Papua New Guinea

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Friday, 01 August 2014.   This advice contains revised information under Local travel (we no longer advise Australians to reconsider travel to Tabubil in Western Province). We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Papua New Guinea overall. We continue to advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Porgera township in Enga Province in the northern highlands.

Papua New Guinea overall

Porgera township

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Papua New Guinea because of the high levels of serious crime.
  • Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Porgera township in Enga Province in the northern highlands at this time. Violence related to illegal mining at the Porgera gold mine has led to a number of deaths and injuries. On 2 May 2014, a State of Emergency was declared for Porgera township and will run for an indefinite period.
  • Large crowds and public gatherings should be avoided as they may turn violent.
  • Crime rates are high, particularly in the capital Port Moresby and in Lae, Mt Hagen and other parts of the Highland provinces. The violent attack on a trekking party in September 2013 demonstrates that serious crimes can occur in any part of the country. See under Crime for more information.
  • Since June 2011, there have been a number of violent incidents in parts of The Highlands, Oro Province, Central and Southern Bougainville, and Lae. You should exercise a high degree of caution when travelling in these areas and monitor local media for information about the security situation.
  • Ethnic disputes continue to flare up around the country. Disputes can quickly escalate into violent clashes. Such clashes not only create danger within the immediate area but also promote a general atmosphere of lawlessness, with an associated increase in opportunistic crime.
  • Car-jacking is an ever-present threat, particularly in Port Moresby and Lae. Car doors should be locked with windows up at all times and caution should be taken when travelling after dark. In the evening or at night, we recommend you travel in a convoy.
  • There has been an increase in reported incidents of sexual assault, including gang rape, and foreigners have been targeted. These crimes are primarily opportunistic and occur without warning. We recommend you monitor your personal security, in both public and private surroundings, and ensure you have appropriate security measures in place.
  • Given the difficult terrain, extreme weather conditions and the condition of some remote airfields in PNG, flying in PNG carries greater safety risks than flying in Australia.
  • Wet season is from November to May. During the wet season flooding and landslides have resulted in deaths. Roads can become impassable. Check with local sources on the condition of roads and the likely impact of rain before travel.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Australians require a visa to enter PNG. From 1 March 2014, Australians visiting PNG are no longer be able to apply for a visa on arrival. Contact the nearest High Commission, Embassy or Consulate of Papua New Guinea to obtain a visa before travelling to PNG.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. You should contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Papua New Guinea for the most up to date information.

Quarantine restrictions prevent travellers from bringing fruit and vegetables into the country.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Crime

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Papua New Guinea because of the high levels of serious crime.

Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.

Crime is random and particularly prevalent in urban areas such as Port Moresby, Lae and Mt Hagen. Settlement areas of towns and cities are particularly dangerous. 'Bush knives' (machetes) and firearms are often used in assaults and thefts. Carjackings, assaults (including sexual assaults), bag snatching and robberies are common. Banks and automatic teller machines are attractive targets for criminals. The crime rate tends to increase leading into the Christmas holiday period.

Local authorities have advised of a heightened risk of armed robbery and attack at well-attended shopping centres in urban areas, including Port Moresby.

Although most crime is opportunistic, there have been incidents of robbery in which expatriates have been targeted in their homes or workplaces. The violent attack on a trekking party in September 2013 demonstrates that serious crimes can occur in any part of the country.

There has been an increase in reported incidents of sexual assault, including gang rape, and foreigners have been targeted. These crimes are primarily opportunistic and occur without warning. We recommend you monitor your personal security, in both public and private surroundings, and ensure you have appropriate security measures in place.

Car-jacking and robbery can occur throughout Papua New Guinea at any time. Known high risk areas include the area around Parliament House in the Port Moresby suburb of Waigani, particularly outside of working hours, and along the highway between Lae and the Nadzab Airport. Criminals use roadblocks on roads outside of towns to stop and loot vehicles and then attack the occupants. If you intend to travel in these areas, exercise a high degree of caution and consider using a security escort.

In major urban centres such Port Moresby and Lae, it is dangerous to walk the streets, particularly after dark.

