Is Port Moresby the worst place in the world to live?

According to The Telegraph in the UK, Port Moresby is the 2nd worst place to live IN THE WORLD!!  Over the past 5 years that we have been here, Port Moresby is often ranked as one of the most unliveable cities in the world, however who makes this shit up?

A couple of things have gotten me a little bit peaved over the past few weeks, firstly, that Port Moresby is ranked the 2nd worst city to live in, and secondly that two tourists came underprepared to do Kokoda, got themselves in the shit, and are bagging the hell out of PNG.

So, it begs the question?

Is Port Moresby the 2nd worst city in the world to live in?

So lets break down what they think makes Port Moresby so bad (according to all these people that most likely have never lived here)..

1. Rape and Murder happen everyday to unsuspecting expats (not true)

2. Carjackings are rife – you can’t leave your compound without someone trying to rob you or your car (not true)

3. You can’t wear jewellery or show too much skin – just in case the locals get a little lusty or try to rob you (not true)

4. You can’t walk anywhere and need to be escorted by security to buy some bread (not true)

5. Everybody you meet is corrupt (not true)

Since we have been here, yes, there have been rapes and murders, yes, there have been carjackings, yes, people have been robbed, yes, some people get escorted to buy a loaf of bread, and yes, some people are corrupt.  And yes – this happens anywhere in the world – not just Port Moresby.

Instead of focusing on the negative parts of a city – why don’t we focus on the positive.

1. The people are amazing!

2. It’s a special treat to be invited to a villiage – people pay lots of money to do this in Vanuatu, here, you need to earn someones respect before – different cost, but so worth it

3. Traditional “sing sings” dances and song happen all year round – always an occasion to treasure

4. You have some of the best fishing at your door step

5. Every weekend you could be: surfing, camping, horse riding, mountain climbing, sailing, fishing (big game, river etc), diving, trekking, bird watching, snorkling, waterskiing, wakeboarding, kitesurfing, swimming, lying in a hammock, sitting by the pool, going to parties, playing golf, shooting guns at the gun club, offroad motorbikes, paintball, lawnbowls, watching local rugby comps, tennis, squash, road cycling, running (or walking), shopping at the market…. sounds like a pacific paradise doesn’t it.

In fact there is so much to list – I think that the actions of some of my friends here speak volumes.

Whilst lots of expat’s rush back to their home country for “breaks” or holidays, they take holidays and stay here in Port Moresby, relax by the pool, go fishing, have a dive, read a book, eat papaya and mango, drink pina colada, get a sun tan…  yes – Port Moresby can be one of those places where your time off can be as relaxing or as exciting as you make it.

If you look beyond the compound walls, in fact – if you stop thinking them as compound’s, but rather gated communities – then you will come to realise that living in Port Moresby isn’t the worst in the world for expatriates – in fact, it’s pretty damn good.

Sadly though, living in Moresby is extremely difficult for our Papua New Guinea friends, high rent, squatter settlements, poverty, lack of villiage food etc all add to a melting pot of different cultures, some still at tribal war with each other creating the “not so nice” side of Port Moresby.  And tribal conflict back in the villiage can add to or create conflict here in the city.  So many people live a traditional way of life, and the impact of the city on this is vast.  Land ownership in the middle of the jungle is defined by tradition, or conquest, or marriage – here, it’s defined by how much money you have…  And if you have no money – they you find land where no-one is living (or looks like no-one has claimed) and you start afresh not knowing that the land is owned by someone in a suit living and working in the city, or a company that is earmarking an area for city expansion…

One of my team recently purchased his first haus, a brand new 3 bedroom unit, fully furnished.  He moved in with his wife and 3 kids before christmas – I’ve been so happy for him…  but the funky thing is, that his brand new haus is cheaper than renting, he was fortunate than he was able to save enough for a deposit and of course our company home ownership scheme really does help.  And to top it off – he’s in his 20’s…  pretty damn awesome.  but pretty damn hard.

