Your guide to being an expatriate in Papua New Guinea

Caffeinate Your Papua New Guinea Expat Journey: Find Essential Info and Connect with Expatriates Today!

Papua New Guinea, officially known as the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, is a nation in the Pacific Ocean. Known for its rugged terrain, lush vegetation, and diverse ethnic groups, Papua New Guinea is both a developing country and a former British and Australian territory. Located at the eastern end of the island of New Guinea, the country spans 462,840 square kilometers, making it the 31st largest country in terms of size. As of 2021, Papua New Guinea is home to approximately 8.8 million people, the majority of whom are engaged in subsistence agriculture, forestry, and fishing.

Papua New Guinea

Expat destinations in Papua New Guinea

Demographics of Papua New Guinea:

Ethnic groups

Papua New Guinea is a melting pot of over 850 indigenous ethnic groups, with the Highlands, Sepik, and New Guinea Islands regions each having distinct languages and cultural traditions.


The majority of the population speaks one of the over 820 indigenous languages, including Tok Pisin, which is used as a lingua franca, and English, which is mainly used for government and educational purposes. Melanesian Pidgin (Nau) and Bislama are also popular.

Religion Overview

Papua New Guinea has a diverse population, and so it is not surprising that this melting pot of people has several religious practices. The Christian community has witnessed unparalleled growth, and various Protestant and Catholic denominations exist. Apart from Christianity, indigenous and traditional belief systems continue to be commonly held beliefs and are intricately integrated into daily life. Traditional animistic religions still occupy significant corners, especially in rural communities.

Major Religions


Papua New Guinea lies on the north-eastern coast of Australia, and due to its location, it enjoys a tropical monsoon climate characterized by high humidity and temperatures ranging from 22°C–32°C (72°F–90°F). The climate types range from tropical rainforest in the lowlands, to mountainous highlands, to coastal marine, forming a distinct pattern. As the location is close to the equator, there is almost uniform moisture, heat, and light in different parts of the country.

Economy Overview

Since independence, Papua New Guinea has been progressing towards economic stability. It is ranked as the 149th largest economy in terms of nominal GDP (PPP) and the 128th largest economy based on nominal GDP (nominal) by the IMF. Major sources of income in Papua NewGuinea include agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and mining. Agriculture remains the largest contributing sector, accounting for about 28% of the GDP, with exports earning over US$250 million annually and employing 85% of the population.

Key Industries

  • Agriculture
  • Tourism
  • Forestry
  • Fishing
  • Coffee plantation
  • Paper industry
  • Copper mining
  • Gold mining

Major Companies

  • Kokopo Mining
  • OK Tedi Mining Ltd
  • Namoi Resources
  • XAGERA Resources
  • Gold Fields (Papua New Guinea)
  • Anglo American,
  • Highlands Pacific Ltd
  • Newcrest Mining
  • Kerarias Mining

Culture and Language Overview

The indigenous culture of Papua New Guinea is vibrant and colorful. The country's rich biodiversity is celebrated through traditional rituals, festivals, and ceremonies, which are an integral part of the community's lifestyle. The art forms of these cultures include wood carvings, hand carvings, face paint, and traditional masks and costumes.

Cultural Highlights

  • Hagen plain-mud men festival - A colorful and vibrant display of cultural heritage that lasts almost three months and brings together the community members for traditional festivities and events.
  • Kari Festival - A Halloween celebration that draws a significant number of people, both locals and foreigners, and is perhaps one of the few fun Halloween festivals worldwide.
  • Morobe Show - A 7-day national event held annually featuring a wide variety of cultural activities that includes displays of traditional dances, competitions for cultural costumes and contests for intricately designed headdresses.
  • Trobriand Cricket - A cricket style game with a few unique twists. Cricket played in the Trobriand Islands - a unique form of cricket with changes to the rules that have evolved according to traditional customs, incorporating betel nut chewing while playing and modified equipment with small but hard balls.
  • Sepik River People Festival - A 10-day cultural extravaganza that is held in Wewak, featuring vibrant cultural shows, live music, traditional and modern dance performances, as well as food and craft markets, sports, and displays by local artists.
  • Alyungula Mask Festival - Previously known as the Dani mask festival, an intricate ceremony performed by the Dani people, now an integral facet of the cultural heritage festival 'Red Pasin' held annually in the Baliem Valley.

Geography and Landmarks Overview

Papua New Guinea is a land of natural wonders, which make it magnetic and captivating. Its rich biodiversity, notable fauna and flora, badlands, mountainous ranges, and lush green forests attract a growing number of travelers each year. Some popular sites of scenic natural beauty include Mount Wilhelm, Kokopo, and Kimbe Bay.

Notable Landmarks

  • Mount Hagen - Scenic mountain located in eastern Highlands Province, renowned for its picturesque landscapes and cool climate, where rare bird species and orchids thrive.
  • The Baining People's Fire Dance - An intricately performed cultural ceremony that is both mesmerizing and enchanting, where circular earthen mounds are set alight, and the fire dancers twirl around them.
  • Kokopo - A coastal town renowned for its spectacular beaches and hiking trails. Kokopo is also known as the gateway to the famous volcano, Mount Pangin.
  • Kimbe Bay - Known for its warm tropical waters, this stunning bay hosts an astonishing collection of coral and marine life, including the endangered Dugong, and makes for an underwater paradise for scuba divers and snorkelers.
  • Wafi's Chamber - An intriguing underground labyrinthine burial site believed to date back around 2,000 years found near Kainantu, in Papua New Guinea's Eastern Highlands Province.
  • Mount Wilhelm - The highest mountain in Papua New Guinea, which rises to an elevation of 4,509 meters, forming the country's highest peak.

National Holidays

  • New Year's Day (January 1)
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Sunday
  • Christmas Day (December 25)
  • Boxing Day (December 26)
  • Cultural Diversity Day (January 16)
  • Independence Day (August 16)
  • Sir Michael Somare Day (July 3-- Birthday of Papua New Guinea's founding father)
  • Loyalty Day (January 31-- Celebrating Papua New Guinea's loyalty to the British Monarch as its Head of State)
  • Kokoda Day (21st November-- marks the beginning of the Kokoda Campaign, a significant episode in Papua New Guinea's history)

Political Stability

Papua New Guinea's government is a parliamentary democracy, with the head of state being the Governor-General, and the head of government being the Prime Minister. Papua New Guinea has two distinct branches, the legislive branch, and the executive branch. The country's political stability has been an ongoing challenge since independence, primarily due to over 300 ethnic and linguistic groups, resulting in political, economic, social, and linguistic divisions maintaining an uneasy balance. Corruption poses a severe challenge to the country's political and economic stability, often triggering public distress and protest. Immense economic, social, and political challenges continue to test the country's resilience and democratic institutions' effectiveness.

Find out more about expats in Oceania

Latest articles for expats living in Papua New Guinea