an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the
U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby. OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Papua New
Guinea (PNG). For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Papua New Guinea webpage for original OSAC reporting, consular
messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to
private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.
current U.S. Department of State Travel
Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses PNG at Level 2,
indicating travelers should exercise increased caution.
travel to the Highlands region due to civil unrest and disruption of local
services, and to areas near the Panguna mine in Bougainville due to civil
OSAC’s report, Understanding the
Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Department of State has assessed Port Moresby as being a CRITICAL-threat location for crime
directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Port Moresby
suffers from high unemployment, with up to half of the population reportedly
living in squatter settlements. The export-driven economy continues to falter
due to falling global commodity prices. Inflation is a recurring problem.
Moresby ranks 135 out of 140 cities in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2019
liveability index, above only Karachi, Tripoli, Dhaka, Lagos, and Damascus, with
a score indicating that “most aspects of living are severely restricted.” However,
the vast majority of visitors who exercise common sense and apply appropriate
security measures are able to move around the city safely and to conduct
business without significant issues.
crime rate is among the highest in the world. Crime rates are highest in and
around cities – such as Port Moresby, Lae, Madang, Mount Hagen, and Goroka –
but crime can and does occur anywhere.
rates against foreign diplomatic staff and private-sector personnel are
significantly lower than rates of crime committed against the public. This is
due mainly to comprehensive security plans laid out by sponsoring countries/organizations
that include but are not limited to rules on movement; identification of high
crime areas; security escorts; tracking devices; on-call response teams;
housing alarms; 24/7 guard surveillance; and real-time threat reporting.
by security managers to develop a comprehensive security plan significantly
increases risk to their clients. Similarly, disregarding security protocols
developed by one’s security officer significantly increases the likelihood that
the individual will fall victim to a security incident.
Visiting unguarded public sites
(e.g. markets, parks, golf courses, beaches, and cemeteries) can be dangerous;
incidents have occurred at these locations at all hours. In Port Moresby,
robberies have occurred around Parliament Haus on the weekends when it is
unguarded. Review OSAC’s report, All That You Should
particularly cautious of the threat of pickpocketing when in crowded public
places, especially local public markets. Bag snatchers may try to open doors of
automobiles stopped or moving slowly in traffic. Sophisticated criminal
enterprises exist, with capabilities that often exceed that of local law
enforcement authorities. Many of the businesses in Port Moresby have gated
parking lots with guards on duty.
may perceive Westerners as wealthy, potentially making them targets of
opportunity. U.S. citizens have been victims of violent crime, including sexual
assaults, carjacking, home invasions, kidnappings, and armed robberies. Many
criminals turn increasingly aggressive during the commission of a crime, which
may result in grievous bodily harm or death.
may coordinate robberies and carjackings based on known chokepoints. Criminal
gangs use any means necessary to force passengers from their vehicles. One such
scam involves the baby car seat/crying baby hoax. Criminals place a car seat
with a fake baby or a lone, crying child by the road and wait for someone to
stop and check on it. The location is usually a grassy roadside area where a
victim can be captured, dragged away unnoticed, assaulted, and robbed.
tactic involves egging the windshield of an oncoming vehicle. If you are
driving at night and eggs are thrown at your windshield, do not stop. Do not
apply water or operate the windshield wiper; eggs mixed with water become milky
and impossible to see through, forcing drivers to stop and increasing their
vulnerability to criminal activity.
2014, the World Bank produced thorough reports on the trends in crime, the
drivers of crime, and the business cost of crime in Papua New Guinea. Though
these are now more than five years old, they remain relevant.
Trends in Crime and Violence in Papua New
Drivers of Crime and Violence in Papua
Gates, Hired Guns and Mistrust: Business
The Socio-economic Costs of Crime and
Violence in Papua New Guinea
to Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perception Index
(CPI), PNG ranked 137 out of 180 countries, receiving a score of 28 out of 100
that classified it as “highly corrupt.” The CPI draws on 13 surveys and expert
assessments to measure public service corruption in 180 countries and
territories, giving each a score from zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very
clean). Although this metric is only a measure of the perceived level of
corruption in the public sector, PNG’s low score should underscore the
importance that the public and private sectors place on preventing corruption
and promoting integrity. Transparency International called on the government to
fully resource and strengthen institutions so that they may operate without
fear or favor, to support the Open Government Partnership, and to implement the
National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2010 – 2030.
