Tips for Papua New Guinea

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I had the pleasure of taking an outstanding 20-day tour of Papua New Guinea with ElderTreks (Toronto, Ontario, Canada; 800/741-7956, www.eldertreks.com), Sept. 3-23, 2008. The land price was $8,995.

Most companies “do” PNG in 10 to 14 days and tour perhaps a festival and the main cities. ElderTreks’ 20-day program was the only group tour I found which spent three days on Kiriwina in the Trobriand Islands and two nights in a village setting on the Sepik River.

ElderTreks’ Nitin Dhami was a superb guide; he also guides their trips in India. Rex Opa, a national guide from Mt. Hagen, accompanied us the whole time as well. We also had local guides in Port Moresby, Mt. Hagen and Madang and on Kiriwina Island.

Local arrangements were done by New Guinea Expeditions (P.O. Box 1761, Mt. Hagen, Papua New Guinea; phone/ fax +675-542-3382 or e-mail ngexpeditions@dg.com.pg). Steven Tendi, the owner, accompanied us for seven days from Mt. Hagen through Goroka. It is good to know that profits from his company fund an elementary/secondary school he established.

Everything, including bottled water and internal flights, was included on this trip except for the tipping of local guides, drivers and our two main guides.

Our group of 10 traveled on a comfortable Coaster bus, with the luggage in another vehicle. Accommodations were appropriate for where we were — clean and comfortable hotels in cities, a basic lodge on Kiriwina Island and elevated bush houses in the Sepik River area.

These are some things I learned from this trip that may be useful to someone considering a trip to PNG:

IN GENERAL — There are baggage weight restrictions (15 to 20 kilograms, depending on the airline) on internal flights. If you are with a group, your luggage will be weighed together and it may not be a problem. If you are on your own, you may have to pay for the extra weight.

In hotels, make sure the locks work on windows and sliding glass/entrance doors before you accept the room. At the Gateway Hotel in Port Moresby, I looked at three rooms before I found one with secure locks. Again for safety, request a room on one of the higher floors.

Do not miss a sing-sing, where the tribes get together and try to outdo each other. The largest sing-sings take place in Mt. Hagen (August) and Goroka (September), but there are smaller ones throughout the year in other towns. Check the Cultural Events Calendar at www.png

tourism.org.pg for dates.

FOOD — Bring nutritious snacks, especially to the Trobriand Islands.

The Sepik River area is extremely hot year-round, so use electrolytes in your drinking water to counteract dehydration.

CLOTHES — In the main cities, due to safety issues, it is best not to look too well outfitted. This is a trip on which it might be a good idea to wear older clothes (you could leave them behind on departure).

If you’re spending time in the lowlands where there are lots of mosquitoes, I suggest spraying your clothes with permethrin (it lasts through six washings) or buying the Buzz Off brand of clothing (now called Insect Shield by ExOfficio), which is impregnated with the insecticide.

In the Sepik River area, use Cutter Advanced with Picaridin in it or DEET, the strongest concentration you can stand. Use fragrance-free toiletries (deodorant, body lotion, shampoo and conditioner). Scented items can attract mosquitoes and other flying insects. Also, your doctor may recommend malaria pills.

SHOPPING — You can find nice golf shirts and T-shirts, good-looking canvas bags and other souvenir items at any of the chain stores Papindo (takes credit cards) and Rainbo Store (cash only). These stores were in most of the cities we visited.

All other souvenir shopping will be at markets and on blankets spread out at the entrance gate to each hotel.

Women crochet and weave bilums (large string bags) to sell. Even if you aren’t interested in buying them, be sure to admire the design and workmanship.

Prices for artifacts seem to be highest in the Trobriand Islands, as they use ebony wood inlay with mother-of-pearl designs on walking sticks, bowls and platters. Prices are reasonable in the highland and coastal areas for baskets, paintings and seed, shell and bone items. Masks and primitive sculptures are inexpensive in the Sepik River area.

If you plan on buying tribal arts, it might be best not to lay over in Australia or New Zealand. Their Customs agents are very picky about seeds, shells, feathers, unbaked clay and some woods.

When shopping you can ask for a “second” price, but I rarely did, especially when buying from the person who made the item.

To see the kinds of art that are available throughout PNG, a good stop in Port Moresby might be PNG Art (Spring Garden Road, Box 264, Waigani, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea; phone +675 325 3976, fax 325 7803 or e-mail pngart@daltron.com.pg). If you don’t find what you are looking for as you travel around the country, you can stop back in and buy just before you return home. Items run from less than $2 to museum-quality pieces. They ship!

MONEY — The currency is the kina, and you need small bills, especially in the Sepik area. Most useful would be 5-kina notes or 10s and 20s.

Papua New Guineans’ culture does not include begging, so do not give things directly to children. If you want to bring school or hospital supplies, etc., give them directly to a school headmaster or a clinic/hospital. Your guide will know where people are the most needy.

Papua New Guinea is a developing country and a good destination for intrepid travelers. It also is the kind of place where things can easily go wrong. You need a good company backing you while you travel. Eldertreks and New Guinea Expeditions were a powerful combination and did an outstanding job.

