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Papua New Guinea

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Summary

  • Exercise a high degree of caution in Papua New Guinea (PNG) because of high levels of serious crime.
  • Reconsider your need to travel to Tari in Hela Province due to periodic violent tribal clashes. Seek local advice on the security situation before travel. See Safety and security
  • Reconsider your need to travel to Porgera township in Enga Province in the northern highlands. Violence near the Porgera gold mine has led to a number of deaths and injuries. Porgera township has been in a State of Emergency since May 2014. See Safety and security
  • Voting in the Bougainville referendum will take place from 23 November to 7 December, with a 2 week period for counting to follow. Avoid political gatherings before, during and after the referendum. If you are travelling to Bougainville, check your flight and accommodation bookings with your travel provider. See Safety and security See Safety and security
  • Avoid large crowds and public gatherings as they may turn violent. See Safety and security
  • Criminal activity including armed robbery has targeted tourist destinations in Alotau and across Milne Bay. In December 2018 and January 2019, police locked down Alotau several times due to civil disorder relating to criminal activity. See Safety and security
  • Local tensions and tribal disputes are common throughout PNG and can escalate quickly into violent clashes. Clashes can spark increased lawlessness, including opportunistic crime and property damage. Monitor local media. Avoid trouble spots. See Safety and security
  • There is a persistent high level of crime, particularly in Port Moresby, Lae, Mt Hagen and other urban centres. Armed robberies, car-jackings and burglaries occur, often in locations frequented by Westerners. See Safety and security
  • You could encounter sexual assault, including gang rape. Foreigners have been targeted. Be alert to possible threats and have appropriate security measures in place. Be particularly alert if you're female. See Safety and security
  • Australian officials in PNG adopt heightened security measures while travelling, at home, at work and in public places. Given the constant threat of violent crime, you should consider doing the same. See Safety and security
  • Given 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
  • Local disputes and weather conditions can result in disruptions to flights and other transport services. Contact your airline or travel provider for the latest information. See Local travel
  • Natural disasters including flooding, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions can affect travel and have resulted in injuries and deaths. Infrastructure can be damaged and roads can become impassable. Monitor media and check with local sources before you travel. See Natural disasters
  • In 2018 the World Health Organization (WHO) reported Vaccine-Derived Polio Virus (Type 1) cases in parts of PNG. Ensure you’re vaccinated against polio. See Health

Entry and exit

Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Australian Government cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements. 

Visas

You need a visa to enter. Australians can apply for tourist visas on arrival through the PNG eVisa portal. There have been reports of fraudulent websites targeting foreign nationals applying for eVisas to PNG. If applying for an eVisa, use the official PNG Immigration and Citizenship Authority website.

 Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact a High Commission, Embassy or Consulate of Papua New Guinea for up-to-date information.

Make sure your visa is appropriate for your intended travel. It's illegal to work in PNG on a tourist visa. If you breach PNG's immigration regulations, you can be fined, jailed, deported or banned from re-entry.

Other formalities

You can't bring fruit or vegetables into PNG due to quarantine restrictions.

Passport

Check your Australian passport’s expiry date before you travel. Some countries won’t let you enter unless your passport is valid for six months from when you plan to leave that country. Check that you have at least two blank pages. Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to get access to your passport by deception.  If you're forced to hand it over, contact the High Commission for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

The local currency is the PNG Kina (PGK). Declare all amounts in excess of PGK 20,000 on arrival and departure.

Australian dollars can be exchanged at local banks for PGK. Most hotels accept international credit cards. Ask your bank whether your Australian cards will work in PNG.

ATMs are available in Port Moresby and major urban centres but aren't always operational. Always use ATMs located in hotels and other secure locations due to the high risk of crime.

Safety and security

Crime

Crime levels are high and police responses can be slow.

Crime is common throughout PNG, but particularly in Port Moresby, Lae and other urban centres. Squatter settlement areas of towns and cities are particularly dangerous. Robbery, assault (including sexual assaults), bag snatching and car-jacking are common. 'Bush knives' (machetes) and firearms are often used in assaults and thefts. The crime rate tends to increase leading into the Christmas holiday period.

