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


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


7,776,115 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

14.4 per sq km.


Port Moresby.


Constitutional monarchy.

Head of state:

HM King Charles III since 2022, represented locally by Governor-General Sir Bob Dadae since February 2017.

Head of government:

Prime Minister James Marape since 2019.

Travel Advice

Your travel insurance could be invalidated if you travel against advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

Areas where FCDO advises against all but essential travel

Hela and Southern Highlands provinces

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to Hela and Southern Highlands provinces due to the high risk of tribal fighting.

Find out more about why FCDO advises against travel

Curfew in Enga Province

There is a daily curfew in Enga Province from 9pm to 6am due to an increase in tribal fighting. 

See Regional risks.

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you:

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

About FCDO travel advice

FCDO provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

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

The authorities in Papua New Guinea set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Papua New Guinean High Commission in the UK.

COVID-19 rules

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Papua New Guinea.

Passport validity requirements

To enter Papua New Guinea, your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 6 months after the date you arrive. 

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.

Visa requirements

You must have a visa to visit Papua New Guinea.

Applying for a visa

Apply for a Papua New Guinea visa online before you travel.

You can no longer get a visa on arrival. 

Vaccine requirements

You must have a certificate to prove you’ve had a yellow fever vaccination if you’re coming from a country listed as a transmission risk.

For full details about medical entry requirements and recommended vaccinations, see TravelHealthPro’s Papua New Guinea guide.

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Papua New Guinea, see:

You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.

It is illegal to enter Papua New Guinea with many fruits, vegetables and animal products due to local quarantine controls.

This guide also has safety advice for regions of Papua New Guinea.


There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.    

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 how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Papua New Guinea

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

Tribal fighting

Outbreaks of tribal fighting are common across Papua New Guinea, including tourist areas. Ethnic disputes can quickly escalate and lead to widespread destruction of property, disruption of normal services and serious injury. Tribal fighters may be armed.

Although tribal fighters do not normally attack foreign nationals, you should stay away from areas where there is fighting.

Stay alert, monitor local media and consult local contacts such as your hotel before you travel to a new area. Be particularly cautious in the suburbs of Port Moresby and the Highlands Region. See Regional risks.


There is a high risk of serious crime in the capital, Port Moresby, and in the cities of Lae and Mount Hagen. Suburbs of towns and cities can be particularly dangerous.

High-risk crime areas include the:

  • area around Parliament House in the Port Moresby suburb of Waigani, particularly outside of working hours
  • highway between Lae and Nadzab Airport

Protecting yourself and your belongings

There is a serious risk of bag-snatching and robbery. Criminals often use machetes (‘bush knives’) and firearms in assaults and thefts. They target people who are using banks and ATMs.

Walking after dark is particularly dangerous in Port Moresby and other urban centres.

You can take precautions such as:

  • not displaying valuables like laptops, cameras and mobile phones
  • not wearing expensive-looking jewellery
  • carrying only small amounts of cash – avoid withdrawing a lot of money, particularly at night
  • keeping valuables secure (for example, in a hotel safe)
  • not travelling alone or at night
  • monitoring the media for possible new security risks

Vehicle crime

Carjacking and other types of vehicle crime are common. Criminals use roadblocks outside towns to stop and loot vehicles and then attack the occupants.

If you plan travel in these areas, particularly after dark, take great care and consider travelling in convoy or using a security escort. Always lock car doors and keep windows up.

Public buses and taxis

Armed criminals have attacked and robbed passengers on public buses (known as ‘PMVs’) and in taxis. There have also been incidents of rape on Port Moresby PMVs. Many PMVs and taxis are not roadworthy.

Rape and sexual assault

Rape and sexual assault are common in Papua New Guinea. Stay alert and leave travel plans with friends, relatives or reliable local contacts. See advice for women travelling abroad.

Kokoda Track

There have been serious attacks and robberies along the Kokoda Track. Although community leaders have assured tourists of their safety and wellbeing while walking the Kokoda Track, you should take care. Avoid walking independently and travel with guides from trusted travel companies. You can get details from the Papua New Guinea Tourism Authority or the Kokoda Track Authority.

Criminal kidnapping

Organised gangs have abducted people and forced them to open office safes while others are held captive until a ransom has been paid. A foreign national was kidnapped in a remote part of Southern Highlands Province in 2023. Be vigilant and leave travel plans with friends, relatives or reliable local contacts.

Unexploded weapons

There are unexploded World War 2 weapons in Papua New Guinea, particularly along the Kokoda Track, at Milne Bay and Rabaul. If you are concerned, get advice from a trusted travel company for the areas you’re visiting.

Laws and cultural differences

Illegal drugs and prison sentences

It is a serious offence to use, possess or traffic illegal drugs, including marijuana. If convicted, you can get a long prison sentence.

