The Ultimate Guide to Port Moresby

Feb. 12, 2018, 3:02 p.m.

Port Moresby Overview

Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea and often called by its abbreviation POM or POM City, is presumed to be the largest city in the South Pacific, with an estimated 2020 population of just over 400,000, and distributed over a surface area of 240 kilometers, which roughly represents 1,500 residents per square kilometer. 

The City of Port Moresby is found on the island of New Guinea, a landmass shared with Indonesia, and lies south-east of the coast of the Papuan Peninsula, to which it significantly outlines the shores of the Gulf of Papua. 

Early History

Port Moresby sits on traditional land largely owned by the Motu-Koitabu people, who were mostly hunters, gatherers and seafarers, that normally traded with other indigenous communities - through the barter system - in the Gulf of Papua (Gulf Province today). 

Following Captain John Moresby’s proclamation of the land as British Empire-owned in 1873, the Queensland State of Australia annexed Papua 10 years later and declared it British-owned. 

In 1945, the United Nations merged the two territories into a trusteeship of Australia. The Territory of Papua and New Guinea had its first general election for its House of Assembly in 1964, preceding subsequent polls in 1968 and 72. 

In December 1973, the territory was granted self-governance and gained independence from Australia, in September of 1975.

After independence 

After independence, Port Moresby became the seat of government and an important hub for the private sector in the post-independence period.

The expansion of the PNG economy – thanks to a thriving extractive industry – triggered  a much needed growth for Port Moresby.  

Successive national governments and municipal authorities rolled out modern facilities, complimenting increased investment in property development by the private sector. 

Today, Port Moresby’s skyline has evolved from low-set buildings to multistory apartment blocks and penthouses.

While the PNG capital benefited over the years from the country’s economic maturity, the United Nations estimated that 37% of PNG’s population still live below the national poverty line, making the country one of the poorest in the world.  

The city’s population has increased dramatically in the last four decades as more Papua New Guineans left their rural communities and migrated to Port Moresby and other urban centers in search of employment opportunities and a new way of life.  


Port Moresby’s economy mainly revolves around the service industry, as output from businesses with a presence in the manufacturing and primary sectors. However, these sectors do not have a major impact on the city’s economic cycle. 

The growth in the service industry has been largely driven by a decade of positive growth in the PNG economy, burgeoned by the construction phase of the $US19 billion ExxonMobil-led PNG LNG Project; the largest resource extraction project in the Asia-Pacific region. Construction at the project site in both the Hela and Central provinces began in 2010, with the first gas export to Japan occurring in May 2014. 

By the end of 2013, the PNG LNG Project had employed over 14,700 people including 5,600 Papua New Guineans. According to ExxonMobil the project delivered over 2.13 million hours of training which focused on developing the technical and professional skills of the workers that were recruited. 

Training facilities run by the company in Port Moresby and the Highlands had trained over 1600 workers since 2011. 

The city’s hosting of the 2015 Pacific Games and the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2016 also led to a massive investment by the PNG National Government in sporting facilities and logistics to the tune of K1.2 billion. 

The public works programs for both international events resulted in more employment for thousands of locals.

Port Moresby’s 2018 APEC and its calendar of monthly meetings culminating with the Leaders’ Summit in November of that year, were expected to create further opportunities in the service industry for local businesses, as approximately 7000-10,000 participants traveled to PNG. 

The construction of the iconic APEC Haus, the venue for the leader’s conference, was underway that time and was scheduled for completion in July of that year.  

Property development

Port Moresby has a burgeoning property market that has evolved from low-set housing in the early years to multistory buildings, apartments and event penthouses in various parts of the city. 

The construction of multistory buildings and apartments for high-end customers were previously restricted to only Touaguba Hill, Paga Hill, Town area, Boroko and East Boroko. However, property investors began moving out of their comfort zones and in search of other suburbs to invest in. 

Today multistory buildings and apartments can be found in Gordons, Gordons 5, Waigani and Seven Mile in a major show of confidence in these suburbs.  

Hot sellers

Property and land sold in and around individual suburbs of Port Moresby especially Touaguba Hill, Paga Hill, the downtown area, Boroko and East Boroko attracted a hefty fee. 

The price for a plot of land or a property (including apartments in a building) located in one of the above suburbs can sell for more than K1 million on the open market. Security and increased accessibility to amenities, and facilities including supermarkets and schools tend to be the driving force that ultimately leverage increased costs.  


The previous government under Peter O’Neil had invested millions of Kina into public works around Port Moresby. New road upgrades, causeways, roundabouts and the Kumul Flyover which directly links Waigani and Jackson’s Airport over Erima Suburb are the fruits of this investment. 

To date, this investment alone amounted to K3.2 billion, not only in Port Moresby, but in other provinces as well. This was part of the then Medium Term Development Plan and the National Transport Strategy 2011-2030.