Cybercrime is relatively uncommon;
however, the growing use of the internet and mobile technology brings with it
an increased risk of cybercrime and threats to information security. The
government passed a Cybercrime Code Bill in 2016 in part to address these
concerns. Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics,
Best Practices for
Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile
Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones:
Critical or Contraband?
Other Areas of Concern
should consult with local authorities and the U.S. Embassy before traveling on
the Highlands Highway. There is a greater risk of becoming the victim of
violent crime when traveling alone, especially when hiking in isolated rural
areas. Further exacerbating this problem is the lack of police response and the
challenges of evacuation for ill or injured personnel from more remote regions.
When traveling to remote regions, carry redundant means of communication and
a high degree of caution in Bougainville. Law enforcement in the area is
limited, and tourist/transportation facilities are inadequate. Avoid the area
near the Panguna mine that the Autonomous Government of Bougainville has officially
designated as a “no go zone.”
ordnance (UXO) and landmines are abundant in Bougainville, East New Britain,
and many other PNG islands. Exercise caution when walking or hiking off marked
roads and trails.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
moves on the left in PNG, and vehicles are right-side drive. Travel on highways
outside of major towns can be hazardous. There is no nationwide road network,
and most roads, especially in rural areas, are in a poor state of repair. Other
common safety risks include erratic and/or drunk drivers, poorly maintained
vehicles, rock throwing, and overcrowded vehicles. Sabotage of roads by
disgruntled workers is common.
the rainy season, landslides occur on stretches of the Highlands Highway between
Lae and Mount Hagen. Potholes and road erosion necessitate that vehicles travel
slowly and attentively. Criminal groups may use this to stop a slow-moving
vehicle and rob its occupants or forcibly take the vehicle. Criminal roadblocks
on the Highlands Highway may occur during daylight hours, but are more common
vehicle accidents are a common cause of serious injury. Accidents often involve
vehicles traveling on the wrong side of the road in an attempt to avoid
potholes. After an accident, crowds can form quickly and may attack those whom
they hold responsible by throwing stones and/or burning vehicles. Friends and
relatives of an injured person may demand immediate compensation from whomever
they deem at fault, regardless of legal responsibility.
accidental transportation-related death of domestic animals, such as dogs or
pigs, is almost certain to trigger a demand for monetary compensation. As such,
exercise caution when driving through rural areas. Those involved in an
accident who feel threatened should go directly to the nearest police station.
Remain calm; take note of the area; identify landmarks; and do your best to
provide the police with relevant details and information.
Police routinely set up roadblocks
in Port Moresby to check vehicle registration. Drivers should ensure that
documentation and decals are up-to-date in order to minimize difficulties at
roadblocks. For specific information concerning driving permits, vehicle
inspection, road tax, road safety, and mandatory insurance, contact PNG’s Motor
Vehicle Institute Limited at 675-325-9666 or 675-302-4600. It is not uncommon
for police officers to use roadblocks to solicit bribes, particularly before
holidays. Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad,
Driving Overseas: Best
Practices, and Evasive Driving
Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving
and road safety abroad.
Public Transportation Conditions
public transportation due to the lack of safe and reliable services. Crimes
like robbery and sexual assault are not uncommon on unregulated bus systems.
Travelers requiring transportation services should use a service provided by
their hotel, employer, or colleagues. Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit:
Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
air travel on domestic airlines is common, as there are few roads outside of
the more populated towns and regions. Airline pilots face challenging terrain
and a difficult flying environment. Most domestic airports are very limited in
terms of basic services, and are largely in a state of disrepair and neglect.
U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government’s
Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation
Organization aviation safety standards.
Other Travel Conditions
is not limited to land in PNG; there have been cases of piracy in some coastal
areas, with most recent cases taking place in the Alotau/Milne Bay regions.