Most crime is opportunistic but some robberies target expatriates in their homes, at their workplaces or while travelling. There is a heightened risk of armed robbery at shopping centres, hotels, restaurants and other areas frequented by Westerners in urban areas, including Port Moresby. Most armed robberies involve firearms.

Sexual assault, including gang rape, is prevalent. Foreigners have been targeted.

It's dangerous to walk the streets, particularly after dark in major urban centres such as Port Moresby and Lae.

Car jacking is common in Port Moresby, Lae, and along the highway between Lae and Nadzab Airport, particularly at night. Criminals may use roadblocks on roads outside of towns to stop and loot vehicles, and attack the occupants.

Civil disorder and criminal activity, including armed robbery, has occurred at tourist resorts in Alotau and across Milne Bay. In December 2018 and January 2019, police locked down Alotau several times due to civil disorder relating to criminal activity.

Police response times can be slow. Many businesses, including the High Commission, employ private security companies to help deliver a prompt response to calls for assistance and as security escorts.

Australian officials adopt heightened security measures at all times in PNG. Officials receive security training and adhere to strict security guidelines. which may include limiting or avoiding travel in certain areas during periods of increased risk Closely monitor your personal security and ensure you have appropriate security measures in place.

  • Avoid high crime risk areas and activities.
  • Assess your personal security arrangements. Make sure you have appropriate security measures in place, in public and private spaces. Consider engaging a private security company.
  • Carry only what you need. Leave other valuables, including your passport, in a secure location.
  • Keep your car windows and doors closed and locked at all times, including when moving.
  • If you need to travel at night, consider using a security escort or travelling in convoy.
  • Secure your home or other accommodation, including when you're inside.
  • Be alert to your surroundings at all times. Females are particularly vulnerable to assault and theft.    
  • Avoid travel by taxi or public transport especially if you're female (see Local travel).

Civil unrest and political tension

Tension between tribal, communal or clan groups can occur without warning. Fighting often involves the use of firearms and is sometimes followed by rioting and looting. Outbreaks of violence have occurred in squatter settlements and marketplaces in Port Moresby, Lae, Bulolo, Mt Hagen, Mendi, Porgera and other urban centres.

Clashes can result in widespread destruction of property, serious injury and disruption of normal services, including transport services. Opportunistic crime often increases in these circumstances.

In June 2018, civil unrest and violence broke out in Mendi, Southern Highlands Province, following a court decision on a disputed election outcome. Rioters looted and burned an Air Niugini aircraft and several buildings. 

Violent tribal clashes and random killings of locals have occured in Tari and surrounding areas in Hela Province. Porgera Township in Enga Province is under a State of Emergency because of ongoing violence (related to illegal mining at the Porgera gold mine) that has led to several deaths and injuries.

  • Reconsider your need to travel to Tari in Hela Province.
  • Reconsider your need to travel to Porgera Township in Enga Province.
  • Monitor the media and consult local contacts, such as airlines, accommodation or other service providers, on local security conditions and tensions before travelling to a new area.
  • Avoid trouble spots.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world.

More information:

Local travel

Kokoda Track and trekking

Walking the Kokoda Track is physically demanding and requires a high level of fitness. There is a risk of dysentery and dehydration. Each year, several Australians are medically evacuated at huge personal expense, and some have died. You may need to wait several days for medical evacuation, given unpredictable weather conditions and poor local services. Adequate travel insurance is essential.

Serious crime and civil disorder is a risk throughout PNG, including along the Black Cat Track in Morobe Province and the Kokoda Track including in areas adjacent to each end of the track in Central and Oro Provinces. See Safety and security

In 2018 and 2019, there were several armed robberies of expatriate day trekkers near Sogeri and Variarta National Park, including an attempted armed carjacking. In 2019, expatriate day trekkers were robbed near the Goldie River Crossing. Consider using a security escort when travelling in the area. See Safety and security

Unexploded ordnance (UXO) exists in PNG, particularly along the Kokoda Track, Milne Bay and Rabaul. The exact condition and stability of these items is largely unknown. If disturbed, UXO could maim or kill you.

