Papua New Guinea travel guide

Embark on an extraordinary adventure to Papua New Guinea, a land of captivating cultural diversity, untouched natural beauty, and unparalleled experiences. Discover ancient traditions, vibrant festivals, and pristine rainforests teeming with unique flora and fauna.

Planning Your Trip

Planning a trip to Papua New Guinea requires careful consideration and preparation due to the country’s unique geography, cultural diversity, and limited infrastructure. Start by identifying your interests, whether it’s cultural immersion, adventure activities, or wildlife encounters, as this will shape your itinerary.

Research and book flights in advance, as air travel is the primary mode of transportation between regions. Consider domestic flight options or explore cruises that offer curated itineraries to various islands and coastal areas.

Engage a reputable tour operator specializing in Papua New Guinea, especially for activities like trekking, diving, or cultural visits. They can provide logistical support, local guides, and access to remote areas while ensuring your safety and comfort.

Allow ample time for travel, as transportation within Papua New Guinea can be unpredictable, and delays may occur. Embrace flexibility and be prepared for the unexpected, as spontaneity is often part of the adventure.

Visas and Entry Requirements

Before traveling to Papua New Guinea, it is essential to ensure you have the necessary documentation for entry. Most visitors, including those from many Western countries, can obtain a 60-day tourist visa on arrival at designated airports. However, it’s crucial to verify the latest visa regulations with the nearest Papua New Guinean embassy or consulate, as requirements may change.

To be eligible for a visa on arrival, you must possess a passport valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay, a return or onward ticket, and evidence of sufficient funds to cover your expenses while in the country. Additionally, you may be required to provide proof of accommodation bookings and a detailed itinerary.

For stays exceeding 60 days or for purposes other than tourism, such as business or study, you must apply for the appropriate visa in advance through the Papua New Guinean embassy or consulate in your home country. These applications typically involve providing additional documentation, such as a letter of invitation or enrollment confirmation.

It is strongly advised to carry copies of all essential travel documents, including your passport, visa, and itinerary, separate from the originals. Keep these copies in a secure location and have digital versions readily accessible in case of loss or theft.

Best Time to Visit

Papua New Guinea experiences a tropical climate with high humidity year-round. However, the best time to visit for most travelers is during the dry season, which generally falls between May and October. During these months, rainfall is less frequent, and humidity is relatively lower, offering more pleasant conditions for outdoor activities and exploration.

The shoulder months of April and November can also be favorable, with milder temperatures and occasional showers. While these months may experience some rain, it often occurs in short bursts, leaving ample time to enjoy the sights and sounds of Papua New Guinea.

The wet season, from December to March, brings heavy rainfall and high humidity. While this period can make travel more challenging, it also offers a unique perspective on the lush landscapes and vibrant cultures of Papua New Guinea. If you choose to visit during the wet season, be prepared for potential transportation disruptions and pack accordingly for wet weather conditions.

It is worth noting that weather patterns can vary significantly across different regions of Papua New Guinea. Therefore, it’s advisable to research the specific areas you plan to visit and consider any regional variations in climate when planning your trip.

Health and Safety

When traveling to Papua New Guinea, it’s essential to prioritize your health and safety. Consult with your healthcare provider well in advance of your trip to discuss necessary vaccinations and preventative measures against diseases such as malaria, typhoid, and dengue fever.

Pack a comprehensive medical kit containing essential medications, insect repellent, sunscreen, and first-aid supplies. It’s advisable to carry a supply of any prescription medications you require, along with a copy of your prescription.

Drink bottled or boiled water and consume food from reputable sources to minimize the risk of stomach ailments. Be cautious of consuming raw fruits and vegetables unless they can be peeled or washed thoroughly.

Petty crime can be a concern in urban areas, so exercise caution and avoid displaying expensive jewelry or carrying large sums of cash. Be mindful of your surroundings, especially at night, and avoid walking alone in unfamiliar or poorly lit areas.

Getting Around

Navigating Papua New Guinea’s diverse geography presents unique transportation challenges and requires careful planning. Air travel is the most efficient way to traverse the country, with domestic airlines connecting major cities and towns. Air Niugini, the national carrier, offers regular flights to various destinations, while smaller regional airlines provide access to more remote areas.

Road infrastructure in Papua New Guinea can be limited and unpredictable, with unpaved roads and challenging conditions in some areas. While self-driving is possible, it is generally not recommended for first-time visitors. Hiring a local driver or joining organized tours is a safer and more reliable option, allowing you to navigate the terrain with experienced professionals.

