When I arrived on Papua New Guinea’s turf the hot air hit me as I stepped off the plane. It was September, 5am, 26C and I was totally overdressed for the heat in black leggings, Vans trainers, a top, tshirt, hoody, and scarf. Hawt.
I’d been full of trepidation about my Papua New Guinea trip. I’d originally planned it for November but due to a few life events we, PNG Tourism and I, decided to go earlier. In two weeks time. It was my own fault but I felt rushed, and unschooled on what it was actually going to be like over there.
I read up on the country, of course, but with limited information online and well-meaning friends forwarding me on air safety records and blummin cannibalism reports, I was feeling way more nervous than usual as I sat at my gate at Heathrow.
There’s something magical about going to somewhere you know nothing about though. Nowadays we have so much information, and everyone is so well travelled (in my world anyway) it was exciting to be going somewhere I knew so new and unexplored. I was excitement mixed with nerves.
My Advice for Arriving in Papua New Guinea
As soon as I finally arrived in Papua New Guinea my fears disappeared in the friendliness of the staff at the airport, and the realisation that I could definitely do this whole solo adventure travel thing, like I had for three years before. The airport was like others I’d seen around the world, and the people in there looked just like they would at any airport – rushed / determined /bored.
I slept most of the 13-hour British Airways Heathrow to Singapore flight (paid extra for an exit seat for that exact reason). Although I did watch the new Amy Schumer film, Snatched, which made me angry about the ridiculous media stereotypes of some countries. Based in Ecuador, the lead characters get kidnapped, and there are drugs, cartels and guns – and it reminded me how damaging stereotypes and rumours can be to a place, just like depictions of Papua New Guinea, and stories from people who’d never actually been there.
Singapore to Port Moresby flight
On the Air Niugini Singapore to Port Moresby flight I sat next to an interesting South African guy who travelled the world advising on forestry. He was going to PNG to teach how to replenish their forests. He’d been to Papua New Guinea eight times in the past three years and said it was perfectly safe. His only advice for me was to order my dinner half an hour before I was hungry – service is the restaurants might not be like what I was used to. I could deal with that.
And so I relaxed even more with two of the local beers on offer – South Pacific and Blue Nuigini. Nice little beer tasting a few thousand miles up in the air, why not?
The Air Nugini flight was easy – I’d somehow managed to bag an exit seat and had loads of space. We were given a beef stew and cheesecake within the first hour and then an hour before landing we had a little orange juice and a delightful moist cake. We had TVs in the seats, and I watched a programme on food in Papua New Guinea and watched out the window as we crossed oceans.
Unfortunately, landing was set for 4am, so there were no epic views for my arrival into Papua New Guinea. Just lights. My new South African friend Ivan told me they’d built the airport here because it barely rained in this spot, meaning the airport was still fully operational all through rainy season.
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Papua New Guinea Visa on Arrival for Brits
I joined the ‘Visa on Arrival’ queue – as all Brits should – down the right side. Not the long snaking queue in the middle for all the other nationalities. The lady was friendly enough for 5am, spoke English (as many people in PNG do), asked me a few questions about where I was going, and stamped me through.
With that I was allowed to stay 60 days, but I would only be there for 9.
Luggage at Jacksons International Airport
My luggage was ready and waiting once I was through, and off I went to find Domestic departures for my onward flight to Mount Hagen. I wasn’t going to be staying in Port Moresby, and from everything I’ve learnt before, during and after my trip to Papua New Guinea, neither should you.
My flight was with Air Niugini and despite all the shout outs that you were only allowed one item weighing 7kg – I had a small bag, about 2kgs and my camera equipment, about 10kg – they let me on no questions asked. Probably depends how busy your flight is.
Staff at Port Moresby airport
At 5am at Jacksons International Airport there seemed to be a lot of staff standing around with nothing to do. Anyone I encountered and spoke to smiled at me and at least two exclaimed ‘welcome to PNG’ with big smiles. It was a much friendlier experience than any London airport I’d ever been to.
One particularly smiley man asked me where I was going – I replied Mount Hagen – and he went on to tell me how he was from there and it was a beautiful place. Apparently I was really going to enjoy the fruits and vegetables…
SIM cards and Wi-Fi
I picked up a SIM card from Vodafone – they took my details, as I’d exprienced before and photographed my passport. Unfortunately because of the lack of Wi-Fi in the airport (none) I couldn’t activate the SIM. I’d recommend you try and do it while you’re in the Vodafone shop rather than waiting till you go through security, they might be able to help. And the only reason I could even get the SIM out of my phone was because my earring just fit in the hole.
I later found out that you should go for Digicell, rather than Vodafone, especially if you’re visiting the Highlands. Not even a bar of coverage for me up there.
There’s no Wi-Fi at Papua New Guinea’s main airport, unless you pay the equivalent of about £40 for the lounge, although it wasn’t working either day I was there or I might’ve considered it.
Money at Jackson Airport
I took money out of the ATM using my Nationwide Flex Plus card, although I had no idea how much it wsa. I could see that using an hour of internet on my phone would be so 30 PNG kina so I guessed at 100 PNG kina. This turned out to be around £25 in September 2017.
I bought a coffee at Café Imbibe for 7 kina – pheweee it was strong, and super thick. I only managed half of it but suddenly felt super awake. I wrote this in one sitting so you know it was good stuff. There were cakes for sale, and also pies and sandwiches, although none looked particularly appetising.
Facilities at the Domestic Terminal
Facilities were basic.
There were toilets in the terminal, of course, thankfully western style after the hole in the floor in Singapore. There were signs up warning you not to spit the Betel Nut into the sink, thanks to its red ‘jus’. That’s the nut I was telling you about in my post on what Papua New Guinea was like.
The airport was chilled – I didn’t feel danger or scared at any point, in the slightest, and everyone I spoke to was very friendly and interested to know where I was going. There’s no need to worry about arriving into Papua New Guinea on your travels.
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6 Top Tips for Arriving at Papua New Guinea Airport
1. Don’t go upstairs, you probably need the domestic terminal outside and round the corner.
2. Pick up your luggage and check it in again for your flight – it won’t go all the way through.
3. There are coffee shops and restaurants serving cakes, sandwiches and pies.
4. Facilities are very basic in Domestic.
5. Not one of my flights ran on time, don’t stress.
6. Read my post on fascinating Papua New Guinea facts to learn more about the country before you go.
My trip to Papua New Guinea was sponsored by PNG UK. They invited me to come and explore the country in return for my thoughts on the blog – definitely lots of them to come!