What to Expect When Traveling to Papua New Guinea

I recently just got back from a short holiday abroad with my dad. We visited Port Moresby of Papua New Guinea, a country that is just between Australia and the Philippines. When my dad initially told me about the trip back in December, honestly I wasn’t too excited at first. Probably because I already had an idea what the country was like. I’m not one to judge but I’ve read enough articles online to know that most foreigners see the place as somewhat dangerous or unsafe. With the capital city having a crime index of 79.9, the 7th highest in the world and 1st in Oceania according to Numbeo, it didn’t look very promising.

But that didn’t make me want to back out from the trip. For me, seeing the country for myself was worth the risk. I get to go to a place where not many tourists would want to. Seriously, how cool is that? I wanted to see Port Moresby for what it really was and if what some people said online was true. Provided some of the reviews were years old so who knows what changed.

So we traveled to Port Moresby from Manila on January 31 and from the moment we stepped out of the airport, we quickly noticed some things that we didn’t account for. From the type of electrical outlets to the way some locals would prefer to walk, it just caught us off guard. Luckily I decided that throughout our trip, I would write down in my notepad all the things that I feel everyone should expect when they’re traveling to PNG (Papua New Guinea). I’ve also added a few things on the list like the language they speak there.

If you find some of these offensive, I would just like to point out that this is from my own personal observation and I do not have any ill intentions to the people or their government.

10 Things to Expect When Traveling to Papua New Guinea

1. Locals speak clear English

Most of the people in Port Morseby speak good English. This is NOT a bad thing as this made communicating with them easy. Their official language is called Tok Pisin which is based on the English language.

2. Some locals prefer to walk barefoot

This was the first thing that caught our attention when we got to the Arrivals lobby after we landed. Some of the Papuan people would walk barefoot inside and outside the airport. Not because they couldn’t afford footwear as we could see their upper attire were very casual, but because of choice.

This was not limited only to the airport. You will occasionally see people walking bare feet around the city and even in malls. I never got around to ask the locals the reason why. Maybe it’s because they like the feeling of stepping on the cold floor? Or that they find shoes uncomfortable at times? (I know I do lol)

3. Lack of public security

In Papua New Guinea, when immediately noticed the lack of security guards when we arrived at the airport. Anybody and I mean anybody, could just go inside the airport up to the check-in areas. Unlike other countries I’ve been to and even in the Philippines, there would be metal detectors at the entrance and someone to check you before you could enter the Departures area. That was the first instance that we felt unsafe.

Port Moresby

I could understand that security would be limited if it was only a domestic airport, but the Jacksons International Airport of Port Moresby was an – international airport. You’ve got people coming in from all over the world. On the streets, we rarely saw any police cars and from what I’ve read online, thieves or snatchers weren’t uncommon. So if you plan on taking a selfie by the sidewalk, I would advise to think twice or at least look around first if no one’s nearby.

4. Papua New Guinea is expensive

Even though Papua New Guinea is still a developing country, the cost of living there isn’t cheap. Papua New Guinea’s currency is called the Kina and one kina is equivalent to around 15 pesos here in the Philippines. My dad got us a room at a B&B for two nights for 490 kinas, which was the cheapest one he could find in Booking.com. That is 145 USD or 7600 pesos. In comparison, with that amount you could stay in a regular hotel here for up to a week. Two weeks if you settle for a pension house.

Food in Port Moresby was also quite expensive. We ordered 2 meals at a small restaurant inside their local mall. That cost us 35 kinas each or 540 pesos. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take a picture but the meal only consisted of one cup of rice, orange juice, and a piece of chicken. But we could have just chosen the wrong restaurant as the meals in our B&B took us back by only 15 kinas each. And we felt fuller.

Lunch - 15 kinas
Lunch – 15 kinas

To be fair, I live in the Philippines where the cost of living is one the cheapest in the world. So for me, any other country can be pricey!

5. Driver’s seat is on the right side

In Papua New Guinea, the car’s driver seat in on the right side. This isn’t really a big deal and not new for anyone living in the U.K. or Australia as its part of their cars’ standard design. Papua New Guinea was once under Australia before they declared independence in 1975. Drivers also drive on the left lane.

Inside a taxi cab in Port Moresby
Inside a taxi cab in Port Moresby

6. Most taxis smell and don’t use air conditioning

We only rode the taxi once in our stay in Papua New Guinea and that was when our hotel’s service wasn’t able to pick us up at the airport, which was really disappointing considering that we waited for 2 hours. The first thing you will notice before you hop on the cab is the smell and that there is no air conditioning.

The taxis in Port Moresby roam the streets with the windows opened which was somewhat inconvenient as it was already hot outside. The seats were old and gave off this unpleasant odor which you couldn’t avoid throughout the journey.

7. Taxis can overcharge you

Another reason why we didn’t ride a taxi again was because some of them would overcharge you especially if they see you’re a new tourist. This happened to us on our ride from the airport to our hotel which was just a few kilometers away. He charged us 50 kinas for a 10-minute ride. We were reluctant at first but he spoke as if it was going to be a long drive. We should’ve known better. Avoid fixed prices and always go with the taxi meter.

8. Most houses and hotels have barbed wire fences

I’m not talking about military-level defenses if that’s what you had in mind. Just the regular barbed wire you would see in other countries. Our hotel host told us that Port Moresby is much safer than what it was years ago. Though this may be true, when you go around the city you will see some houses, hotels, and hostels surrounded by high fences with the spiky metal wire attached to the top.

There were no evident crimes when we were there, but judging from the way the property was secured we can only imagine what it was like there before.

9. Electrical outlets are Type I

The electrical outlets in Papua New Guinea are Type I, which is also the same type of outlet used in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and in some parts in China. This is probably the most important thing that you must expect when you decide to travel to Port Moresby. We didn’t know about this beforehand and we traveled with chargers just for Type A and B outlets, which are the standard electrical outlets in the Philippines.

Adapter for Type I electrical outlet
Adapter for Type I electrical outlet

You can purchase an adapter at their mall or phone shops, but it would be better if you already brought one with you before you travel. We borrowed our kind host’s adapter as she had an extra one.

Types of electrical outlets. From Shutterstock.

10. Downtown Port Moresby

Downtown Port Moresby is located near the shoreline of the city and it is where you can find the APEC Haus and a lot of beautiful high-class buildings. When I read online that there were two kinds of Port Moresby, I never really got the gist of it. Only until we went there ourselves that I understood what that meant. Locals refer to the area as Downtown and the scenery is quite different from what you would see in the city proper or Central Port Moresby as I would like to call it.

Downtown Port Moresby near Ela Beach
Downtown Port Moresby near Ela Beach

There were numerous businesses, tall buildings, hotels, and resorts in Downtown Port Moresby. There were also a lot of people at Ela Beach when we were passing by. I was glad that our host took us there as it was already the last day of our trip and I was actually bummed out that there wasn’t much to see in Port Moresby. The Downtown was a breath of fresh air as it looked reminisce of what you would see from pictures of Hawaii (never been to Hawaii so I can only imagine haha).

Elmer Balbin

Web developer from Bacolod, Steam Sale hunter, and casual DotA 2 player.

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CHris J
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CHris J

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