Pirates use small boats with small- to medium-sized outboard motors to chase
down or ambush similar boats. Targeted boats are usually carrying goods from
island to island or from main trading centers to smaller villages along the
coast. Pirates use edged weapons and firearms to steal goods; boaters that
resist run the risks of being attacked or having their boat sunk. The range of
the pirates is generally determined by the size of their gas tanks and engines.
Faster boats can outpace and outlast the typical PNG pirate vessel. Boats that
moor in waterways overnight should remain vigilant, as there have also been
cases of boats boarded and robbed in the night. Find a secure port or berth if
overnighting in PNG waters.
are reports of criminals using boats to circumvent land-based security measures
and gain entry into an area by sea. Verify that coastal venues have accounted
for sea-borne threats in their security postures.
waters off PNG are some of the most beautiful in the world, offering unlimited
scuba and fishing opportunities; they are also some of the most remote. Due to
a lack of resources and interagency coordination, PNG’s capacity to conduct
waterborne rescues is extremely limited. Local businesses such as marinas and
boating clubs usually play a large role in monitoring clients boating in their
area. Use of marine radios, satellite phones, life vests, global positioning
systems, flares/electronic signaling tools, and regular radio status updates
are a must while boating in PNG. For longer voyages, create a sailing itinerary
and share it with local marine recovery assets.
U.S. Department of State has assessed Port Moresby as being a LOW-threat location for terrorism.
Transnational terrorism is uncommon in PNG. Outsiders do not easily blend into
the PNG culture; therefore, transnational terrorists may find it relatively
difficult to plan attacks or conduct violence discreetly.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
U.S. Department of State has assessed Port Moresby as being a MEDIUM-threat location for political
violence. Since gaining independence in 1976, PNG has experienced periods of
political volatility. Despite being endowed with a wealth of natural resources,
the country struggles to provide basic education, health, and infrastructure
services. Intense disputes between politicians often gridlock Parliament while
inadequate resources, understaffing, and corruption limit the effectiveness of
services provided by lower government.
is a moderate amount of civil unrest due to economic woes and the inability of
the government to maintain control of crowds. There have been demonstrations
regarding government entitlements and landowner disputes regarding payments
associated with natural resource projects. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.
government protests and tribal fighting have caused major destruction to
government buildings and public infrastructure in the Southern Highlands and
Hela Provinces. Police have been unable to keep public order or prevent
destruction of property.
warfare occasionally resembles indigenous terrorism, but is usually carried out
on a person-to-person level. Tribes often battle each other using both
traditional and modern weapons over disputes involving land, water, livestock,
and marriages. Acts of violence often result in retaliatory attacks.
located in an active seismic region known as the “Ring of Fire.” The country
regularly experiences earthquakes, volcanic activity, and cyclones, and is
occasionally threatened by tsunamis. Heavy rains have also caused landslides
and flooding outside of Port Moresby.
response does not meet Western standards. Fire and medical emergency services
are typically undertrained and underfunded.
to infrastructure are typically associated with the influx of business
interests in natural resource sectors (particularly liquefied natural gas). The
growing mining, liquefied natural gas, and hydroelectric industries, however,
present the possibility of increased industrial accidents.
PNG has made improvements in its enforcement of intellectual property rights
(IPR), IPR theft remains a significant concern. Authorities identified major
counterfeiting rings producing beer, soft drinks, and cigarettes in 2018. The
counterfeiting of movies, television, music, and clothing is also prevalent;
such products are openly advertised for sale on social media.
systems typically used in more developed countries to vet prospective
candidates for employment are not present in PNG. Improper record keeping,
forged documents, the absence of a national identification system, lack of
birth certificates, etc. make it nearly impossible to properly screen
candidates to any acceptable standard. The lack of a well-maintained criminal
database, coupled with informal and undocumented criminal punishment, only
serve to exacerbate the problem. As a result, local record and fingerprint
checks represent less than ideal tools in the employee vetting process.
certificate fraud is common, and private companies may face challenges
verifying an applicant’s employment history, education, etc. The best course of
action is to speak directly to the institutions that have issued the diploma
about the certificate’s veracity before hiring based on educational history.
permits police officers to search any person, building, vehicle, cargo, or bag
that they have reasonable grounds to believe is connected to any offense
against public order or the crime decree. Obscene materials are illegal, though
interpretation of what constitutes “obscene” is loosely defined.
