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World Travel Guide > Guides > Oceania > Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea travel guide

About Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is a fascinating country where travellers can explore remote villages, as well as enjoying spectacular diving, stunning wildlife, scenic surfing and myriad cultures. The tribal diversity of a country with over 800 languages and 600 islands cannot easily be summarised, although in Papua New Guinea it is the tribal life that is most fascinating to the visitor.

Beyond the dizzying array of ethnic groups to get to know, there are many unique attractions, excursions and activities on offer, from discovering wrecks of World War II aircraft that lie in the jungle, to peeking inside the sacred wooden haustambarans (spirit houses) of towns and villages in the country.

One of the largest draws for those visiting Papua New Guinea is the country's extensive wildlife and unique ecosystem. From the mountainous highlands to the Evian-blue waters, travellers can expect to discover weird and wonderful creatures, from tree-climbing kangaroos to spectacular birds of paradise; there are almost 700 bird species on the islands. Be sure to visit the National Botanic Gardens in Port Moresby, which is probably the capital's greenest, most beautiful sport. Most of the country remains undeveloped, with the largest island of Bouganville avoiding from resort hotels and commercialisation – ideal for the independent traveller.

Above all, though, it's the inhabitants that make Papua New Guinea truly unique. Many of the hundreds of languages spoken here are kept alive by a just a few dozen people. Each ethnic group has its own proud artistic traditions, with deft handicrafts, entrancing dance performances and bracing music. If you happen to visit during a festival – to be fair, there are many of them occurring throughout the year – prepare to be spellbound by tribal concerts and elaborate headdresses. Spend a bit of time here, and you'll feel as if you've gained access to a bygone era, although it would be wrong to describe the inhabitants as stuck in the past. Anyone welcomed into their embrace will say that they are thriving.

Key facts

Area:

462,840 sq km (178,704 sq miles).

Population:

7,776,115 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

14.4 per sq km.

Capital:

Port Moresby.

Government:

Constitutional monarchy.

Head of state:

Queen Elizabeth II since 1952, represented locally by Governor-General Sir Bob Dadae since February 2017.

Head of government:

Prime Minister James Marape since 2019.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Papua New Guinea on the TravelHealthPro website

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International travel

Commercial flights to and from Papua New Guinea remain very limited. Check with your travel company for the latest information.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Papua New Guinea.

Returning to the UK

When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there. In the event that you test positive at the time of check in at the airport you will need to isolate at home or quarantine at an approved COVID-19 health facility. For more information see the Air Niugini website, the main airline still operating out of Papua New Guinea.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Travel in Papua New Guinea

The latest information on the measures in place to tackle COVID-19 in Papua New Guinea can be found on the official Papua New Guinea Government website.

Healthcare in Papua New Guinea

Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health

View Health for further details on healthcare in Papua New Guinea.

See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.

COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Papua New Guinea

We will update this page when the Government of Papua New Guinea announces new information on the national vaccination programme. You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.

The Papua New Guinea national vaccine programme started in May 2021 and is using the AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Sinopharm vaccines. The Government of Papua New Guinea has stated that British nationals resident in Papua New Guinea are eligible for vaccination if they choose to join the programme. Further information on the vaccination programme is available on the National Control Centre for Covid-19 website or the Papua New Guinea National Department of Health Facebook page.

Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad page of gov.uk.

If you’re a British national living in Papua New Guinea, you should also seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, see our financial assistance guidance.

You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements. The Papua New Guinea authorities have issued a list of organisations approved to conduct testing.

Further information

For further UK government guidance on support you can access whilst abroad, see our waiting to return guidance. This includes guidance on finance, health, and staying connected.

If you need urgent consular assistance, you can contact the British High Commission on +675 303 7600. However, the High Commission can not provide further information or advice about departure options over the phone.

Crime

Serious crime is particularly high in the capital, Port Moresby, and in the cities of Lae and Mt Hagen. Settlement or squatter areas of towns and cities are particularly dangerous. ‘Bush knives’ (machetes) and firearms are often used in assaults and thefts. Carjacking, assault (including sexual assaults), bag snatching and robberies are common. Banks and cash machines are attractive targets for criminals. Walking after dark is particularly dangerous in Port Moresby and other urban centres.

Known high-risk crime 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 Nadzab Airport. Criminals use roadblocks outside towns to stop and loot vehicles and then attack the occupants. If you intend to travel in these areas, take great care and consider using a security escort.

Outbreaks of tribal fighting are common across Papua New Guinea, especially in the settlement areas of Port Moresby and the Highlands provinces. Ethnic disputes can quickly escalate and lead to widespread destruction of property, disruption of normal services and serious injury. Stay alert, monitor local media and consult local contacts (accommodation or other service providers) before travelling to a new area. Tribal fighters and criminals are becoming increasingly well-armed, including military-grade weaponry. Although foreigners are not normally targeted, you should avoid areas where tribal fighting is taking place.

If you have to travel at night, do so by car, with doors locked and windows up, and travel in convoy or with a security escort.

