Papua New Guinea Tours & Travel General Information



Travelers Info

Papua New Guinea

It's a land of contrasts and surprises. It is an equatorial wonderland of mountain and lowland rain forests, featuring some of the most remarkable biological diversity in the world. Incorporating some 600 off-shore islands, with the mainland dominated by lofty mountains up to 15,000 feet, the profusion of P.N.G.âs wildlife and the possibility of discovering something new are enough to keep any nature traveler occupied for a lifetime. Culturally, P.N.G. is equally diverse with over 700 different languages. The customs, traditions, beliefs, and ceremonies were handed by the old to the young by word of mouth. There was no written language in P.N.G. until contact with the western world, which in some cases only occurred about 30 years ago. Diversity of the vibrant P.N.G. natural environment and culture are the major attractions P.N.G. offers.

About Your Accommodations

The internationally acclaimed lodges we use are strategically situated in areas where the rich diversity of P.N.G. can be easily experienced - in the Southern Highlands, in the last great wilderness of the Sepik basin, and on the tropical North Coast. The lodges reflect the traditional architecture of the areas where they are located. With high standards of accommodation and comfort, they provide personalized services to suit international visitors in this ãlast unknown.ä Each lodge has been carefully designed to operate with an understanding of ecotourism and sensitivity to the nearby cultures. maintains strict standards of quality control, along with integrity in business practices to ensure clients enjoy the best possible P.N.G. journey. See P.N.G. soon before it further changes.

Art Works

Art Forwarding

The Wilderness Lodges have found it increasingly difficult to find and maintain suitable packaging materials to meet the demands of guests wishing to forward art. Accordingly, if you are planning on purchasing art to take home with you as luggage, please bring with you suitable packaging materials such as bubble wrap, tape, string, cardboard or wrapping paper. No packaging material will be available at the lodges. Also keep in mind that between the Wilderness Lodges, aircraft are small and strictly limited with weight and space capacity. If you are purchasing one or two small light items and are willing to hold them on your lap in the aircraft, you will most likely get these on with you. But if you are purchasing many items which are either large or heavy, you may not be able to get these on the flight. In this case you have two alternatives for forwarding as outlined in the following:

By Surface or Air Mail

The Wilderness Lodges can arrange the postage of your art on your behalf if the art is within certain size and weight limits. The Lodges arrange for the art to be transported to our Mount Hagen office free of charge by putting it on the next aircraft with available weight and space. Here the art will be properly packaged and forwarded by surface or airmail only.
The Maximum dimensions of any one piece to suit the PNG Postal system are: Length: 32 inches (810mm); Girth: 70 inches (1770mm); Weight: 20 lbs (12 kg).

Art Purchasing

The Wilderness Lodges, Ambua Lodge, Karawari Lodge, Malolo Plantation Lodge and MV Sepik Spirit are located in very isolated parts of PNG. As a result very limited cash is available for exchanges at these lodges. Please bring sufficient cash for your art purchases. Smaller denominations of Kina cash are best for purchasing art in the villages, ie, K2 K5 and K10 are best. So bring plenty of cash in small denominations as the villagers will not be able to make change for larger notes. The Wilderness Lodges are not able to change K50 to smaller denominations.
In general, PNG locals do not like to barter with you if you are buying artifacts or other souvenirs. Sometimes a second or lesser price may be requested, but only if you are serious about buying the piece. It is considered impolite to continue serious or even fun bartering.

Things to Buy

PNG Art and handicrafts are world renowned and one of the most vital industries as such in the South Pacific. The art is extremely varied which reflects the great diversity of cultures in PNG. The Sepik River is well known for its unique art which comes in many forms including pottery, wooden carved masks and cult hooks. In other areas of the country you will find carved bowls, bilum or string bags, baskets, ceremonial axes, clay and bamboo ornaments, charms and musical instruments, just to name a few of the items you will probably have the opportunity to buy.
Please be advised that it is illegal to export the feathers of the Bird of Paradise. If you buy or even accept as a gift the feathers of these birds, you will encourage the hunting of these rare and beautiful creatures and thus help create an industry which could possibly lead to their endangerment or even extinction. PNG and Australian laws are very strict about the export/import of all endangered species. Please do not buy or accept these feathers and be advised that you will be prosecuted if you are caught trying to take them out of the country.
If you miss the opportunity to buy art in the villages, art and craft are available for purchase at Ambua Lodge, Karawari Lodge, Malolo Plantation Lodge and Rondon Ridge.