Personal Identity Concerns
have been multiple cases of sexual assault, including gang rapes, of women.
Sexual violence occurs not only in the capital of Port Moresby but is common in
many parts of the country, against both local and expatriate women. Women
especially are cautioned not to travel alone in Papua New Guinea. Women should
observe stringent security precautions, including avoiding use of public
transport, especially after dark, restricting evening entertainment to venues
with good security, and avoiding isolated areas when alone at any time of day.
When possible, travel with groups of well-known, trusted people rather than
alone. Women traveling in Papua New Guinea are advised to respect local dress
and customs. Customary everyday dress for women throughout the country is
conservative, and even more so in non-urban areas, with women wearing clothing
that covers their shoulders and their legs past the knees. Some hotels in Papua
New Guinea offer a female-only floor or section for added safety, and women
traveling alone may wish to inquire if their lodging offers such a choice. Review the State Department’s
webpage on security for female
sexual relations are criminalized in Papua New Guinea. However, there are no
known incidents of the prosecution of consenting adults. Papua New Guinea is a
conservative country and public displays of affection are not welcomed. Review
the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+
New Guinea does not have legislation that mandates access to transportation,
communication, and public buildings for persons with disabilities. Foot paths
and road crossings in most major towns are congested and uneven, limiting
access and movement for people with disabilities. Review
the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers
relatively uncommon in PNG, the number of drug-related crimes appear to be
increasing. Recent reports suggest that PNG is becoming a transit point for
certain drugs (e.g., cocaine) on their way to the Australian market. Reports
suggest that drug runners hide shipments among legally traded goods to gain
entry into Australia. There is also a growing concern over the local
manufacture and use of synthetic drugs. Marijuana is grown and distributed
throughout PNG, and its use is common in certain areas.
Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPGNC) has established a task force to
combat drug trafficking, but suffers from a lack of resources to fully
investigate crimes. Police rely heavily on Australian Police counterparts to
assist in making inroads to stop the illicit drug trade.
influx of expatriate workers supporting the extraction industries, there have
been concerns that the frequency of kidnappings could increase. A spike in
kidnappings in 2008 and 2009 lends credence to these fears. In most of the
cases, the kidnappers were paid relatively small amounts. Additionally,
expatriate workers in PNG have been taken hostage as a means to renegotiate
contracts that were previously agreed upon. Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.
approximately 4,500 national police in a country of almost seven million
inhabitants, reflecting one of the lowest police-to-population ratios in the
world. Police are often undertrained, underfunded, and lack basic law
enforcement tools (e.g., radios and weapons). The RPNGC also faces resource
constraints and difficulties in imposing internal discipline. In 2016-17, the
RPNGC faced extreme budget cuts further exacerbating the problem. Moreover, the
RPNGC faces daunting obstacles in achieving the cooperation of local
communities, which frequently prefer to deal with criminals on their own.
the on-the-ground police presence is sparse, and response times may be measured
in hours rather than minutes. There are no special police officers assigned to
event that foreigners are arrested, authorities are required to notify the
appropriate embassy. Detained U.S. citizens concerned that the Department of
State may not be aware of their situation should request that police or prison
officials notify the U.S. Embassy of their arrest. The American Citizen
Services (ACS) unit deals with U.S. citizen arrests and can be reached at the
main Embassy number (+675 308 2100) or at the Embassy Duty officer number (+675
7200 9439) after hours.
emergency line in PAPUA NEW GUINEA is 111.
Download the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.
Police Operations telephone number in Port Moresby is +675-324-4331. The
operator will connect callers to the Boroko Police Operations Center, which may
also be able to provide local police numbers throughout PNG.
of crime may report or register a complaint at any police station in the
jurisdiction where the crime occurred. File a police report as soon as
possible. You may need a police report to file for victim compensation or
insurance reimbursement. If you do file a report, please send a copy to the
Embassy, along with your address and phone number, in case they need to
communicate with you.
as the victim, are not capable of reporting the crime in person, someone else
may file a police report on your behalf. You will be given a copy of the report
after paying required fees. The police will provide an interpreter, if needed.