The PNG Government regulates trekking along the Kokoda Track. Confirm with your trekking company that they have contingency plans if the track becomes blocked. Kokoda trekkers need a permit, which can be arranged through the PNG Government. If your trekking company undertakes to arrange this for you, make sure you get the permit before you start trekking.

  • Train extensively and seek medical advice and fitness testing before you commit to trekking.
  • Make sure your travel insurance will cover you for your planned activities and includes cover for medical evacuation.
  • Only travel with guides from reputable trekking companies.
  • Leave an itinerary for your trek, including the contact details of the trekking company, with your family or friends in Australia.

While trekking:

  • remain hydrated and protect yourself from dysentery (see Health)
  • store your passport in a waterproof bag or container to avoid water or sweat damage
  •  pay close attention to your personal security and stick with your group
  • don't touch or disturb anything that could be unexploded ordnance, whether near the track or on display.

More information:

Bougainville


Voting in the Bougainville Referendum will take place from 23 November to 7 December, with a 2 week period for counting to follow. Avoid political gatherings before, during and after the referendum. If you are travelling to Bougainville, check your flight and accommodation bookings with your travel provider.

You're more at risk in Central Bougainville and Southern Bougainville due to the remote terrain, prevalence of weapons held by former combatants and sensitivities around mining (particularly the old Panguna mine in Central Bougainville). Medical services in Bougainville are basic; make sure your insurance covers you for medical evacuation.

  • Monitor local media and consult local sources about the security situation prior to travelling.
  • Be alert to your surroundings and ready to turn back if you develop concerns for your safety.
  • Take appropriate personal security precautions.

Telecommunications

Some mobile telephone global roaming facilities are available in PNG, but service can be patchy. Landline phones occasionally suffer outages.

  • Check mobile coverage with your service provider.
  • Make contingency plans for service outages. Consider carrying a satellite phone.

Road travel

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), you're three times more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in PNG than in Australia. Roads are in a poor state of repair, especially in rural areas. Other hazards include unpredictable and drunk drivers, poorly maintained and over-crowded vehicles. Large crowds can form quickly after road accidents. These crowds can become violent with little or no warning.

During the wet season (timing varies across the country) flash floods and landslides can result in road closures and travel delays, particularly on stretches of the Highlands Highway between Lae and Mount Hagen.

Police regularly use roadblocks to check licences and vehicle registrations in Port Moresby.

  • Familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and practices before driving.
  • Keep your car windows and doors closed and locked at all times.
  • Avoid driving at night. If you need to travel at night, consider using a security escort or travelling in a convoy. See Safety and security
  • Consider using a security escort along the Highlands Highway (including between Lae and Nadzab Airport).
  • Make sure your licence, vehicle registration and safety stickers are up-to-date to minimise difficulties at roadblocks.

More information:

Driver's licence 

You need a valid International Driving Permit (IDP) along with your current Australian driver's licence to drive a vehicle. Driving without an IDP could void your travel and vehicle insurance. After one month, you'll need to get a local licence.

Motorcycles

Avoid travel by motorcycle. Riding a motorcycle exposes you to significantly higher risks than in Australia due to the poor state of local roads and high risk of crime. Travel in a locked vehicle is a safer option. Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when riding a motorcycle. Always wear a helmet.

Taxis

Avoid taxis, especially if you're female. Taxis are poorly maintained and often targeted by criminals. Vehicles hired from reputable companies, hotel transport and secure transport providers are safer alternatives.

Public transport

Avoid public transport. Public Motor Vehicles (PMVs) provide public transport in major urban centres, but are generally poorly maintained. Criminals sometimes target PMVs. Vehicles hired from reputable companies, hotel transport and secure transport providers are safer alternatives.

Sea travel

Travel by ferry or small local boats can be dangerous. Even modern boats may be overcrowded and lack basic safety equipment such as life jackets (especially those suitable for children), life rafts and fire extinguishers. In recent years several boats have sunk and many people have died.