Baggage Regulations

For those traveling on only Air Niugini domestic flights baggage allowance is restricted to 16kg or 35lbs and carry-on hand-bag. But you will likely be traveling on other small regional airlines to the Wilderness Lodges, and the MV Sepik Spirit. Flights between these lodges operate in small 5 or 8 seat aircraft with limited weight and space for baggage. On these flights you must restrict your baggage to 10kgs maximum per person plus a small carry-on bag or camera bag. In addition, large hard or soft sided suitcases are not permitted on these aircraft. The small regional airlines are strict and if you come with inappropriate or excess baggage when boarding these small aircraft for the Wilderness Lodges, your bags will be off loaded and you will be required to re-pack on the spot, thus causing undue stress on yourself, the pilot, ground operational staff and your fellow travelers.
If taking a long trip, many find it convenient to leave excess baggage at the hotel in the country stopped at just before coming to PNG and will be returning to on the way home. If this is not possible, excess baggage can be stored in Port Moresby with our ground operational staff. You will find them helpful and efficient on this matter. Please ensure that all your stored baggage is clearly tagged with your name, address, and return date. Tags are provided with travel documents upon arrival in PNG. Please always personally make sure that your baggage is properly tagged to the correct destination at time of check-in.


The climate in Papua New Guinea is tropical and pleasant. You will experience two distinct types of climate in PNG. The first is in the lowland and coastal areas being hot and having a temperature range of 24-35 degrees C (75-95 F) with high humidity. The second is the highlands regions being cooler, having a Temperature range of 12-28 degrees (54-82F) and with less humidity. In both areas, the days are generally fine, but often there are clouds in the afternoon resulting in rain late afternoon and evening. Although there are said to be dry and wet seasons in various areas of PNG, it is often difficult to distinguish between these seasons. On the one hand, it can rain for several consecutive days during the dry season and on the other, there may occur lengthy dry spells during the wet season. Although it may be locally dry in the Sepik region, if it is raining heavily in the highlands, the river levels in the Sepik will rise.

Clothing and Check List

Please pack lightly! This will most certainly add to the enjoyment of your trip. The climate at KARAWARI LODGE, MALOLO PLANTATION LODGE, and the MV SEPIK SPIRIT is hot and humid, thus lightweight long sleeved (preferably cotton) casual and modest clothing is appropriate for all occasions. Mosquitoes are drawn to dark colors so khaki, camel, bone or similar are preferable colors to wear. A sweater is needed for cool highlands evenings and good walking shoes are essential. MALOLO PLANTATION LODGE has a swimming pool, so don't forget your swim suit which is also useful in the spa at AMBUA LODGE and some hotels in major centres. Bikinis or tight, skimpy clothing are not advisable in respect of the local culture.
Sun hat, insect repellent, flashlight (power is turned off at night at Karawari Lodge), sun screen lotion, rain jacket, extra pair comfortable walking shoes (the first pair may get wet or muddy at some point in your PNG travels), binoculars, camera, plenty of film, malaria medication prescribed by your physician.

Communicating with Papua New Guineans

Most travelers are experienced and sophisticated and find the trip a great one. There are hassles that even the best of trips encounter. In PNG, anger, displeasure or irritability do not enhance one's chances of getting results. Such expressions reduce the recipient to a stony silence and co-operation or compassion are not extended to anger, raised or displeased voices. Please be patient as it is a waste of time complaining about arrangements. When you experience the unexpected, please be patient and avoid dwelling on mishaps, it only worsens the travel experience for yourself and your fellow travellers. It is natural to be agitated or frightened in such a remote, foreign country. Be assured all arrangements are being coordinated to make your trip as smooth as possible. Overall, past clients find PNG one of their best trips ever, but the unexpected can easily occur.

