Papua New Guinea FAQs

Frequently asked questions about Papua New Guinea and the tour.

Q. Do I need a visa to enter Papua New Guinea?
A. Yes, you do need a visa for PNG. Canadians, Americans and nationals of some other countries are eligible to receive a visa-upon-arrival in Port Moresby. The visa-upon-arrival is free of charge.

Here is the list of the countries which do not qualify for a visa-upon-arrival. Passports must be valid for a minimum of six months from date of intended travel.

If you are from a country which the visa-upon-arrival does not apply you will have to apply for and receive your visa prior to the start of your tour. Here’s a link about how to apply for a visa to Papua New Guinea.

Q. I’m spending a night in Australia on my way to Papua New Guinea. Do I need a visa to enter Australia?
A. Yes, you do need a visa to enter Australia if you are staying longer than simply transiting. Most U.S. and Canadian passport-holders traveling to Australia as a tourist for fewer than 90 days, can obtain an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). If you don’t qualify for an ETA, information on acquiring a Visitor Visa can be found here. While it’s not technically necessary to obtain an Australian visa if you’re simply transferring planes (and not stopping over), you may want to do so in case there are delays and you end up in Australia for longer than anticipated.

Q. Do I need insurance for this tour?
A. Although we don’t require trip insurance, we definitely think it’s a great idea – not just for unexpected cancellations, but also for health issues and medical evacuation while you’re abroad.We highly recommend evacuation insurance for this and all international WanderTours. We recommend Insure My Trip. They have a wide range of options, good customer service, an easy to navigate website and they offer numerous affordable options including travel, medical and evacuation insurance.

Q. Will I receive a refund if I have to cancel my participation in the tour?
A. Whether or not you receive a partial refund depends on how far in advance of the tour you cancel. Our refund policy is covered in our Booking Terms and Conditions and is also outlined on the Registration form that you’ll receive within 24 hours of booking. Refunds will be sent by check within two weeks of our receiving written notification of your cancellation (email notification is fine). If Beth is traveling when you cancel, it may take longer than two weeks to get your refund check out to you. She’ll mail it as soon as she can upon returning to the U.S.!

Q. Will bottled water be readily available?
A. Yes it will. However, we strongly urge our tour participants to carry their own reusable water bottle and bring a water purifier, such as a SteriPen, so as to cut down on the number of plastic water bottles that get thrown out daily in PNG.

Q. Do you recommend any special vaccinations for this trip?
A. As for shots, there’s nothing you need specifically for PNG. However, you’ll want to consult with a travel doctor for medical advice.

You will want mosquito repellent and to talk to your doctor about taking malarial prophylaxes, if you’re so inclined.

Q. What’s the best protection against mosquitoes?
You might consider wearing clothes that are impregnated with permethrin. Several companies, including ExOfficio, have such clothing. You might also consider using a non-DEET repellent such as Avon’s Skin-so-Soft with Bug Guard or Herbal Armor.  Here is Beth’s review of mosquito repellents.

Q. What is the homestay like in the Sepik?
A. The homestay will be very basic. We’ll be sleeping in someone’s one-room home that’s built on stilts. It’s likely that we will all be sleeping in this one big room (as opposed to having separate rooms). We will each have our own thin padding as a mattress which will be covered with sheets and include a pillow. Some people prefer to sleep in a silk travel sheet (silk tends to be cooler than cotton) and use this for all accommodations.

We’ll be awoken by the crowing of roosters, snorting of pigs and, possibly, the snoring of your travel-mates 🙂 In other words, bring earplugs.

Q. Do we need to bring mosquito nets?
A. There will likely be mosquito nets available in the Sepik area, the only place in which you’ll need one. As the departure date nears, we’ll let you know whether or not you’ll need to bring your own.

There are a variety of styles available and from our research, the best option is to have one that hangs in such a way so as to not touch your skin – in other words one that you can hang from four corners rather than just the top. Your net doesn’t need to be huge – a single person one will work fine.

You can see a number of options here on Amazon.

Q. What size mosquito net should I buy? Single bed or double bed?
You only need a mosquito net big enough to cover yourself, with some room on either side so it doesn’t touch your skin. A single one works fine. It can be small and shouldn’t take up too much space in your luggage.

Q. Do you suggest we bring gifts for the locals?
A. This can be a bit tricky. Most Papua New Guineans take gift giving very seriously. If you give them a gift, they will feel indebted to return the favor, but they may not be able to.

Having said that, those who have had more exposure to the outside world, likely will appreciate small gifts. Appropriate items include small mirrors (so they can put on their own tribal makeup) and soap.

Q. Can I bring small gifts for the children I may encounter?
A. We don’t recommend this as it encourages begging. If you’d like to interact with the children you might want to bring bubbles or balloons so that you can interact with them without actually giving them gifts.

