- Reviewed: 19 March 2020, 13:47 NZDT
- Still current at: 19 January 2021
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The law and order situation in Papua New Guinea continues to pose serious risks to travellers. Violent crime, including armed robbery, carjacking, home invasions and sexual assault, is common throughout the country, especially in urban areas such as Port Moresby, Lae and Mt Hagen. The settlement areas in these centers, are particularly dangerous.
Expatriates and foreigners have been the target of robbery and carjacking in the past. Robberies have been known to take place inside business premises in Port Moresby and other urban centres. Most of the time crime is opportunistic but organised criminal groups also operate in Papua New Guinea.
Due to high levels of violent crime, New Zealand officials in Port Moresby adopt enhanced security measures for pedestrian and vehicle movement, their workplace, accommodation and public places.
New Zealanders in Papua New Guinea should exercise a high degree of personal security awareness at all times, especially in public places and areas frequented by foreigners. No resistance should be given if you are the victim of an armed robbery or carjacking, as this could lead to an escalation in violence. It is dangerous to walk the streets, particularly after dark. Avoid walking and travelling to isolated areas such as golf courses, beaches and parks. As victims of robbery are often targeted due to their perceived wealth, it is advisable to avoid wearing or displaying items that appear valuable, such as electronic devices and jewellery. Consider hiring private security services such as security escorts when driving or use secure transport services.
Armed and unarmed carjackings and road blocks in Port Moresby, Lae and Mt Hagen continue to be a problem, as well as in the area between Lae and Nadzab Airport. Violence in such cases can occur. Road travel outside of major towns can be hazardous and travel along the Highlands Highway can be affected by tribal and community disputes. Armed robbery is also a regular occurrence and roadblocks can be used to stop vehicles and rob, extort or attack their occupants.
Drivers are urged to take extreme caution when driving at any time of the day, and driving at night should be avoided wherever possible. If travelling at night, you should not travel in a vehicle alone and strongly consider travelling in convoy with other vehicles or with a security escort. Always drive with windows closed and car doors locked. Where possible, avoid smaller or remote roads with less traffic.
Following a road accident, crowds can form quickly and may attack those perceived to be responsible. If you’re involved in an accident and perceive that your safety is at risk, don’t remain at the scene, instead proceed to the nearest known safe place before getting in contact with the New Zealand High Commission in Port Moresby, which will then facilitate reporting the incident to Police.
Visitors to Papua New Guinea should avoid using buses, known as PMVs (public motor vehicles), as they are poorly maintained and often targeted by criminals. Vehicles hired from a reputable car hire company, or hotel transportation are a safer alternative. New Zealanders are advised to seek advice from their hotel or other trusted source.
On 16 June 2018, a state of emergency was declared in Southern Highlands province, after significant civil unrest and violence in the provincial capital of Mendi. Authorities have deployed additional security resources into the area.
Tensions between ethnic or clan groups occur periodically, particularly in the Highlands region and in larger urban areas such as Lae and Port Moresby. These sometimes lead to outbreaks of tribal fighting, often involving the use of machetes or firearms. Disputes can escalate with little warning and can result in destruction of property, disruption to services and injuries or deaths. While foreigners are not usually targeted in this violence, New Zealanders should remain vigilant, stay clear of settlement areas and avoid large crowds or gatherings. Closely monitor the media and other local information sources for advice about safety or security risks.
Protests and demonstrations occur in Papua New Guinea and previously have resulted in sporadic violent clashes between protestors and security forces.
New Zealanders are advised to avoid all demonstrations, protests and political rallies given the potential for these to turn violent with little warning. You should follow the instructions of local authorities at all times.
Papua New Guinea is in an active seismic area, and the most common natural disasters are earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Mt Ulawun volcano erupted in June 2019 forcing thousands to flee their homes. Kadovar island volcano erupted in January 2018 leading to an evacuation of the island. On 26 February 2018 a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the Highlands causing significant damage to infrastructure including roads and telecommunications. A state of emergency was declared in the area to allow for disaster relief, and there has been large scale population displacement in the region. The security situation remains unstable.
Travellers should be aware of the possibility for travel disruptions in the event of seismic or volcanic activity. There is an ongoing possibility of further earthquakes, which increases the risk of avalanches and landslides. Pay attention to all warnings issued, and follow any evacuation orders from local authorities.
New Zealanders travelling outside major urban areas in Papua New Guinea, especially to more isolated areas, should seek local advice before beginning their journey. Tourist facilities outside major towns are limited. Travel plans should be left with friends, relatives or reliable local contacts. We recommend double-checking your travel insurance to ensure you will be covered in the event of rescue or medical evacuation.
New Zealanders travelling to Bougainville should seek local advice before doing so. A non-binding referendum is scheduled to take place in the autonomous region from 23 November 2019. Polling will take place over two weeks and then there will be a week of counting. Road conditions outside the main towns can be hazardous, particularly after heavy rains. Road blocks also occur from time to time. Community sensitivities remain in the central mountainous area around the former Panguna mine and New Zealanders are advised not to enter the area without seeking current local advice. Travellers should not enter or leave Papua New Guinea from Bougainville without making prior arrangements with Papua New Guinea Immigration.
New Zealanders intending to walk the Kokoda Track, Black Cat track, Mt Wilhelm or other trails should hire a guide from a reputable travel company and ensure that the trekking permit is paid before leaving. For further information see the Kokoda Track Authority website. Exercise caution as serious crime is a risk and there have been attacks and robberies at each end of the trail.
Unexploded ordnance from WWII still exists in Papua New Guinea, particularly along the Kokoda Track and at Milne Bay, Rabaul and Bougainville.
General travel advice
New Zealanders are advised to respect religious, social and cultural traditions in Papua New Guinea to avoid offending local sensitivities. Modesty and discretion should be exercised in both dress and behaviour.
Medical services in Papua New Guinea are very limited and New Zealanders travelling or living in Papua New Guinea should have a comprehensive travel insurance policy in place that includes provision for medical evacuation by air.
New Zealanders in Papua New Guinea are encouraged to register their details with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The New Zealand High Commission Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Street Address Waigani, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea Postal Address PO Box 1051, Waigani, NCD, Papua New Guinea Telephone +675 7373 7000 Email NZHCPMY@mfat.govt.nz Web Site http://www.mfat.govt.nz/papua-new-guinea Hours Mon - Thurs 0800 - 1200, 1300 - 1630 hrs; Fri 0800 - 1200, 1230 - 1600 hrs
See our regional advice for the Pacific
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New Zealand High Commission Papua New Guinea
Waigani, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Telephone: +675 7373 7000
Hours: Mon - Thurs 0800 - 1200, 1300 - 1630 hrs; Fri 0800 - 1200, 1230 - 1600 hrs