Exploring Papua New Guinea Safely: Comprehensive Guide to Safety, Health, and Adventure

Welcome to Papua New Guinea, a land of a million different journeys. As you embark on your exploration of this diverse and culturally rich country, ensuring your safety and well-being is of utmost importance. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover various aspects of safety, health, and adventure in Papua New Guinea, addressing common concerns and providing valuable insights to make your journey enjoyable and secure.

Is it Safe to Travel in Papua New Guinea?

Safety Measures and Common Sense:

The PNG Tourism industry has implemented a highly coordinated approach to safety and security, working closely with law enforcement agencies to ensure the well-being of tourists. In general, most places in Papua New Guinea are safe, secure, and filled with the warmth of the local people. However, it’s essential for visitors to exercise common sense at all times.

  • Use Local Guides: One of the best ways to enhance your safety is by exploring with a local guide. They are familiar with the tok ples (local language) and can guide you to places that are safe to visit.

  • Avoid Secluded Areas: Exercise caution and try to avoid secluded areas, especially if you are unfamiliar with the surroundings.

  • Stay with Possessions: Always stay with your possessions to prevent theft or loss, and be mindful of your surroundings.

  • Nighttime Safety: It’s advisable not to walk alone at night. Stick to well-lit and populated areas for your safety.

Safety in Remote Areas:

While Papua New Guinea offers breathtaking landscapes and remote areas to explore, it’s crucial to exercise a high degree of caution, especially when venturing into less populated regions.

  • Driving Precautions: If you plan to drive through remote and rugged areas, thorough preparation is essential. Ensure your vehicle is roadworthy, fitted with GPS, and equipped with two spare tires.

  • Emergency Preparedness: Before embarking on a 4WD or offroad journey, have maps, extra food, water, fuel, and an emergency plan in place. Notify a third party of your expected arrival.

  • Road Conditions: Drive carefully on unsealed, dusty, or narrow roads. Always check road conditions before leaving major roads.

Travel Insurance and Health Tips for Papua New Guinea

Travel Insurance:

Purchasing comprehensive travel insurance is highly recommended to ensure you are covered for theft, loss, accidents, and medical problems.

  • Adventure Activities: If you plan to engage in adventure activities like scuba diving, bushwalking, or traveling in remote areas, ensure that your insurance policy provides adequate coverage.

  • Documentation: Bring your insurance policy details and emergency contact numbers with you for quick reference.

Health Precautions:

Ensuring your health and well-being during your stay in Papua New Guinea is vital. Be proactive in addressing potential health risks.

  • Vaccinations: Certification or vaccination against yellow fever or cholera is required for travelers over one year of age coming from or through infected areas.

  • Malaria Risk: Malaria is a serious health risk in Papua New Guinea. Consult your local doctor or tropical disease clinic to commence anti-malarial preparations before arrival.

  • Polio Vaccination: The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported cases of Vaccine-Derived Polio Virus (Type 1) in parts of PNG. Ensure you are vaccinated against polio.

  • Water Safety: While water quality is within WHO standards in most towns, it’s advisable to use bottled water. In rural areas, boil water at all times.

Medical Services:

Access to medical services is available in all major centers, including dental, doctor, and hospital services.

  • HIV Concerns: Be aware of the global concern of the HIV virus. Take necessary precautions to protect yourself.

Bringing Medications into Papua New Guinea:

Declaration and Documentation:

Medicine brought into Papua New Guinea for personal use is subject to controls and must be declared on your arrival.

  • Prescription: Bring a prescription or a letter from your doctor outlining your medical condition and the medicine you are carrying.

  • Local Prescription: If you need to obtain prescription medicine while in PNG, a local doctor must write the prescription.

Smoking Bans in Papua New Guinea:

Enclosed Public Spaces:

Smoking is banned in enclosed public spaces in Papua New Guinea, including shopping centers, restaurants, hotels, cinemas, and other public locations.

  • Dedicated Smoking Areas: Dedicated smoking areas can be found outside establishments for smokers.