Cultural Displays and Visits

Daily tours may include nature walks, birding and village visits - most would include walking through the local people's land, gardens and living areas. If a development occurs - it may be a death, tribal dispute, etc., whereby we are asked by the local people not to visit them or intrude on their land or privacy, we respect their wishes and ask that you do likewise. We may not have had any prior notice of their need for privacy, and therefore arrive at the village expecting perhaps a cultural display or similar, only to find we are turned away. Don't become upset or angry with either your driver/guide or the local people. The participants in these displays and cultural events are village people, not professional performers of dance groups, that's what makes the whole experience so exceptional. The operational person in charge (not your driver/guide) will try to make alternative arrangements where ever time and circumstances permit.
Under the heading of "Tipping" you are asked not to hand out gifts to individuals in villages. This is a most important request that we ask you comply with. School supplies which are always in short supply, particularly in the rural areas, are most welcome and are much preferred over cheap plastic jewelry, sweets, balloons, etc.

Currency, Credit Cards and Exchange

The unit of currency is the Kina, pronounced "kee-nah", and sub-units of 100 are called Toea, pronounced "toy-ya". Note denominations are available in K2, K5, K10, K20 and K50.
Travelers Checks and international credit cards are accepted at most major hotels. American Express, Diners Club, Master Cars and Visa credit cards are accepted at the Wilderness Lodges, AMBUA LODGE, KARAWARI LODGE, MALOLO PLANTATION LODGE, and the MV SEPIK SPIRIT.
Kina cash can be acquired at the banks of most international ports of departure to PNG such as Sydney, Cairns, Singapore, Manila, and Hong Kong. It is strongly recommended you acquire your Kina cash at these banks prior to departing for PNG. Although there is a bank at the Port Moresby international airport, it keeps normal banking hours. Thus if you are arriving in PNG outside of normal banking hours or if your connection time in Port Moresby to your next domestic flight is short, it is highly recommended you obtain your Kina cash outside the country. There are also banks in most major centers in PNG, but tour schedules do not usually allow time for banking. Most hotels and the Wilderness Lodges have some cash but this is greatly limited and exchange rates are not as good as the banks. Banking hours in PNG are generally from 9:00 am - 3:00 pm Monday through Thursday and from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm on Friday.

Electric Voltage
The electrical voltage system in PNG is metric or 240 volts, AC50hzs. Some hotels provide 110 volt outlets in guest rooms. PNG uses the same electrical plug outlets as Australia.

Flying in PNG

The majority of flying in PNG is conducted under visual flight rules. The mainland of PNG contains numerous mountain ranges rising up to 14,800 ft (4,500 meters). A large number of flights are conducted in small un-pressurized aircraft, making it difficult to fly above these mountains and the towering clouds. Therefore if you can't see where the mountains are and you can't go over them then you can't go into cloud.
There are only navigation aids at the larger coastal and highland towns. Most navigation is done visually or with G.P.S (Global Positioning System). While Mount Hagen, a declared city and international airport in the highlands, has some navigation aids, they are only used to position the aircraft overhead the airport for a visual approach. This is due to the high mountains at the edge of the Waghi Valley. ILS (Instrument Landing System) and radar only exist at Jacksons Airport in Port Moresby.
The weather in Papua New Guinea can change very quickly (for the better or worse!). This is caused by the high mountains and tropical conditions. All you can do is relax, read a book and listen to your pilot. The pilots in Papua New Guinea are very experienced with these conditions and know best when to go and to stay.


Meats, fish, vegetables, and tropical fruits are served Australian style. Some of the world's best coffee and tea is grown in the Highlands of PNG. An excellent beer is locally produced and a variety of imported wines are plentiful. At the Wilderness Lodges, apart from vegetarian meals, special meal requests are not available as the meals are table d'hote and set menus. If vegetarian meals are required, this should be advised to the Manager at the time of check-in. Local food is made up of bland starchy foods with very little protein and to a western palate is unacceptable. There is no national cuisine such as can be found in Thailand and Indonesia. At the Wilderness Lodges dinner may include one "local" vegetable for you to try.

