PNG, Here I Come

My tickets are booked and everything is ready to go for my excursion to PNG (Papua New Guinea). Researching this trip has been very different than any of the other places I’ve researched so far.

There are parts of PNG which are for all practical purposes no different than they were 1,000 years ago. This places it in a different category from any place I’ve been to date. PNG is one of the most rural countries in the world with 85% of the population living outside of cities. Most of that 15% is in Port Moresby.

In researching what to do and where to go online, I’ve found a real dearth of information compared to what I’m used to, especially for the highland areas. There are plenty of resorts around the coastal areas, but most of the highland information I’ve found consists of “hire a guide” and the prices are really expensive. In fact, getting prices for a single night in the Port Moresby area seems more expensive than Sydney or Tokyo.

I’ve often found the best advice comes from people on the ground who have been to the places you’re going. Once you get in a region, you discover more information about a place. The universal message I’ve gotten from everyone I have spoken to, including people from PNG, is to be very very careful, especially in Port Moresby and other towns. My “travelers sense” tells me that PNG might be the most dangerous place I’ve visited so far.

The danger is mostly just street crime. I have yet to read anything about political violence or widespread violent movement beyond some inter village skirmishes. As I understand it, there are roving bands of young men who have no compulsion to prey on outsiders. The most common adjective I’ve seen for hotels in the Port Moresby area was “secure”. The advice I was given was to get to your hotel, then stay put.

It is hard to make decisions about a place before you get there. Most of the rumors and stories you hear usually aren’t true. Then again, some places just are dangerous. While I am willing to take reasonable risks, there are some risks which are just stupid. I am often asked if I plan on visiting Iraq or Afghanistan. The answer is “no, not anytime soon”. I would be happy to visit Iran, North Korea or Cuba, but would not want to visit out of control places like Somalia.

The closest thing I have to compare to PNG has been the Solomon Islands. One woman I spoke to said that Honiara was 5x safer than Port Moresby, and while I never felt in any danger in the Solomons, Honiara is a far cry from Tokyo and was the location of a lot of violence several years ago.

So we’ll see how it goes. I’m sure I’ll get comments from people who have been to PNG who will say “it’s fine” and others who will say “be careful”. I’ll err on the side of caution. My current plans are pared down a bit from my original ones, but I hope it will still be a pretty good experience.

12 thoughts on “PNG, Here I Come”

  1. Hey Gary,
    We just read the info that Leif sent to you on the places that are HELL. BE SMART, STAY OUT OF THERE!!!
    Uncle Paul

  2. Gary, Please listen to the comments you have received, your Mom/Dad, and “Some Dude” says it all “be afraid, be very afraid”. Doesn’t this tell you something? Be smart! Pass this place and continue to report and photograph beautiful pictures of happy children, safe markets, seashores, beautiful churches, architecture, etc. You have a lot of places to visit and this is not one of them, PLEASE cancel. Your readers deserve more. God bless you, Gary. Auntie Judy and Uncle Paul
    P.S. Get to Italy, eat pizza, drink a beer – I will never get there and I want a tour!!!!

  3. Hey,

    I just discovered your blog thanks to the Blogger’s Choice Awards. I’m a bit of a world traveler, too, studying in England at the moment. I took a ten day trip with a professor to Ethiopia last year and that has inspired me to travel the world and see as much as possible. I backpacked across Holland, Belgium, and France with no money for 17 days last month, it was an intense and rewarding experience. Next year, when I graduate college (I’m 21), I plan on doing a month long tour of the United States before moving to England as a base for European travel.

    Papua New Guinea is probably going to be much more intense than what I have experienced, but, with your background, you should be fine. Keep a keen sense of what is around you at all times, walk away from situations that seem to be degrading into possible violence, and try to learn a bit of the language before going. I find people open up much more if you attempt to speak to them in their native tongue. Good luck, I’ll can’t wait to read the stories/see the pictures..:-)

  4. I agree that the best travel advice comes from locals. Sometimes locals are not always willing to give out this information, though. Those are the worst situations1

  5. I just finished reading a book about PNG, and it now is the very last place on earth I’d want to visit, with the possible exception of places like the Sudan and Iraq. Apparently, it’s very tribal still. I would think it would be like going back in time. Anyway, the book is called Throwim’ Way Leg: Tree-Kangaroos, Possums, and Penis Gourds, by Tim Flannery. It’s a fascinating read. Best of luck, and I can’t wait to read of your travels there!

  6. You be careful, Gary! I would hate for anything to happen to you.

    I’ll pray for your safety.


  7. Honestly, if I was mugged, I don’t think I’d try to piss of a guy with a machette who probably has friends.

    I’ve heard of some mining companies to tell their employees to carry a muggers wallet. A spare wallet with a small amount of cash to give a mugger.

    I do have an expired credit card and an old passport I can keep on me.

  8. Curious if you carry pepper spray or any other self-defense tools? Do you have a separate stash of cash/etc. in case you do get “mugged”?

Comments are closed.