Travel at night, if essential, should be made by car, with doors locked and windows up. You should also consider travelling in a convoy or with a security escort.

Due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical assistance.

The Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary faces a number of obstacles, including limited resources, and this may affect police response times in the event of crime. Many businesses, including the High Commission, employ private security companies to help deliver a prompt response to calls for assistance.

Civil unrest/political tension

Australians planning travel to Papua New Guinea should monitor local media reports for information on possible new safety or security risks.

You should avoid rallies, demonstrations and other large public gatherings as they may turn violent.

Tension between ethnic, communal or clan groups can happen without warning and may occasionally lead to outbreaks of fighting, often involving the use of firearms, rioting and looting. Outbreaks of violence have occurred in settlements and marketplaces in Port Moresby, Lae, Bulolo, Mt Hagen, Mendi and other major towns in the Highlands as well as in Oro Province, South Bouganville and Enga.

Local tensions and ethnic disputes continue to flare up around the country. Disputes can quickly escalate into violent clashes and can result in the widespread destruction of property, disruption of normal services and serious injury. Such clashes not only create danger within the immediate area but also promote a general atmosphere of lawlessness, with an associated increase in opportunistic crime. To keep up to date with any new developments or issues causing local unrest, travellers should monitor the local newspapers and consult local contacts, such as their accommodation or other service providers, before travelling to a new area.

Porgera township: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Porgera township in Enga Province in the northern highlands. Violence related to illegal mining at the Porgera gold mine has led to a number of deaths and injuries. On 2 May 2014, a State of Emergency was declared for Porgera township and will run for an indefinite period.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General Advice to Australian Travellers.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency is not accepted locally but can be exchanged at local banks for PNG Kina. If taking cash, PNG Kina is the most appropriate currency to carry. Consult with your bank to find out whether your ATM card will work overseas. Most banks and ATMs in PNG will accept credit cards from Australian banks.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering and theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible. If trekking, you should keep your passport in a watertight container.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

If an emergency travel document is required, it can only be issued in Port Moresby and you would be required to apply for it in person.

Local travel

Landslides in early July 2014 affected access to the Ok Tedi mine site and services in the town of Tabubil. We no longer advise Australians to reconsider travel to Tabubil as access has been restored.

Roads, especially in rural areas, are in a poor state of repair. Other common safety risks on PNG roads include erratic and drunk drivers, poorly maintained vehicles and over-crowded vehicles.

Large crowds can form quickly after road accidents. These crowds can become violent with little or no warning.

During the wet season (November to May), flash floods and landslides, particularly on stretches of the Highlands Highway between Lae and Mount Hagen, can result in road closures and extensive travel delays. Severe flooding in Oro Province caused significant damage to major roads and bridges throughout the province in 2011 and 2012. Restoration and rehabilitation is ongoing and travellers should expect delays when moving around these areas.

For further advice on road safety, see our road travel page.

Police roadblocks to check vehicle registrations are a regular occurrence in Port Moresby. Drivers should ensure that their vehicle registration and safety stickers are up-to-date so that they minimise difficulties at roadblocks.

In major urban centres it is recommended that public transport such as Public Motor Vehicles (PMVs) and taxis should not be used as these are unreliable due to poor maintenance and have been targeted by criminals. Vehicles hired from a reputable car hire company, reputable taxi company or hotel transport are a safer alternative.

Delays and cancellations of international and domestic flights occur on a regular basis. Passengers should check with airlines and be prepared for the possibility of extended waits at airports.

Some mobile telephone global roaming facilities are available in Papua New Guinea but service can be patchy. Travellers should contact their mobile telephone service provider for more details. Landline phones occasionally suffer from local outages due to vandalism or theft of the underground cable infrastructure.

Kokoda Track: We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution when walking the Kokoda Track and travelling through the areas adjacent to each end of the track. Ensure that you leave an itinerary for your trek, including the contact details of the trekking company with your family or friends in Australia.

In September 2013, an attack on a trekking party on the Black Cat Track in Morobe Province resulted in the death of several locals and injuries to foreign trekkers. You should consider the high levels of serious crime when participating in trekking activity.