LGBT+ travellers

Same-sex sexual activity between men is illegal. People who are convicted face up to 14 years imprisonment. Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.

Outdoor activities and adventure tourism

If you plan to participate in outdoor or adventure activities, consider getting advice on safety from a trusted travel company. You can get information from the Papua New Guinea Tourism Authority.      

Transport risks

Road travel    

If you are planning to drive in Papua New Guinea, see information on driving abroad.

You can use a UK photocard driving licence to drive in Papua New Guinea for the first 6 months after you arrive. If you still have a paper driving licence, you may need to update it to a photocard licence or get the correct version of the international driving permit (IDP) as well.

See rules for using a foreign driving licence in Papua New Guinea.

Hire car companies often have stricter requirements for their customers, such as a year of driving experience, a higher minimum age and holding an IDP.

Road conditions

Roads are in a poor state of repair, especially in rural areas, and driving is often erratic.

Following a road traffic accident, crowds can form quickly and become violent towards those they consider responsible. If you are involved in an accident, do not remain at the scene. Go to the nearest safe place before reporting the incident to the police.

Air travel

Delays and cancellations of international and domestic flights often happen. Check with your airline before travel.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

Papua New Guinea is in an active seismic region known as the ‘Ring of Fire’. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis are possible.

Find out what you can do to prepare for and respond to extreme weather and natural hazards.


Earthquakes are a serious risk in Papua New Guinea. Seismic and volcanic activity is more likely near Rabaul in East New Britain Province, Kimbe in West New Britain Province and on Manam Island in Madang Province.

The US Federal Emergency Management Agency website has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.


Earthquakes can be followed by tsunamis. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency website has advice about what to do before, during and after a tsunami.

Volcanic eruptions

Papua New Guinea has many active and dormant volcanoes. You should check with your travel provider or airline and seek advice from local authorities before travelling to affected areas.

In November 2023, Mount Ulawun volcano erupted on the island of New Britain and caused flight cancellations and the evacuation of over 5,000 people. Volcanic and seismic activity may continue.

Mount Bagana in Bougainville has shown increased volcanic activity since July 2023, displacing thousands of residents.

Manam Island volcano, one of Papua New Guinea’s most active, erupted in 2018 forcing thousands to flee to the mainland. It has shown further low-level activity since then, most recently in 2022.

Tropical cyclones

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


There is a risk of flooding and landslides, especially in rural areas and during monsoon season from November to May. Exceptionally high tides (‘king tides’) can cause flooding in coastal areas.

Damage caused by heavy rain can make travel difficult.

This section has safety advice for regions of Papua New Guinea. It only covers regions where the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has specific advice.

You should also read FCDO’s overall travel advice and safety and security advice.

Hela and Southern Highlands provinces

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to Hela and Southern Highlands provinces due to the high risk of tribal fighting.

If you plan to travel there, be cautious, stay away from large crowds and gatherings and consider getting private security advice.  

See Tribal fighting.

Enga Province

There is a daily curfew in Enga Province from 9pm to 6am due to an increase in tribal fighting.

The authorities may impose travel and other restrictions at short notice. Be particularly cautious throughout the province and stay away from the area around the Porgera gold mine (currently closed), which has been subject to violent landowner disputes.

Papua New Guinea-Indonesia border

The land border between Papua New Guinea and Indonesia stretches for around 760km and is poorly defined. There are sometimes armed clashes along the border between the Indonesian military and the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM, Free Papua Movement).

The Papua New Guinea government has defence units at its Wutung border post in Sandaun Province. Be extremely cautious and be prepared for possible sudden closure of the border crossing.

Bougainville Island

Bougainville Island has been calm since a 2001 peace agreement ended separatist fighting. You should still be cautious, particularly in central and southern Bougainville. There is a risk of lawlessness and violence. The autonomous Bougainville government has designated the mountainous area in central Bougainville around the old Panguna mine a ‘no go zone’. Do not travel to it without prior authorisation.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Call 111 and ask for an ambulance.

Contact your insurance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Vaccine recommendations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip:

Go to TravelHealthPro to see what health risks you’ll face in Papua New Guinea including:

  • Zika virus
  • tuberculosis
  • malaria and dengue
  • chikungunya

Altitude sickness is a risk in parts of Papua New Guinea. Read more about altitude sickness on TravelHealthPro.


The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.

Healthcare facilities in Papua New Guinea

Medical facilities in Papua New Guinea are very basic. Hospitals often run out of basic drugs and 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.

FCDO has a list of medical providers in Papua New Guinea where some staff will speak English.

There is also guidance on healthcare if you’re living in Papua New Guinea.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Papua New Guinea

Ambulance: 111 

Fire: 110

Police: 112

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

You can also contact FCDO online.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you’re in Papua New Guinea and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British High Commission in Port Moresby.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

Risk information for British companies

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating in Papua New Guinea on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

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