7. WANDERTOURS TRAVEL DETAILS
1. GETTING TO PNG
Q. What is the best route to fly into PNG?
A. Nearly all flights arrive via Brisbane, Cairns, Sydney, Singapore or Tokyo.
Q. Is it OK to arrive early?
A. We encourage you to arrive no earlier than the first day of the tour as there are few things to do in Port Moresby. You might consider overnighting in Australia (or wherever your entry point is) on the night before the tour starts to ensure your on-time arrival into Port Moresby. This will also help you get over jet lag.
Q. Is it OK to have more than just a carry-on for the tour (in other words, checked bags)?
A. While you will be more comfortable moving around with fewer bags, you won’t be the only one with checked luggage. Because you’ll need an overnight duffel in the Sepik, it is difficult to only have carry-on bags for the PNG tour.
Most of our internal PNG flights are with Air Niugini and economy class passengers are permitted a checked bag weighing up to 16 kilos or 35 pounds per person. Carry-on is limited to 5 kilos or 11 pounds per person. While we have never seen in-country airlines weigh carry-on bags, they regularly check the weight of all checked bags and are prone to charging for any weight overage.
For international flights, note that 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. Do I need a visa to enter Papua New Guinea?
A. Yes, you do need a visa for PNG. Americans, Canadians, Australians 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 countries which do not qualify for a visa-upon-arrival. Note that passports must be valid for a minimum of six months from date of intended travel.
If you are from a country for which the visa-upon-arrival does not apply, you will have to apply for and receive your visa prior to the start of the tour. Here’s a link about how to apply in advance for a visa to Papua New Guinea. You will need to contact the embassy for Papua New Guinea in your country, for example the PNG embassy in Washington, D.C. if you are in the U.S.
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 will be there for more time than simply transferring to your onward flight. 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.
2. WHILE VISITING PNG
Q. Will bottled water be readily available on the tour?
A. Yes it will, but 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. What kind of food should I expect on the tour?
A. Papua New Guinea is not known for its cuisine. The PNG people who live in remote areas subsist on sweet potatoes, taro, sago, pig, fish, rice and greens. Many people rely on tinned fish (a favorite is tuna) and other meats (such as Spam). In some areas (such as Mt. Hagen), there’s an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables available.
Some of the hotels in which we stay have quite nice buffets and menus with a wide range of fresh and cooked food. Even then, however, PNG is very much a developing country and there is not a plethora of trained chefs to make the best use of readily available ingredients. Expect very basic meals in the Sepik, in other remote areas such as Tari (if your tour takes you there) and when meals-on-the-go (such as at the singsings) are prepared.
If you have special dietary needs or preferences, expect to be flexible. Those who are gluten-free probably won’t find items that aren’t already naturally gluten-free. Vegetarians won’t find tofu, tempeh or protein other than meat and fish. And vegans will find cheese on vegetarian sandwiches and only occasionally find soy milk (as opposed to whole milk).
Despite there being many coffee plantations in the Highlands, instant Nescafe is served in most hotels and restaurants along with black tea. If you’d prefer something higher quality or decaf, consider bringing Starbucks VIA, your own cafe press (and purchasing ground coffee upon arrival) or your own decaf coffee or tea.
Q. Do you recommend any special vaccinations for this trip?
A. There’s nothing you need specifically for PNG. However, you’ll want to consult with a travel doctor for medical advice. Malaria and dengue fever are prevalent, so you’ll want mosquito repellent. We also recommend you talk to your doctor about malarial prophylaxes if you’re so inclined.
Q. I get motion sickness. Will I be able to sit in the front of the van/bus on the tour?
A. We do try to make our tour participants as comfortable as possible, so please tell your tour guide if motion sickness is an issue for you. We can’t guarantee the front seat of the van or bus every time as it really depends on how many people in the group tend towards motion sickness or have other medical issues where they may need a different seat. We suggest that you bring ginger, wrist bands or ask your doctor about a prescription.
