Safety and security

Crime

Serious crime is particularly high in the capital, Port Moresby, and in the cities of Lae and Mt Hagen. Settlement or squatter areas of towns and cities are particularly dangerous. ’Bush knives’ (machetes) and firearms are often used in assaults and thefts. Carjacking, assault (including sexual assaults), bag snatching and robberies are common. Banks and cash machines are attractive targets for criminals. Walking after dark is particularly dangerous in Port Moresby and other urban centres.

Known high-risk areas include the area around Parliament House in the Port Moresby suburb of Waigani, particularly outside of working hours, and along the highway between Lae and Nadzab Airport. Criminals use roadblocks on roads outside towns to stop and loot vehicles and then attack the occupants. If you intend to travel in these areas, take great care and consider using a security escort.

If you have to travel at night, do so by car, with doors locked and windows up, and travel in convoy or with a security escort.

Most crime is random, but people have been abducted by organised gangs and forced to open office safes while others are held captive until the ransom has been paid.

Rape and sexual assault are problems across the country. 

  • don’t carry large amounts of cash or openly display expensive jewellery and electronic equipment
  • be vigilant at all times and leave travel plans with friends, relatives or reliable local contacts 

Local travel

Heads of State and Government, Ministers and delegations from 21 countries will be in Port Moresby for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Week from 12-18 November 2018. Transport and hotel accommodation will be scarce, and road closures and restricted access will be in place in some parts of town.

Outbreaks of tribal fighting are common, especially in Port Moresby, the Highlands provinces (particularly Southern and Western Highlands), Hela and Enga provinces. Ethnic disputes can quickly escalate and result in the widespread destruction of property, disruption of normal services and serious injury. Stay alert, monitor local media and consult local contacts, (accommodation or other service providers) before travelling to a new area. Tribal fighters and criminals are becoming increasingly well-armed, including military-grade weaponry, through the trade in drugs for guns. Although foreigners are not normally targeted, you should avoid areas where tribal fighting is taking place.

Damage caused by heavy rain and cyclones can make travel difficult.

Check your travel insurance before considering any travel to remote areas. The cost of rescue by boat or aircraft can be high.

There have been serious attacks and robberies at both ends of the Kokoda Trail including a serious assault in January 2016. Although community leaders have assured tourists of their safety and well-being while walking the Kokoda Trail, you should take care.

If you intend to walk a trail or track, including the Kokoda trail, avoid walking independently and travel with guides from reputable travel companies. You can get details from the Papua New Guinea Tourism Authority or the Kokoda track authority.

World War II unexploded ordnance still exists in Papua New Guinea, particularly along the Kokoda Trail and at Milne Bay and Rabual.

Bougainville Island has emerged from a period of separatist conflict. You must provide notice of your intention to visit the island to the Bougainville Provincial Administration (telephone: +675 973 9798), and contact the Administration again upon arrival. Take great care when travelling in Bougainville. Be particularly vigilant when travelling beyond Buka into central and southern Bougainville. The mountainous area in central Bougainville around the old Panguna mine is a ‘No Go Zone’. You should not enter the ‘No Go Zone’. Foreigners who have entered the Zone without authorisation from the PNG Government have been questioned, some for many days, by PNG authorities and had their passports withheld on departure from the Zone.

Border areas

The land boundary between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea stretches for around 760km and is poorly defined. Border incursions and continuing conflict between the Indonesian government and portions of the indigenous population of West Papua started with the withdrawal of the Dutch colonial administration in 1962.

Occasional clashes along the border with Indonesia near Wutung in Sandhuan province mean the situation remains tense. There have been reports that the Indonesian military and the OPM have engaged in gun battles. In response the Papua New Guinean government has strengthened its defence units at its Wutung border post. You should take extreme care and be prepared for possible sudden closure of the border crossing.

Air travel

Given the challenging terrain, extreme weather conditions and the condition of some remote airfields in PNG, flying in PNG carries greater safety risks than flying in the UK. Since 2000 over 20 aircraft accidents have happened in Papua New Guinea. The worst recent crash was on 13 April 2016 when a Sunbird Aviation PNG Britten-Norman Islander aircraft crashed at Kinuga Airport, killing all 12 people on board.

Delays and cancellations of international and domestic flights occur regularly. Check with your airline before travel and be prepared for the possibility of a lengthy wait at the airport.

Road travel

Driving is on the left. When driving, you must keep your driving licence with you at all times. You may use your UK driving licence for a period not exceeding 1 month. Roads, especially in rural areas, are in a poor state of repair and driving is often erratic. Drivers who are involved in, or witness road accidents may find themselves at personal risk. You should seek police assistance as soon as possible.

Don’t use public buses known locally as PMVs. There have been incidents of armed hold-ups of PMVs and of passengers being attacked and robbed of their personal belongings. There have also been reports of occasional rape attacks on Port Moresby PMVs. Many PMVs are not roadworthy.

Taxis are available in some major centres, but can be badly maintained. If you use a taxi, agree a fare before getting setting off, irrespective of whether or not there is a meter. Where possible arrange to be met by family, friends or a hotel courtesy bus when arriving at international or domestic airports.