In coastal areas and on the islands, boats and ferries serve as essential modes of transportation. Public ferries connect various islands and coastal towns, offering an affordable way to explore the region. However, schedules can be flexible, and travel times may vary depending on weather conditions. For a more comfortable and reliable experience, consider chartering private boats or joining organized boat tours.


Papua New Guinea offers a range of accommodation options to suit diverse preferences and budgets, from luxurious resorts to cozy guesthouses and eco-lodges. When choosing your accommodation, consider your itinerary, desired comfort level, and proximity to attractions or activities.

In major cities like Port Moresby and Lae, you’ll find international-standard hotels offering a wide array of amenities, including restaurants, bars, swimming pools, and business centers. These hotels cater to both business travelers and tourists seeking a comfortable and convenient stay.

For a more immersive cultural experience, consider staying in locally owned guesthouses or homestays. These options provide a glimpse into the daily lives of Papua New Guineans and offer warm hospitality and authentic interactions.

Eco-lodges and wilderness retreats are ideal for nature enthusiasts seeking a secluded and sustainable escape. These properties often blend seamlessly with their natural surroundings, offering stunning views, unique wildlife encounters, and a chance to connect with nature.

Things to Do

Papua New Guinea offers an astounding array of activities and experiences for every type of traveler. Immerse yourself in the vibrant cultural tapestry by witnessing traditional sing-sings, where tribes from different regions gather to showcase their unique dances, music, and costumes. These colorful and energetic events provide a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Papua New Guinea.

Embark on a thrilling trek through the rugged highlands, following ancient trails that wind through dense rainforests, cascading waterfalls, and picturesque villages. The Kokoda Track, a historic World War II trail, offers a challenging but rewarding trekking experience, while the Mount Wilhelm trek leads to the highest peak in Papua New Guinea, rewarding hikers with panoramic views.

Explore the underwater wonders of Papua New Guinea’s pristine coral reefs, renowned for their exceptional marine biodiversity. Dive or snorkel amidst colorful coral gardens, encounter an abundance of tropical fish species, and discover remnants of World War II shipwrecks. Milne Bay, Kimbe Bay, and the fjords of Tufi are among the top diving destinations in the country.

Culture and Customs

Papua New Guinea is a land of remarkable cultural diversity, with over 800 distinct language groups and a rich tapestry of traditions and customs. Respect for local culture is paramount when traveling in Papua New Guinea, and a little understanding goes a long way in fostering meaningful interactions.

When visiting villages or attending cultural events, it’s customary to ask permission before taking photographs. Offering a small gift, such as betel nut or tobacco, is a sign of respect and appreciation. It’s also considered polite to remove your hat and sunglasses when entering a village or meeting elders.

Dress modestly, especially in rural areas, to avoid causing offense. Covering shoulders and knees is generally recommended. When interacting with locals, approach conversations with humility and a genuine interest in their culture. Avoid making promises you cannot keep and be mindful of personal space.

The concept of “wantok,” which refers to a system of social networks and obligations based on kinship or regional ties, plays a significant role in Papua New Guinean society. Understanding this concept can provide insights into local customs and interactions.

Food and Drink

Papua New Guinean cuisine reflects the country’s diverse cultural influences and abundant natural resources. Staple foods include root crops such as taro, yams, and sweet potatoes, often served alongside fresh seafood, grilled meats, and flavorful sauces.

“Mumu,” a traditional method of cooking in an earth oven, is a culinary highlight, where meats, vegetables, and root crops are slow-cooked underground, resulting in tender and flavorful dishes. “Kokoda,” a popular appetizer, features fresh raw fish marinated in lime juice, coconut milk, and spices.

Tropical fruits abound in Papua New Guinea, offering a delicious and refreshing treat. Look for juicy mangoes, pineapples, bananas, and papayas at local markets or roadside stalls.

While bottled water is widely available, be sure to sample “kulau,” the refreshing water found inside young coconuts. For a taste of local beverages, try “saksak,” a traditional drink made from fermented sago palm, or “tanget,” a refreshing citrus drink.

Festivals and Events

Papua New Guinea comes alive with vibrant festivals and cultural events throughout the year, offering a glimpse into the country’s rich traditions and artistic expressions. Attending these celebrations provides a unique opportunity to witness ancient rituals, vibrant dances, and intricate costumes.

