The vast majority of visitors to Papua New Guinea arrive by air at Port Moresby’s Jacksons Airport with nothing more than a passport with six months’ validity, an onward ticket and enough money to support themselves for the length of their stay. Visas are currently free of charge, but this could change, so check www.immigration.gov.pg before you leave. Another option is to cross PNG’s only land border from Jayapura (Papua Province, Indonesia) to Vanimo in the Sandaun Province.

Flights and tours can be booked online at lonely planet.com/bookings.

Customs Regulations

Visitors to PNG are permitted the following:

  • 200 cigarettes (or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco)
  • 2L of alcohol
  • 1L or 500g of perfume
  • New goods to the value of K1000. Exceed this K1000 threshold and things get ugly. One way to get around this is to ditch the packaging before you board the PNG-bound plane.

Since most people fly into and out of PNG from Australia, the customs and quarantine restrictions that apply in Australia are particularly pertinent. If anything you are carrying is deemed a quarantine risk, you’ll have to pay to have it fumigated, a process that can take several days, and if you have a same-day onward connecting flight, you can kiss your artefacts goodbye. Post can be a good alternative.

Items that will see you starring in an Aussie border-security reality TV show include the following:

  • Animal parts, such as skin (often used on Kundu drums), teeth or feathers. Clean feathers are okay, but cassowary feathers are illegal.
  • Polished wood won’t cause much alarm, but anything with bark is deemed risky.
  • Woodcarvings must not have the telltale holes of burrowing insects, or else they will be fumigated at the owner's expense.
  • No grass or seeds, but shells are fine.
  • Bukaware (basketry) itself is fine, but small bugs love to hide in the weaving, so this sometimes raises alarms.
  • Betel nuts, fruit and other plant material.

Finally, anything created before 1960, including traditional stone tools, WWII relics, certain shell valuables, and any item incorporating human remains or bird of paradise plumes, cannot be exported. If you are uncertain of what your purchases are made of, get them checked at the National Museum in Port Moresby.

Visas

All nationalities require a visa to visit PNG and must have a valid passport or internationally recognised travel document valid for at least six months beyond the date of entry. There are heavy penalties for overstaying any visa.

For the latest on regulations pertaining to tourist, working and business visas visit the Immigration & Citizenship Service Authority (www.immigration.gov.pg).

Tourist Visas

There are two ways to get a tourist visa.

On arrival Western Europeans, Americans, New Zealanders and citizens of most Pacific countries (except Australia) can obtain a 60-day tourist visa on arrival for free. The diplomatic stoush that resulted in Australia being dropped from the visa-on-arrival list may well be resolved by the time you read this. At the time of research there were plans to allow visa on arrival for Australians arriving at Alotau (Gurney airport), Mt Hagen, Kokopo and Madang on yet-to-be-scheduled direct flights. The process is simple enough: once inside the terminal, fill out a form, and take one passport photo to the immigration desk. This process can be fraught, however, if you have a same-day connecting flight out of Port Moresby into the provinces – the queues can be very long and the process can take hours.

In advance Australians are among those who must get a visa in advance. A 60-day tourist visa can also be obtained (again no fee) at any PNG diplomatic mission.

Working Visas

Applying for a business visa requires all manner of letters from home (including letters of invitations from businesses) and PNG, as well as details of your business. Approval can take months, so start early. A Business Short-Term Multiple-Entry visa is valid for 12 months and allows stays of up to 60 days each time and costs A$220. If you are seeking an employment visa, you must provide certain medical results, details for a police clearance, a copy of your employment contract and a copy of a Work Permit issued by the PNG Department of Labour & Employment.

Church and aid volunteers can enter on a special A$25 visa (plus A$50 ‘transmission fee’) but the issuing authorities are required to wait for special immigration department approval. Researchers, filmmakers and journalists must submit their visa applications with a special application form from the National Research Institute. They cost A$25 (visas for journalists cost A$220).

Visa Extensions

Tourist visas can be extended once only, for one month, for a K400 fee. To do it yourself, go to the Department of Foreign Affairs’ immigration section, where you’ll battle hordes of agents who are on first-name terms with the staff. Extending a visa takes one to two weeks, though occasionally travellers do it faster.

If money is not too tight, using an agent will save you a lot of grief. Agents can be found in the Yellow Pages under ‘Visa Services’.

Seaman Pass

Cruise ship passengers do not need a visa provided they have a seaman pass. If you do not have this pass, you will be required to pay for a K100 tourist visa.