“For every village a different culture” is the expression that best describes the social norms, cultures and languages of Papua New Guinea’s population. Most locals will greet you with a warm smile. The salutation monin tru (a very good morning) is considered the polite early-day greeting.
Western etiquette is generally observed in urban centres, while reciprocity and hospitality are emphasised throughout rural areas. When walking in rural areas, it is wise to have the landowner’s approval before crossing private land. In the event of an invitation to greet a chief or village leader, visitors must bow before the leader and are prohibited from eating foods reserved for the chief and his family.
Given the year-round tropical climate, loose-fitting clothing is recommended, with long sleeves for dawn and dusk. Although PNG does not have a set standard for dress, most business meetings are conducted in Western business attire. Women should dress modestly; short skirts or shorts are considered inappropriate in public, especially in rural areas. Sweaters or light jackets are advised when visiting the Highlands Region or any high-altitude area.
More than 800 languages are spoken in PNG. Under colonisation a pidgin English, Tok Pisin, emerged and is one of PNG’s official languages today. While English is taught in school, and is the official language of business and government affairs, learning a few phrases in Tok Pisin can prove useful, given that it is often the preferred means of communication.
PNG’s currency is the kina. Most major currencies can be exchanged in banks with relative ease. ATMs accept Visa and MasterCard, and allow withdrawals of up to PGK2000 ($590) per day. Credit card transactions may be subject to a 3% charge.
Government offices, state-run enterprises and most private businesses are typically open from 8.00am to 5.00pm, Monday through Friday. Banks generally close earlier, at around 3.00pm.
Visitors for business, study or tourism purposes must acquire a visa to enter the country. Single-entry and multiple-entry visas are granted by PNG embassies, and certain foreign nationals are eligible for tourist visas upon their arrival at Jacksons International Airport or Rabaul International Airport. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration has introduced a new class of entry permit – the designated event visa – that allows foreigners to visit PNG to attend national, regional or international events being hosted in the country, such as APEC.
Although visitors should remain vigilant and aware of personal safety when travelling around PNG, the country has made consistent progress in improving law and order, thanks to the PNG-Australia Policing Partnership. Exercising standard safety precautions at all times is still advisable, and those arriving to Port Moresby via Jacksons International Airport should arrange for pick-up service to their hotel.
Travelling by car outside the main urban areas at night – even on major roads – is not recommended, and foreigners should avoid flagging down or negotiating with taxis on their own. If one chooses to rent a car, doors should be locked with the windows rolled up at all times to avoid opportunistic crime.
Adequate medical staffing in hospitals and clinics can be found in urban areas, while rural areas are serviced by a network of aid posts and small health care centres. Trained nurses and paramedics are rare, as are qualified doctors. The International SOS health care centre and Aspen Medical, both located in Port Moresby, operate at Western standards. It is not advisable for visitors to drink the tap water, thus newcomers should drink only bottled or boiled water. Prior to travelling to PNG, visitors should consult a doctor for appropriate vaccinations. Mosquito nets, repellent sprays and prescribed medication should be used to protect against malaria and dengue fever, both of which are widespread in urban and rural areas alike.
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