Victims of crime who have left the country can report the crime to the Embassy
of Papua New Guinea in the U.S. The U.S. Embassy may also file a complaint on your
behalf. If you have difficulties filing your police report with an official,
please contact the U.S. Embassy immediately.
large companies use private security firms for their day-to-day security needs.
medical facilities range from hospitals in Port Moresby and the larger towns to
aid posts (including some missionary stations) in remote areas. The quality of
care varies, but facilities in the larger towns are usually adequate for
routine problems and some emergencies. Due to equipment failures and shortages
of common medications, even routine treatments and procedures (e.g., X-rays)
may be unavailable. Pharmacies are typically small and may be inadequately
stocked. Review OSAC’s report, The Healthy Way,
and Traveling with
scuba dive or snorkel while in Papua New Guinea, be sure to check the
references, licenses, and equipment of tour operators before agreeing to a
tour. Confirm that the dive operator you use is certified through one of the
international diving associations, and that their certification is current.
Confirm with the diving association directly that the operator is certified.
Deaths and serious accidents have occurred in the past because basic safety
measures were not taken during diving and snorkeling trips. Remember that
safety precautions and emergency responses may not meet U.S. standards.
is a hyperbaric recompression chamber for diving emergencies in Port Moresby,
but it is difficult to access and may be inaccessible during emergencies. At
present, it appears to be operational.
Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way,
Shaken: The Don’ts of
Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad
Find contact information for
available medical services and available air ambulance services on the U.S. Embassy website.
and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for medical services. Before
traveling overseas, ensure your insurance covers you outside of the U.S. Last
minute, one-way commercial tickets from Port Moresby can be quite expensive. The
U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health
insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Department’s
webpage on insurance
evacuation companies charge thousands of dollars for transport to Australia or
the U.S. The most commonly used facilities are in Brisbane and Cairns
(Australia). If you anticipate the possible need for medical treatment in
Australia, you should obtain entry permission from Australia in advance. The
Australian High Commission in Port Moresby can grant entry permission for
Australia, but it is easier to obtain an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA)
prior to leaving the U.S.
CDC Country-specific Vaccination and
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a Level 2 Health
Alert for PNG regarding the recent outbreak of vaccine-derived poliovirus
in the Morobe Province. The CDC has additional information and advice on the
outbreak on their website. Travelers who have received all the routine
childhood polio vaccinations as well as a single booster dose of polio vaccine
as an adult have essentially no risk of infection with the vaccine-derived
polio that is circulating in PNG. Tuberculosis, Zika, HIV, and other infectious
diseases are also present.
has been a recent cholera outbreak in Morobe, Madang, East Sepik, West Sepik,
Southern Highlands, the National Capital District, and in Daru, Western
Province, resulting in a significant number of deaths. Anyone visiting the
affected areas should exercise strict hygiene precautions, including frequent
and careful hand washing.
has been a rise in dengue in PNG. People who have previously contracted dengue
are more susceptible to its effects if they contract the disease again.
to the CDC, malaria is present throughout the country, especially at altitudes
below 2,000 meters (6,561 feet). Speak to a doctor about how to prevent malaria
water supply is chlorinated in Port Moresby, but travelers should boil water
before consumption. Outside of Port Moresby, local water supplies may be
interrupted or polluted. Review OSAC’s report, I’m Drinking What in My
offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Papua New Guinea.
OSAC Country Council Information
interested in engaging with the Port Moresby Country Council and/or connecting
the Regional Security Office should contact OSAC’s East Asia-Pacific team.
U.S. Embassy Contact Information
Douglas Street (downtown),
adjacent the Bank of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby
Hours: Monday-Friday, 0800-1700
(except U.S. and PNG holidays)
The Regional Security Office in
Port Moresby is also responsible for the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
Embassy Operator: +675-308-2100
Emergency calls after normal
business hours: +675-7200-9439
you travel, consider the following resources:
OSAC Risk Matrix
OSAC Travelers Toolkit
State Department Traveler’s Checklist
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)