Most crime is random, but people have been abducted by organised gangs and forced to open office safes while others are held captive until a ransom has been paid. Risk of violent crime, rape and sexual assault in Papua New Guinea is high. In general, you should:

  • not carry large amounts of cash or openly display expensive jewellery and electronic equipment
  • be vigilant at all times and leave travel plans with friends, relatives or reliable local contacts 

Local travel

Check your travel insurance before considering any travel to remote areas. The cost of rescue by boat or aircraft can be high.

Damage caused by heavy rain and cyclones can make travel difficult.

There have been serious attacks and robberies along the Kokoda Track. Although community leaders have assured tourists of their safety and well-being while walking the Kokoda Track, you should take care. If you intend to walk a trail or track, including the Kokoda Track, avoid walking independently and travel with guides from reputable travel companies. You can get details from the Papua New Guinea Tourism Authority or the Kokoda Track Authority.

World War II unexploded ordnance still exists in Papua New Guinea, particularly along the Kokoda Track, at Milne Bay and Rabaul.

Bougainville Island emerged from a period of separatist conflict with the signature of a Peace Agreement in 2001. As part of that Agreement, a referendum was held in late 2019, which resulted in a 98% vote in favour of independence. Although it has been calm since then, you should be vigilant when travelling in Bougainville, particularly in central and southern Bougainville. The mountainous area in central Bougainville around the old Panguna mine is designated a ‘No Go Zone’, which you should not enter without prior authorisation from the Mekamui who control the border/check point.

Border areas

The land boundary between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea stretches for around 760km and is poorly defined. Border incursions and continuing conflict between the Indonesian Government and portions of the indigenous population of West Papua started with the withdrawal of the Dutch colonial administration in 1962.

Occasional clashes along the border with Indonesia between the Indonesian military and the OPM (Organisasi Papua Merdeka – Free Papua Movement) means the situation remains tense. In response, the Papua New Guinean Government has strengthened its defence units at its Wutung border post in Sandaun province. You should take extreme care and be prepared for possible sudden closure of the border crossing.

Air travel

Given the challenging terrain, extreme weather conditions and the condition of some remote airfields in Papua New Guinea, flying in Papua New Guinea carries greater safety risks than flying in the UK. Since 2000, over 20 aircraft accidents have happened in Papua New Guinea. The worst recent crash was on 13 April 2016 when a Sunbird Aviation PNG Britten-Norman Islander aircraft crashed at Kinuga Airport, killing all 12 people on board.

However, it is the only way to travel between Port Moresby and other provinces. Delays and cancellations of international and domestic flights occur regularly. Check with your airline before travel and be prepared for the possibility of a lengthy wait at the airport.

Road travel

Driving is on the left. When driving, you must keep your driving licence with you at all times. You may use your UK driving licence for up to 1 month. Roads, especially in rural areas, are in a poor state of repair and driving is often erratic. Drivers who are involved in, or witness road accidents may find themselves at personal risk. You should seek police assistance as soon as possible.

Don’t use public buses known locally as PMVs. There have been incidents of armed hold-ups of PMVs and of passengers being attacked and robbed of their personal belongings. There have also been reports of occasional rape attacks on Port Moresby PMVs. Many PMVs are not roadworthy.

Taxis are available in some major centres, but can be badly maintained. If you use a taxi, agree a fare before setting off, irrespective of whether or not there is a meter. Where possible arrange to be met by family, friends or a hotel courtesy bus when arriving at international or domestic airports.

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Papua New Guinea, attacks cannot be ruled out.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

As a general rule, you’re prohibited from entering Papua New Guinea with fruit, vegetables and animal products due to local quarantine controls.

Marijuana and other narcotics are illegal in Papua New Guinea; offences can carry substantial prison sentences.

Homosexual acts are illegal; if found guilty, the penalty could result in up to 14 years imprisonment. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

Murder may draw the death sentence although there is currently a moratorium on implementing the death penalty.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Papa New Guinea on the TravelHealthPro website

See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Papa New Guinea.

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Other health risks

Papua New Guinea suffered a serious polio outbreak in 2019 in Morobe, Madang, and Eastern Highlands provinces and Port Moresby.

Tuberculosis is also prevalent. Cases of drug resistant TB have been reported in Western and Gulf provinces and in Port Moresby.

UK health authorities have classified Papua New Guinea as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

Cases of Chikungunya virus have been confirmed in Papua New Guinea. Dengue fever is also present. You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Medical treatment

Medical facilities in Papua New Guinea are very basic. Hospitals often run out of basic drugs/supplies and suffer from power shortages. Evacuation by air ambulance to Australia is available in more serious cases. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 111 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Papua New Guinea set and enforce entry rules. For further information contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to. You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Entry to Papua New Guinea

Commercial options for travel to and from Papua New Guinea remain very limited. If transiting through another country, it is important that you also check the latest requirements for transit through that country.