Q. What’s the best protection against mosquitoes?
A. In addition to mosquito repellent, covering exposed skin is the best protection against mosquitoes. Consider wearing clothes impregnated with permethrin. Several companies, including ExOfficio, have such clothing. For those not interested in using DEET-based products, consider alternative products such as Avon’s Skin-so-Soft with Bug Guard, Herbal Armor or essential oils with lemongrass or other oils that repel bugs.
Q. Should I bring toilet paper and should I expect “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 small travel toilet paper rolls. You can always pick up additional TP at hotels along the way.
Q. Are there many things to purchase in PNG?
A. There are definitely opportunities to purchase souvenirs throughout our journey including artifacts, 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 and basketry.
PLEASE NOTE – Australian customs is very strict about what you can bring into the country. If you have to clear customs in Australia after leaving PNG (meaning you will be in Australia longer than transferring to another flight), you have to declare your items. Customs looks for animal parts as well as wood with bore holes and shells where small insects may be found. In these cases, they may hold your items for fumigation, quarantine or confiscation. For more details, read this information.
Q. Will I be able to ship larger items home from PNG?
A. While it is possible to ship items home via DHL or TNT (an Australian shipping company), 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 need to send you with a separate guide to handle the packaging and shipping of your goods while the remainder of the group tours.
If you plan to carry your purchases with you, you may have an issue traveling throughout the remainder of the tour as we will be flying on small planes with a checked bag weight limit of about 35 pounds. If your bags are overweight, you may be charged overage costs by the airlines. Also note that these small planes (Fokker 100 and Dash 8) have very small overhead bins.
Q. Is theft an issue in Papua New Guinea?
A. While petty theft can be an issue in PNG, hotel staff prize their jobs and it would be devastating to them if they were caught stealing. In the ten years that we’ve been traveling to PNG, the only theft that we’ve experienced was a phone that was lifted from a pocket. We recommend that you keep your phones and other valuables in a secure pocket or cross-body bag.
3. HOTEL INFORMATION
Q. What are the hotels like where we’ll be staying?
A. The hotels would generally be considered three-star hotels. You can find a link to them under each day of the itinerary. To some people, they are far better than they expected while other people expect more. This is not a five-star tour and there are few to no luxury properties in PNG. But the experiences you have will be five-star and highly memorable!
Q. Will you be sending a list of hotels?
A. All of our hotels are listed on our itinerary and you will receive a list of hotel contact information about two weeks before departure (note: it is subject to last-minute changes).
Q. What amenities are available at the hotels?
A. In addition to the must haves (soap and towels), most of the hotel rooms will have tea kettles, instant coffee, tea, hair dryers and shampoo. The exception is Magic Mountain in Mt. Hagen where tea kettles and hair dryers are not available due to the limited electrical grid and in the homestay in the Sepik which has no electricity at all (see next question).
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 is 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).
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.
There is no electricity in the village save for the occasional use of a generator. If you have electronics that will need to be powered, bring extra batteries, solar power or backup USB power sticks. We recommend that you leave your laptop stored in your luggage in Wewak for the two days that we are in the Sepik. The luggage will be securely stored at the hotel.
As noted in the itinerary, the food is also quite basic as the nearest grocery store is two hours by boat and four hours by road. If you have special dietary needs (i.e. vegetarian), consider carrying some backup food. Typical breakfasts include toast, jam, peanut butter, sago pancakes, French toast, eggs and/or noodles. Lunches and dinners include fresh or tinned fish (such as tuna), cooked vegetables, tinned meat (Spam and corned beef), rice and sometimes fresh crocodile and/or chicken.
Because we will be traveling to the Sepik via motorized canoe, you’ll be leaving your large luggage securely stowed at our hotel in Wewak and only bringing an overnight/duffel bag to the homestay.
Q. Are my items safe in my hotel room?
A. When we are out for the day, luggage will be left in our hotel rooms. We’ve never had a theft from a hotel room on any of our tours, but we do recommend that you put all valuables in your luggage and lock it with small luggage locks so no one is tempted to peek in your bag.
