Papua New Guinea is the stuff of true travel legend – a distant, exotic, little-explored land laying just north of Australia in the Coral Sea, that will garner serious kudos at the water cooler.
Papua New Guinea and the nearby Solomon Islands are diving Mecca. WWII wrecks, manta rays, odd-looking multi-coloured fish and incredible reefs are among the underwater delights here.
Divers aren’t the only ones who will love remote Papua New Guinea. Nature-lovers come to spot forest-dwelling tree kangaroos, giant leatherback turtles and birds of paradise. Culture vultures love the local festivals where Highlanders dress in traditional regalia, powder and paint and dance for all they’re worth.
Papua New Guinea is expensive. Get off the beaten track and stay in rural villages: it’s much cheaper. You can also save money by booking hotel rooms in advance from outside the country thus avoiding the 10% VAT that’s levied on higher-end accommodation.
June to September is the coolest, driest and best time to visit PNG (except in the Lae region, where it will be wet at this time). The heaviest rains fall between December and March; that’s also when the bugs come out.
Port Moresby (POM), 8km from the city.
Most visitors use the extensive, expensive internal flight network. Operators include Air Niugini, Airlines PNG and Travel Air.
Chartering a vehicle is very expensive. Few foreigners use local transportation (called PMVs; usually open-sided trucks/minivans) but for those with high pain thresholds they offer a cheap way of getting around. Travel around the Sepik is by dugout or dinghy.
Accommodation in Papua New Guinea is cripplingly expensive, especially when compared to nearby Indonesia. Resorts, top-end and mid-range hotels are the norm here.
At the budget end, there are a number of mission guesthouses (run by religious folk who frown upon drinking and smoking), community-run hostels and private guesthouses. Camping is a no-go. For an authentic experience, ask around about accommodation in village houses and stay with the locals.
Vegetables characterise the countryside diet; sagodominates in the lowlands, kau kau (sweet potato) in the highlands. Dessert might be bananas, papaya and pineapple. Outside city restaurants, meat is rarely eaten, although chicken and pork may be offered to tourists; fish is abundant in the Sepik.
PNG produces coffee although guests tend to be offered Nescafé. Kulau (young coconut milk), drunk from the nut, is widespread. The local beer is SP.
There's a real threat if robbery and theft in Port Moresby and other cities. If using an ATM in Port Moresby, do so in the airport.
Roads are bad, motor accidents common. Tribal fighting can flare in the highlands. The Kokoda Track should not be attempted alone.
Malaria is a risk as is HIV, TB, typhoid and cholera. Seek medical advice pre travel.
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