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The Just Student Jobs Country guide for gap year travel in Papua New Guinea

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Papua New Guinea

Population: 5.9m

Literacy rate: 57.3%

Life expectancy at birth: 66 years

Infant mortality rate: 46.67 deaths/1,000 live births

Population growth rate: 2.1%

GDP growth rate: 6.2%

GDP per capita: £1,464

Unemployment: 1.9% officially, but up to 80% in urban areas

Inflation: 1.8%

Climate: tropical; northwest monsoon (December to March), southeast monsoon (May to October); slight seasonal temperature variation

Time: GMT + 10.

Electricity: 240 volts AC, 50Hz. Australian-style 3-pin plugs are in use. Some hotels provide 110-volt outlets in guest-rooms.

Capital city: Port Moresby

Currency: Kina (ïkina 5.417 as of 5/05/08)

Language: Melanesian Pidgin, 1-2% speak English

Papua New Guinea (PNG) will be a fascinating destination to anyone seeking natural wilderness, jaw dropping landscapes, lost cultures, tropical jungles and mountainous terrain. Indeed, the country's jungles are home to the rather appealing tree kangaroo, a descendant of the Australian kangaroo.

Crystal clear blue waters also offer scuba diving and snorkeling and plentiful wrecks have become artificial reefs teeming with marine life. The famous Kokoda Trail, a single- file foot through fare covering a 96km distance between the North and South coasts of PNG, was the scene of bitter fighting between Japanese and Australian soldiers in World War 11. The Australians aided by Papuan villagers known as 'Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels' were able to survive in the grueling jungle conditions and fend off the Japanese. Many of these villages still exist along the 5-8 day jungle trek.

The capital of PNG (Port Moresby) is a thriving modern town of some 125,000 inhabitants. The rest of the country is 70% covered by tropical rain forest and PNG has the dubious title of constituting the world's largest swamp. The country is situated along the so called Pacific 'Ring of Fire' PNG can suffer from active volcanism leaving it subject to earthquake, tsunamis and mudslides.

Culturally Papuans are incredibly diverse, especially away from Port Moresby. Some of the terrain is mountainous (highest peak: Mount Wilhelm, 4,508m) and separates tribes to such a degree that their languages are mutually unintelligible. Currently there are over 700 languages in use, and recently (1983) a hitherto unknown tribe was discovered - the Hagahai. Most of the tribes maintain their own art, dance, weaponry and costumes as well as language. The Majority of the tribes survive by subsistence farming. Sweet potato, taro and more rarely Oceanic pig meat are the stable diet. Great respect is awarded to skilled hunters, fishermen and arable farmers.

Industrial scale agriculture is the mainstay of the internal economy and coffee, palm oil, cocoa beans and rubber are exported. Gold was discovered at Port Moresby in the 1870s, and is still mined. Mineral exports provide some 60% of foreign earnings. Environmental challenges resulting from this include deforestation of rain forest for timber (PNG is at risk of losing half it's rain forest by 2021 is logging continues unabated), drought and mining pollution.

Despite some success as a mineral exporter, 37% of the population are estimated to live below the poverty line. Indeed, in 2007 -2008 Australia donated more than ñ50m in aid representing 20% of the PNG national budget. By far the poorest country in the Australasia region GDP per capita in PNG measures only 8% of that enjoyed by their Australian neighbours bringing something of an urban crime problem to Port Moresby. Some wild areas are also controlled by bandits. The many political challenges facing the democratically elected government of Sir Michael Somare include tackling corruption, health care and education problems and improving economic infrastructure to attract foreign investment. Disease can be a significant risk in PNG with bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, typhoid, dengue fever and malaria prevalent. Anti malarial tablets, DEET, up to date injections and water purifying tablets are all musts here. There is also a high level of HIV and AIDS infection in Port Moresby to be wary of.


Papua New Guinea is of course synonymous in popular western culture with cannibalism. Indeed, it was practised by the Korowai and Kombai tribes in South Eastern PNG as late as the 1970s as an integral part of tribal war rituals. Historically the ingestion of some part of the body of a conquered enemy has been common place - performed in Europe, Africa, South America, New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and Indonesia. The Australian administration outlawed cannibalism in Papua New Guineau as late as 1959 in order to control the spread of a nasty disease known as Kuru (literally meaning trembling with fear). A fatal disease, with similar effects to CJD and BSE, it was more prevalent among female tribe members who customarily ate the brain of a defeated enemy.

Entry requirements

Visas can be obtained on arrival at Jackson's International Airport for a maximum stay of 60 days however it’s probably best to lodge an application with the Papua New Guinea High Commission before you leave.


Check with your doctor/health authority.

Tax and Insurance

No information on tax. Health insurance is a good idea.

Gap Year Programmes

Click here to find gap year programmes and placements in Papua New Guinea

Map and statistics taken from the CIA World Fact Book.

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