Papua New Guinea Guide
Five Things First Time Travellers To Papua New Guinea Should Know
- There are over 800 different languages spoken in Papua New Guinea. Luckily, you won't have too much of a communication barrier to overcome as most of the locals speak English as well.
- You don't need to tip at restaurants. However, if you're visiting tribes, there is a donation box, and it's encouraged to leave something in return for them showing you their customs.
- The gifts to the villages don't need to be monetary. Useful items like reading glasses, clothes, solar lights and even wood carvers will all be greatly appreciated by the locals.
- The tap water can be safe. It's best to ask the hotel staff before filling your bottle up from the municipal water supply. If you're going trekking through the jungle, only drink from streams at a higher altitude to the villages and boil the water to be on the safe side.
- Bring enough mosquito repellent. Malaria is a problem in Papua New Guinea, and it's best to avoid getting bitten even if you are on medication. Wear clothes that cover as much skin as possible during the night and lather yourself in repellent to stay safe.
Best Time To Visit Papua New Guinea
The best time to visit Papua New Guinea is during its dry season. The little chance of rain means you don't have to worry about a torrential downpour ruining your day and the temperatures are slightly cooler. It's also a great time for wildlife sightings as the lack of rain draws the animals out to the nearby water holes.
For hikers, it's also recommended to plan your trip during this time. Especially if you are attempting the famous Kokoda Trail which is challenging enough without a muddy terrain.
The only downside to visiting between May and October is that it's high season. There will be larger crowds at the top attractions and festivals that take place. Make sure you book your flights and accommodation a few months in advance to lock in prices before they skyrocket.
The country's low season is from December to March. It's the wettest time of year, and the heavy rains can make travelling around the region difficult. However, for surfers, it's the best time of year to visit. The waves off the north coast should not be missed with challenging breaks that will keep you entertained for days.
Another upside to visiting Papua New Guinea during this time is that it's cheap. Prices for hotel rates will be at their lowest, and you'll find some incredible deals.
Papua New Guinea Cities
Port Moresby is the capital city of Papua New Guinea. It's where most tourists enter the country, and it's worth spending a few days here before moving on to other destinations.
Visit the Bomana Cemetery to learn about the city's role in World War II, visit Varirata National Park and explore the National Capital Botanical Gardens which is home to tree climbing kangaroos.
Lae is the second largest city in the country. Before the 1920s gold rush, the town didn't have much going on. Since then, it's developed into a major seaport and is full of hotels, shops and markets.
Some of the city's highlights include exploring the Wau and Bulolo hills, the Lae War Cemetery and the Lae Botanical Gardens.
Mt Hagen is located in the Western Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea. It's the third largest city and is known for its coffee plantations and one of the biggest markets in the country.
If you want to see the locals dressed in traditional attire, head to the corner of Wahgi Parade on a Saturday. There's also the Mt Hagen Show that's well worth a visit.
Top Attractions in Papua New Guinea
The Kokoda Trail is one of Papua New Guinea's most famous trails. The challenging 96 km route will take you deep into the rainforest and takes ten days to complete. The hike is more difficult in humid weather, so plan your visit in the dry season when it's cooler.
Along the way, you'll walk past the site where over 600 Australians were killed during World War II. It's considered one of the bloodiest battles in the region and stopped the invading Japanese forces from capturing Australia.
With such a rich history, Papua New Guinea is working towards the trail of being recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Sepik River
Sepik is considered one of the greatest rivers in the world. It stretches across a virtually untouched landscape for 1,126 km and is rich in culture and biodiversity.
You'll be able to visit spirit houses and rural villages that seem stuck in time. Visitors can learn about the ancient traditions that still take place here and buy some of the most interesting art from the region's master carvers.
There are also a few nearby beaches that are a haven for surfers who want to take on the swells, as well as eerie lagoons and an abundance of birdlife to spot along the way.
National Museum and Gallery
If you want to learn more about Papua New Guinea's mysterious culture and history, head to the National Museum and Gallery. It's filled with over 25,000 archaeological artefacts and 20,000 relics from World War II.
The building was remodelled for the country's 40th anniversary, and the exhibits are divided by theme. Learn about the seafaring equipment and see a magnificent Milne Bay outrigger canoe. It's decorated with large cowrie shells and intricate tribal designs. Other highlights include the ceremonial masks, totem poles and traditional musical instruments.
Don't miss the displays showcasing the country's art as well as the fauna that call its rainforests home.
Varirata National Park
For nature lovers, a visit to Varirata National Park is a must. It's Papua New Guinea's first national park and sprawls across 10 square kilometres of terrain. It's home to an array of endemic flora and fauna including the iconic Birds of Paradise.
There are six well-marked trails that you take you through the lush vegetation to steep slopes overlooking the Loloki River Valley. Bring a packed lunch and enjoy a picnic or barbeque in the mists of the forest.
For birdwatching, bring a pair of binoculars and keep an eye out for the kingfishers, bowerbirds and Western Black-Capped Lories.
Rabaul is an interesting island destination to visit in Papua New Guinea. Its town was destroyed in 1994 when Mt Tavurvur erupted. The volcano is still active, and visitors can see it occasionally shooting plumes of smoke into the sky.
Today, the area has recovered and is fast becoming a must-visit on the tourist track. Its top attraction is the 30 dive sites that boast some of the highest diversity of coral and fish in the world. Divers can spend days exploring the ocean depths and visiting the multitude of sunken World War II ships and plane wrecks.
Major International Airports in Papua New Guinea
- Jacksons International Airport