Health Regulations and Recommendations

The only health requirement is a certificate of vaccination against yellow fever or cholera if arriving from or traveling through infected areas prior to arrival in PNG. Visitors are advised to take malaria precautions, but only your doctor can recommend and prescribe the appropriate medication for you. As a precaution, most travelers keep their tetanus, typhoid, hepatitis, and polio inoculations current. Although the problem of diarrhea and dysentery does not seem to be nearly as severe in PNG as in some of the neighboring Asian countries, it is possible you will get some kind of diarrhea at some stage of your trip. This is normal for travelers whose bodies are adapting to strange food and water. In most cases the problem is short term, not severe and is easily treated.

Insurance and Medical Facilities

The only health requirement is a certificate of vaccination against yellow fever or cholera if arriving from or traveling through infected areas prior to arrival in PNG. Visitors are advised to take malaria precautions, but only your doctor can recommend and prescribe the appropriate medication for you. As a precaution, most travelers keep their tetanus, typhoid, hepatitis, and polio inoculations current. Although the problem of diarrhea and dysentery does not seem to be nearly as severe in PNG as in some of the neighboring Asian countries, it is possible you will get some kind of diarrhea at some stage of your trip. This is normal for travelers whose bodies are adapting to strange food and water. In most cases the problem is short term, not severe and is easily treated.


There is an estimate of 800 traditional languages in PNG. The official national language is English. The two most commonly used languages are Hiri Motu and Melanesian Pidgin.

Laundry Service

Laundry service is available at AMBUA LODGE, KARAWARI LODGE, and MALOLO PLANTATION LODGE. Keep in mind that all laundry is line dried and thus sufficient time is required for drying. Generally plan 24 hours for this service. There is no laundry service available on the MV SEPIK SPIRIT. Hotels in main centers have daily laundry services.

Passport, VISA and Immigration Procedures

Tourists are required to have a visa to enter PNG. Currently a 30 day tourist visa is available upon arrival for nationals of many countries including Australia, Japan, New Zealand, UK, USA and most western European countries at either the Port Moresby or Mount Hagen gateway airports only. This visa is non-extendable and the fee is currently K25 or the equivalent in Australian or American dollars. To acquire a visa upon arrival, you will need a valid passport, proof of sufficient funds for your stay, and an onward airline ticket with confirmed bookings. Alternatively, you may acquire your visa prior to leaving your home country with either the nearest PNG Embassy or in some cases at the Australian Embassy in your country. Always check with these embassies for current visa requirements prior to leaving home.
If stopping at or even just passing through another country on the way to PNG, please check with the nearest Embassy of that country before departing your home country to ensure you have all the required visas and documents. Currently Australia allows citizens of many countries including USA, Canada, Japan, and most Western European countries to stop in transit for less than 8 hours without a visa. But if you are stopping for 2 hours or more, changing airports within Australia, or leaving the transit lounge, you will be required to have a tourist visa which you must acquire prior to arrival in Australia. Note that there is no smoking allowed in any transit lounge in Australia. If you have long waiting hours and need to leave the transit lounge for any reason, you will require a visa. Visa requirements do change from time to time, so always check with the nearest Embassy of the country in question for current details.
Be certain your baggage claim checks are clearly marked "POM" for Port Moresby, or "HGU" for Mount Hagen on your international flights into PNG. Allow plenty of time to arrive at the airport to conduct immigration, security, and check-in procedures. On arrival in Port Moresby or Mount Hagen, the procedure is quite orderly but can take up to one hour. If you have a tight connection, be sure you go to the head of the line in immigration and request special assistance at Jackson's Airport in Port Moresby.
The Air Niugini transit counter at Jackson's airport in Port Moresby is located in the Customs Hall for those with connecting flights. Check-in at the transit counter before leaving the Customs Hall.

People and Population

The population is estimated at around three and a half million with over a third being concentrated in the Highland Provinces. There is still a considerable expatriate population of approximately 25,000. Western residents are almost always referred to as "expats". The indigenous people are Papua New Guineans, never refer to them as natives. Tribal or regional names, such as Papuan, Tolai, Southern Highlander, Simbu, Huli, are also acceptable.


Like anyone the people of Papua New Guinea resent the intrusion of privacy. So, except in the case of planned performances, always remember to ask before taking a photograph of a particular individual. It is rare but sometimes the individual may agree to the photo, but only for a price. In this case it is recommended you do not pay for, nor take the photo. Plenty of photo opportunities will come up and at no cost. The paying of photos whether for money or gifts, only encourages commercialization and inhibits spontaneity and hospitality. The local economy is assisted by the payment of a general fee to each village which is visited. In this way the whole community benefits.


