Port Moresby is the capital city of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the gateway to the matchless sights and sounds of this adventurous country. With scarce infrastructure to be found between regions, which are not linked by road, flying in through Port Moresby is fundamental. Most connections to the Highlands and the adjacent islands pass through the capital. Although usually considered a stopping point from which to head to other parts of PNG, Port Moresby is worth a visit for its scenic location spread out on the shores of the Gulf of Papua, its swanky marina and diverse attractions.
With a tropical savanna climate, including wet and dry seasons of approximately equal durations, temperatures remain relatively constant all year round (22°C-32°C). Port Moresby is in the driest region of the country, with the least amount of rain and generally cooler from May to October.
Citizens of most Western countries receive a free 60-day tourist visa on arrival. Australian nationals now also receive a 30-day tourist visa on arrival, free of charge.
There are no major prerequisites to pack for your trip to Port Moresby, as it is for more remote regions of Papua New Guinea. As climate is warm for most of the year, summer clothes and sunscreen are advised. Insect repellent might also come in handy, as well as some sturdy walking shoes. Basic daily essentials can be found in supermarkets and malls in the city, but bring along prescription medicine or other items your normally rely on at home. Make sure to pack spare batteries for your camera and chargers, to avoid paying more or risk not finding it here. A hidden travel pouch to hold your passport and money is also advisable.
You don’t need to take any special vaccines or pills for Port Moresby alone. Malaria is a common disease in Papua New Guinea’s coastal areas, but within the capital, it’s not the case. Practice common sense, wash your hands often and keep a hand sanitizer in your bag.
In Papua New Guinea, the standard voltage is 240 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. If the voltage in your country is in between 220 – 240 V (as is in the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia and most of Asia and Africa), you can use your electric appliances in Papua New Guinea. For voltage between 100 V – 127 V, you will need a voltage converter in Papua New Guinea. Power sockets are type I, the same used as in Australia. An all-purpose plug adaptor will be useful.
Despite suffering from a bad reputation since a few decades, Port Moresby has today significantly improved its image thanks to a series of new urban projects, infrastructure and education. Port Moresby is where most international travelers arrive into the country, making it a much more diverse region.
By respecting some basic rules, it is possible to move freely and safely through the capital. The same goes for female travelers. Note that Papua New Guinea is a patriarchal society; therefore solo female travelers should exercise extra caution. As Port Moresby is not easily walkable, avoid getting out at night by yourself. Before heading out to a new area, check with your hotel or host on the best routes and times to go out. Some areas are best explored with a local.
Respecting the local culture is also essential. For instance, public displays of affection between couples is frowned upon and considered disrespectful.
Despite the fact Papua New Guinea counts on 820 languages between all its tribes, making it the most linguistically diverse country on earth, English is one of the three official languages. Most locals dialogue in Tok Pisin (a form of Pidgin English) amongst themselves, however everyone in Port Moresby understands English. Most people speak it fluently.
The national currency is the Papua New Guinea Kina (K). One kina equals 100 Toea. In Port Moresby, there are many ATMs, including at the airport and inside big hotels, and most mid-range to top-rated hotels, restaurants and shops accept international credit cards. You can change money at the Jacksons International Airport (inside the international terminal) or at banks across the city. As a general tip, it is always best to carry some extra cash.
Traveling in a PMV (public motor vehicle, a generic term for minibuses) is one of cheapest ways in getting around Port Moresby, and also a great way to interact with locals. Avoid late evening trips for safety reasons, as buses do not commute after 6pm. A full day by bus will cost around 50 kina, while one-way short trips shouldn’t exceed 5 to 10 kina.
Taxi is also an option. Most cars don’t have meters, so negotiating is a must. For a small distance, expect to be charged some 10 kina, and an average of 20 to 30 kina for longer distances. From Jacksons International Airport into the city, it will cost you between 30 and 50 kina (the airport is 15 minutes away from Waigaini suburb and 25 minutes from Downtown). Most hotels offer airport transfers if arranged in advance.
While Port Moresby offers a variety of accommodation options, the city is not known to be a budget destination. Expect to pay between 50 to 70 kinas for a room in an average guesthouse, with or without private bathroom. A midrange hotel will cost around 300 to 400 kina, with more luxurious ones reaching 500 kinas at a minimum.
Port Moresby offers a wide range of restaurants most easily to be found in malls such as Vision City and hotels. “Naked Fish”, Ela Beach and Ring Road are also very popular food spots. A meal can cost anywhere from 20 to 50 kina, depending on the location. There are several outposts for fine dining in upmarket hotels, as well as a diversity of multicultural flavors (Indian, Thai, Japanese, Korean, Greek, Italian and more). Port Moresby is not particularly known for its cuisine, so be advised that most international cuisine tends to be expensive. Chinese food is often a cheaper alternative. If you choose to prepare a meal yourself, 20 kina should suffice.
Local markets like Koki Market offer a delicious opportunity to discover local fruits, vegetables and food. Don’t miss your chance to drink a kulao, a fresh coconut or to taste the sweetest banana and papaya on earth ! In the afternoon, Koki Fish Market is usually very busy and is a good place to observe local fishermen and buy sea food.
Internet and Wi-Fi is mostly available only in upmarket hotels. For further communication, local SIM cards can be purchased in the international arrival terminal and in a variety of shops in town.
If you are travelling to Papua New Guinea, you should plan on spending two days in Port Moresby. Depending on your interests, you can tick off some of the main attractions in one full day. However, if you have more time, a second day is advised. Port Moresby is not a vast metropolis as other capitals in the region, however with its population of about 310,000 people, it is the largest city in the country.
In addition, if you’re traveling through the country on domestic flights, spending a night in Port Moresby is recommended to ensure you won’t miss your connection.