"Papua New Guinea Tips for Backpackers" Papua New Guinea Travelogue by hunwagner
Papua New Guinea Travel Guide: 526 reviews and 1,035 photos
Note: I originally posted the following tips in the South Pacific FAQ resources of Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree travel forum.
I decided to put them here so that I can link to them more easily, plus add a few relevant photos, too.
Having paid my fourth (this time 2 months long) visit to PNG, this time I also had the new Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands LP guide to the country with me. This new book is so bad that if anything, it will only serve to put people off visiting by making the country sound a lot more expensive than it already is!
So let me share some tips - additions and corrections to the book.
I also suggest that you get a copy of LP's old Papua New Guinea guide, as it is in fact more useful than the new one, at least for budget travellers. If you are interested in trekking through mountains and villages, LP's old Bushwalking in Papua New Guinea guide is also well worth getting.
Let me add that I would recommend PNG highly!
The extremely diverse culture, fantastic arts & crafts, diverse geography and wildlife (notably easily seen birds of paradise) but especially the friendliness and hospitality of the local people makes it a place unmatched elsewhere in the Pacific. All that, and there are no tourists in sight, except from those on packages to a few overpriced, isolated resorts.
Safety seems to be a major concern often raised on the Thorn Tree forum. While the media coverage of the country makes it sound scary, having taken some very simple precautions like not walking the streets at night, I have not experienced any crime at all.
Costs may well be the other major deterrant, but this is relative. While PNG is more expensive than South-East Asia, prices are often lower than in most other South Pacific countries. The new LP book says even budget travellers need at least 50 USD/day to get by, which is a nonsense. Not taking flights and buying souvenirs I could live on 20 USD/day, though how much you actually spend will of course largely depend on where and how you travel.
However you might well need the 50 USD/day if you travelled as LP suggests you to do - the new guidebook conspiciously dropped listing budget places to stays, and their itinerary recommended as "possible for budget travellers" incudes staying at a 150 USD/night resort!
When reading the prices below, you can calculate with a rate of roughly 3K=1USD.
Getting There & Away
Air Niugini's virtual monopoly on flights into the country, and the high fares they charge may well be the major factor keeping tourists away, but with the land/sea borders with neighbouring Indonesia and the Solomon Islands both open now (well, sort of) flying can even be bypassed altogether. More on this later.
Note that you can now also fly to Port Moresby from Brisbane and Cairns in Australia with Airlines PNG which is cheaper than Air Niugini and offers an online booking system.
Crossing from Indonesia
First of all, while LP actually recommends giving bribes to Indonesian immigration officers, DON'T do it!
While such "road taxes" used to be expected by some border guards in the past, this year nobody asked for them so please don't reintroduce the idea!
Getting to the land border from Jayapura, a taxi now costs around 2-300.000 Rp.
By public transport you can go from Pasar Baru in Abepura to Skouw, the last village before the border for 7000 Rp. An ojek (motorcycle taxi) from the Skouw border road junction to the border is 30.000 Rp.
However, note that at least if you entered Indonesia on a visa on arrival, you can't get an exit stamp for Indonesia at the border itself - you must get one at the immigration office in Jayapura. They might want you to go by sea, not land. You would have to charter a boat in Hamadi for a million Rp to do so - the regular boat mentioned in the new LP guide hasn't existed for many years!
Once you have the exit stamp, you can exit via the land border though, and from the PNG side it is easy to hitch a ride (often free) to Vanimo, the first PNG town across the border.
***Update: As of late 2006, people who have Indonesian visas issued by embassies abroad could once again get exit (but not entry!) stamps for Indonesia at the border itself. This seems to keep changing.***
While the cheapest hotel rooms here start at 90K, if you hang around the beach in front of the Vanimo Beach Hotel looking helpless with a backpack, there is a good chance locals will offer you rooms in their houses for about 30K. An American guy I met got 2 such offers within 1 hour!
Moving on from Vanimo without flying can be tricky, as there are no regular, scheduled shipping services.
If neither Lutheran Shipping nor Star Ships has a ship within a few days, check also the noticeboards outside the supermarkets for boats to Aitepe. "Banana boats" now charge 90K to take you there.
