Thursday, May 6, 2010

Papua New Guinea CAUTION

This advice has been reviewed and reissued. It contains new information in the Summary and under Health Issues (Cholera cases in Port Moresby). The overall level of the advice has not changed.


  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Papua New Guinea because of the high levels of serious crime.
  • Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks. Large crowds and public gatherings should be avoided as they may turn violent.
  • Crime rates are high in the capital Port Moresby and in other areas of Papua New Guinea, especially in Lae, Mt Hagen and other parts of the Highland provinces.
  • There have been a small number of high profile kidnappings for ransom.
  • Local land and compensation disputes occasionally lead to threats by landowners to close the Kokoda Track. When walking the Kokoda Track, Australians are advised to travel only with guides from reputable trekking companies. See the Local Travel section for more advice and information.
  • As a result of serious safety concerns raised in an Airlines PNG assessment, in January 2010 the Australian Government suspended subsidised flights to four airstrips along the Kokoda Track (Milei, Kagi, Manari and Efogi).
  • The PNG National Department of Health has confirmed cases of cholera in Port Moresby. Cases of cholera and dysentery have also been reported in Morobe Province, Madang Province, East Sepik, West Sepik, Southern Highlands and National Capital District. On 9 September 2009 the Government of Papua New Guinea declared a national emergency to prevent the spread of infectious disease. See the Health Issues section for more information.
  • Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 has spread throughout the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides useful information for individuals and travellers on its website. For further information and advice to Australians, including on possible quarantine measures overseas, see our travel bulletin on Pandemic (H1N1) 2009.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
    • organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
    • register your travel and contact details, so we can contact you in an emergency
    • subscribe to this travel advice to receive free email updates each time it's reissued.

Safety and Security


We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Papua New Guinea because of the high levels of serious crime. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.

Crime is random and particularly prevalent in urban areas such as Port Moresby, Lae and Mt Hagen. Settlement areas of towns and cities are particularly dangerous. 'Bush knives' (machetes) and firearms are often used in assaults and thefts. Carjackings, assaults (including sexual assaults), bag snatching and robberies are common. Banks and automatic teller machines are increasingly targeted. The crime rate tends to increase leading into the Christmas holiday period.

Although most crime is opportunistic, there have been incidents of robbery in which expatriates have been targeted in their homes or workplaces. There have been a small number of high profile kidnappings for ransom.

There is a significant risk of robbery and carjacking in the area near Parliament House in the Waigani suburb of Port Moresby and along the highway between Lae and the Nadzab Airport, particularly between the two and nine mile settlement areas. Criminals also use roadblocks on roads outside of towns.

Walking after dark is particularly dangerous in Port Moresby and other urban centres. All travel at night should be made by car, with doors locked and windows up.

Due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical assistance.

The Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary faces a number of obstacles, including limited resources, and this may affect police response times in the event of crime. Many businesses, including the High Commission, employ private security companies to help deliver a prompt response to calls for assistance.

Civil Unrest/Political Tension

Tension between ethnic, communal or clan groups, particularly in the Highlands region, occasionally leads to outbreaks of fighting, often involving the use of firearms, rioting and looting. Outbreaks of violence have occurred in settlements and marketplaces in Port Moresby, Lae, Mt Hagen and other major towns in the Highlands.

Due to recent violence, staff at the Australian High Commission have been advised to avoid the Hanuabada area of Port Moresby.

You should avoid rallies, demonstrations and other large public gatherings as they may turn violent.


Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General Advice to Australian Travellers.

Local Travel

Roads, especially in rural areas, are in a poor state of repair. Other common safety risks on PNG roads include erratic and drunk drivers, poorly maintained vehicles and over-crowded vehicles.

During the wet season (November to May), flash floods and landslides, particularly on stretches of the Highlands Highway between Lae and Mount Hagen, can result in road closures and extensive travel delays. Severe flooding in Oro Province in November 2007 and 2009 has caused significant damage to major roads and bridges throughout the province. Restoration and rehabilitation is continuing and travellers should expect delays.

Large crowds can form quickly after road accidents. These crowds can become violent with little warning.

For further advice on road safety, see our bulletin on Overseas Road Safety.

Police roadblocks to check vehicle registrations are a regular occurrence at night in Port Moresby. Drivers should ensure that their vehicle registration and safety stickers are up-to-date so that they minimise difficulties at roadblocks.

Public Motor Vehicles (PMVs) are unreliable due to poor maintenance and have been targeted by criminals. Vehicles hired from a reputable car hire company, reputable taxi company or hotel transport are a safer alternative.

