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5 Things You Need to Know Before Traveling to Papua New Guinea
These lands are blessed with unparalleled beauty due to their virgin rainforest, uniqueness of the fauna and flora, secluded beaches caressed by the waters of the Pacific Ocean, and a few hundreds of indigenous cultures and languages that have so many stories to tell you about their world that you will be absolutely dazzled.
If you are curious about this territory and you want to experience one of the most exciting and fabulous travel adventures in your life, then it is best if you start preparing for this journey. Here are 5 things you should know before actually departing for Papua New Guinea:
1. Papua New Guinea is a country safe to visit
There are many tourists who stay off the paths of Papua New Guinea due to fear of exposing themselves to great dangers. They are under the impression that everywhere you look you will find dangerous tribes who want to kill you and make a necklace out of your fingers or even eat you. These are all preconceptions, and 95% of the country is quiet and safe. Of course, you should be aware of pickpockets and scammers, and be a little extra careful than when visiting a touristic destination, because Papua New Guinea is not exactly a touristic place. It's a country that has nothing to do with mass tourism, so it is best to stay alert. Most of the robberies happen in the large towns.
You should take the usual precautions such as stay away from dark streets, crowded markets and the neighborhoods with a bad reputation. However, most locals of little towns and villages are friendly and enthusiastic when it comes to receiving guests who they treat really nicely. Tribal fights might happen, but these have nothing to do with tourists, and crime against them are very rare. So, yes it's safe to travel to Papua New Guinea, but you should get a travel insurance too.
2. You need a visa to visit Papua New Guinea
You need a visa to visit Papua New Guinea, but most citizens of countries such as Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada and most West European countries can get their visa right from the airport, in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea. In order to receive your visa you need to have an onward ticked and evidence of sufficient funds to support yourself during your stay. The fee for your visa is PGK100 and you need to pay for it with cash. The visitors of other countries who can't obtain their visa directly from the airport need to get it from a Papua New Guinea embassy. However, usually your travel agent will take care of this detail.
Papua New Guinea
Would you visit Papua New Guinea if you had the chance?
3. Health risks
The most common health problems tourists have to deal with while visiting Papua Guinea are abdominal upsets, malaria and skin infections. In regarding to the abdominal upsets, these are cause mostly by the bugs in the dirty water, such as giardia, typhoid, cholera and shigella. So, under no circumstance drink water unless it bottled or boiled. You should also bring with you medication to control diarrhea symptoms. You won't get sick by eating local food in villages because it is cooked by boiling or baking. But it is best to eat it while it is fresh.
Anti-malaria medication should be taken while visiting the country and for a period of time after returning home. Always apply repellent on your skin about 5 pm every afternoon and when you go to bed if there is no insect screens in your room. So, avoid being bitten by mosquitoes with all costs.
Most of the skin infections appear following scratches made during snorkeling, climbing or walking tours. If this happens, make sure you apply an antibiotic cream immediately because antiseptic creams are quite useless here. However, if you're taking antibiotics already for the prevention of malaria, you shouldn't have problems with skin infections. If you see children with scratches, and have enough first aid gear to spare, you can do some good and helped them heal faster.
4. Papua New Guinea is an expensive country to visit
Papua New Guinea is not exactly what you call a country that you can visit following a map where all the attractions are highlighted. In order to get around this country you will mostly have to fly in small planes because there aren't many paved roads to drive on. Walking or cycling by yourself is out of the questions if you want to explore more than just a large town, and you really should want to see more because the real and beautiful Papua New Guinea hides in the rainforest and along the Sepik River.
Most of the tourists that visit this country decide to book tours from local tour operators that include usually one week packages or even full day tours. Yes, we know, most of the tour companies have quite high prices and you can't blame it since there is no mass tourism here and you won't get cheap airfares and hotels. Most tourists that come here are solo travelers or couples, so the packages need to be costly. Also, fuel and vehicle rental are really expensive, especially in the rural area where tours are organized. In our researches, we've managed to find a local tour operator that has more reasonable prices. Papua New Guinea Budget Tours is centered in providing complete packages for prices lower than the general trend, so you might manage to visit Papua New Guinea without having to apply for a bank loan.
5. Best places to visit
In general lines, here are the places you should consider to include in your itinerary, depending on your interests:
Port Moresby - for museums, walking tours and diving
East Sepik - for river tours, culture and artifacts
West Sepik - for surfing, beaches and Jayapura side-trip
Madang Coast - for beaches, diving, snorkeling, village tours, trekking
West New Britain - for volcanoes and diving
East New Britain - for volcanoes and World War II relics
New Ireland - for beaches, diving, cycling and walking tours, and island hopping
Morobe - for beaches, nature tourism, trekking and walking tours
Eastern Highlands - for farming, handicrafts, wildlife and trekking
Milne Bay - for cultures, diving, island hopping and walking tours
You should also include a visit of the Baiyer River Wildlife Sanctuary where you can admire the famous birds of paradise, but also tree kangaroos, parrots, cassowaries and possums in their natural habitat. This sanctuary is situated 55 km from Mount Hagen, one of the largest cities in the country.
The Lae Botanical Gardens in Lae, the capital of Morobe province, are also a great place to discover the local flora and also admire wonderful views over the Huon Golf and the Markham Valley.