Water supply

The National Government-owned utility company Eda Ranu is responsible for water and sewerage services to Port Moresby residents. The water quality is guided by the World Health Organization (WHO) Drinking Water Quality Guidelines.  


Port Moresby’s retail sector continues to evolve to this day, and is home to some of the most impressive shopping experiences you can get. Names like Waterfront, RH Hypermarket, Boroko Food World at Gordons, Stop ‘N’ Shop, Harbor City, all make for a great place to start.  

Vision City Mega Mall, Port Moresby’s only integrated shopping complex, and by far the largest shopping mall throughout the South Pacific, is another shopping destination worth your day and time. Dotted with fun shops, a movie theatre, a night club, food bazaars, and low-key bars, there’s no shortage of attractions to go around. 

So when you’re in Port Moresby for shopping, it’s not entirely about what you will buy, but where?

Educational institutions

As with Port Moresby’s retail sector and every other sector that thrives on progress, the city’s education system is no different, thanks to both the public and private education providers.

That in mind, Port Moresby is home to such notable universities as University of Papua New Guinea (or UPNG) which celebrated its 53 years in 2018, and Pacific Adventist University (PAU), which is a 40 minute drive outside of the city.

Pacific Adventist University (PAU) is a 40-minute drive outside Port Moresby and Divine Word University has an NCD campus, which mainly caters for working class students. 

Other institutions include the Institute of Business Studies (IBS), Port Moresby Business College, Port Moresby Technical College, Institute of Education, International Training Institute (ITI) and the International Education Agency (IEA) or TAFE College at Ela Beach. 

For secondary education, you have Port Moresby National High School (POMNATS), Saint Joseph's International Catholic College, Port Moresby Grammar School, Port Moresby International School (POMIS), Jubilee Catholic Secondary School, Caritas, Don Bosco Technological Institute (DBTI), Gordon Secondary School, Kilakila Secondary School, Marianville Secondary School and the De La Salle Secondary School. 


With different ethnicities, and over 800 languages, the beauty of PNG lies in the fact that everyone tends to live in oneness with each other, majority of the time. It’s surprising that though Western culture appears to be dominant in especially a city like Port Moresby, cultures and traditions of old still remain strong among the population, and is proportional to the geographical locations.

With advancement in pace and culture, you would think that by now Papua New Guinea will have succumbed to the dominance of Western culture. Unfortunately, that is half the truth, as traditional lifestyles clearly exalts the topography of each ethnicity in the country. Mannerisms, habits, mindsets, and foods remain purely Papua New Guinean, although there are exceptions such as dress codes and living standards, where both have assumed an upscale trend in major centers.  

Safety And Security

As with any country in the world, there are good parts and bad parts. Of course, crime in Papua New Guinea is no laughing matter. However, there are certain things to do and advice to adhere to, with respect to travelers to PNG to have a safe and enjoyable travel experience.

Sexual violence tends to be a major issue in PNG. While statistics lean more towards Gender Based Violence, one would be foolish enough not to acknowledge that living in PNG poses a different experience for everyone concerned.

As a rule of thumb, Papua New Guinea, for the most part, is safe to visit, because of some of its major tourist attractions that are rich with history and have also received world recognition. While you're in the country and decide to experience the cities, townships, suburbs and villages to ensure a footprint, 9 times out of 10 your travel will be safe.

Problems only come when you’re not in tune with your surroundings, and you wander off the main streets, or end up in an alley or settlement without a local area guide. Since it's easy to get caught up with Port Moresby’s energy and vibrancy, never forget to keep your wits about you.

The gap between the haves and have-nots continue to widen, so be cautious when using your new iPhone, opening your cash-filled wallet, or changing the lenses of your new DSLR camera in public. 


Port Moresby’s population has access to a variety of professional healthcare providers. The publicly-funded Port Moresby General Hospital (PMGH) is PNG’s national referral hospital, and offers first-hand practical experience for trainee-doctors, mainly selected from the UPNG School of Medicine and Health Sciences. 

Port Moresby’s major hospital has an Accidents & Emergency Department that opens 24 hours a day, and charges its patients a subsidized fee unlike private sector providers, who often enforce a pay-first policy.

Other healthcare providers include the Pacific International Hospital (PIH), Paradise Private Hospital, Saint Mary’s Hospital, 2K Medical Clinic, Port Moresby Medical Service, Korobosea Clinic, and Aspen Medical at Konedobu.  


The Jackson International Airport at Seven Mile is the main international gateway into and out of PNG. The airport is 10-15 minutes drive from the Port Moresby CBD, through the Poreporena freeway and Kumul flyover, and is less than 10 minutes from Boroko and Waigani. 

The national carrier Air Niugini offers daily services to the Australian cities of Cairns and Brisbane and weekly services to Singapore, Tokyo, Manila and Nadi (Fiji).


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