NEWS DESK | The Broke Backpacker | Edited extracts
LONDON - Papua New Guinea is virtually an untrodden destination. It’s got a ton of things to explore, from World War II era wrecks, adventurous hikes in the jungle and a lot of tropical islands to discover – over 600 of them.
But like many awesome places, it’s not exactly paradise. Combine a deep gang culture and rampant violence with natural threats from tropical cyclones, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and it’s no wonder you’re probably wondering “Is Papua New Guinea safe?”
This is one place that we’d say is definitely for the more adventurous travellers, and we want you to be able to travel smart and safe when you visit.
Papua New Guinea is pretty cool, we’re not going to lie. World War II relics, a super diverse culture (including over 800 languages!) and beautiful lush nature.
But at the same time, it isn’t what we’d call safe.
People do travel there, however this one is definitely for the intrepid traveller.
In 2015 approximately 184,000 tourists visited. Whilst it doesn’t sound like a lot, this number has been steadily growing. To put it into perspective, only 42,000 tourists visited in 1995.
Being on the Ring of Fire, PNG is always at risk from volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis, flash flooding and cyclones.
And aside from these natural disasters, there are some pretty big law and order issues in Papua New Guinea. In many of its cities, once it’s dark it’s seriously dodgy to walk around.
There are street gangs called raskols. There is a 60% unemployment rate (huge) in Port Moresby, where crime is an everyday occurrence.
Also corruption is rife. There are risks involved in visiting Papua New Guinea. Simple as that.
It’s important to understand that many of these issues actually arise from urban drift when people from the interior move to the cities. A lot of violence is between gang members or in local communities – and does not affect tourists.
So, in a general sense, PNG is safe to visit. It’s just super sketchy.
But travel outside the cities and you’ll find a much more relaxed PNG.
Planning your trip is important. There are areas that you are recommended to avoid - the usual “all but essential travel” warning. These are Hela and Southern Highlands provinces because of tribal fighting. Also, take care in the Enga and Western Highlands provinces where there’s been more trouble with fighting than usual. If you are planning to travel to any of these areas, go with security.
Port Moresby, Lae and Mt Hagen are populated by raskol gangs armed with machetes and guns. Violence can happen without any warning. And there’s also an independence referendum in Bougainville Island set for the end of this year. This island also has its own no-go zone in the central area around the old Panguna mine.
All in all, PNG is safe to visit right now and many people do visit. But it’s important to keep in mind that things don’t work as you’d expect them to at home.
Get insurance! Even if you are only going on a short trip, you should always travel with insurance. Have fun visiting PNG but make sure to get your backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure. We highly recommend World Nomads.