Q. Are there many things to purchase in PNG?
A. You can definitely purchase some artifacts in PNG, particularly in the Sepik River area (known for their carvings) and at the festivals. Items include shell and pig tusk necklaces, wooden statues and masks, penis gourds, paintings, basketry and other items.

PLEASE NOTE – Australian customs is very strict about what you can bring into the country. If you are staying overnight or have anything more than a transit in Australia on the way home, they may require fumigation, quarantine or confiscation of your items.

Q. Will I be able to ship larger items home from PNG?
A. While it is possible to ship items home via DHL, it is very expensive and time-consuming. Shipping costs will likely start at about $300. If you plan on making purchases that you want to ship home, this is going to take away from time spent touring as we will likely need to send you with a separate guide to handle the packaging and shipping of your goods while the remainder of the group tours, either in Wewak or Port Moresby (the only locations for shipping via DHL on this tour).

If you do not have time in the itinerary to ship from Wewak, you may have an issue traveling throughout the remainder of the tour with your items as we will be flying on small planes for the remainder of the tour. In the case of flying with your items, you will be charged overage costs by he airlines for any additional weight (weight limits are about 35 pounds).

Beth and your guide can provide you with additional information if you think this might be an issue for you.

Q. Can I carry my purchases on to the in-country flights?
A. If your items are small enough you might be able to. The in-country flights are on small planes (Fokker 100 and Dash 8) and the overhead bins are very small.

Q. I know you encourage carry-on only luggage but I’ll be carrying more than this for the tour.
A. While you will be more comfortable moving around with fewer bags, you won’t be the only one with checked luggage.

Some airlines, such as Qantas, have a strict weight limit for carry-on bags so even if you have a small bag, you may be required to check it due to its weight.

Q. Are my items safe in my hotel room?
A. Your items *should* be safe, but we recommend that you carry small luggage locks to secure the zippers together so that no one is tempted to peek in your bag.

You might also consider bringing a bicycle lock like this to keep your items locked together or locked to something stationary in the room. Better to be safe than sorry.

Q. What is the checked baggage allowance on flights within PNG?
A. Most of our internal PNG flights are with Air Niugini and economy class passengers are permitted a checked bag weighing up to 16kg or 35 lb per person. Carry-on is limited to 5kg or 11lb per person. While we have never seen them weigh carry-on bags, they regularly check the weight of all checked bags and are prone to charging for any overage on weight.

Q. How should I dress/pack for this trip?
A. You will not need any dress clothes as we will not being going out anywhere that would require them. Lightweight travel pants and t-shirts will be most comfortable (and you’ll receive a full packing list upon registration for the tour).

You should not be packing more than two pairs of shoes and one of those pairs should be an older pair of  sneakers that you can wear at the show grounds and in Tari, both located in the cooler Highlands. It will likely either be very muddy or very dry and dusty in both places. These sneakers will get very dirty and you can leave behind at the end of the trip. These are much appreciated by the locals.

When we go to the Sepik River, we will be leaving the majority of our luggage securely locked up at the hotel in Wewak and you’ll be expected to bring just an overnight bag or duffel for the two nights at the home stay. We’ll be traveling by motorized canoe and there will only be room for a duffel bag per person. Again, you will likely want small luggage locks to keep your bags secured while they are in storage. Better safe than sorry 🙂

Q. How should I dress based on the weather?
A. PNG is a hot country. It will also likely be very muggy. Pack for warm weather but consider being conservative about your clothing. Tank tops and shorts aren’t appropriate but short sleeve shirts, capris and light pants are fine.

The mountain areas can get quite cool, especially at night. You may find that a fleece jacket will come in handy. You will likely need warm pajamas to sleep in (long underwear, a long sleeve shirt and heavy socks are all recommended). There is no heat in the cabins where we stay.

Bring a rain jacket, sun hat and be prepared to cover up your camera equipment with a plastic bag or some other covering that will protect it from the rain. Again, we provide you with a full packing list once you register for our tour.

Q. Can I use my cell phone in PNG?
A. It is now possible to tap into the Digicell network to use your cell phone through much of PNG. You can easily send text messages and make phone calls using your own phone. Note, however, that text messages are usually about .50 each and calls can be quite expensive depending on your calling plan.

If you have a smart phone and you can find WiFi (which is rare) you can use Skype or Viber to text or email.

It’s probably best to let your friends and family know that they won’t hear from you via phone and then try to check in with them via email when you have access.

Q. Does PNG have internet service/WiFi throughout the country?
A. Internet service is very spotty. Major hotels in the bigger cities (i.e. Port Moresby and Wewak) will likely have internet service but outside of those areas, don’t count on it. AND even when the hotel has WiFi and/or internet service, it doesn’t always work.

