Driving rules in Papua New Guinea are essentially the same as in Australia (which, in turn, are similar to the UK), with vehicles driving on the left-hand side of the road.
- All vehicles must display a valid registration and safety sticker, and drivers must carry a valid licence.
- Foreign licences are valid only for the first six months of residency. After that, drivers must obtain a full licence from Motor Vehicles Insurance Limited (MVIL) on Kunai Street in Port Moresby.
Driving in PNG can be a challenge. Potholes are a common occurrence on highways, particularly during the wet season. Take caution when driving through puddles, as they may be much deeper than expected.
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Road discipline is another issue, as police rarely enforce traffic rules. Recklessness, speeding, and driving under the influence happen frequently compared with many other countries and result in many avoidable accidents. Road users must take precautions against any vehicles driving dangerously.
Drivers should also take care of their security whilst driving, as car-jackings, whilst uncommon, do occur. The following are some simple steps to stay safe:
Car alarms and vehicle trackers are available from security firms. These GPS enabled devices have a panic button in case of an emergency, and a patrol vehicle can quickly track your location to ensure you are safe.
Situational awareness in respect to other vehicles is essential. If you suspect that a car is following you, make an unusual manoeuvre, such as circling a roundabout twice, to confirm your suspicions. If a vehicle is following you, drive directly to the nearest police station or safe haven.
Keep car doors locked, particularly when stationary.
When driving, keep enough distance between your car and the vehicle ahead of you to allow you to pull away in case of trouble. Leaving room between your car and the next car is especially important when in a traffic jam as this is a prime opportunity for robbery.
Avoid driving at night where possible and, at minimum, avoid known trouble spots. Port Moresby has several reputable guarded taxi services, which should be considered for travel, especially at night.
Taxis in PNG
Many taxi companies operate in PNG and are identified by the “T” on the number plates. They are typically well branded and are allowed to pick up passengers off the street without pre-booking. Whilst most taxis are safe and reliable, the safety standards of some taxis are questionable.
Taxis must have meters installed but are rarely used. It is therefore prudent to agree on the fare before travelling.
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Several companies specialise in providing secure transportation using high-quality vehicles. These do require a pre-booking, and fares can be paid via an account. These companies will often have different sized cars depending on the requirements, such as a small bus for an airport run. Non-nationals should generally utilise secure taxi services.
Public Transport in Papua New Guinea
PNG has an owner/operator public transport system. Public Motor Vehicles (PMVs) are owned by private companies or individuals and operate on behalf of the public transport system. The typical fare is K1 per trip regardless of the route.
The most common PMVs are 22-seater Toyota Coasters, but large open-back utility trucks, such as an Isuzu flatbed, also qualify as a PMV.
PMV’s are rarely used by non-nationals, particularly in the major cities. There are potential security risks associated with travelling on PMVs or waiting at bus stops. However, in some outer regions, such as Alotau, Kokopo and Kavieng, it’s relatively common to see expats jumping on board a bus.
Domestic Flights in PNG
There are limited roads connecting Port Moresby to the rest of PNG. There are road links into Central Province and running as far as Kerema in Gulf Province.
The main mode of transportation, therefore, is by air.
There are two leading domestic airlines; Air Niugini, PNG’s flagship airline, and PNG Air. There are currently restrictions on domestic travel due to COVID-19; however, all provincial capitals are usually serviced several times a week.
Flights are fairly expensive in PNG, with a Port Moresby to Lae standard fare costing around K800 one way, but with special fares starting at K400.