Aitepe now has a guesthouse (not in LP) opposite the post office. While rooms upstairs cost 80K or so, they appearently have beds downstairs for 30K.
PMVs to Wewak leave a few times a week, charging 30-50K. The road is rough but scenic.
LP only lists one budget place here, Ralf Stuttgen's Place with dorm beds for 40K. Note that it is a long way out of town and hard to reach by public transport (I waited over 2 hours for a lift to town), and very run down (mice chewed my guidebook at night there!).
A much better option is the Wewak Guest House (not in LP) close to the centre of the town on Church Street (but entered from the back) which has backpacker beds for 25K and rooms from 50K.
Proceeding eastwards from here to Malang by sea is easy, with boats (often two) every week.
Well worth visiting this town as the haus tambarans (spirit houses) here are very different from those on the Sepik River! There are 5 different places to stay here, all listed on the prominent "Welcome to Maprik" signboard you will see when entering the town, but LP only lists the Maprik Hotel, the most expensive one!
This is the most interesting part of the river, with the best selection of artifacts and most impressive haus tambarans.
The gateway is Pagwi, reachable by PMV from both Wewak and Maprik, and the best time to head down there is on Maprik's market days (any Maprik local or PMV driver in Wewak could tell you which those are) when there will be lots of village boats returning from Maprik via Pagwi to villages as far upriver as Ambunti, downriver roughly to Palembei, and south to Chambri. This time you could just get a cheap passenger ride to these places instead of having to hire a boat for yourself.
For a base on the Middle Sepik, villages downstream (east) from Pagwi are handiest, Ambunti the worst choice. In the villages you can stay with locals (conditions are basic!) and hire boats to take you to other villages for a much lower price than LP-endorsed operators would charge you. In Korogo, Kaua Gita is a good guy to contact.
There are also nice new village guesthouses in Kanganaman and Yamok (an hours walk inland from Korogo) charging 25K pp.
Yamok village has built 2 new haus tambarans that are very beautiful and of a different style from others on the river.
Near Dumun village, on the Highlands Highway a few kms before Kundiawa there are two ecotourism projects offering a chance to stay in a cheap guesthouse and go hiking and birdwatching with local guides. Neither is in LP, but both have signs on the road. "Mailbobo Wildlife Conservation" is said to be the better of the two, with accomodation for 20K.
Guides to climb the mountain cost 75K for the whole trek, porters 20K/day. Actually the trail up there is pretty clear and if you are an experienced hiker you can almost certainly do without a guide.
In Kegsegul, the gateway to the climb, the East Kege Guest House (not in LP) near the airstrip is the cheapest place for 45K, and very friendly. Betty's, recommended by LP, now charges 75K without meals.
At the lakes avoid staying at Henry's guestouse which is not as well located and comfortable as the other place right by the lakeside.
Note that both places mentioned in LP are actually almost an hour from Tari itself, hard to reach by public transport, and impractical for visiting the Huli villages in the Tari Valley itself. They are better located for birdwatching, and the Warili Lodge only costs 40K, not 60K as in LP.
However in Tari itself the Tari Women's Guesthouse (which was in the old LP but isn't in the new one!) is still the cheapest option for only 20K. There are also at least 2 new, cheap guesthouses in nearby villages, well located for experiencing village life.
The volcano in Rabaul is still very active, which means that the town is showered with ash every few minutes. This is really bad in the eastern part where Hamamas Hotel (highly recommended by LP) is located, so don't stay there unless you enjoy being covered with ash or plan on hiding from it in your room all day.
Stay in Kokopo.
Also note that the Kabaira Beach Hideaway recommended as a good budget place is an hour from town with public transport very scarce that way (I had to wait 2-3 hours), and the owners are not too keen on backpackers as they are more into catering for divers.
While I didn't stay there, there are appearently cheap guesthouses (none in LP) costing about 30K in both Buka itself and across the strait in Kokopau. PMVs to Buin cost 80-100K (the most expensive PMV ride I took in the country by far) and supposedly leave on Tuesdays and Thursdays. There was a BRA checkpoint between Arawa and Buin that apparently turns foreigners back sometimes, but as I was riding in a PMV owned by a local BRA bigman, I passed it easily.
There is a guesthouse with rooms for 60K attached to Wolik Trading.
