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Quick Facts
CapitalPort Moresby
Governmentconstitutional monarchy with parliamentary democracy
Currencykina (PGK)
Areatotal: 462,840 sq km
land: 452,860 sq km
water: 9,980 sq km
Population5,172,033 (July 2002 est.)
LanguageEnglish spoken by 1%-2%, pidgin English widespread, Motu spoken in Papua region
note: 715 indigenous languages
ReligionRoman Catholic 22%, Lutheran 16%, Presbyterian/Methodist/London Missionary Society 8%, Anglican 5%, Evangelical Alliance 4%, Seventh-Day Adventist 1%, other Protestant 10%, indigenous beliefs 34%

Papua New Guinea is an island nation in Australasia.

Regions

PNG has 11 regions (7 on the main island and 4 island regions):

  • Bougainville
  • Highlands -- includes Enga, Chimbu and the Southern, Western and Eastern Highlands
  • Huon Gulf -- Morobe province
  • Madang
  • Manus Island
  • Australia - and thus a colony of a colony - until Australian independence, when in 1906 it became an Australian colony. In 1914 the Australians did their part in the Allied war effort and took control of German New Guinea, and continued to administer it as a Trust Territory under the League of Nations and (later) the United Nations.

    During World War II New Guinea was the site of fierce fighting on land (at Buin and on the Kokoda trail) and sea (at the Battle of the Coral Sea) - it was the first place in the war where the Japanese advance was checked and then reversed. After the war, both New Guinea and Papua were adminstered from the government center of Port Moresby on the south coast, in Papua. In 1975, the country - now united as 'Papua New Guinea' - achieved independence from Australia. Today Papua New Guinea continues to be the foremost country in Cairns, Sydney, and Brisbane, Australia; Honiara, Solomon Islands; Manila, Philippines; and Singapore. Cairns.

    By boat

    PNG's ports include Madang, Lae, and Port Moresby on the mainland, Kieta on Bougainville, and Rabaul on New Britain.

    By land

    The only land border is with Irian Jaya, Indonesia, and crossing it involves mountain climbing and trekking through the jungle.

    Get around

    By car

    Papua New Guinea is a strange place when it comes to travel. The tropical conditions, fierce geography, and lack of government capacity means there sort of aren't any paved roads in the country. With the exception of a brief span of road connecting it to the immediate hinterland, there are no major roads linking Port Moresby to any other city. On the north coast, a tenuous highway theoretically runs from Madang to Wewak.

    The big exception to this is the Highlands Highway, which begins in Lae (the country's main port) and runs up into the highlands through Goroka to Mt. Hagen. Shortly outside Mt. Hagen the road branches, with southern line going through the Southern Highlands to Tari while the northern line runs through Enga province and ends in Porgera.

    By Public Motor Vehicles (PMV)

    It is also possible to travel via bus/PMV, which is the preferred way of travelling by the locals. From Lae Madang, Goroka and Mount Hagen can easily be reached. As a newcomer it is probably adviseable to get help from locals (e.g. hotel-staff). Most towns have several starting points. A trip from Lae to Madang costs between 20 Kina, to Hagen 30 Kina.

    By plane

    Papua New Guinea has historically been one of the world centers for aviation and still features some of the most spectacular flying in the world. In the 1920s, Lae was the busiest airport in the world - it was there that aviators in the gold mining industry first proved that it was commercially feasible to ship cargo (and not just people) by air. In fact, Lae was where Amelia Earhart set off on her last journey.

    Air transport is still the most common way to get around between major urban centers - indeed, pretty much every major settlement is built around an airstrip. In fact, the main drag of Mt. Hagen is the old airstrip! Travel from the coast into the highlands is particularly spectacular (don't take your eyes off the window for a second!) and pilots from America, Australia, and other countries work in PNG at reduced salaries just for the great flying. If you don't like small planes (or even smaller helicopters!) however, flying in PNG may not be the best option for you.

    By boat

    People living in PNG's archipelagos get around locally with the ubiquitous banana boat - a thirty or forty foot fiberglass hull with an outboard motor. In addition, two or three shipping lines also sell tickets for passengers who want to leapfrog from one city to another. Sleeping on the open deck of a ship as it crawls slowly through the South Pacific night is about as romantic as it sounds, but beware - it gets cold on the open ocean no matter where you are, so come with some warm clothes or buy a room indoor.

    Talk

    With over 700 languages with names like Asaro, Gahuku, Tairora, and Podopa (or Folopa), it can be pretty difficult to get everyone talking to each other. Two pidgins grew up in this area, Tok Pisin and Hiri Motu, and when the Anglophones married the Hulis and the babies learned the only language they have in common, Tok Pisin became a creole. Tok Pisin sometimes looks like it's English written phonetically ("Yu dring, yu draiv, yu dai"), but it isn't; it has more personal pronouns than English and its own quite different syntax.

    Tok Pisin is spoken in most of the country. Hiri Motu is spoken in Port Moresby and other parts of Papua, though since Port Moresby is the capital, you're likely to find Tok Pisin speakers in the airport, banks, or government.

    Buy

    Eat

    PNG food is largely devoid of spices. A typical way of cooking is a mumu, an underground oven in which meat and vegetables, such as kaukau (sweet potatoes), are cooked.

    Drink

    Papuans are fond of their local beers - or indeed any beers for that matter.

    While the water quality varies from place to place (and in some cases from day to day), it is generally best to stick to bottled water, even in the upper-market hotels.

    GOODBYE          LANUAGE
    

    Learn

    Newspapers

    Papua New Guinea has two daily newspapers that include up-to-date exchange rates and other important information:

    • Malaria can be a hazard as well, although many villages - particularly those connected to industry - are regularly treated for mosquitos. Take the normal precautions against mosquito and mosquito-borne diseases if in doubt.

      Respect

      As in many Melanesian cultures, greeting people with a friendly handshake is very important. Be aware, however, that it is a sign of respect not to make eye contact when this is being done. The sight of hotel staff calling you by name, shaking your hand and looking respectfully at the floor is an unusual one at first, but one you will soon get used to.

      Contact

      External links