Delays and cancellations of international and domestic flights occur on a regular basis. Passengers should check with airlines and be prepared for the possibility of extended waits at airports.

Some mobile telephone global roaming facilities are available in Papua New Guinea but service can be patchy. Travellers should contact their mobile telephone service provider for more details. Landline phones occasionally suffer from local outages due to vandalism or theft of the underground cable infrastructure.

Venomous snakes are common in Papua New Guinea. There is usually an increase in the number of snake bite cases reported during the wet season.

Kokoda Track: We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution when walking the Kokoda Track and travelling through the areas adjacent to each end of the track.

Walking the Kokoda Track is physically demanding and requires a high level of fitness. It is strongly recommended that travellers undergo considerable training and seek medical advice/medical fitness testing before attempting the walk. Each year, several Australians are medically evacuated, and some deaths have occurred. Given the unpredictable weather and poor services, some have had to wait several days before such evacuations took place. Adequate travel insurance is essential.

While walking, it is important that trekkers remain hydrated and protect themselves from dysentery (see Health Issues section below).

Australians should ensure they only travel with guides from reputable trekking companies. This is particularly important given the occasional threats by villagers to close parts of the track due to local land and compensation disputes. Trekkers should check with their travel agent and/or tour operator that they have contingency plans in the event that the track is blocked.

The Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) has stationed rangers along the track and at airports to collect fees from trekkers who have not obtained a valid trekking permit. Trekkers should ensure that their tour company provides a permit in return for fees paid for this purpose. The KTA can be contacted on telephone (675) 323 6165 regarding payment of the applicable fee. Information can also be obtained from the Tourism Promotion Authority on (675) 320 0211. You should register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade before attempting to hike the Kokoda Track. Passports are regularly damaged from water and sweat. Ensure your passport is stored in a waterproof bag or container.

As a result of serious safety concerns raised in an Airlines PNG assessment, in January 2010 the Australian Government suspended subsidised flights to four airstrips along the Kokoda Track (Milei, Kagi, Manari and Efogi).

Unexploded ordnance still exists in Papua New Guinea, particularly along the Kokoda Track and at Milne Bay and Rabaul.

Bougainville: We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Bougainville. You should consider your plans carefully and discuss them with the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby before travelling to Bougainville, particularly to the South. You must provide notice of your intention to visit the island to the Bougainville Provincial Administration (telephone +675 973 9798) and must contact the Administration again upon arrival.

The mountainous area in central Bougainville around the old Panguna mine is a 'No Go Zone'. We strongly advise you not to enter the 'No Go Zone'. Foreigners who have entered the 'No Go Zone' without authorisation from the PNG Government have been questioned by PNG authorities and had their passports confiscated on departure from the Zone.

General elections for the Autonomous Bougainville Government are scheduled to be held between 26 March and 4 June 2010. Tensions may increase during the election period. You should avoid large crowds and public gatherings as they may turn violent.

Airline Safety

Given the difficult terrain, extreme weather conditions and the condition of some remote airfields in PNG, flying in PNG carries greater safety risks than flying in Australia.

As a result of serious safety concerns raised in an Airlines PNG assessment, in January 2010 the Australian Government suspended subsidised flights to four airstrips along the Kokoda Track (Milei, Kagi, Manari and Efogi).

For further information, please refer to our Aviation Safety and Security travel bulletin.

Natural Disasters, Severe Weather and Climate

Papua New Guinea is in an active seismic zone: earthquakes, tsunamis and landslides can occur. There are active volcanoes in PNG and regular eruptions occur, particularly around Rabaul, Bougainville, West New Britain and Manam Island. Ash from volcanoes in the Rabaul region occasionally disrupts airline schedules at Kokopo airport. Flights may be cancelled at short notice.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.

During the wet season (November to May), flooding and landslides, resulting in deaths, have occurred.

If you are travelling during the wet season, or after a natural disaster, you should contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.


Australians are advised to respect wildlife laws and to maintain a safe and legal distance when observing wildlife, including marine animals and birds. You should only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators and closely follow park regulations and wardens' advice.

Money and Valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work overseas. Most banks and ATMs in PNG will accept credit cards from Australian banks.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering and theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible. If trekking, you should keep your passport in a watertight container.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

For Parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling Parents brochure.

If you are planning on placing your children in schools or childcare facilities overseas we encourage you to research the standards of security, care and staff training within those establishments. You should exercise the same precautions you would take before placing children into schools or childcare facilities in Australia.

