Secrets to budget traveling in Papua New Guinea
The last months of the year are usually reserved for snowball fights, sled rides and hot chocolate enjoyed by the fire. But for those of you who want to shake things up a bit, it might be nice to have some fun under the sun while during these otherwise cold bitter months. Let the rest of mankind pile on layer after layer of thick clothing as you get ready to strip down to your bikini and dive into warm, clear waters. Does that sound fun to you? If your answer is a resounding “yes”, then back your bags, get on a plane, and jet off to Papua New Guinea.
Now, you might have heard that travelers hoping to spend a nice, quiet holiday in Papua New Guinea have to be ready to dig deep in their pockets to fund their getaway. Well, we’re here to brighten your day and share with you some secrets on how you can afford to make your vacation plans come true. Papua New Guinea may be on the lower part of the list of developed countries, but it sure does have expensive digs for tourists. We reckon that if you stick around and read some of our tips, you’ll be on your way there in no time.
1. Ask around and see if any locals will open their homes for you
Lots of hotels in Papua New Guinea cater mainly to travelling businessmen and delegates. You can try the various guesthouses you’ll see by the roadside, but you will most likely be unable to find a room that will cost less than 100 kina (equivalent to around US 35 dollars). If you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of comfort, you can always stay with a family in their own home and get your lodging for free.
If you’re able to find a family will be willing to take you in for a couple of days, the usual accommodations will be a thin mattress laid out on the floor and some pretty lumpy pillows. But these can be easily overlooked when you think about how the locals are very friendly even towards strangers and are almost always happy to play host to visiting foreigners. If you’re not sure how to go about it, you can simply ask anyone on the street if they have some room to spare at home. Chances are, you won’t look for long. The safest place you can ask around in would be a church, which the town has lots of. You can try visiting the Catholic churches over at Kavieng or perhaps Vanimo, because these actually have guesthouses that are intended for clergy who sometimes come to visit. If it so happens that the rooms are free when you’re in town, you can stay there and pay a small amount.
Travelers who stay with families are advised to offer a small token or gift to their hosts as a sign of appreciation for their time and trouble. It doesn’t have to be grand or expensive; for example, you can volunteer to buy some food for the household for the day, or perhaps give a small amount, say 20 to 30 kina. Other families are willing to accept money from foreigners, but don’t be too surprised if others won’t even let you buy a couple of beers.
2. Scout for some cheap plane tickets
Because Papua New Guinea’s terrain is mountainous, this area doesn’t have a network of roads that serve as the main thoroughfare for the locals. If you want to get around the area, the easiest and most practical way would be by flying.
Papua New Guinea has two local airlines namely Airlines PNG and also Air Niugini. Comparing the two, Airlines PNG is the cheaper option, but it still doesn’t provide you with a means of transportation to all areas of the island. Direct flights are few and far between, and wherever it is you want to go, all of them connect via Port Moresby.
Most flights here make stopovers at major ports. To solve this transportation dilemma, the secret is to get on a plane for the first leg of the trip, and then finding another flight and hopping aboard that plane until you reach your desired destination. Planning your trip may involve some research time, and you’ll have to get ready to shuffle from one flight to the next, but the overall advantage for you is that you’ll be saving more money and in fact, time in the air as well.
Also, don’t be afraid to skip the major airlines when you get there. For a smaller amount, the Mission Aviation Fellowship will offer you seats if they have room to spare. The MAF is a group that transports missionaries on outreach programs to far flung villages and also larger towns.
3. Hire a boat
The capital of Papua New Guinea which is Port Moresby, is frequented by sailors who are looking for some supplies and materials or equipment needed to maintain their boats. A lot of these sailors continue to the other coastal island after making a quick stop here. If you’re willing to lend your services for free transportation, you can offer yourself to the crew members as an extra hand on the boat. Some of the crew members will actually be happy to have you on board; aside from having a new face, the workload is also easier for the time being. It’s a common practice here, so don’t be too shy to offer free labor, especially if you know your way around a boat. You can even inquire at Royal Papua Yacht Club if you need some help.
4. Join the locals on the PMVs
Despite the dominance of airplanes in the local transportation sector, there are PMVs or Public Motor Vehicles that ply the roads of Papua New Guinea. These serve as the main form of transportation for a lot of the locals. The PMV is basically a bus with around 15 seats for passengers. There are bus stops all over the island and the buses leave on a regular schedule; the fare costs less to nothing, which is another bonus for all you budget travelers out there. A few helpful reminders to our travelers: don’t expect these buses to arrive at their destination on time, the road conditions for the day greatly affect the length of time you spend on the road; also avoid going on a trip after 5pm because that’s usually the time when the razkols or petty criminals are up and about.
5. Visit the local markets
You will be able to find some supermarkets in Papua New Guinea that sell familiar products usually imported from Asia or perhaps Australia. Unfortunately, by the time the products get here, they end up costing more than they would back in Australia. A lot of the local residents here actually grow the ingredients they need for their meals, and this means that markets don’t usually sell expensive groceries even though they’re also imported.
Haggling isn’t really the trend in Papua New Guinea, so most of the prices you’ll find in markets are fixed. The fare may not have much variety (choices mainly revolve around canned fish, sweet potatoes, and also crackers), but you sure won’t be sorry after you check your budget and see that you still have lots of cash left in your wallet.
6. Ask for help from the TPA or the Tourism Promotion Authority
First time travelers to Papua New Guinea might be surprised at the absence of tourism desks in the entire island. If you need some help and don’t have a travel agent, you can consult with the TPA or Tourism Promotion Authority which is based in the capital of Port Moresby. It’s not exactly an information desk for tourists, but the staff is are always willing to help you and answer and inquiries. If you take the time to tell them what you want to accomplish or experience during your trip, they till go to the trouble of hooking you up with the right people such as tour operators or perhaps guesthouses. They can give you options that are within the means of your budget.