| Academia Nomad
PORT MORESBY – Unfortunately, travel within Papua New Guinea is expensive. I write this following a visit to New Ireland, a destination which is unbelievably beautiful but does not attract as many local tourists as it should.
The return flight for just one traveller will easily run up to K2,000 ($AU850). Accommodation for three nights at a lodge may cost another K1,500 ($640), and breakfast and dinner about K150 ($64) a day (about K400 if you stay for three nights).
You can also pay a professional tour guide anywhere from K500 to K2,000 ($200-$850).
To be clear, these costs are a reflection of the state of the economy, not businesses charging unreasonably high rates.
We have an import based economy and with the weak kina, we spend a lot on imported goods ranging from fuel to food.
Places like Kavieng will continue to thrive because a good number of its visitors are international tourists (and those Papua New Guineans who can afford the trip).
So here’s how you can get around and travel at low cost.
- Special or promotional tickets
Take advantage of Air Niugini’s special fares on Tuesdays where you can pay for a ticket as low as K200 (plus taxes etc). This is usually for flights that are scheduled for travel in three to four months’ time.
The payment for these specials is restricted to online booking and payment. You will need a Visa card to make payments. If you don’t have a Visa card, give cash equivalent to a wantok who has a Visa card to make the payment for you online.
- Budget accommodation
There is budget accommodation in New Ireland ranging from K180 to K200 a night. Unfortunately you cannot find this information online. Travel should never be impulsive, take time to plan and research accommodation well.
If you’re travelling with family or kids, or if you’re a female visitor, it’s better to stay at a lodge or hotel.
- Arrange your own tour guides
I have great respect and admiration for PNG tour guides such as Karanas Comfort, and there will always be customers who will require their amazing services. But if you take all the associated costs for the visit, their services will be a bit pricey for ordinary Papua New Guineans.
If you want to travel but cannot afford a tour guide, there are local taxis and outboard motor operators (dinghies) which you can engage at lower rates.
As locals, they will also act as your guides and that way you can cover the cost of transport and guide in one payment.
If the site you want to visit is along a bus or ferry route, pay the normal passenger bus or dinghy fare instead of paying for a tour through a professional company. Better if you’re travelling as a group.
You can also get one of the locals boys and pay him some money to accompany you. One of our guides was the taxi driver’s sibling (who refused payment but I insisted she was paid. Such a beautiful soul, thanks Malis).
If you have friends or save pes from the area you want to visit, you can negotiate with them and stay with their family. You get to pay them half of what you would have spent on accommodation and a tour guide.
This means you need to start treating your New Ireland neighbours or school mates at UPNG as though he’s Will Smith 😂
- Take your own food
Take tin meat, fish, biscuits, noodles etc. You’re going for a visit, not to put on weight. Food can be expensive depending on where you are in PNG.
- Eat organic
Market food is cheaper than hotel food or processed food. This is true anywhere in PNG.
- Plan and research
Don’t just pack up your bags and go. Plan, research and budget. There’s a research that says travelis of greater benefit to you than buying electronic gadgets. And common sense that says spending K500 on alcohol over a weekend doesn’t improve quality of life in the same way travel does. So save and travel.
- Always have a Plan B
PNG airlines have a tendency for flight cancellations and delays. And worse still, because of non-payments, lodges and hotels around the country are not taking in passengers left stranded by the airline companies even if the airline promises to pay. So have sufficient funds to cover at least three additional nights.
- Travel in groups
If you travel in a group you can share the costs of some services. For instance, you can hire a vehicle from a local and split the costs to visit the Belifu Canyon or cruise the Boluminski Highway. If you travel alone, you pay the costs alone.
- Take advantage of Air Niugini tour packages
International and domestic packages offer return airfares where you pay only 40% of the full airfare, meals and airport transfers. Air Niugini tours also list hotels to incorporate into the package based on your preference. They can customise a package for you.
Shoutout to Kavieng Niu Lodge and staff. You guys are superduper amazing. Thanks a lot. Taxi drivers Jonah Salot and Coba tenkyu tumas – if anyone is travelling to New Ireland and want a taxi driver, I can send you these guys numbers.