Here are some helpful phrases:
Monin - Good morning
Apinun- Good afternoon
Gut nait- Good night
Tenk yu- Thank you
Em hamas?- How much is that?
Mi laik baim- I would like to buy
Toilet We?- Where is the toilet?
Halpim mi plis- Help me please
Nogat- No
Mi no laikim- I do not like it
Yumi go we?- Where are we going?
Kai Kai- Food
Ka- Car
Mani- Money
Man- Man or male
Meri- Woman or female
Pikinini- Baby or very young child
Manki- Older children and teenagers
Yangpela- Young man or woman Lapun- Old man or woman
Balus- Aircraft
Ples Balus- Airport
Kago- Luggage
Wantok- Countryman or friend
Bilas- Decoration or uniform
Wara- Water
Yu stap gut?- How are you?
Mi stap gut- I am fine
Inap mi kisim poto?- May I take a photo?
Soim mi- Show me
Klostu- Near or close by
Longwe tumas- A very long way or too far
Wanem nem bilong yu?- What is your name?
Ples bilong yu we?- Where are you from?
Mi no klia gut- I do not understand
Mi no save- I don't know
Tok isi- Speak slowly
Haus sik- Hospital

Postage Rates

Allow from 10 to 20 days for airmail delivery from North America, Europe or Australia and New Zealand. Your mail can be addressed c/o P.O. Box 371, Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea. Air mail from PNG to most other countries also takes from 10 to 20 days. The following are airmail postage rates for letter and post cards: Within PNG - 25 toea To zone 3 ie. Europe, North and South America - K1.00 To zone 2 ie. Singapore, Hong Kong & Japan - 65 toea To zone 1 ie. Australia and New Zealand - 55 toea

Reading List

Mackay, Roy D. - New Guinea. Time-Life Books, 1976
Mathiessen, Peter. - Under the Mountain Wall. New York Viking, 1962
Hides, Jack. - Papuan Wonderland
Read, Kenneth. - The High Valley, New York: Columbia University Press, 1980 (first published in 1965). Also his sequel, - Return to the High Valley; Coming Full Circle.
Wheeler, Anthony. - Papua New Guinea - A Travel Survival Kit. Berkeley: Lonely Planet. Latest Edition.
Souter, Gavin.- The Last Unknown, Sydney, Angus & Robertson 1963.
Swadling, Pamela - Papua New Guinea's Prehistory, Port Moresby: Gordon Gotch, 1981.
McCarthy, J.K.-Patrol into Yesterday,Melbourne: Chesire 1963.
Simpson, Colin. - Plumes and Arrows. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1962.
Gash, Noel. - A pictorial History of New Guinea. Brisbane: Jacaranda. 1975.
Feldt, Eric. - The Coastwatchers, Oxford: University Press 1946.
Howlett, Robert. - Battleground South Pacific. Sydney Reeds 1970.
Robson, R.W. - Queen Emma, Sydney: Pacific Publications. 1965.
Dutton, Geoffrey. - Queen Emma of the South Seas. Melbourne MacMillan 1976.
Cooper, William and Foreshaw, Joseph - The Birds of Paradise & Bower Birds. Sydney: William Collins, 1977
Beehler, Pratt & Zimmerman - Birds of New Guinea. Princeton University Press, 1986
Nightingale. Neil. - New Guinea, An Island Apart. BBC Books 1992.
Dorny, Shorn. - Papua New Guinea people, politics and history since 1975. Random House.
Mead, Margaret. - Growing up in New Guinea. Penguin, 1942.
Eri, Vincent. - The Crocodile. Brisbane: Jacaranda 1970


Unfortunately, on the rare occasion when Papua New Guinea does get featured in the international media, it is usually a sensationalist report which depicts PNG only in a negative light. As a result, PNG often and unjustifiably is described as a dangerous and high risk country to visit. You may get your first indication of this attitude from either your friends at home before you leave or from people you meet enroute to PNG. Even the local foreign residents have their own share of gruesome stories which are usually hearsay and exaggerated. Do not let this discourage you. If you take reasonable care and common sense, you are most unlikely to experience anything other than friendliness and hospitality.
As a precaution do not carry valuables such as passport, airline tickets, money, credit cards or jewelry while walking around town or on sightseeing tours. These should be left with the Lodge or Hotel for safe keeping. Never leave valuables unattended in your room. There is seldom any place to go in the evenings, but in any case it is advisable not to leave the hotel at night. Crime is a factor everywhere these days, so take all precautions possible. Be aware at all times. No need to be paranoid, but awareness helps a lot.


