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Is Papua New Guinea Safe?

Papua New Guinea has a high crime rate, including violent crimes against foreigners. Tribal conflicts and civil unrest are common in some areas. While malaria and other tropical diseases pose health risks, medical facilities are limited outside major cities. Natural disasters like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and severe storms can disrupt travel. Hiring a trusted local guide is advisable for navigating cultural norms and potential risks.

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Safety & Security

Papua New Guinea is generally considered a high-risk destination for travelers due to the prevalence of crime and civil unrest. While the country boasts natural beauty and cultural richness, visitors should exercise heightened caution and vigilance.

  • Petty Crime: Opportunistic crimes like bag snatching, pickpocketing, and theft from vehicles are common, especially in urban areas and tourist hotspots. Remain vigilant and avoid displaying valuables.

  • Violent Crime: Armed robberies, carjackings, and violent assaults occur frequently, particularly in Port Moresby and other major cities. Avoid isolated areas, especially after dark.

  • Tribal Conflicts: Disputes between rival tribes can escalate into violence, sometimes affecting travelers unintentionally. Avoid areas with known tribal tensions.

  • Scams: Be wary of scams targeting tourists, such as overcharging, fake tour operators, and fraudulent schemes.

  • Civil Unrest: Political tensions and protests can lead to civil unrest, roadblocks, and disruptions. Monitor local news and follow advice from authorities.

  • Terrorism: While the risk of terrorism is low, extremist groups have been known to operate in certain areas. Remain vigilant and avoid potential targets.

Travelers are advised to research their destinations thoroughly, follow the advice of local authorities, and consider hiring a reputable guide or joining organized tours for added security.

Health & Medical

Travelers to Papua New Guinea should be aware of potential health risks and take necessary precautions. Insect-borne diseases like malaria, dengue fever, and Zika virus are prevalent, so using insect repellent and taking antimalarial medication is highly recommended. Waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid are also a concern, so drinking only bottled or purified water is crucial.

  • Vaccinations: Ensure routine vaccinations are up-to-date, and consider getting vaccinated against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, and rabies before traveling.
  • Medical Facilities: Medical facilities in urban areas are generally adequate for minor issues, but may lack resources for serious conditions. Remote areas have limited medical services.
  • Air Pollution: Air pollution levels in major cities can be high, potentially exacerbating respiratory issues for sensitive individuals.
  • Insect-Borne Diseases: Malaria, dengue fever, Zika virus, and other insect-borne diseases are prevalent, especially in rural areas. Use insect repellent and take antimalarial medication as advised.
  • Animal Diseases: Rabies is present in Papua New Guinea. Avoid contact with stray animals and seek immediate medical attention if bitten or scratched.

Natural Disasters

Papua New Guinea is prone to various natural disasters due to its location along the Pacific Ring of Fire and its tropical climate. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis pose significant risks, especially in coastal areas and near active volcanoes. The country also experiences cyclones, flooding, and landslides during the wet season from December to April.

  • Earthquakes are common, with several major quakes occurring in recent years, causing significant damage and loss of life.
  • Volcanic Activity is a concern, with several active volcanoes, including Ulawun and Manam, which have erupted multiple times in the past decade.
  • Cyclones and Flooding can disrupt transportation, damage infrastructure, and lead to landslides, particularly in coastal and low-lying areas.

Travelers should monitor weather conditions, follow local advisories, and be prepared for potential evacuation or disruptions to services. Ensuring adequate travel insurance coverage and having an emergency plan is highly recommended.


Transportation in Papua New Guinea can be challenging and potentially unsafe for travelers. While there are various modes of transportation available, the infrastructure and safety standards may not meet the expectations of visitors from Western countries.

  • Road Travel: The road network in Papua New Guinea is generally in poor condition, with many unpaved and poorly maintained roads, especially in rural areas. Driving can be hazardous due to factors such as reckless driving, lack of proper signage, and the presence of pedestrians and animals on the roads. Hiring a local driver or joining a guided tour is recommended for safer road travel.

  • Public Transportation: Public transportation options, such as buses and shared taxis (known as PMVs), are available but may not adhere to strict safety regulations. Overcrowding, poorly maintained vehicles, and reckless driving practices can make these modes of transportation risky for travelers.