Walking the Kokoda Track is physically demanding and requires a high level of fitness. It is strongly recommended that travellers undergo considerable training and seek medical advice/medical fitness testing before attempting the walk. Each year, several Australians are medically evacuated, and some deaths have occurred. Given the unpredictable weather and poor services, some have had to wait several days before such evacuations took place. Adequate travel insurance is essential.

While walking, it is important that trekkers remain hydrated and protect themselves from dysentery (see the Health section).

Australians should ensure they only travel with guides from reputable trekking companies. A list of companies that are registered with the Tour Operators Association of Papua New Guinea is available on their website. This is particularly important given the occasional threats by villagers to close parts of the track due to local land and compensation disputes. Trekkers should check with their travel agent and/or tour operator that they have contingency plans in the event that the track is blocked.

The Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) has stationed rangers along the track and at airports to collect fees from trekkers who have not obtained a valid trekking permit. Trekkers should ensure that their tour company provides a permit in return for fees paid for this purpose. The KTA can be contacted on telephone (675) 323 6165 regarding payment of the applicable fee. Information can also be obtained from the Tourism Promotion Authority on (675) 320 0211. You should register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade before attempting to hike the Kokoda Track.

Passports are regularly damaged from water and sweat. Ensure your passport is stored in a waterproof bag or container.

Unexploded ordnance still exists in Papua New Guinea, particularly along the Kokoda Track and at Milne Bay and Rabaul. The exact condition and stability of these items is largely unknown. If you come across unexploded ordnance on the track or in displays do not touch them.

Bougainville: We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Bougainville, with particular vigilance when travelling beyond Buka Island and Central Bougainville into Southern Bougainville. You should monitor local media reporting about the security situation prior to travelling.

The mountainous area in central Bougainville around the old Panguna mine is a 'No Go Zone'. We strongly advise you not to enter the 'No Go Zone'. Foreigners who have entered the 'No Go Zone' without authorisation from the PNG Government have been questioned by PNG authorities.

Airline safety

Given the difficult terrain, extreme weather conditions and the condition of some remote airfields in PNG, flying in PNG carries greater safety risks than flying in Australia. Since 2000 over 20 aircraft accidents have occurred in Papua New Guinea. Fatal incidents include:

  • On 25 November 2013, a Tropicair charter flight crashed in Gulf Province killing three people, including an Australian.
  • On 6 July 2012, a helicopter crashed into a remote mountainous area of the Gulf Province, killing two Australians and one New Zealander.
  • On 13 October 2011, an Airlines PNG aircraft crashed near Madang, killing 28 people.
  • On 13 February 2011, a helicopter crashed into the sea, south of Manus Island. One Australian was killed in the crash.
  • In August 2009, nine Australians and one Japanese tourist were killed in a plane crash near the Kokoda track.

After the October 2011 Airlines PNG crash, all Airlines PNG Dash-8 aircraft were grounded, but were cleared to fly following the implementation of additional safety measures. Information on aviation safety in PNG is available from the Aviation Safety Network. For general information on aviation safety, please refer to our air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Papua New Guinea, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

The death penalty may be imposed for crimes including treason, murder, rape, robbery and piracy.

Homosexual acts are illegal and punishable by imprisonment. Overt public displays of affection by persons of the same sex should be avoided. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Papua New Guinea has very strict laws relating to the possession and sale of pornographic material and penalties include imprisonment.

Adultery is a criminal offence and punishment may include imprisonment.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Local customs

You should be aware that the traditional custom of 'payback' is often practised in Papua New Guinea. Australians who engage in illegal or inappropriate sexual or financial relations run the risk of extrajudicial responses from offended parties. Demands for compensation for property damage, including to livestock, are common.

There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in Papua New Guinea. You should take care not to offend.

You should seek permission before taking photographs of individuals and cultural sites (for example, spirit houses).

Information for dual nationals

Papua New Guinea does not recognise dual nationality except for children under 18 years of age. This may limit the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to Australian/Papua New Guinean dual nationals who are arrested or detained.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information for dual nationals.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Health care facilities in Papua New Guinea, including in the capital Port Moresby, are poor by Australian standards. Facilities in large towns are usually adequate for routine problems and some emergencies, however health facilities in rural areas are very basic, including along the Kokoda Track.