You can also change your leftover PNG currency into Solomons dollars there at a (poor) rate of 1K=2SD.
Solomon Islanders come to the market in Buin on Thursday (only a few) and Saturday (more) and you can negotiate a ride to the Shortland Islands with them. I was charged 100 K but locals pay 30K - the first in a line of rip-offs in the Shortlands!
Note that police in Buin will tell you that crossing to the Solomons here is not allowed, and if more travellers do it they may start cracking down on it actively.
Once in the Shortlands, nobody cares that you came from Bougainville, and you can wait for transport to Gizo in peace. Unfortunately the only rest house in the Shortlands, near Korovou, should be avoided as the caretaker steals from the rooms! Arrange to stay in a village instead, ideally in Maleai where the Solomon Airlines agent lives.
Note that flights from Ballelae in the Shortlands to Gizo now only operate fortnightly, on every second Saturday. This means that if you come from Buin on a Saturday market boat you will have missed it and will have to wait for the next one for a full week or two!
No ships service the Shortlands with any regularity (maybe one every 3-4 weeks) but small fibreglass boats with outboard engines do cross the 120 kms open sea to Vella Lavella and on to Gizo sometimes for 200 SD/person. This is quite scary and though I took one I would never do it again!
Once in Gizo, there is no problem getting your entry stamp for a 3months stay in the Solomons, and it will be dated from the day you arrive in Gizo, not in the Shortlands!
hunwagner's Related Pages
Papua New Guinea Travel Guide
Member Travel Pages
- "Papua New Guinea"
- "Papua New Guinea"
- "3 Years Living in Papua New Guinea"
- "Welcome to the jungle"
- "Papua New Guinea"
- "raviv_ta's new Papua New Guinea Page"
- "Papua New Guinea -The Last Paradise"
- See All...
- Things to Do in Papua New Guinea
- Hotels in Papua New Guinea
- Transportation in Papua New Guinea
- Nightlife in Papua New Guinea
- Restaurants in Papua New Guinea
- Shopping in Papua New Guinea
- Warnings and Dangers in Papua New Guinea
- See All...
Badges & Stats in Papua New Guinea
- 0 Reviews
- 8 Photos
- 5 Forum posts
- 0 Cities
- See All Stats
- See All Badges (10)
Have you been to Papua New Guinea?Share Your Travels
Latest Activity in Papua New Guinea
Photos in Papua New GuineaSee All Photos (8)
Top 10 Pages
- Top 5 Page for this destination Philippines Intro, 57 reviews, 55 photos
- Top 5 Page for this destination New Caledonia Intro, 45 reviews, 46 photos
- Tiritiri Matangi Island Intro, 27 reviews, 26 photos
- Top 5 Page for this destination Eritrea Intro, 29 reviews, 14 photos
- Massif du Panié Intro, 19 reviews, 21 photos
- Top 5 Page for this destination Nouméa Intro, 18 reviews, 21 photos
- Top 5 Page for this destination Djibouti Intro, 20 reviews, 12 photos
- Hienghène Intro, 13 reviews, 18 photos
- Top 5 Page for this destination Île des Pins Intro, 14 reviews, 15 photos
- Top 5 Page for this destination Asmara Intro, 11 reviews, 12 photos
Top Papua New Guinea hotels
- Port Moresby Hotels
- 78 Reviews - 151 Photos
- Lae Hotels
- 11 Reviews - 3 Photos
- Wewak Hotels
- 14 Reviews - 15 Photos
- Vanimo Hotels
- 2 Reviews - 3 Photos
- Rabaul Hotels
- 34 Reviews - 125 Photos
- Popondetta Hotels
- 10 Reviews - 12 Photos
- Namatanai Hotels
- 3 Reviews - 4 Photos
- Mount Hagen Hotels
- 4 Reviews - 7 Photos
- Madang Hotels
- 11 Reviews - 13 Photos
- Lorengau Hotels
- 7 Reviews - 8 Photos
- Kimbe Hotels
- 10 Reviews - 16 Photos
- Ialibu Hotels
- See nearby hotels
- Goroka Hotels
- 7 Reviews - 8 Photos
- Daru Hotels
- 9 Reviews - 10 Photos
- Bulolo Hotels
- 8 Reviews - 12 Photos