My initial travels to papua New Guinea had only been in transit, but they had not given me a greta impression. On at least two occasions I was ripped off at the airport, so had no great desire to go.
Work though was to intervene and I found myself going to visit the Mt Hagen Festival in Papua New Guinea.
Entering Port Moresby
Unless you travel overland from West Papua, or more recently from the Solomon Islands you will need to fly to Port Moresby in order to enter Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Port Moresby, or POM as the locals call it is known as one of the most dangerous cities in the world, and this is for good reason. There is high unemployment, high poverty, as well as gangs known as Raskals that demonize the population.
This makes Port Moresby at nest a transit point, with even areas next to high end hotels (which all have huge walls) still dangerous. This was something I was to find out the hard way when I ended up getting robbed outside of the Holiday Inn.
Getting out of POM
When you finally do get out of Port Moresby and particularly to highlands of Mount Hagen though you immediately see that things are different. Yes there is still hordes of people and indeed poverty, but the whole atmosphere and attitude is different.
People are much more friendly and you can actually go out at night, although you will still need local protection to this.
You will also find that the people of Papua New Guinea re some of the friendliest and most heartwarming in the world, with locals feeling the biggest brunt of what the media perceives them to be. This was something emphasized to us when we saw a traditional show at a village when an elder got up and said “please tell people what PNG people are really like and what the situation is here”, something we all agreed to do.
Since then I have traveled the length and breadth of the country and not only made fine friends, but also seen how resilient the people of PNG are. Overall I would also say that outside of the capital thew danger levels are also much lower, with perhaps the exception of Lae.
How dangerous is Bougainville?
The autonomous Region of Bougainville has traditionally been see as one of the most dangerous parts of Papua New Guinea, but is this a fir assumption? The reason for people thinking this has been the long civil war that the area went through, as well as the huge amount of guns that came with this.
Modern Bougainville though in actuality feels like one of the safest places in Papua New Guinea, with is not only staying in homestay, but also feeling it safe enough to walk around independently at night. Yes the country has had its troubles (https://www.easternangle.com/road-to-bouganville-independence/), but people are trying to move on.
And move on it has, with there now being a burgeoning tourism industry, which includes Island Hopping, as well as cultural tours around what might become the newest country in the world.
So, while Papua New Guinea does have its problems and its dangers, it is nowhere near as bad as the media makes out, and is truly a great place to visit (https://www.youngpioneertours.com/papua-new-guinea-tour/)