When something goes missing, it’s usually later found in the bottom of one’s luggage. In the meantime, hotel staff are the first to be blamed. It’s best to keep your items locked up so that this is not even a question.
4. PACKING INFORMATION
Q. How should I dress based on the weather?
A. In general, PNG is a hot country. It will also likely be very muggy in Port Moresby and the Sepik. Pack for warm weather but consider being conservative about your clothing. Tank tops and shorts (for women) are not appropriate but short sleeve shirts, capris and light pants are fine. Also, remember to bring a sun hat.
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.
You’ll receive a full packing list upon registration for the tour.
Q. Do I need any dress clothes?
A. Nope. We recommend wearing simple clothes as you’ll be hot and likely dirty in the Sepik and potentially muddy/dusty in the Highlands.
Q. What kind of shoes should I bring?
A. You should not be packing more than two pairs of shoes and one of those should be an older pair of sneakers that you can wear at the show grounds and in the cooler Highlands. It will likely either be very muddy or very dry and dusty in both places. In addition, consider a pair of sturdy sandals such as those from Teva or Chaco Canyon. These will serve you well in the Sepik.
At the end of the trip, you might consider leaving your older pair of shoes. Despite the dirt and dust on them, they’ll be much appreciated by the locals.
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. Would you recommend taking a rain coat or poncho?
A. It would be helpful to have a rain jacket that is a bit heavier than a thin poncho. However, because it will be quite warm, a 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. How do you fit everything into a carry-on and still have room for souvenirs?
A. We encourage you to pack light and do hand laundry along the way. You may then purchase a bag once-in country to bring home souvenirs.
Q. Do we need to bring our own mosquito nets?
A. Sometimes mosquito nets are available at our homestay in the Sepik, which is the only place you’ll need one during the tour. However, we will let you know whether you’ll need to bring your own once the departure date draws near.
There are a variety of styles available. The best option is 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 net is all that is required and won’t take up much space in your luggage.
Something as simple as this will work fine.
5. TECHNOLOGY including CELL PHONES, CAMERA AND COMPUTERS
Q. Is there WiFi throughout PNG?
A. Internet service is very spotty although it is getting better. Major hotels will likely have WiFi but outside of those areas, don’t count on it. AND even when the hotel has WiFi, it doesn’t always work or it’s very slow.
Expect to have some service in Port Moresby, Wewak and Goroka (if your tour goes there). Do not expect it at the homestay in the Sepik, at our cabins near Mt. Hagen or in Tari (if your tour goes there).
Q. What sort of power adaptor do I need?
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. Will I need a converter for my electrical devices?
A. You will need a converter for any devices unable to handle 220 (i.e. your hair dryer, curling iron, etc.).
Q. Can I use my cell phone in PNG?
A. It is now possible to tap into the Digicel or B-Mobile network to use your cell phone through much of PNG. You can easily send text messages and make phone calls using your own phone. Depending on your service provider at home and their roaming charges, text messages are usually about .50 each and calls can be quite expensive depending on your calling plan.
If you have an unlocked phone, you can purchase a sim card and data plan at the Port Moresby airport upon your arrival. Some people purchase both Digicel and B-Mobile sim cards so they can swap between sim cards for the best coverage.
If you have a smart phone and you can find WiFi you can use Skype or other app to text or email.
Q. What do you suggest for carrying our camera equipment while in PNG?
A. Everyone brings a different amount and type of photography equipment, so the bag you carry will depend on what you would like to bring. However, you’ll want to consider something like a PacSafe camera bag so your gear is protected from the elements and potential theft. If the bag is not waterproof, please keep in mind that you’ll need to be prepared to cover up your camera equipment with a plastic bag or some other covering that will protect it from the rain.
Remember that your carry-on is limited to 5 kilos or 11 pounds per person. The smaller aircraft have little room in the overhead bins but enough for a backpack with gear in it.