Smoking is not allowed on any of the vehicles. There are usually frequent stops during a tour at which time a smoking break can be taken. Smoking inside the air-conditioned area of the MV Sepik Spirit is not allowed. There are ample outside areas for smokers including a covered observation deck with comfortable seating.

PNG has a good telephone system in all the main towns. AMBUA LODGE, KARAWARI LODGE, MALOLO PLANTATION LODGE and the MV SEPIK SPIRIT are in remote areas and communication is by two way radio. If relatives or friends need to contact you while you are at the Wilderness Lodges, the quickest way is a fax sent to +675 542 2470. The fax should clearly state your name and location, eg. "message for Mr. John Citizen, guest AMBUA LODGE". This message will be sent on to the lodge by aircraft or if time does not permit, will be read out over the two way radio. The published number of + 675 542 1438 for Wilderness Lodges is a Mount Hagen booking office number and guests cannot be reached on this number.

Time Zone
PNG is 10 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and is on the same time as winter time in Sydney, Australia, or Eastern Standard time in Australia.

It is not expected nor the custom to tip in Papua New Guinea. However, if for example, you would particularly like to show your appreciation for a job well done at the Lodges, there is a general staff fund which acknowledges the `behind the scenes' efforts of all staff who contribute to the overall success of your visit. It is best to consult the Lodge or Hotel Manager before giving gifts or tips.
Please do not give gifts to individuals in villages. If you wish to do so, ask your driver/guide to help you contact the Headman and leave your gifts with him or alternatively with the Lodge Managers who in turn will distribute same evenly amongst the people. Your understanding of this will help prevent turning the people and in particular the children of PNG into annoying beggars which are often found in other spoiled countries.

During your trip the driver/guides will make every effort to be of assistance. They are proud of their record and the contact and compliments from visitors. Remember, they are speaking in their third language, after their local language and Pidgin-English. Do ask them questions but try using an uncomplicated vocabulary and do not speak too quickly. They need not be treated patronizingly. You will find them friendly and helpful - refreshing and innocent compared to most places in the world.
Helpful tip when asking a question - to ensure a more accurate response, ask the question in such a way the response is not built into the question. Instead of "Is that a cockatoo?" ask "What kind of bird is that?" or in English or Pidgin, "what is the name of that bird?". Also should a guide offer you with good intentions, artifacts or heirlooms to be mailed later, it is best to pass on the offer.

Video - Suggested Viewing

Cultural Interest - First Contact, Pearls & Savages, Voices of the Forest and The Mendi
Nature Interest - Oddie in Paradise, Birds of Paradise, New Guinea An Island Apart, Attenborough in Paradise.

Water Supply

In most major centres, the public water supply is treated and is comparable to World Organisation standards. At the Wilderness Lodges, water sources vary. At AMBUA LODGE, the water comes from a stream in which the source is run-off from the surrounding high altitude moss and rainforest having no human or domestic animal inhabitants. At KARAWARI LODGE, the water source is a nearby natural spring. The water source at MALOLO PLANTATION LODGE is a stream running from nearby lowland lakes and swamps. And on the MV SEPIK SPIRIT, the water source is the Sepik River and is filtered on board. At all the Wilderness Lodges and the MV SEPIK SPIRIT, drinking water is boiled before serving. While on adventure tours, again, water is either boiled or treated with iodine before serving. Some choose to bring and use their own personal water purification system while in PNG. Bottled water is sold at the Wilderness Lodges.

PNG Travel Contact Info
c/o 408 E. Islay Street • Santa Barbara, CA 93101
(805) 569-2448 PH • (805) 569-7667 FAX