There’s not much information online about travelling to Papua New Guinea is there? I mean, compared to most of the rest of the world.
Papua New Guinea is one of the most untouched countries by British tourists, but after spending almost two weeks there in September 2017, I really can’t see why (apart from the cost of getting there!). I enjoyed a chilled 10 days visiting the villages, staying at some amazing lodges and sampling the legendary scuba diving. And it wasn’t scary at all.
Here are my top tips for travelling to Papua New Guinea, just in case you fancied a trip over there yourself.
11 Tips for Travelling to Papua New Guinea
1. Planes are always late
Or at least the 4 I took were. They’d come in at anything from 30 minutes to 90, and there was never any information up. It’s usually due to weather or supply and demand – just buy yourself an airport snack and sit back, relax and hope that one even turns up.
2. People were very serious
Especially up in the Highlands. There was no laughing and joking, not even with each other. Sometimes I found this quite unnerving. I’m not sure if people were just trying to work me out – from what was said I don’t think many 30+ solo travellers visited those parts.
3. Food was generally basic
I ate a lot of bread in my first week in Papua New Guinea. Sometimes the food was actually inedible, especially the packed lunches when we had day trips (see above). You might want to take a few little snacks with you as there was no food to buy at the first two lodges I stayed at either. I was so hungry I went and asked for some bread or something, just to last till dinner, and got a dry biscuit.
The food at Walindi Lodge was amazing though – and they even had crisps and ice creams to buy although I never felt the need with the delicious meals there.
4. I never felt in danger
I didn’t ever feel in danger in Papua New Guinea, apart from the stupid actions of fellow tourists, but I was always with a guide. The only times I was ever on my own was getting in and out of the airports.
I asked a few people if solo travel was advised in PNG and the general consensus was that it was ok, if you know where’s safe to go, that week. There can be different tribal flare ups depending on recent events and so the best thing to do, if you want to travel Papua New Guinea solo, would be to book to go to somewhere like Walindi Resort for 3-4 nights and then speak to Johnathan, the land guide. He knows everything. He’ll be able to tell you where is safe and where to avoid.
To say that Papua New Guinea is dangerous is a huge and offensive generalisation. Certain parts are, with certain tribe wars and when tourists do certain things, but there are plenty of safe places to explore in Papua New Guinea alone or in a group.
5. Tipping was complicated
It’s said that tipping isn’t expected, because they don’t want Papua New Guinea to turn into that kind of culture, but if I didn’t tip I felt bad, and they were obviously annoyed – at least in my mind.
If I did tip it was snaffled out of my hand as quick as possible. I can only hope the guide shared with the driver. Tip separately if you’re worried about that.
Always tip if you go to the villages – it’s the only way the villagers can make any money, and they are providing you with a service with the entertainment. One day I went on a day trip with a bunch of American and German tourists and not one of them gave any money to the villagers, they were too busy getting in their faces with their huge cameras. Have to say, it was disgusting.
6. Drinking can be a dodgy subject
I was told that many Papua New Guinea people don’t take their drink very well. As I travelled round I noticed the bill boards warning against indulgence, and when we landed in Tari on the charter plane we were avoiding the usual landing destination because tensions between the nearby tribes were high, and we had beers in the luggage hold.
I really wanted to ask more about this but got the impression it was none of my business…
7. I kinda understood Pidgin
It’s always amazed me while I’ve been travelling around, just how much you can understand and grasp without speaking the actual language of the country. I mean, when you have the context of the situation you could kind of, almost work it all out.
Listen intently to the Pidgin English being spoken around you and you might just pick a little bit up, or just speak English – that works too.
8. Trek respectfully
Everywhere belongs to someone in Papua New Guinea – the land is divided up between the natives and generally isn’t sold on or developed without prior agreement of the tribe elders. If you’re trekking you’ll always be trekking on someone else’s land so just check with your hotel staff before you go off a wandering.
Watch my YouTube video to see what to expect from PNG!
Check out my channel at VickyFlipFlop
9. Bank cards come out after the money
In England the bank card comes first, you collect your money, and off you trot. In Papua New Guinea it’s the other way round.
I got stung for this at Bangkok Airport once too – there they pulled the cash point apart to get it out as it’d been sucked back in. In Papua New Guinea the ATM security guard just shouted “Hey, sister!” at me as I was getting back in our Land Rover, and thankfully I got it back. Just watch yourself.
While we’re on ATMs: I asked my guide if there was an ATM nearby and with his positive reply I assumed it’d be 20 minutes max. We drove for an hour back into Mount Hagen so I could use it. Felt bad.
Make sure you get enough money out for tips and beers while you’re in the city so you don’t have to ask for the same unnecessary road trip.
10. Roads are terrible in the Highlands
Honestly, you need a sports bra and nerves of steel to manage Papua New Guinea’s Highland roads, and it’s not just when you’re creeping up the hills, but when you’re on the flat ground too. It takes longer than the km would have you guess here, thanks to needing to weave in and out of the stones, other cars, pot holes and people.
11. The airport facilities
We started with flights, let’s end with airports. In Hoskins it was a hut, genuinely, look see above. I really enjoyed this airport experience – everyone was chatting away and I was sat next to a Port Moresby lawyer who was in town to defend his client. Of course he had lots of stories about the Papua New Guinea judicial system which I lapped up at the time but have totally forgotten now.
Port Morseby Domestic Airport just has a little cafe on each side before and after customs. Port Morseby International had considerably better facilities although service was so slow, honestly thought I was going to miss my flight it took that long at check in. But, as I said before, all flights were late which worked out well for me.
Just let me know if you have any questions about travelling to Papua New Guinea –
it’s definitely an interesting place!