6. MONEY, GIFTS, TIPS
Q. What is the currency used in PNG?
A. Most items are priced in kina and that is the preferred method of payment. The PNG people (especially in remote areas) have a difficult time changing money from U.S. dollars to kina.
Q. Are ATMs available?
A. The most reliable ATMs are at the airport and you’ll have time upon arrival to withdraw local funds. While banks will also have ATMs, they don’t always work for foreign-issued debit or credit cards.
Q. How much money should I bring with me?
A. 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). Plan to change as much as you think you’ll spend on the trip (and then some). You can always change your money back at the airport upon departure.
Just be sure to keep that cash in a safe place – i.e. on your body, under your clothes.
Q. Can I use my debit or credit card for purchases?
A. It’s rare but you might be able to find a shop or two that will accept a debit or credit card. The vast majority do not. Even hotels have a difficult time processing cards for incidentals.
Your best bet is to withdraw local currency (kina) from the ATMor exchange money (U.S. or Australian dollars) at the airport in Port Moresby upon arrival. Once outside of Port Moresby, it will be quite difficult to change money–it can take hours at a bank to do so.
Q. Is tipping appropriate?
A. PNG 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 among the local guides if one gets a tip and another does not. Beth will handle any tipping when appropriate.
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.
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 and, potentially, rain).
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 likely won’t be able to.
Having said that, those who have had more exposure to the outside world will appreciate small gifts. Appropriate items include small mirrors (so they can put on their own tribal makeup). Consider bringing postcards from your city to share as these will make great conversation starters.
We may have a chance to visit a school or two during the trip in which case pens, pencils, dictionaries, pads of paper and other school accessories would be helpful.
Q. Can I bring small gifts for the children I may encounter?
A. We don’t recommend this as it encourages begging. You might want to bring bubbles or balloons so that you can interact with children without actually giving them gifts.
Q. Should I expect to pay the performers at singsings or anyone else for photos when I take them?
A. Absolutely not. Over the years there has been a slight increase in the singsing performers asking for money or selling items during the singsing while on the showgrounds but this is discouraged by the show committee. It’s very important that money is not exchanged for photos as it encourages begging.
7. WANDERTOURS TRAVEL DETAILS
Q.Do I need insurance for this tour?
A. Although we don’t require evacuation or travel insurance, we strongly encourage you to consider one or both of these for PNG. We highly recommend evacuation insurance for cases where you are sick or injured and need medical attention. You would want to be evacuated out of PNG to Australia or home in this case. Medical evacuations can cost as much as $60,000.
Travel insurance is a good idea for those who may have to cancel a tour at the last minute (due to a potential family issue, for example) or for recovery of lost luggage or missed flights.
If you are looking for insurance options, we’ve partnered with two companies: Allianz and Insure My Trip. Both companies offer excellent travel and medical insurance options. If you currently have other coverage, or only want/need a standalone medical evacuation package, you’ll want to go with Insure My Trip.
Q. Is there a schedule for installment payments?
A. We don’t have anything formal set up but you can definitely send in payments on your own schedule. Some people send in monthly payments while other people send in payments when it’s convenient.
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 registering with a deposit.
Refunds will be sent by check within two weeks of us receiving written notification (email is fine) of your cancellation. 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 you be sending an updated itinerary with our overnight accommodations so we can leave it with folks at home?
A. Yes, you’ll receive the hotel information as well as emergency contact information one or two weeks before departure (note: it is subject to last-minute changes).
Q. What’s the emergency contact info that I can give my family?
A. Along with the hotel contact information, you will be given a cell phone number for someone in-country shortly before your departure.
Q. What is the WanderWorld Foundation?
A. This is our non-profit arm we have created so we’re able to support a project or NGO in the countries we visit.
In Papua New Guinea, we have supported a program with Amnesty International that helps women of domestic violence in PNG. We are currently researching a project with Oxfam as well as ways to bring clean water to a community in the Sepik River area.