Getting to Rabaul and Kokopo
Visas for Papua New Guinea
No problem really. Make sure your passport is valid for more than six months. For ordinary short stay tourist or business visas, New Zealanders, Pacific Islanders, Americans, Western Europeans, and some south-east Asians can apply on arrival at Port Moresby airport.
Australians must apply for a visa at a consulate office in Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane, or Cairns BEFORE traveling.
There are other visas for other purposes; for full information on all visas and for application forms, check the PNG Immigration Department site.
Special visas or Permits? Get a REGISTERED agent!
Planning to visit Papua New Guinea to work or for some other longer stay? You will need the right visa and Labor Department clearance. Working through these things is tricky (the writer has first hand experience!!!) and an experienced, registered agent who can lead you through it makes life a lot easier.
Seriously, don't even think of trying to do this stuff yourself and don’t get involved with anyone who is not a registered agent. The results can be disastrous.
Mandel Investments Ltd have been in the business as registered agents for work permits and special visas for two decades. Critically, they are registered with the PNG Department of Labor to act as agents for work and other permits, a registration the Department of Immigration recognizes. They know exactly what information you need to provide and the form in which it needs to be presented so that they can ease the way through the maze for your application. Fees are modest. Call +675 325 0336 / 7168 3871 for immediate contact or check the link for further information and email contact.
Traveling to by Air
Getting to Rabaul and Kokopo is easy and quick for tourists and other travelers. Air Niugini has numerous international flights to Port Moresby from Australia, Singapore, and the Philippines, some with same day connections to the domestic flights to Tokua -- the Kokopo and Rabaul airport. Air Niugini operates from Australia in cooperation with Qantas.
Virgin Airlines flies from Australia to Port Moresby; again same day connections might be possible to fly on to Rabaul airport at Tokua.
The main services are PNG Air and Air Niugini. In general, PNG Air flies smaller planes and its fares are a little cheaper. Both provide an extensive network of flights within Papua New Guinea although to reach Rabaul from other centers and vice versa often is more flexible and economical by PNG Air. Inquire about the best routes and fares.
TIP: If booking a multiple sector trip on Air Niugini on the Internet, beware of getting some kind of non-refundable special fare on some part of the trip which then reduces the fare conditions for the whole trip. Air Niugini's warnings are NOT transparent. PNG Air has them right upfront.
Getting around in Kokopo and Rabaul
Touring in Rabaul, Kokopo, and the Gazelle Peninsula
There are many well qualified tour companies who provide anything from bespoke individual or special group tours, to places in regular tour minibuses or boats.
Tour operators include:
Kokopo Tours - with their own high roof, air conditioned minibus and Tolai owners, staff and guides (so they really know and understand the people and the place), Kokopo Tours provides one day, half day, and custom land and sea tours throughout Rabaul, Kokopo, and the Gazelle Peninsula. Guides are all experienced local people who know the people and place inside out. Kokopo Tours also own the Kokopo Lodge guest house so can provide attractive accommodation plus tour packages. Check their site via the link above or call +675 7270 9261 or 7691 3104. This business is locally owned and run.
Rabaul Volcano & Adventure Tours - is run out of the Rabaul Hotel. The hotel has links with a bunch of specialist local guides conducting walking tours up the two principal volcanoes in Rabaul, Tavurvur (the active one!) and Kombiu (the Mother -- a sleeping giant), and through the Bainings Mountains to Tol Plantation on the south coast of the island -- following the ill-starred escape route of Australian soldiers who survived the Japanese invasion of Rabaul. The guides were all born and bred here and know their stuff; they have led many tours. Call +675 982 1999 to inquire or book or check the link for more information.
Kokopo Hire Cars - offers flat rate hire on Toyota and Mazda double cab 4WD offering self-drive air conditioned comfort and safety on East New Britain's varied roads. All vehicles are fully insured and backed by personal service. Check the link or call +675 7041 4892. Kokopo Hire Cars and its sister business, Kokopo Inn & Backpackers, are locally owned and run.
No. 1 Hire Cars - the Kokopo/Rabaul branch of a national operation with 28 offices. in Kokopo/Rabaul it offers both taxi services and hire cars -- Toyota Hilux double cab 4WD and Toyota "Troopie" 10 passsenger 4WD. All vehicles are fully insured and backed by experienced maintenance and service. Call +675 982 9371 or 7200 9371 / 7280 3636 or follow the link above for more information and fax and email booking. No.1 Hire Cars is located a 100 meters or so from its sister business, No.1 Lodge. They are locally owned and run.
Taxis and buses
There are several taxi services in Kokopo and the local minibus services are reliable and cheap.
Taxis (all 4WD, most double cab utilities or "half cars" as they are called here) can be flagged down on the road or picked up wherever they are parked in town. Many park outside K-Central opposite the market in Kokopo. Ask the driver about the fare beforehand. Rates are similar and reasonable.
Buses are 15 passenger mini-buses that have blue number plates and route numbers plus a letter indicating the sub-route. #8 buses service the town and near town areas in both Kokopo and Rabaul; the fare is a flat 80 toea (about 40 cents) from one end of their run to the other or any distance in between. The #1A bus runs between Kokopo and Rabaul, costs K3.50 ($1.70), and terminates at both ends at the town market. #9A runs between Kokopo and the airport at Tokua, with the fare a measly K2.00 (85¢).
The buses do not run to schedules; they simply run! Within the town area, they pick-up and set-down at designated stops (the market and the Echo store are the terminuses in Kokopo, the market is it in Rabaul, but just ask anyone about where you can catch the bus to your desired destination and they will tell you). Outside the town they stop wherever required.
The buses operate only during daylight -- roughly 6am-6pm year round, with limited service on Sundays and Public Holidays.
One or two hotels and guesthouses offer free transfers, most charge for them, and there are private dedicated services.
There is also the public bus service -- the #9A mini-bus is dedicated to the route between the airport (Tokua) and Kokopo. If you’re happy to muck in with the rest of us going about our daily business, it's a great introduction to Kokopo and Rabaul.
If your luggage is manageable, just step outside the airport building and take the #9A you find waiting there. If one isn't waiting, one will come. The fare to Kokopo is K2.00 (85¢)! If you have a really big bag, be nice and pay double (your bag will take up a seat). Tip the driver an extra K2.00 to drop you off at the door of your accommodation in Kokopo.
Likewise, you can pick up the #9A at the Kokopo market when you are departing, but not for very early morning flights. Big bag? Leave it at the hotel and tip the driver to detour to pick it up.
If you are staying in Rabaul town, you will need to change to a #1A bus at the Kokopo market to complete your trip. K3.50 ($1.70) to Rabaul.