Foreign travel advice

Papua New Guinea

Summary

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The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to Hela and Southern Highlands provinces following significantly increased levels of tribal fighting and the declaration of states of emergency by the Papua New Guinea government.

There has also been heavier than usual tribal fighting in Enga and Western Highlands provinces. If you’re planning to travel to these provinces, you should take greater care than usual and consider enhanced security precautions.

Outbreaks of tribal violence may occur with little warning and may escalate very quickly. You should avoid large crowds and public gatherings as they may turn violent.

There is a high level of serious and violent crime. Law and order is poor or very poor in many parts of the country. Pay close attention to your personal security, particularly after dark, and monitor the media for possible new security risks.

Carjacking is an ever present threat, particularly in Port Moresby and Lae. Lock car doors and keep windows up at all times. If possible travel in convoy or with a security escort after dark.

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.

Papua New Guinea has declared an outbreak of Polio. There have been confirmed cases in Port Moresby and Morobe and Enga provinces.

Papua New Guinea is prone to seasonal natural disasters including tropical cyclones and flash flooding. Monitor the latest weather reports.

Monsoon season in Papua New Guinea runs from November to May. The National Weather Service has forecast heavy rain and strong wind for the 2019 season. This could lead to flooding and landslides.

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

Consular support is limited outside of Port Moresby and especially where the FCO advise against all but essential travel. If you need consular support, contact the British High Commission in Port Moresby.

Safety and security

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 Port Moresby, the Highlands provinces, Hela and Enga 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 the ransom has been paid.

Rape and sexual assault are problems across the country. 

  • don’t 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 Trail. Although community leaders have assured tourists of their safety and well-being while walking the Kokoda Trail, you should take care. If you intend to walk a trail or track, including the Kokoda trail, 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 Trail, at Milne Bay and Rabual.

Bougainville Island has emerged from a period of separatist conflict and a referendum on independence will take place in mid-2019. You must provide notice of your intention to visit the island to the Bougainville Provincial Administration (telephone: +675 973 9798), and contact the Administration again upon arrival. Take great care when travelling in Bougainville. Be particularly vigilant when travelling beyond Buka into central and southern Bougainville. The mountainous area in central Bougainville around the old Panguna mine is a ‘No Go Zone’. You should not enter the ‘No Go Zone’. Foreigners who have entered the Zone without authorisation from the PNG Government have been questioned, some for many days, by PNG authorities and had their passports withheld on departure from the Zone.

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 Sandhuan 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 PNG, flying in PNG carries greater safety risks than flying in the UK. However, it is the only way to travel between Port Moresby and other provinces. 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.

The National Airport Corporation issued notice it would indefinitely close Buka airport in Bougainville province on 22 December 2018 over safety and security concerns. The closure was cancelled following agreement with the Autonomous Bougainville Government to provide extra resources to support continued operation. However, the NAC has retained the right to close the airport with no notice if their concerns are not addressed. If this happens, alternative flights may be available from Aropa.

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 getting 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.

Terrorism

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Papua New Guinea, attacks can’t 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.

Local laws and customs

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 the death penalty.

Health

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.

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

The Papua New Guinea Secretary of the National Department of Health has declared an outbreak of Polio in Morobe, Madang, and Eastern Highlands provinces and Port Moresby. Cases have been confirmed in Port Moresby, Morobe and Enga provinces with reports of several more.

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.

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.

The Papua New Guinea government has launched a national tuberculosis awareness campaign in response to the rapidly growing number of TB cases in the country. Cases of drug resistant TB have been reported in Western and Gulf province and in Port Moresby.

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.

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.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to 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.

Visas

You need a visa to enter Papua New Guinea. Tourists can get a visa free of charge on arrival. Business travellers can also get a visa on arrival, but will have to pay a fee in cash only (Kina). 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.

Natural disasters

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 has been 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 Bagana in Bougainville erupted on 13 August. Air Niugini has suspended flights to the Buka and Hoskins airports following the Ulawun volcano on 3 August. Visitors should check with their airline / travel operator if visiting Bougainville and New Britain.

Mount Ulawun volcano erupted on 3 August. Air Niugini has suspended flights to Hoskins airport. Visitors should check with their airline / travel operator if visiting New Britain

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.

Mount Ulawun volcano in West New Britain province last erupted on 26 June 2019. Villages closest to the volcano were evacuated and parts of the New Britain Highway cut off by lava flow. 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.

Travel advice help and support

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 and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (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 FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t 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 FCO 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’t 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 FCO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. If you can’t 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.