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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea - Consular Information Sheet
March 14, 2001

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Papua New Guinea is a parliamentary democracy and a member of the British Commonwealth. The country consists of the eastern half of New Guinea Island, the Bismarck Archipelago, the D'Entrecasteaux Islands, the Louisiade Archipelago, and the islands of Buka and Bougainville. Good tourist facilities exist in the capital of Port Moresby and in major towns such as Lae and Madang. The quality of tourist facilities in other areas varies and may be below U.S. standards, particularly in remote areas. Crime is a serious concern throughout Papua New Guinea (see paragraph on crime below).

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport, onward/return ticket, and proof of sufficient funds for the intended visit are required. Tourist visas are required for stays up to 60 days. (Visas are issued upon arrival at Jacksons International Airport in Port Moresby). Business visas require passport validity of at least one year from the date the visa is issued, two application forms, two photos, a company letter, biographic data, a recent annual report of the parent company and a fee for multiple entries. An AIDS test is required for work and residency permits (U.S. test accepted).

American citizens who remain in Papua New Guinea beyond the period authorized by immigration authorities may face fines and penalties. Papua New Guinea collects a departure tax. The departure tax is normally incorporated into airline fares at the time of ticket issuance.

For more information about entry and exit requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of Papua New Guinea, 1615 New Hampshire Ave., NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20009, Tel. 202-745-3680, or visit the Embassy's website at http://www.pngembassy.org.

Travelers may also wish to obtain entry permission from the Government of Australia for transit or other purposes (see section on Medical Facilities) before traveling to Papua New Guinea. American citizens no longer need a visa to travel to Australia as tourists but must obtain an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) through their travel agent. For further information about Australian visas or the ETA, contact the Embassy of Australia in Washington, D.C., at 1-800-242-2878 or at the Embassy of Australia's website at http://www.austemb.org.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: Before traveling to Bougainville, the largest island in the North Solomons province, it is recommended that visitors obtain updated security information from the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby. Despite a peace agreement between the government and dissidents, law enforcement is weak on Bougainville, there are no tourist facilities on the island and transportation facilities are limited.

An Indonesian secessionist group remains active along the largely inaccessible Papua New Guinea/Indonesia border on the island of New Guinea.

The Southern Highlands Province is also an area of instability. Incidents of ethnic violence have occurred near urban centers and tourist sites. American citizens considering travel to the region should consult with their tour operator and the American Embassy prior to doing so.

The town of Rabaul, on the island of New Britain, is located near two active volcanoes that buried half of the town during eruptions in September 1994. Volcanic activity continues, and travelers should be aware of the potential for further eruptions. Persons with respiratory problems may find that airborne ash exacerbates their conditions.

CRIME: Papua New Guinea has a high crime rate. Crime and personal security are serious concerns throughout Papua New Guinea. Carjackings, armed robberies, and stoning of vehicles are a problem in Port Moresby, the capital. Pickpockets and bag-snatchers frequent crowded public areas. Hiking in rural areas and visiting isolated public areas such as parks, golf courses, beaches, or cemeteries can be dangerous. Persons traveling alone are at greater risk for robbery or gang rape than those who are part of an organized tour or under escort. Visitors to Papua New Guinea should avoid using taxis or buses, known as public motor vehicles, and should rely instead on their sponsor or hotel to arrange for taxi service or a rental car.

Travel outside of Port Moresby and other major towns at night can be hazardous, as criminals set up roadblocks. Visitors should consult with the U.S. Embassy or with local law enforcement officials concerning security conditions before driving between towns. Travel to isolated places in Papua New Guinea is possible primarily by small passenger-aircraft; there are many small airstrips throughout the country. Security measures at these airports are rare. Organized tours booked through travel agencies remain the safest means to visit attractions in Papua New Guinea. The Embassy recommends that prospective visitors consult "A Primer on Personal Security for Visitors to Papua New Guinea," available from the Bureau of Consular Affairs homepage at http://travel.state.gov.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities in Papua New Guinea vary from hospitals in Port Moresby and the larger towns to aid posts (including some missionary stations) in remote areas. Medical facilities vary in quality, but those in the larger towns are usually adequate for routine problems and some emergencies. Equipment failures and sudden shortages of common medications can mean, however, that even routine treatments and procedures (such as X-rays) may become unavailable. A hyperbaric recompression chamber for diving emergencies is available in Port Moresby. Pharmacies in Papua New Guinea are small and may be inadequately stocked. They are found only in urban centers and at missionary clinics. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for medical services.

Medical conditions arising as a result of diving accidents will almost always require medical evacuation to Australia. More sophisticated medical facilities are located in Australia. The most commonly used facilities are in Brisbane and Cairns, both in the Australian state of Queensland. Travelers who anticipate the need for ongoing medical treatment should obtain entry permission for Australia in advance. Entry permission for Australia can be granted by the Australian Embassy in Port Moresby, but it is easier to obtain prior to leaving the United States.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties.

Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Papua New Guinea is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor to Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Not Available

Traffic in Papua New Guinea moves on the left. Travel on highways outside of major towns can be hazardous. Motor vehicle accidents, especially where passengers are sitting in the open bed of a pickup truck, are one of the more common causes of serious injury in Papua New Guinea. Drivers and passengers are urged to wear seatbelts whenever possible. There is no countrywide road network, roads are generally in poor repair, and flat tires occur routinely as a result of debris on the roadways. Landslides can be a problem on some stretches of the Highlands Highway between Lae and Mount Hagen during the rainy season. Criminal roadblocks have occurred during the day on the Highlands Highway and more widely after dark. Travelers should consult with local authorities or the U.S. Embassy before traveling on the Highlands Highway.

Reactions by crowds after road accidents in Papua New Guinea can be emotional and violent. Crowds form quickly after an accident and may attack those whom they hold responsible, stoning and/or burning their vehicles. Friends and relatives of an injured party may demand immediate compensation from the party they hold responsible for injuries, regardless of legal responsibility. Persons involved in accidents usually find it prudent to proceed directly to the nearest police station rather than stopping at the scene of an accident.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Papua New Guinea driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion via the Internet at http://www.paradiselive.org.pg.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and Papua New Guinea, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Papua New Guinea's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Papua New Guinea customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Papua New Guinea of items such as firearms, certain prescription drugs and sexually explicit material. Other products may be subject to quarantine. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Papua New Guinea in Washington for specific information regarding customs requirements.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating the Papua New Guinea law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Papua New Guinea are strict, and convicted offenders can expect severe jail sentences and fines.

CONSULAR ACCESS: U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Papua New Guinea is located in an area of high seismic activity. Although the probability of a major earthquake occurring during an individual trip is remote, earthquakes can and will continue to happen. In addition, there are two active volcanoes near the town of Rabaul on New Britain. General information regarding disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) home page at http://www.fema.gov.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children or international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby and obtain updated information on travel and security within Papua New Guinea. The U.S. Embassy is located at Douglas Street, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. This address should be used for courier service deliveries. The Embassy is located adjacent to the Bank of Papua New Guinea. The mailing address is P.O. Box 1492, Port Moresby, N.C.D. 121, Papua New Guinea. The U.S. Embassy's telephone number is (675) 321-1455; fax (675) 321-1593. Americans may submit consular inquiries via e-mail to: consularportmoresby@state.gov.

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