Papau New Guinea Flag
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. Tourist facilities exist in the capital of Port Moresby and in major towns such as Lae and Madang. The standards of the facilities vary and may be below U.S. standards, particularly in remote areas.

Passport and/or Visa Requirements: For information about entry requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of Papua New Guinea, 1615 New Hampshire Ave., NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20009, Tel. (202)745-3680. Travelers may also wish to obtain a visa for Australia before traveling to Papua New Guinea for transit and other purposes (see section on medical facilities). For further information about Australian visas, contact the Embassy of Australia in Washington, D.C., at 1-800-242-2878.

Medical Facilities: Medical facilities in Papua New Guinea range from hospitals in Port Moresby and the larger towns to health centers and aid posts in remote areas. Missionary stations may also provide health-care facilities. The medical facilities vary in quality, but those in the larger towns are adequate for routine problems and some emergencies. Equipment failures, sudden shortages of common medications, and reductions in services due to lack of government funding can mean, however, that even routine treatments and procedures (such as x-rays) may become unavailable. More sophisticated medical facilities are located in the Australian town of Cairns, in Queensland. Travelers who anticipate the need for on-going medical treatment may consider obtaining visas for Australia before leaving the United States. Australian visas are issued in Port Moresby, but in a case involving medical treatment, the Australian visa authorities will require a referral from a local doctor, proof of acceptance by an Australian doctor, and proof of the patient's ability to pay for treatment. Pharmacies in Papua New Guinea are small and found only in urban centers and in missions.

Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for medical services. The Medicare/Medicaid program does not provide payment for medical services outside of the United States. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. Supplemental medical insurance which specifically covers treatment in Papua New Guinea and Australia and includes a provision for medical evacuation may prove useful. Medical conditions arising as a result of diving accidents will almost always require medical evacuation to Australia. Information on health matters may also be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through its international travelers hotline at (404) 332-4559 or via the CDC home page on the Internet:

Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: Crime and personal security are serious concerns in Papua New Guinea. Most travelers to Papua New Guinea are either tourists traveling as part of tour groups or are residents under the auspices of missionary, business, governmental or quasi-governmental groups, and do not experience problems as a result of carefully following the advice of their tour groups or sponsoring organizations. Armed robberies and car-jackings are a major problem throughout the country. Criminals occasionally victimize and rob people in large crowds, such as those at sporting events, concerts, or political rallies. 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 rape than those who are part of an organized tour or under escort. Most visitors to Papua New Guinea avoid using taxis or buses known as public motor vehicles, and rely instead on their sponsor or a rented car for transportation. Travel outside of Port Moresby and other major towns by car at night can be hazardous as criminals set up roadblocks. Visitors may wish to 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 by general aviation aircraft; there are many small airstrips throughout the country. Security measures, if any, at these airports are rare.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and to the U.S. Embassy. Useful information on guarding valuables and protecting personal security while traveling abroad is provided in the Department of State pamphlet, "A Safe Trip Abroad". It is available from the Superintendent of Documents U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402.

Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: The government of Papua New Guinea does not allow travel to Bougainville, the largest island in the North Solomons province, because of an active armed insurgency. An Indonesian secessionist group remains active along the largely inaccessible Papua New Guinea/Indonesia border. The town of Rabaul is located near two active volcanoes which buried half of the town during eruptions in September 1994. Volcanic activity has occurred on a periodic basis since that event and travelers should be aware of the potential for further eruptions. Rabaul has not recovered completely from the 1994 eruptions, and travelers may wish to verify that their hotels provide full amenities. Persons with respiratory problems may find that airborne ash exacerbates their conditions.

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 do 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 law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines.

Road Safety: Traffic in Papua New Guinea moves on the left as in Great Britain. There is no country-wide road network and roads are generally in poor repair with flat tires a routine result of debris on the roadways. Landslides can be a problem on the Highlands highway during the rainy season. Travel on highways outside of major towns can be hazardous due to roadblocks set up by criminals at night. Criminal roadblocks have occurred during the day time on the Highlands highway. Travelers may wish to 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 that they hold responsible or burn their vehicles. Friends and relatives of an injured party may demand immediate compensation from the party which they hold responsible for injuries, regardless of the legal responsibility. Persons involved in accidents usually find it prudent to proceed directly to the nearest provincial police headquarters rather than stopping at the scene of an accident.

Registration/Embassy Location: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby, where they can obtain updated information on travel and security. The U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby is located on Douglas Street, adjacent to the Bank of Papua New Guinea. This address should be used for courier service deliveries. 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) 321-1445; fax (675) 321-1593.

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