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Papua New Guinea for Beginners: Essential Travel Advice

Papua New Guinea is a land of diverse cultures, stunning landscapes, and rich history. As a beginner traveler to this unique destination, it’s essential to equip yourself with the right information to make your journey safe, enjoyable, and unforgettable. This guide covers everything from understanding the cultural heritage to practical travel tips, ensuring you have a well-rounded experience.

Key Takeaways

  • Papua New Guinea is rich in cultural heritage, with influences from the first settlers to European explorers.
  • Navigating the country often requires domestic flights and local guides for safety and ease.
  • Accommodation options range from luxury hotels to village guest houses, catering to various preferences and budgets.
  • Must-try activities include trekking, snorkeling, diving, and cultural tours to fully experience the country’s natural beauty and traditions.
  • Practical travel tips such as understanding the local currency, health precautions, and communication can significantly enhance your travel experience.

Understanding Papua New Guinea’s Cultural Heritage

The Arrival of the First People

The first people arrived in Papua New Guinea around 33,000 years ago, marking the beginning of a rich and diverse cultural history. These early settlers laid the foundation for what would become a cultural mosaic of languages, traditions, and customs. The arrival of the Lapita people further enriched the cultural landscape, introducing new practices and beliefs.

Influence of European Explorers

European explorers began arriving in the early 17th century, with Dutch sailors William Schouten and Jacob Le Maire being among the first. Their arrival was followed by other explorers like Philip Carteret and Louis Antoine de Bougainville. These encounters brought significant changes, including the introduction of new goods and ideas, but also led to conflicts and challenges for the indigenous populations.

Cultural Traditions of New Ireland

New Ireland, an island in Papua New Guinea, is known for its unique cultural traditions, including the Kabai, Malagan, and Tumbuan practices. These traditions are celebrated through elaborate ceremonies and artistic expressions, reflecting the island’s deep cultural heritage. Despite the influence of external forces, the people of New Ireland have managed to preserve their cultural diversity and continue to practice their ancestral customs.

Papua New Guinea is often described as ‘the cultural mosaic’ due to its rich biodiversity and cultural heritage.

Navigating Papua New Guinea: Transportation Tips

Domestic Flights

Getting around Papua New Guinea is a challenge. Flying is the best method of transport, and there are a number of domestic airlines that serve provincial capitals and regional towns, making it easy to get to remote places. If you have booked a packaged tour, flights should be included. Independent travelers should book in advance to get the best price on domestic flights.

Local Guides

With limited tourism infrastructure, very few regions in Papua New Guinea are connected by roads. The best way to ask for advice while traveling is to chat with a local – or, have a local guide with you to show you around. Don’t be shy to ask for suggestions, or for a helping hand.

Safety Precautions

Traveling here can also be dangerous. The warrior mentality hasn’t been dulled by 60 years of Western influence, and violent crime is a problem in large cities and parts of the Highlands. Here are some tips before you visit Papua New Guinea:

  1. Know where to go
  2. Get a guide
  3. Watch your wallet
  4. Carry hand sanitizer
  5. Learn some Pidgin
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
  7. Be alert

Always be cautious and aware of your surroundings to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.

Accommodation Options in Papua New Guinea

scenic view of Papua New Guinea with traditional accommodation

Hotels and Resorts

Papua New Guinea offers a range of hotels and resorts, particularly in urban areas like Port Moresby and Lae. These accommodations provide modern amenities and are ideal for travelers seeking comfort and convenience. Many hotels also offer packages that include tours, meals, and transfers, making it easier to explore the country.

Village Guest Houses

For a more authentic experience, consider staying in village guest houses. These accommodations are basic but offer a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in local culture. Note that facilities may include pit toilets and bucket showers, so be prepared for a rustic experience.

Booking Tips

When planning your trip, it’s advisable to book your accommodations in advance, especially if you are traveling during peak seasons. Many travel packages, like those offered by Far and Away Adventures, include accommodations and can simplify your travel plans. Always check for the latest travel advice and ensure your bookings are confirmed before departure.

Staying in a village guest house offers a unique glimpse into the daily life and traditions of Papua New Guinea’s local communities.

Must-Try Activities in Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea offers some of the most challenging and rewarding trekking experiences in the world. The Kokoda Track is a must for history enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. This 96-kilometer trail takes you through rugged terrain and dense rainforest, providing a glimpse into the country’s World War II history. For those looking to summit, Mt Wilhelm, the highest peak in Papua New Guinea, offers a less crowded but equally rewarding experience.

The underwater world of Papua New Guinea is nothing short of spectacular. With coral reefs that rival Australia’s Barrier Reef, the country is a diver’s paradise. The waters around Kavieng in New Ireland and Vanimo in West Sepik are particularly famous for their pristine surroundings and uncrowded waves. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced diver, the marine life here will leave you in awe.

Immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of Papua New Guinea by participating in a cultural tour. These tours often include visits to traditional villages, where you can witness age-old customs and rituals. The New Guinea Village Encounter is a popular option, offering an 8-day itinerary that takes you through various regions, each with its unique traditions and breathtaking natural beauty.

Papua New Guinea offers a hidden paradise with uncrowded waves and pristine surroundings for experienced surfers.

Practical Travel Tips for First-Time Visitors

Currency and Payments

Papua New Guinea uses the Papua New Guinean Kina (PGK). It’s advisable to carry some cash as ATMs may not be available in remote areas. Credit cards are accepted in major cities, but smaller towns and villages may only accept cash. Always check the current exchange rates before you travel.

Health and Safety

Traveling in Papua New Guinea can be an adventure, but it’s essential to take health and safety precautions. Ensure you have travel insurance that covers medical evacuation. Vaccinations for diseases such as hepatitis, typhoid, and malaria are recommended. Avoid non-essential travel to high-risk areas and always stay alert.

Language and Communication

The official languages are English, Tok Pisin, and Hiri Motu. While English is widely spoken in urban areas, learning a few phrases in Tok Pisin can be very helpful. Mobile coverage is generally good in cities but can be spotty in rural areas. Consider purchasing a local SIM card for better connectivity.

When visiting local communities, small gifts like pens, pencils, or postcards from your city can be great conversation starters and are much appreciated.

Exploring Papua New Guinea’s Natural Wonders

The Highlands of Papua New Guinea offer a breathtaking landscape of rugged mountains, lush valleys, and unique flora and fauna. Mt Wilhelm, the highest peak in the country, is a must-visit for trekking enthusiasts. The region is also home to vibrant cultural festivals that showcase the rich traditions of the local tribes.

Papua New Guinea’s coastal areas are renowned for their stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters. These regions provide excellent opportunities for snorkeling and diving, with coral reefs that rival the Great Barrier Reef. Coastal towns like Kavieng in New Ireland are famous for their year-round surf waves and reef breaks.

The islands of Papua New Guinea are a paradise for marine life enthusiasts. The waters around these islands are teeming with diverse marine species, making it a top destination for diving and snorkeling. The islands also offer a glimpse into the traditional lifestyles of the island communities, providing a unique cultural experience.

Exploring the natural wonders of Papua New Guinea is an adventure that goes beyond the ordinary, leaving an imprint of the country’s captivating allure.

Essential Packing List for Papua New Guinea

Preparing for a trip to Papua New Guinea requires careful planning to ensure you have everything you need for a comfortable and enjoyable experience. Here’s a comprehensive packing list to help you get started.

Planning a trip to Papua New Guinea? Make sure you have everything you need with our essential packing list! From tropical attire to must-have gadgets, we’ve got you covered. For more detailed tips and recommendations, visit our website and ensure you’re fully prepared for your adventure.


Papua New Guinea is a land of unparalleled beauty and rich cultural heritage, offering a unique travel experience for those willing to explore its diverse landscapes and traditions. From the lush highlands to the pristine coastal regions, every corner of this country has something special to offer. Whether you’re an adventure seeker, a history buff, or someone looking to immerse yourself in a new culture, Papua New Guinea has it all. Remember to plan your trip carefully, respect local customs, and always prioritize safety. With the right preparation, your journey to Papua New Guinea will be an unforgettable adventure filled with breathtaking moments and lasting memories.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time to visit Papua New Guinea?

The best time to visit Papua New Guinea is during the dry season, which runs from May to October. The weather is more favorable for outdoor activities and exploring the natural beauty of the country.

Do I need a visa to travel to Papua New Guinea?

Yes, most visitors to Papua New Guinea will need a visa. It’s advisable to check the specific visa requirements based on your nationality and ensure you obtain the visa before your trip.

Is Papua New Guinea safe for tourists?

While Papua New Guinea has some safety concerns, it is generally safe for tourists who take precautions. It’s recommended to use local guides, avoid secluded areas, and not travel alone at night.

What currency is used in Papua New Guinea?

The currency used in Papua New Guinea is the Papua New Guinean Kina (PGK). It’s advisable to carry some local currency for small purchases, although credit cards are accepted in major hotels and establishments.

What languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea?

Papua New Guinea is linguistically diverse with over 800 languages spoken. However, English is one of the official languages and is widely used in business and government. Tok Pisin and Hiri Motu are also commonly spoken.

What are the must-try activities in Papua New Guinea?

Some must-try activities in Papua New Guinea include trekking and hiking, snorkeling and diving, and cultural tours. The country’s diverse landscapes and rich cultural heritage offer a variety of unique experiences for visitors.