Boat services are subject to disruption at short notice. Overcrowding of ferries and boats is common. Consider flying to your destination.

There are limited marine search and rescue services in PNG. Take additional precautions when travelling on the water. Precautions could include:

  • checking with your tour operator or crew to determine whether safety standards are appropriate
  • making sure any ferry or boat you board (including dive boats) has appropriate safety equipment, including life jackets for all passengers
  • carrying your own life jackets, an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) and satellite telephone
  • avoiding single-engine boats and travelling by water after dark unless the vessel is appropriately equipped
  • travelling in convoy with all boats at half capacity or less
  • registering your departures and arrivals with a your family or friends in Australia.

If appropriate safety equipment isn't available, use another provider.

Register EPIRBs and PLBs with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. In case of maritime accident,notify
the PNG National Maritime Safety Authority on +675 7351 7017.

International cruise lines stop over in PNG.

More information:

Air travel

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.

  • In December 2017, a North Coast Aviation Ltd aircraft crashed in mountainous terrain in Morobe Province, killing the Australian pilot.
  • In April 2016, a Sunbird Aviation aircraft crashed in Kiunga, Western Province killing 12 people, including an Australian.
  • In September 2014, a light aircraft crashed just outside Port Moresby killing four people, including an Australian.

Delays and cancellations of international and domestic flights are frequent. Re-check flight schedules with airlines.

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety.

More information:

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

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.

Other laws

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

The following activities are illegal and subject to fines or jail sentences:

  • possession or sale of pornographic material or sex items
  • adultery.

Sexual acts between individuals of the same sex are illegal and punishable by imprisonment.

More information:

War materials

It's illegal to remove surplus war material from PNG. This includes:

  • guns
  • bullets
  • aircraft or vehicle parts
  • other items used during WWII

Check with PNG Customs before buying or attempting to take any war material out of PNG.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you can be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information:

Dual nationals

PNG only recognises dual nationality in some circumstances. Since 2016, PNG nationals can apply for dual citizenship with certain countries, including Australia.

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.

More information:

Local customs

The traditional custom of 'payback' is often practised. If you offend local custom, engage in illegal or inappropriate sexual or financial relations, or damage someone's property (including livestock), you could face 'payback' from offended parties. This could include violence and/or demands for compensation.

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, including spirit houses.

Health

Travel insurance

Get comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Make sure your policy includes adequate coverage for any pre-existing conditions.

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 won't pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and aren't covered under your policy
  • you're covered for the whole time you'll be away.

More information:

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia is available in other countries. Some may be considered illegal or a controlled substances, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel.

Take legal prescription medicine so you remain in good health. Always carry a copy of your prescription and a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you take and that it's for personal use only.

More information:

Health risks

Mosquito-borne diseases

Malaria is a risk throughout PNG and is common throughout the year. Other insect-borne diseases including  Zika virus, dengue fever also occur, including in Port Moresby. Cases of chikungunya virus have been reported since 2012. Japanese encephalitis is a risk throughout PNG, but the risk to short-term visitors to urban areas is relatively low. The Australian Department of Health advises pregnant women to discuss any travel plans with their doctor and defer non-essential travel to Zika virus-affected areas.

Protect yourself against mosquito-borne illnesses:

  • ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof
  • avoid insect bites, including by using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • consider malaria prevention medication
  • consider getting vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis before you travel
  • if you're pregnant, discuss your travel plans and possible health risks with your doctor before you travel
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.

More information:

Poliovirus

In 2018 the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported Vaccine-Derived Polio Virus (Type 1) cases in parts of PNG. A national vaccination campaign is ongoing. Check that you're vaccinated against polio.

More information: 

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is common. 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 you have tuberculosis, seek immediate medical treatment.

HIV/AIDS

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

Other infectious diseases

Food-borne, water-borne and other infectious diseases (including dysentery, typhoid and hepatitis) are common. Local water supplies can be interrupted or polluted. Water-borne parasites are in many of PNG's rivers.

