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Travel Tips for Port Moresby

Updated on January 29, 2013

Travel Tips- Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, is an unusual place to visit with its warm, happy people and its natural beauty of the unspoilt lush green outskirts. This country lies near the Equator, in the Pacific Ocean. It comprises of many islands, and the main one being the eastern part of the island of New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago.

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a nation of friendly people, unlike the stories you hear that induce trepidation in many a traveler’s heart, like head-hunting and cannibalism, which are outdated practices. The hot sunshine and high humidity greets you as soon as you step outside Jacksons International airport in Port Moresby.

While you wait for your luggage in the airport, you'll see and hear many well-heeled local people talking loudly and confidently in English. They talk about politics and have strong opinions on how funding from the western nations should be spent and how much more should be given. They advocate providing assistance to their countrymen and women, and the value of long-term financial independence and viability. They are happy to greet visitors in their Tok Pisin (Pidgin) language, ‘Gutpela long bungim yu’, meaning ‘good to meet you’.

As the traveler sits back in the taxi that will take them to the hotel, what strikes the visitor is the growth of new buildings, in various stages of completion. These are grey and dusty and sprawl amid the dirt and sand. There are many people in tired cotton clothes, hanging out together in small groups, talking softly in their local dialects. They talk about the foreign travelers who come and the work that is provided by the Non-Government Organisations, or NGOs as they call them for short. These provide income for the main breadwinner of their families.

Here are a few tips for the new visitor to this Melanesian country. These tips will benefit tourists and business visitors, especially if this is their first visit to PNG. Just relax, grab a cup of tea or a can of Fanta Orange, find a cool shaded spot in verandah of the hotel and remember to chill out.

Tip 1: Assume that nothing will work

The electricity power will go out regularly, the internet connections will come on and off all the time impeding any work, Automatic Teller Machines are rare and not easily available and local mobile phone SIM cards are not sold at hotels. Yes, that is the way utilities function in Port Moresby, the capital city of Papua New Guinea. You can imagine then how it is in the other towns and villages in the country.

Tip 2: Internet connections at hotels are rare

Even if they do have a working internet connection, look at Tip 1. If you have heaps of free time and excess cash to spend, go to the larger hotels and use their internet facilities. If you want smooth functioning internet connections and internet cafes, take your business trips to nearby Australia or New Zealand.

Tip 3: Everything happens at a slow pace

For slow, look up snail-racing, paint-drying, hair-dyeing speeds and then add 100% more and just another 25% to err on the side of caution. If you want to live life in the fast lane, sorry ‘we do the best we can’ and hope that it’s enough. If you don’t like it, there’s always the South-East Asian cities close by.

Tip 4: Plans are not often made

Plans are not often made in advance, but when they are, they often go askew and no one bothers to follow the best laid plans anyway. Plans are for discussing about and feeling business-like. It gives you a misconception that everything has been sorted out and ready to go. The sad reality is that plans end as soon as they are made.

Tip 5: If you want answers, keep asking questions

Even if the questions all relate to the same issue, keep asking questions until you get answers. Do not expect any communication forthcoming because you’ll be waiting forever. Do not make the mistake that if you ask someone to find out something for you and this may take them just a phone call that they will actually get back to you with the answer.

Tip 6: Dress as if going to the beach

In order be safe in PNG, go in your casual clothes and dress down like as if you are going to the beach. Do not take plenty of money, jewellery and electronics. Do not wave your purses or wallets in front of the locals. They will want to have those items and do not mind relieving you of them. In their world, things are not just right or wrong and if they feel that their actions are justified, they will do it.

Tip 7: Stay in your group and within the hotel walls

When staying in hotels, do not wander outside the gates by yourself but stay in your group of friends or colleagues. It is essential to get the taxi to come into the hotel compound. The best option is to get the reception staff to call the taxi. Always keep your hotel door and windows locked at night and do not open the door unless you are certain that it is the hotel staff. While I was there, I would ring for room service and they would then tell how long before they would be ready. When the staff came, he would call out who he was before I needed to open the door. Security is treated seriously there because there are vicious gangsters in the city.

Tip 8: The pig in the ground

The Papuans are fond of pork and enjoy cooking the whole pig in the traditional style, called mumu. They bury the pig in the ground and heap it with different herbs and leaves and smoke it for hours. This is then served in huge platters with roasted starchy vegetables. Like anything new, it is an acquired taste but it is worth a try. The vegetables at least will tempt with their sweet succulence and tantalising spicy aroma.

Generally, the people of PNG are not financially secure and lack the earthly goods that some of us take for granted, but they have an optimistic streak and close-knit family lives. They take care of their elders, which is something that western culture has forsaken. They also share what they have with family and friends. Above all, I found them to be warm and friendly.

The last snippet of advice is that you bring some trinkets and packets of biscuits and candy from your own country.You are sure to make many new friends and these little gifts are always appreciated. Don't forget to take lots of photos to reminisce later but for now, enjoy the rustic lifestyle in the warm sunshine.


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    • bulama2 profile image

      Vivianne Kanawi 

      6 years ago

      Hi Kairulina,

      Great hub. PNG is a long way from the rest of the world in terms of development and yes, if you are used to travelling in the fast lane certainly, there will be a lot of disappointments. Good to hear from an outsider what they think about PNG.


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