Medical evacuation to Australia, costing between several thousand dollars to eighty thousand dollars, depending on the circumstances, is often the only option for serious illnesses or accidents (including diving accidents).

The Government of Papua New Guinea can declare a national emergency in response to the outbreaks of infections such as cholera, dysentery and seasonal influenza. The national emergency declaration enables the Government to make provisions, laws, orders or regulations without notice to stop the spread of the infectious diseases. Travellers need to be aware that if this declaration is made again it may lead to the sudden closure of restaurants or water sources and the restriction of travel by individuals.

Malaria is a risk throughout Papua New Guinea. However, the risk to short-term visitors to Port Moresby remains relatively low. Dengue fever and other mosquito-borne diseases also occur, including in Port Moresby. Cases of chikungunya virus have also been reported since 2012. We encourage you to take prophylaxis against malaria where necessary and to take measures to avoid mosquito bites, including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

The mosquito-borne disease Japanese encephalitis is a risk throughout Papua New Guinea, but the risk to short-term visitors to urban areas is relatively low. A Japanese encephalitis vaccine is registered for use and is currently available in Australia. For further details please consult your travel health doctor.

Measles cases have increased in 2014, with cases diagnosed in Australia in returning travellers. The WHO reports measles clusters in Central (Port Moresby), East New Britain and Western Highlands provinces. Two doses of a measles containing vaccine (administered at least 4 weeks apart) is recommended prior to travel. Travellers with symptoms of measles should seek medical attention. As measles is highly infectious, you should call ahead before attending a health care facility.

The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Papua New Guinea is high. You should exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection. Other sexually transmitted diseases are prevalent in all urban centres.

Food-borne, water-borne and other infectious diseases (including typhoid and hepatitis) are common. Tuberculosis, including drug resistant strains, is prevalent. People with medical conditions that affect their immune system may be at a greater risk of tuberculosis. Travellers should discuss their travel plans with their health care practitioner. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before travelling. Local water supplies can be interrupted or polluted. You should take precautions to ensure you have access to safe water. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Swimmers should also be aware that water-borne parasites pose a risk in many of PNG's rivers. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Stings from jellyfish and other marine animals can be fatal. You should seek advice from local authorities, your tour operator or hotel regarding seasonal conditions, recommended precautions and other potential dangers.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has confirmed cases of avian influenza in birds in a number of countries throughout the world, including in the Papua New Guinea region. For a list of these countries, visit the OIE website. For more information see our travel bulletin on avian influenza.

Where to get help

In Papua New Guinea, you can obtain consular and passport assistance (for the lodgement of applications for Australian passports and emergency travel documents) from the:

Australian High Commission, Port Moresby

Godwit Road
Waigani NCD
Port Moresby, PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Telephone: (675) 325 9333
Facsimile: (675) 325 9239
Website: http://www.png.embassy.gov.au

Limited consular and passport assistance, (including the lodgement of applications for Australian passports, but not including the issue of emergency travel documents) may be obtained by appointment only from:

Australian Honorary Consulate, Lae

Room 5, The Professionals Building
5th Street Lae, Morobe Province
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Telephone: (+675) 472 2340
Mobile: (+675) 7686 6606
Email: president@lcci.org.pg

If you are travelling to Papua New Guinea, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact the High Commission or the Honorary Consulate, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Papua New Guinea is in an active seismic zone: earthquakes, tsunamis and landslides (and resulting road blockages) can occur. In December 2011, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Morobe province.

There are active volcanoes in PNG and regular eruptions occur, particularly around Rabaul, Bougainville, West New Britain and Manam Island. Ash from volcanoes in the Rabaul region occasionally disrupts airline schedules at Kokopo airport. Flights may be cancelled at short notice.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.

During the wet season (November to May), flooding and landslides have occurred, resulting in deaths and damage to roads/infrastructure.

If you are travelling during the wet season, or after a natural disaster, you should contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

Wildlife

Venomous snakes are common in Papua New Guinea. There is usually an increase in the number of snake bite cases reported during the wet season.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with Children page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.