Moving to Papua New Guinea 

Jacquelyn Vadnais
Last Edited Mar 27, 2023

Papua New Guinea has experienced a very unique history in that the territory has influences from Spain, Portugal, Germany, Australia, and England. What this unique history has caused is a culture that is quite fragmented, mixed with the impact of colonization and traditional tribes. That being said, due to the extensive exposure that Papua New Guinea has had to English-speaking countries, it has English as one of its three official languages. Even though Papua New Guinea has a very high level of English and a fascinating culture, the complicated history of cultures does create political tensions. In fact, there is currently a major political crisis that is occurring in Papua New Guinea. Expats should tread carefully when considering moving there until some political unrest quiets. 

Quick And Interesting Facts About Papua New Guinea

  • Papua New Guinea belongs to Oceania and can be found east of Indonesia and north of Australia. It is part of the Australasian territory composed of Australia, Eastern Indonesia, New Zealand, and other Pacific islands like the Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.
  • The country was called New Guinea then and was one of the first land masses after humans populated Eurasia and Africa. The first signs of migration for the country were noted during the same time as Australia, making it one of the countries with the oldest cultures in the world.
  • People from Southeast Asia are most likely the first inhabitants of Papua New Guinea, having arrived there between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago during the Ice Age.
  • Ten thousand years ago, Australia and PNG split apart as a result of rising sea levels. The nation was formerly a part of the prehistoric Sahul subcontinent.
  • The capital of PNG is Port Moresby, and it is home to more than 360,000 citizens. Port Moresby is the largest South Pacific City outside New Zealand and Australia.
  • PNG is the world’s second-largest island, occupying a land area of 178,703 square miles. This makes it slightly smaller than the state of California but less significant than Spain.
  • Officially known as the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, it has an area of 462,840 km2, making it the second-largest island country. It is slightly larger than the State of California but smaller than Spain.
  • Papua New Guinea boasts more than 851 languages, making it the most linguistically varied country in the world. Tok Pisin is one of the most popular languages, a creole of the American language with German elements. Note that PNG even has its official sign language. But today, American English is the widely spoken language.
  • This Oceanic country has a tropical climate, with average yearly temperatures ranging from 86 °F to 89.6 °F (30 °C to 32 °C).
  • The country is home to almost a thousand ethnic groups, each with its traditions, music, culture, weaponry, and attire.

Living In Papua New Guinea

The environment in Papua New Guinea allows you to relax and take it easy. It is home to a tight-knit community where everybody is acquainted.

The people in PNG are friendly and value their strong sense of community and inclusivity.

Additionally, since many of the communities are impoverished, ex-pats won’t see a Starbucks, H&M, or McDonald’s’. Living in PNG will make you reassess your needs and priorities.

Cost Of Living In Papua New Guinea

Compared to the US, the cost of living in PNG is relatively lower in almost all aspects. For residents, the cost of living is expensive primarily because opportunities for urbanization abound, infrastructure is undeveloped, and nearly all essentials need to be imported or transported throughout the island.

But for an ex-pat living in PNG, it is more affordable—on average, it costs 15.6% lower than in the US. The cost of rent alone is 8.6% lower in the US, although you can’t expect the same level of convenience and structure on this island.

For a single person living within the city, monthly expenses reach a minimum of ~PGK 17,710 (~$4,963).

Cost Of Building A House In PNG

Houses are expensive in PNG, with a house and lot package costing about ~PGK 300,000 (~$84,078.27) to ~PGK 400,000 (~$112,104.36). It costs this high because most of the country’s land—about 97%—is traditionally owned, with the remaining 3% being titled and state areas.

Titled lands are hard to find, and with the high demand but low supply, the scarcity caused the prices to skyrocket.

Is Papua New Guinea Safe?

Papua New Guinea is not the safest country, so you should exercise a higher degree of caution because certain places in the country have high crime rates.

Overall, the locals are also friendly and try to accommodate tourists, but there is still a higher safety risk for expats. Due to the pervasive poverty that most Papua New Guineans experience, there are risks of assault, burglary, carjacking, hold-ups, muggings, rape, and violent crimes.

Western Influence In Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea, at a larger scale, is still a mystery. Despite some areas of the country embracing and adapting Western influences, there’s still much to discover in this new-age frontier.

Here are some western influences that have made their way to this country:

1. Rugby Is A Popular Sport In Papua New Guinea

Rugby is the most popular and national sport in Papua New Guinea. One of PNG’s goals is to upset the World Cup odds. The national team, known as the Mosquitos, finished as runners-up in the Australian Football International Cup in 2003 and 2005.

Aside from Rugby, cricket is also a sport that Papua New Guineans love, thanks to the British colonizers.

2. Locals Embrace Western Clothes And Footwear

Many locals still opt to wear traditional grass skirts and skimpy loincloths. Bare breasts and naked children are a common sight. However, many have adopted shirts, pants, skirts, and other western clothing.

And while the choice of footwear is still no shoes, some have started wearing slippers and sandals.

3. Cannibalism Is No Longer Practiced

Plump tourists would be at greater risk of being eaten by Papua New Guineans if cannibalism still existed. Most tribes stopped this practice in the 19th century with the arrival of European settlers.

But back then, this was a significant part of their tribal and religious life alongside witchcraft and sorcery. Today, only one tribe in Papua New Guinea still practices cannibalism—the Korowai or Kolufu in SouthEast PNG.

Top Papua New Guinea Beaches

This tropical island is home to some of the world’s best beaches. This is the ultimate destination if you are after a destination that offers Mother Nature at its finest, raw and untouched.

1. Ela Beach, Port Moresby

Located in the capital, this beach is a favourite among locals and tourists because it has become a one-stop shop for recreation and relaxation. Aside from spending the day at the beach, you can also play basketball and volleyball on the courts next to it while children play at the nearby playground.

2. Kamanakam Beach, Kamanakam

Located in Kamanakam, an island in PNG, this isolated but calm beach is the perfect beach destination, complete with white sands and beautiful views for picture taking, sunbathing, and walking. The warm water on this part of the island is perfect for all-day swimming activities.

3. Ahlal Beach, Lihir Island

Ahlal Beach is another remote but easy-to-access island. The shallow waters and gentle waves are ideal for swimming and bodyboarding. It also has a long coastline perfect for strolls and sunbathing, and the nearby limestone caves give you yet another area to explore.

Investment Opportunities In PNG

Natural gas, oil, and mining account for 30% of PNG’s gross domestic product. So, if you are looking into investing in the country, you have to work on these elements.

You can explore the following sectors for some lucrative investment opportunities:

  • Mining services and equipment
  • Building and construction equipment
  • Agriculture services and equipment
  • Fisheries services and equipment
  • Tourism services and equipment

Concluding Remarks

All in all, Papua New Guinea could be the right opportunity for the right expat. What this signifies is that the expat that is going there needs to have entrepreneurial desires or an established position with an international organization or company from their home country. The employment variable will make or break the expat’s potential for making a reliable living while in Papua New Guinea. Thus, expats considering relocating must consider safety precautions and employment in their decision as to whether relocating to Papua New Guinea would be the ideal fit for them and their families. 


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