing four people, including an Australian.
  • On 25 November 2013, a Tropicair charter flight crashed in Gulf Province killing three people, including an Australian.
  • On 6 July 2012, a helicopter crashed into a remote mountainous area of the Gulf Province, killing two Australians and one New Zealander.

Information on aviation safety in PNG is available from the Aviation Safety Network. For general information on aviation safety, please refer to our air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

You're subject to the local laws of PNG, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

The death penalty may be imposed for crimes including treason, piracy, murder, rape and robbery.

Homosexual acts are illegal and punishable by imprisonment. Overt public displays of affection by persons of the same sex should be avoided. See our LGBTI travellers page.

PNG has very strict laws relating to the possession and sale of pornographic material and penalties include imprisonment.

Adultery is a criminal offence and punishment may include imprisonment.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, child pornography and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Local customs

The traditional custom of 'payback' is often practised in PNG. Australians who engage in illegal or inappropriate sexual or financial relations run the risk of extrajudicial responses from offended parties, including violence. Demands for compensation for property damage, including to livestock, are common.

There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in PNG. Take care not to offend.

Seek permission before taking photographs of individuals and cultural sites (for example, spirit houses).

 

Information for dual nationals

PNG doesn't recognise dual nationality except for children under 18 years of age. This may limit the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to Australian/Papua New Guinean dual nationals who are arrested or detained.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information for dual nationals.

Health

Take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. Get vaccinated before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Health care facilities in PNG, including in the capital Port Moresby, are poor by Australian standards. Facilities in large towns are usually adequate for routine problems and some emergencies, but health facilities in rural areas are very basic, including along the Kokoda Track.

Medical evacuation to Australia, costing between several thousand dollars to eighty thousand dollars, depending on the circumstances, is often the only option for serious illnesses or accidents (including diving accidents). Check your travel insurance policy to ensure that you're covered.

The PNG Government can declare a national emergency in response to the outbreaks of infections such as cholera, dysentery and seasonal influenza. The national emergency declaration enables the Government to make provisions, laws, orders or regulations without notice to stop the spread of infectious diseases. Travellers need to be aware that if such a declaration is made, again it may lead to the sudden closure of restaurants or water sources and the restriction of travel by individuals.

Mosquito-borne diseases: Malaria is a risk throughout PNG. Travellers recently returning from PNG have tested positive for dengue. Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases also occur, including in Port Moresby. Cases of chikungunya virus have also been reported since 2012. Take prophylaxis against malaria where necessary, and measures to avoid mosquito bites, including using insect repellent, wearing long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof. The mosquito-borne disease Japanese encephalitis is a risk throughout PNG, but the risk to short-term visitors to urban areas is relatively low. A Japanese encephalitis vaccine is registered for use and is currently available in Australia. For further details consult your travel health doctor.

Tuberculosis: Tuberculosis is prevalent in PNG and drug resistant strains of tuberculosis are present, including in Port Moresby. Cases of extensively drug resistant tuberculosis have been detected in Western Province and Port Moresby. Children under five years of age and people with medical conditions that affect their immune system may be at a greater risk of tuberculosis. If you suspect that you have tuberculosis, seek immediate medical treatment.

Food-borne, water-borne and other infectious diseases (including typhoid and hepatitis) are common. People with medical conditions that affect their immune system may be at a greater risk of tuberculosis. Travellers should discuss their travel plans with their health care practitioner. Consider having vaccinations before travelling. Local water supplies can be interrupted or polluted. Take precautions to ensure you have access to safe water. Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Be aware that water-borne parasites pose a risk in many of PNG's rivers. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in PNG is high. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection. Other sexually transmitted diseases are prevalent.

Stings from jellyfish and other marine animals can be fatal. Seek advice from local authorities, your tour operator or hotel regarding seasonal conditions, recommended precautions and other potential dangers.

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance. If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can't do to assist Australians overseas. For consular assistance, see contact details below.

Australian High Commission, Port Moresby

Godwit Road
Waigani NCD
Port Moresby, PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Telephone: (675) 7090 0100
Facsimile: (675) 325 9239
Visit the website: png.embassy.gov.au for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

Limited consular and passport assistance, (including the lodgement of applications for Australian passports, but not including the issue of emergency travel documents) may be obtained by appointment only from:

Australian Consulate-General, Lae

C/o Lae International Hotel
4th Street, Lae, Morobe Province
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Telephone: (+675) 472 3316
Facsimilie: (+675) 472 6620

In a consular emergency, if you're unable to contact the High Commission or the Consulate-General, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

PNG is in an active seismic zone. Earthquakes, tsunamis and landslides (and resulting road blockages) can occur.

On 29 August 2014, a volcanic eruption occurred at Mount Tavurvur in Rabaul. Authorities evacuated communities close to the volcano. Information on ash clouds is available at the website of the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in Darwin.

There are active volcanoes in PNG and regular eruptions occur, particularly around Rabaul, Bougainville, West New Britain and Manam Island. Ash from volcanoes in the Rabaul region occasionally disrupts airline schedules at Kokopo airport. Flights may be cancelled at short notice.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.

During the wet season (October to May), flooding and landslides have occurred, resulting in deaths and damage to roads/infrastructure. If you're travelling during the wet season, or after a natural disaster, contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.

Wildlife

Venomous snakes are common in PNG. There is usually an increase in the number of snake bite cases reported during the wet season.

Additional resources

For additional general and economic information to assist travelling in PNG, see the following links.