Ideas on how to select childcare providers are available from the smartraveller Children's Issues page, Child Wise and the National Childcare Accreditation Council.

Local Laws

When you are in Papua New Guinea, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Penalties for treason, murder and piracy include the death sentence.

Homosexual acts are illegal and punishable by imprisonment. Overt public displays of affection by persons of the same sex should be avoided.

Papua New Guinea has very strict laws relating to the possession and sale of pornographic material and penalties include imprisonment.

Adultery is a criminal offence and punishment may include imprisonment.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 17 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in sexual activity with children under 16 while outside of Australia.

Local Customs

You should be aware that the traditional custom of 'payback' is often practised in Papua New Guinea. Australians who engage in illegal or inappropriate sexual or financial relations run the risk of extrajudicial responses from offended parties. Demands for compensation for property damage, including to livestock, are common.

There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in Papua New Guinea. You should take care not to offend.

You should seek permission before taking photographs of individuals and cultural sites (for example, spirit houses).

Information for Dual Nationals

Papua New Guinea does not recognise dual nationality except for children under 18 years of age. This may limit the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to Australian/Papua New Guinean dual nationals who are arrested or detained.

Our Travel Information for Dual Nationals brochure provides further information for dual nationals.

Entry and Exit Requirements

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Papua New Guinea for the most up to date information.

Quarantine restrictions prevent travellers from bringing fruit and vegetables into the country.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Health Issues

Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 has spread throughout the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides useful information for individuals and travellers on its website. For further information and advice to Australians, including on possible quarantine measures overseas, see our travel bulletin on Pandemic (H1N1) 2009.

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

Your doctor or travel clinic is the best source of information about preventive measures, immunisations (including booster doses of childhood vaccinations) and disease outbreaks overseas. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our 'Travelling Well' brochure also provides useful tips for travelling with medicines and staying healthy while overseas.

Health care facilities in Papua New Guinea, including in the capital Port Moresby, are poor by Australian standards. Facilities in large towns are usually adequate for routine problems and some emergencies, however health facilities in rural areas are very basic, including along the Kokoda Track.

Medical evacuation to Australia, costing between several thousand dollars to eighty thousand dollars depending on the circumstances, is often the only option for serious illnesses or accidents (including diving accidents).

Cholera cases have been reported in Morobe, Madang, East Sepik, West Sepik, Southern Highlands, and National Capital District (NCD) including Port Moresby. A number of deaths have resulted from the outbreak. In response to the outbreaks of cholera, dysentery and seasonal influenza the Government of Papua New Guinea declared, on 9 September 2009, a national emergency to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. The national emergency declaration enables the Government to make provisions, laws, orders or regulations without notice to stop the spread of the infectious diseases. This may include the closure of restaurants or water sources and the restriction of travel by individuals.

Cholera is transmitted through water and food contaminated with the cholera organism and spreads as a result of poor hygiene. In some instances the original source of the contamination can be from the environment (e.g. shellfish). Further advice on cholera can be found on the World Health Organization website.

Anyone visiting the affected areas should exercise strict hygiene precautions including careful and frequent hand washing. We advise you to drink water only from known safe sources eg bottle, chlorinated or boiled water, to avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food and to maintain strict hygiene standards while travelling in Papua New Guinea.

Local water supplies can be interrupted or polluted. You should take precautions to ensure you have access to safe water.

Malaria is a risk throughout Papua New Guinea. In 2008, a number of cases of malaria have been reported in Port Moresby. However, the risk to short-term visitors to Port Moresby remains relatively low. Dengue fever and other mosquito-borne diseases also occur, including in Port Moresby. We encourage you to take prophylaxis against malaria where necessary and take measures to avoid mosquito bites, including using insect repellent at all times.

The mosquito-borne disease Japanese encephalitis is found throughout many regions of North, South and South-East Asia and Papua New Guinea. A Japanese encephalitis vaccine is registered for use and is currently available in Australia. For further details please consult your travel health doctor.

The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Papua New Guinea is high. You should exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection. Other sexually transmitted diseases are prevalent in all urban centres.

Food-borne, water-borne and other infectious diseases (including tuberculosis, typhoid and hepatitis) are common. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before travelling. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Swimmers should also be aware that water-borne parasites pose a risk in many of PNG's rivers. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has confirmed cases of avian influenza in birds in a number of countries throughout the world, including in the Papua New Guinea region. For a list of these countries, visit the OIE website. For information on our advice to Australians on how to reduce the risk of infection and on Australian Government precautions see our travel bulletin on avian influenza.