Nobody may enter Papua New Guinea unless they have written exemption from the National Pandemic Controller or his delegate, and evidence of a negative Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test result for COVID-19 taken within a 72 hour period prior to boarding at their first port of departure for Papua New Guinea. You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test.

International visitors should apply for their exemption to enter Papua New Guinea by emailing the National Control Centre Travel Desk at covid19-travel@police.gov.pg with the following documents:

  • completed International Air Passenger Travel Form (I-APTF)
  • letter to the National Pandemic Controller, including your reason for travel, visa details, passport details (including the expiry date) and, if applicable, your work permit details (or letter from your employer) and/or resident permit details
  • copy of your passport biodata page
  • copy of your visa for Papua New Guinea and, if applicable, a copy of your work permit and/or resident permit
  • copy of your reservation at a designated hotel for quarantine or home quarantine request (if applicable)
  • proof of vaccination (if applicable)

You should submit your completed documents at least two weeks prior to travel. Approvals will not be granted for the purpose of tourism, unless provided with a written exemption from the National Pandemic Controller.

You will need to show evidence of your vaccination (if applicable), approved exemptions, negative COVID-19 test and hotel reservation (if applicable) to be allowed to board a flight to Papua New Guinea. (See ‘Demonstrating your COVID-19 status’). You must also complete an online electronic health declaration form prior to departure. The barcode generated should be saved and provided at check-in as evidence of submission of the online form.

Individuals who are fully vaccinated will not be required to quarantine unless they have (in the previous 14 days) been in a country that is deemed “high risk” (currently India and the Philippines). All incoming arrivals will be tested for COVID-19 at the airport. Anyone testing positive will be required to quarantine at their own expense.

Citizens and Permanent Residents who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated or individuals coming from a country designated “high risk” (regardless of vaccination status) will be required to quarantine for a period of 14 days. Unvaccinated arrivals will be tested on day 7 and day 12 of quarantine.

All arrivals will also be subject to monitoring through either an approved tracking device or tracking application at their own cost. Full details are available on the official Papua New Guinea Government COVID-19 website (see Measure 2 – International Travel).

Face masks must be worn on all domestic flights. All domestic travellers must submit a health declaration form to the Provincial Health Authority on arrival. Domestic airline travellers may need to be tested for COVID-19. Testing requirements for domestic travel are at the discretion of each province, and travellers should check the latest requirements with their travel agent.

All provinces are now designated either “high risk” or “medium risk”. All persons travelling into or out of a “high risk” province must be tested for COVID-19 prior to travel, be fully vaccinated, have a valid reason for travel and have written approval from the Provincial Administrator. Additional details regarding new measures in “high risk” and “medium risk” provinces can be found on the Papua New Guinea Government COVID-19 website (see Measure 3 – Domestic Travel) . Separate arrangements apply for travel to the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

Demonstrating your COVID-19 status

Papua New Guinea has not yet confirmed that it will accept the UK’s proof of COVID-19 recovery and vaccination record. You should confirm this directly with your airline. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination.

Regular entry requirements

Visas

If you are visiting Papua New Guinea and your visa is due to expire because you are unable to travel due to COVID-19 you should refer to the Papua New Guinea ICA website for advice on extending your visa.

You need a visa to enter Papua New Guinea. Some airlines might need evidence that you have a visa to enter Papua New Guinea prior to travel. You should check with your airline before travelling. Entry clearance for Papua New Guinea can be arranged on-line through Papua New Guinea ICA. Entry requirements can change so check the latest information with the Papua New Guinea Immigration & Citizenship Authority before travelling.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Papua New Guinea.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea sits along a volatile seismic strip called the “Ring of Fire” in the Pacific. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis are possible. Seismic and volcanic activity is more likely to occur near Rabaul in East New Britain Province, Kimbe in West New Britain Province, and on Manam Island in Madang Province.

Earthquakes

A 7.5 magnitude earthquake occurred in February 2018, causing significant damage to the Highlands. There was widespread disruption to services and a decrease in law and order in the affected area.

There is a constant danger from earthquakes, which can be followed by tsunami warnings.

To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see the website of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Volcanoes

Papua New Guinea has a number of active and extinct volcanoes.

Mount Ulawun Volcano, on the island of New Britain, erupted three times in 2019 causing airport closures and, in some cases, evacuations.

Mount Bagana in Bougainville erupted on 13 August 2019.

Manam Island volcano, one of Papua New Guinea’s most active, erupted on 25 August 2018 forcing thousands to flee to the mainland. Further activity occurred in December 2018.

Kadovar Island volcano erupted in January 2018, leading to an evacuation of the island. If you’re planning travel in affected areas, check with your travel provider or airline before travelling.

Tropical cyclones

The tropical cyclone season normally runs from November to May. Monitor local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

See our tropical cyclones page for advice about what to do if you are caught up in a storm.

Floods

Flooding and landslides can occur, especially in rural areas. Coastal areas experience monthly King Tides, which may cause localised flooding. Local communities are fairly well adapted to cope.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can not provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can not offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can not find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

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