ESTHER PERICA

Arlington Heights, IL

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

I had the pleasure of taking an outstanding 20-day tour of Papua New Guinea with ElderTreks (Toronto, Ontario, Canada; 800/741-7956, www.eldertreks.com), Sept. 3-23, 2008. The land price was $8,995.

Most companies “do” PNG in 10 to 14 days and tour perhaps a festival and the main cities. ElderTreks’ 20-day program was the only group tour I found which spent three days on Kiriwina in the Trobriand Islands and two nights in a village setting on the Sepik River.

ElderTreks’ Nitin Dhami was a superb guide; he also guides their trips in India. Rex Opa, a national guide from Mt. Hagen, accompanied us the whole time as well. We also had local guides in Port Moresby, Mt. Hagen and Madang and on Kiriwina Island.

Local arrangements were done by New Guinea Expeditions (P.O. Box 1761, Mt. Hagen, Papua New Guinea; phone/ fax +675-542-3382 or e-mail ngexpeditions@dg.com.pg). Steven Tendi, the owner, accompanied us for seven days from Mt. Hagen through Goroka. It is good to know that profits from his company fund an elementary/secondary school he established.

Everything, including bottled water and internal flights, was included on this trip except for the tipping of local guides, drivers and our two main guides.

Our group of 10 traveled on a comfortable Coaster bus, with the luggage in another vehicle. Accommodations were appropriate for where we were — clean and comfortable hotels in cities, a basic lodge on Kiriwina Island and elevated bush houses in the Sepik River area.

These are some things I learned from this trip that may be useful to someone considering a trip to PNG:

IN GENERAL — There are baggage weight restrictions (15 to 20 kilograms, depending on the airline) on internal flights. If you are with a group, your luggage will be weighed together and it may not be a problem. If you are on your own, you may have to pay for the extra weight.

In hotels, make sure the locks work on windows and sliding glass/entrance doors before you accept the room. At the Gateway Hotel in Port Moresby, I looked at three rooms before I found one with secure locks. Again for safety, request a room on one of the higher floors.

Do not miss a sing-sing, where the tribes get together and try to outdo each other. The largest sing-sings take place in Mt. Hagen (August) and Goroka (September), but there are smaller ones throughout the year in other towns. Check the Cultural Events Calendar at www.png

tourism.org.pg for dates.

FOOD — Bring nutritious snacks, especially to the Trobriand Islands.

The Sepik River area is extremely hot year-round, so use electrolytes in your drinking water to counteract dehydration.

CLOTHES — In the main cities, due to safety issues, it is best not to look too well outfitted. This is a trip on which it might be a good idea to wear older clothes (you could leave them behind on departure).

If you’re spending time in the lowlands where there are lots of mosquitoes, I suggest spraying your clothes with permethrin (it lasts through six washings) or buying the Buzz Off brand of clothing (now called Insect Shield by ExOfficio), which is impregnated with the insecticide.

In the Sepik River area, use Cutter Advanced with Picaridin in it or DEET, the strongest concentration you can stand. Use fragrance-free toiletries (deodorant, body lotion, shampoo and conditioner). Scented items can attract mosquitoes and other flying insects. Also, your doctor may recommend malaria pills.

SHOPPING — You can find nice golf shirts and T-shirts, good-looking canvas bags and other souvenir items at any of the chain stores Papindo (takes credit cards) and Rainbo Store (cash only). These stores were in most of the cities we visited.

All other souvenir shopping will be at markets and on blankets spread out at the entrance gate to each hotel.

Women crochet and weave bilums (large string bags) to sell. Even if you aren’t interested in buying them, be sure to admire the design and workmanship.

Prices for artifacts seem to be highest in the Trobriand Islands, as they use ebony wood inlay with mother-of-pearl designs on walking sticks, bowls and platters. Prices are reasonable in the highland and coastal areas for baskets, paintings and seed, shell and bone items. Masks and primitive sculptures are inexpensive in the Sepik River area.

If you plan on buying tribal arts, it might be best not to lay over in Australia or New Zealand. Their Customs agents are very picky about seeds, shells, feathers, unbaked clay and some woods.

When shopping you can ask for a “second” price, but I rarely did, especially when buying from the person who made the item.

To see the kinds of art that are available throughout PNG, a good stop in Port Moresby might be PNG Art (Spring Garden Road, Box 264, Waigani, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea; phone +675 325 3976, fax 325 7803 or e-mail pngart@daltron.com.pg). If you don’t find what you are looking for as you travel around the country, you can stop back in and buy just before you return home. Items run from less than $2 to museum-quality pieces. They ship!

MONEY — The currency is the kina, and you need small bills, especially in the Sepik area. Most useful would be 5-kina notes or 10s and 20s.

Papua New Guineans’ culture does not include begging, so do not give things directly to children. If you want to bring school or hospital supplies, etc., give them directly to a school headmaster or a clinic/hospital. Your guide will know where people are the most needy.

Papua New Guinea is a developing country and a good destination for intrepid travelers. It also is the kind of place where things can easily go wrong. You need a good company backing you while you travel. Eldertreks and New Guinea Expeditions were a powerful combination and did an outstanding job.

ESTHER PERICA

Arlington Heights, IL