Q. What do you use to write and journal while you’re traveling abroad?
A. A journal is great because you don’t have to plug it in. But you might consider carrying a small netbook or tablet with a keyboard or an iPad.

Q. Are travelers checks accepted in PNG? Are ATMs available? Do vendors usually take credit cards or do small vendors not have the equipment?
A. Travelers checks and ATM cards can be used at the airport and in banks, and you might be able to find shops that will accept these. However, your best bet is to exchange money (US dollars) at the airport in Port Moresby upon arrival and carry cash. Once outside of Port Moresby, it will be quite difficult to change money – as it can take hours at a bank to get your money changed.

Having said that, you may want to carry at least some travelers checks in case you can’t access your bank account with a debit or credit card, and also have some cash on hand in U.S. dollars.

Q. Can I pay for items in U.S. dollars?
A. You might be able to but it’s far more common to be quoted prices in the local currency, the kina.

Q. How much money should I bring with me?
We get this question a lot, and it really does depend on your spending habits. PNG is on the expensive side with regards to meals, but most meals are included in the tour. Souvenirs are reasonably priced but you might find yourself wanting to bring home more than you expected (local artists are everywhere, and all those masks, wooden bowls and drums are very tempting). Bring a little more cash than you think you’ll need because access to ATMs is limited. Just be sure to keep that cash in a safe place – i.e. on your body, under your clothes.

Q. How should I best carry my money?
A. PNG is not the safest country on the planet, plain and simple. You’ll want to be extremely careful about how you carry your money, passport and other valuables. A bag such as one from PacSafe is a great option because many of their items are slashproof, which means someone can’t slash the handle or front of the bag to grab your items. You’ll want to consider something like this for your camera gear as well.

Otherwise, tucking items into your bra, underwear and socks wouldn’t hurt (though you’ll want to keep items in plastic bags to prevent them from getting wet from your sweat).

Q. Would you recommend taking a rain coat? Something more than one of those flimsy “emergency” ponchos?
A. It would be helpful to have a rain jacket that is a bit heavier than one of those thin ponchos, but because it will be quite warm, the poncho will do in a pinch. During the day, even in the mountains, it can be warm (and very humid) when the sun is out, so nothing too heavy.

Q. Should we bring our own toilet paper? Do they have the “squatty potties”?
A. Hotels will have western-style toilets and provide toilet paper. However, we will be visiting some places, such as our homestay in the Sepik, with very basic facilities and it might be best to carry some of those travel toilet paper rolls. You can always pick up additional TP at hotels along the way.

Q. Can I bring my laptop?
A. Of course, we will have power at most of the hotels (but not at the homestay). Power outages may happen but not frequently.

Q. What sort of power adaptor do I need?Power Adaptor for Australia
A. PNG uses the same sort of adaptor as Australia. Consider buying one from a local travel store and chatting with a salesperson to make sure you’ve got the right one but it should look like this >>>>

Q. Are there hair dryers at the hotels?
A. Sometimes but don’t count on it. As mentioned above, there will be power at all hotels. Just remember that no one‘s going to be looking their finest, so if you don’t have to have the hair dryer, consider leaving it at home 🙂

Q. Do I need any dressy clothes?
A. Nope.

Q. What kind of shoes should I bring?
A. You might consider bringing a sturdy pair of old shoes that you can walk around in during the festival and in Tari that you don’t mind leaving behind. Chances are good that these will get very muddy or dirty from the dust (if they are going through a dry spell) and you may not want to bring them home. Consider a pair of sturdy sandals such as these from Teva.

Q. Can I wear something like Crocs?
A. These are not recommended as they have no grip on the bottoms and will be very slippery in the mud.

Q. Is tipping appropriate?
A. Actually this is one country where we do not recommend that you tip, even your guides. It’s not a practice in the country and it can actually create jealousy amongst the local guides if one gets a tip and another does not.

Q. Will you be sending an updated itinerary with our overnight accommodations so we can leave it with folks at home?
A. You’ll receive the hotel information as well as emergency contact information one or two weeks before departure but it is subject to last-minute changes.

Q. What’s the emergency contact info that I can give my family?
A. You will be given a cell phone number for someone in-country from our local tour operator as well as a list of hotels. All of this will be provide shortly before your departure.

Q. What tricks do you use to fit all that stuff into a carry-on? And still have room somewhere for souvenirs?
A. It’s true that if you pack light, you’ll have to do more laundry. But we recommend rinsing out some clothes every four or five nights rather than lugging around a big bag. Check out this article on my secrets to packing light.

Q. What is the WanderTours Giving Program?
A. This is a program we have developed for all of our international tours, where a portion of your tour cost goes towards supporting a project or non-profit organization in the country where the tour is taking place. Read our blog post on this topic.

In Papua New Guinea, we have supported Amnesty International that helps women of domestic violence in PNG and are currently working on ways to bring clean water to a community in the Sepik River area.