The Goroka Show, held annually in September in the Eastern Highlands, is one of the most renowned cultural events in Papua New Guinea. It brings together over 100 tribes from across the region to showcase their unique dances, music, and attire in a spectacular display of cultural pride.

The Mount Hagen Cultural Show, held in August, is another must-see event, attracting thousands of visitors each year. It features a dazzling array of performances by tribes from the Western Highlands, showcasing their distinct traditions and artistic expressions.

Other notable festivals include the Sepik River Crocodile Festival, where communities celebrate their relationship with crocodiles through elaborate rituals and dances, and the National Mask Festival, which showcases the diverse mask-making traditions of Papua New Guinea.


Papua New Guinea’s history spans thousands of years, marked by ancient civilizations, colonial encounters, and a vibrant cultural tapestry. Archaeological evidence suggests that humans have inhabited the island of New Guinea for at least 50,000 years, making it one of the earliest known sites of human settlement outside of Africa.

The arrival of European explorers in the 16th century marked a turning point in Papua New Guinea’s history. The Dutch, Portuguese, and British all laid claim to parts of the island, leading to a period of colonial rivalry. In 1884, Germany established a protectorate over the northern part of New Guinea, while Britain took control of the southern part.

During World War II, Papua New Guinea became a battleground between Japan and the Allied forces, particularly along the Kokoda Track, where fierce fighting took place. The war left a lasting impact on the country, with remnants of battlefields and memorials serving as poignant reminders of the conflict.

After the war, Australia administered both territories until Papua New Guinea gained independence in 1975. The country has since navigated the challenges of nation-building while preserving its rich cultural heritage.

Wildlife and Nature

Papua New Guinea is a biodiversity hotspot, home to an astounding array of plant and animal species found nowhere else on Earth. From dense rainforests to pristine coral reefs, the country offers a paradise for nature enthusiasts and wildlife lovers.

Explore the lush rainforests and encounter an incredible diversity of birdlife, including the iconic Birds of Paradise, known for their vibrant plumage and elaborate courtship displays. Keep an eye out for other endemic species such as the cassowary, a large flightless bird, and the tree kangaroo, a unique marsupial adapted to life in the trees.

Dive into the underwater world and discover a kaleidoscope of marine life. Papua New Guinea’s coral reefs are teeming with colorful fish, sharks, rays, and turtles. The waters surrounding the country are also home to several species of whales, dolphins, and dugongs.

For a truly immersive wildlife experience, consider visiting the Sepik River, renowned for its abundant crocodile population and traditional villages where crocodile spirits are revered.

Responsible Tourism

As a traveler to Papua New Guinea, it is essential to embrace responsible tourism practices that minimize your impact on the environment and support local communities. By making conscious choices, you can contribute to the preservation of Papua New Guinea’s unique culture and natural heritage for future generations.

Support local businesses and communities by choosing locally owned accommodation, dining at local restaurants, and purchasing souvenirs directly from artisans. This helps ensure that tourism revenue benefits those who call Papua New Guinea home.

Respect the environment by minimizing waste, conserving water and energy, and avoiding single-use plastics. Choose eco-friendly tour operators and lodges that prioritize sustainability practices. When exploring natural areas, stay on marked trails, avoid disturbing wildlife, and refrain from removing any plants or animals.

Engage in cultural exchanges with sensitivity and respect. Ask permission before taking photographs of people or their belongings and be mindful of local customs and traditions. Support efforts to preserve traditional knowledge and practices by learning about local cultures and supporting cultural initiatives.

Money and Costs

Papua New Guinea’s official currency is the Papua New Guinean Kina (PGK). While credit cards are accepted in major hotels, restaurants, and supermarkets in urban areas, it’s advisable to carry sufficient cash for transactions in remote areas, markets, and for smaller purchases.

ATMs are available in cities and larger towns but may not always be reliable. It’s recommended to withdraw cash at reputable banks or exchange currency at authorized money changers.

The cost of travel in Papua New Guinea can vary depending on your travel style and preferences. Accommodation, transportation, and organized tours tend to be more expensive compared to other Southeast Asian destinations. However, experiences such as cultural village visits, hiking, and exploring local markets can be enjoyed at a relatively lower cost.

Budget accordingly for domestic flights, as they can be a significant expense, especially when traveling between islands or remote regions. Tipping is not customary in Papua New Guinea, but it is always appreciated as a gesture of gratitude for excellent service.

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