  • Air Travel: Domestic air travel is relatively safe, with several airlines operating within the country. However, some smaller airlines and remote airstrips may not meet international safety standards. It is advisable to research and choose reputable airlines for domestic flights.

  • Maritime Transportation: Boat travel is common in Papua New Guinea, particularly for accessing remote islands and coastal areas. However, safety standards for maritime transportation can vary, and accidents or incidents involving boats are not uncommon. Exercise caution when using boat transportation and ensure proper safety equipment is available.

While transportation in Papua New Guinea can be challenging, taking necessary precautions, researching reputable providers, and considering guided tours or private transportation can help mitigate risks and ensure a safer travel experience.

Cultural Norms

Papua New Guinea is a culturally diverse nation with over 800 indigenous tribes and languages. Respecting local customs and traditions is essential for travelers. Some key considerations:

  • Dress Modestly: Revealing clothing is generally frowned upon, especially in rural areas. Cover up when visiting villages or attending cultural events.

  • Ask for Permission: Before taking photographs of locals, especially in traditional attire, always ask for permission first. Some communities may have restrictions.

  • Respect Sacred Sites: Many areas, such as burial grounds or ceremonial sites, are considered sacred. Avoid entering or disturbing these sites without a local guide.

  • Greet Elders Respectfully: In traditional communities, elders hold significant authority. Greet them respectfully and avoid direct eye contact if culturally appropriate.

  • Participate in Ceremonies: If invited to participate in cultural ceremonies or events, do so with respect and follow the guidance of local hosts.

  • Avoid Public Displays of Affection: Public displays of affection between couples may be considered inappropriate in some areas.

  • Learn Local Customs: Research the specific customs and traditions of the regions you plan to visit to avoid unintentionally causing offense.

Emergency Services

Emergency services in Papua New Guinea are limited, especially outside major cities. While police and ambulance services exist, their response times can be slow and their capabilities may be limited due to lack of resources. Private security companies are often utilized by businesses and wealthier individuals for emergency response.

  • Medical Facilities: There are few quality medical facilities outside of Port Moresby. Many expatriates and tourists seek medical treatment in Australia for serious conditions.

  • Tourist Police Units: Some areas have specialized tourist police units, but their coverage is limited. Travelers should exercise caution and avoid traveling alone, especially at night.

  • Private Security Companies: Many businesses and wealthy individuals rely on private security companies for emergency response and transportation in high-risk areas. These services can be expensive but may offer a higher level of reliability.

  • Travel Insurance: Comprehensive travel insurance that covers emergency medical evacuation is highly recommended, as the costs can be substantial.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Is Papua New Guinea safe for tourists?

Papua New Guinea is generally safe for tourists, but caution is advised. Violent crime and civil unrest can occur, especially in urban areas. Travelers should avoid isolated areas, stay alert, and follow local advice. Hiring a local guide is recommended for remote regions.

Is Papua New Guinea safe for solo female travelers?

Solo female travelers should exercise increased caution in Papua New Guinea due to the risk of sexual assault and harassment. Avoid isolated areas, dress conservatively, and arrange trusted transportation. It's advisable to join group tours or have a male companion.

Is Papua New Guinea safe for families?

Papua New Guinea can be challenging for families with children due to limited infrastructure and medical facilities. Precautions against diseases like malaria are essential. Families should consider guided tours and avoid remote areas. Prepare for cultural differences and language barriers.

Is Papua New Guinea LGBTQ+ friendly?

Same-sex relationships are legal in Papua New Guinea, but LGBTQ+ individuals may face discrimination and social stigma. Public displays of affection should be avoided. Same-sex marriage is not recognized, and legal protections are limited. Exercise caution and discretion.

Do you need a visa to go to Papua New Guinea?

Most visitors require a visa to enter Papua New Guinea, including tourists from the United States, Canada, and the European Union. Visa-free travel is generally limited to 30-60 days for certain nationalities. Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay.

Can you drink tap water in Papua New Guinea?

Tap water is not safe to drink in Papua New Guinea due to poor sanitation and contamination risks. Bottled or purified water is recommended for drinking and brushing teeth. Avoid ice cubes and raw foods washed with tap water.

What is the currency in Papua New Guinea?

The official currency in Papua New Guinea is the Papua New Guinean Kina (PGK). While credit cards are accepted in major cities and hotels, cash is preferred, especially in rural areas. Carrying a mix of cash and cards is advisable.

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