  • Maintain good personal hygiene, including regular and thorough handwashing.
  • Boil drinking water or drink bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid uncooked and undercooked food.
  • Avoid bathing in fresh water sources.
  • Seek medical attention if you suspect poisoning, if you have a fever or suffer from diarrhoea.

Marine animal stings

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

Emergency health response

The PNG Government may declare a national emergency in response to the outbreaks of infections such as cholera, dysentery and seasonal influenza. In an emergency, the Government may make provisions, laws, orders or regulations without notice to stop the spread of infectious diseases. In these circumstances, your travel could be restricted and restaurants and water sources may be closed.

Medical facilities

Health care facilities are poor, including in Port Moresby. Facilities in large towns are usually adequate for routine problems and some emergencies, but health facilities in rural areas, including along the Kokoda Track, are very basic. Ambulance services outside Port Moresby are very limited.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you'll need to be evacuated to Australia. Medical evacuation can be very expensive.

The only hyperbaric (decompression) chamber in PNG is in Port Moresby. Dive well within safety limits. Make sure your travel insurance covers you for diving and medical evacuation.

Natural disasters

PNG experiences severe weather, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis.  

If a natural disaster occurs:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times.
  • closely monitor local media and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities and or/your employer
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts
  • contact your airline or travel provided for up-to-date information on travel options.

If you're visiting after a natural disaster, contact your tour operator to check whether services at your planned destination are affected.

Severe weather

Heavy rain during the wet season (timing varies across the country) can lead to flooding and landslides, sometimes resulting in deaths and injuries, damage to roads/infrastructure and disruptions to services. Tropical storms may also occur in other months. If you're expected to arrive during the wet season, contact your tour operator to check whether services at your planned destination are affected.

Volcanoes

There are active volcanoes and regular eruptions occur, particularly around Rabaul, Bougainville, West New Britain and Manam Island.

The volcano at Mt Ulawun, West New Britain Province, erupted in 2019 and further eruptions are likely. It displaced locals, disrupted services, and resulted in the closure of Hoskins Airport for several days. Manam Island volcano erupts frequently, including in 2018 and 2019, leading to the evacuation of local communities on several occasions. Previously dormant volcanos, such as the volcano on Kadovar Island, also erupted.

Ash from volcanoes in the Rabaul region occasionally disrupts airline schedules at Kokopo airport. Flights may be cancelled at short notice.

Information on ash clouds is available at the website of the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in Darwin.

Earthquakes and tsunamis

PNG experiences earthquakes and tsunamis. Tsunamis can follow an earthquake in PNG or the region.

In 2018, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the Southern Highlands and Hela Provinces causing over 100 deaths and disruption to flights and essential services, including access to food and clean water.

Real-time information on earthquakes can be found on the US Geological Service website. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, which you can subscribe to, provides real-time information on tsunamis in the region.

If there is an earthquake, follow the advice for all natural disasters and:

  • follow the advice of your accommodation provider and local authorities
  • monitor the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and local sources
  • if you're in a coastal or low-lying area move to higher ground.

More information:

Wildlife

Venomous snakes are common in PNG. Reported snake bite cases tend to increase during the wet season.

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Fire: 110
  • Medical emergencies: 111 or go direct to the hospital
  • Criminal issues: 112 or go to your local police station

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

For consular assistance, contact the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby or the Australian the Consulate-General in Lae (if you are in Morobe province) to make an appointment. Note the Consulate-General in Lae can't issue emergency travel documents.

Australian High Commission, Port Moresby

Godwit Road
Waigani NCD
Port Moresby
Telephone: (+675) 7090 0100
Facsimile: (+675) 325 9239
Website: png.embassy.gov.au

Check the Australian High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

Australian Consulate-General, Lae

Nanbawan Supa Building
4th Floor, 2nd Street
Lae, Morobe Province
Telephone: (+675) 7999 5300
Email: consulate-general.lae@dfat.gov.au
Website: png.embassy.gov.au/pmsb/Lae

If you can't contact the High Commission or the Consulate-General in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional resources