  • Sale to Minors: Tobacco products cannot be sold or supplied to children (under 18).

Emergency Services and Natural Disasters in Papua New Guinea:

Emergency Contacts:

Knowing how to contact emergency services in Papua New Guinea is essential for your safety.

  • Medivac Pacific Services: Provides emergency medical services. Contact Port Moresby at +675 323 5626. For 24-hour emergencies, call +675 7683 5227 or +675 7683 1818.

  • Police, Fire, Ambulance: Emergency numbers include 112 for police, 110/002 for fire, and 111 for St John Ambulance (Port Moresby only).

Natural Disasters:

Papua New Guinea, situated on the Ring of Fire, is susceptible to natural disasters such as volcanic activity, earthquakes, and tsunamis.

  • Stay Informed: Gauge disaster risk ratings by checking local radio, newspaper, and social media reports before your trip.

Sun Protection and Beach Safety in Papua New Guinea:

UV Radiation:

The sun in Papua New Guinea is intense, and protection against UV radiation is crucial.

  • Clothing: Wear clothes that cover as much skin as possible.

  • Sunscreen: Apply a high-level water-resistant sunscreen (SPF30+ or higher) regularly, especially between 11 am and 3 pm.

  • Accessories: Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses for additional protection.

  • Heat Exhaustion: Protect yourself from heat exhaustion by resting in the shade and staying hydrated.

Swimming Safety and Wildlife Concerns:

Swimming Etiquette:

Understanding swimming etiquette and wildlife concerns is essential for a safe and enjoyable experience.

  • Permission: Ask for permission before accessing beaches, and be aware of modesty considerations.

  • Nighttime Swimming: Avoid swimming alone, at night, under the influence of alcohol, or directly after a meal.

  • Currents and Depths: Be cautious of currents, check water depth before diving, and never run and dive into the water.

Sharks and Crocodiles:

While encounters with sharks are rare, and crocodiles live in specific habitats, it’s crucial to be aware of potential risks.

  • Shark Safety: Avoid swimming alone, far offshore, at river mouths, or along drop-offs to deeper water.

  • Crocodile Habitats: In areas near crocodile habitats, avoid swimming in rivers, estuaries, and mangrove shores. Seek local advice before camping, fishing, diving, or boating.

Poisonous Animals in Papua New Guinea:

Snake and Spider Bites:

Understanding the risks of snake and spider bites is important when exploring the natural landscapes of Papua New Guinea.

  • Protective Footwear: Wear protective footwear when bushwalking or hiking to minimize the risk of snake and spider bites.
    • Immediate Medical Attention: If bitten, seek immediate medical attention. Delayed access or limited availability of antivenom contributes to snakebite-related mortality in Papua New Guinea.

    Trekking and Wilderness Safety:

    Planning and Preparation:

    Embarking on a trek or bushwalk requires careful planning and preparation to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

    • Length and Difficulty: Consider the length and difficulty of the walk, and check weather forecasts before setting off.

    • Inform Someone: If walking without a guide, inform someone of your destination and expected return time.

    • Safety Gear: Wear protective footwear, a hat, sunscreen, and insect repellent. Pack wet weather clothing, a topographic map, and ample water.

    • Stay on Track: When walking, stay on designated tracks and away from cliff edges. Avoid walking alone, especially in remote areas.

    Disability Services:

    Traveling with a disability may present challenges, but it shouldn’t deter you from experiencing all that Papua New Guinea has to offer.

    • Consultation: Consult with your doctor and travel agent to discuss specific requirements before traveling to determine if Papua New Guinea is the right destination for you.

    Conclusion: Navigating Papua New Guinea Safely

    As you prepare for your journey to Papua New Guinea, this comprehensive guide aims to empower you with knowledge to ensure a safe and enriching experience. Remember to stay informed, exercise caution, and embrace the diversity of this extraordinary country. Whether you’re exploring vibrant cultural traditions, trekking through lush landscapes, or enjoying the pristine beaches, Papua New Guinea welcomes you with open arms. Safe travels and enjoy the adventure!