This last few weeks have also had the Kokoda Track in the limelight for all the wrong reasons.  Two tourists that set out on the Kokoda (one of the hardest walks in the world) in sneakers, without provisions, nor sleeping bag, nor arranged guide etc etc etc – what the hell were they thinking.  Anyway, they claimed they were assaulted, she was raped and they ran (naked, with no shoes – even though they were clothed in the clothes they left in when they got back) 24km’s through the hardest terrain in the world to get help (almost as fast as the record holder for the fastest running across the Kokoda Track).  Charlie Lynn who is a guide (and former Australian Politician, and Vietnam Vet) debunks the whole story.  And I am siding with Charlie nothing that they have said or done rings true, not from the people of Kokoda, nor even what I know of the Track.  In my opinion, it seems that they realised 1. they were in trouble and underestimated how hard Kokoda is, 2. they realised that they weren’t going to make their flight out of PNG, 3. they could claim being chased by cannibals as PNG is “like that – apparently”, 4. They might make some money selling their story of terror to the british papers, 4. PNG is so remote, no one here would know about the story.
And now he (the male) is calling Charlie out for “protecting his job” – what a load of crap.  Charlie is rightly protecting the people of Kokoda from defamatory accusations.  If what they say is true, then I expect they would have no problem coming back to PNG to stand before the young men accused of this crime and telling PNG and world what really happened.

PNG gets a bad rap at times, yes, some of it is true, and some of it is very scary.  But most of us can smell a story a mile away, and because the two tourists ultimately fabricated a lot of the “story” it puts lots and lots of doubt on the rest of the story.

If you want to come to PNG – be prepared.  If you want to do Kokoda, do it properly.  If you want to bag PNG and it’s people, be prepared to back it up.

18 thoughts on “Is Port Moresby the worst place in the world to live?

  1. Thanks for this post – how I miss PNG!! Yes, there are challenges but there are so many more rewards. And don’t even get me started on those two Kokoda “trekkers”… I have been furious from afar.

  2. Hi Aaron,

    Enjoyed your blog.

    I am from Turkey and I got an offer from POM to build some military buildings for U.S. I have been working in Middle East for 4 years in Sultanate of Oman and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia . actually right now i am located at Kingdom but my contract expires end of this month.

    If I want to compare KSA and POM i can see only 3 colors in this country Black for women (abaya which is mandotry to wear it in ksa) white for man ( the traditional arab male clothes) yellow for sand and all the buildings. I think coming such a colorful country will be a big difference for me. but in ksa I have technology big engine luxury cars you can see any brand from US or UK it is quite expensive for tax-free country. When I come to PNG I ll have just nature. at the beginning it will be good for me.

    I don`t know have you ever been in middle east , if you compare PNG with middle east countries (yes in all GCC system is the same except KSA) what are the advantages-disadvantages ?

    I am sure there will be some difficulties in PNG. i am not coming from a normal country.
    As a new arrival what kind of difficulties will i face with in PNG? if you can advise me I ll be appreciated.

    The company will provide my accommodation and all other staff. so I won`t think about this kind of expenses. but my main concern is about insurance . How is the system in PNG and As I heard from my expat friends in Africa medical service is realy bad . PNG and african countires are almost the same in my mind but you are living there . if i have to go to hospital what kind of service will i get ? can I trust it?

    I am just think about offer should i accept the offer or just reject and find something else?



    • Hi Enes, I haven’t been to the Middle East in over 20 years. So times would have changed a lot. Your concerns over Health care are valid to a point. There is some very good medical care here in Port Moresby that is available to you (at a cost). We have had friends here with children requiring significant medical attention and they have been fine, and in fact I have had both Malaria and Dengue Fever whilst in POM and survived, my daughter had an accident last year and the Hospital sorted her out. Medical here is not like fully developed countries, however it is OK and you always have the option of going elsewhere – a lot of people get treatment in Australia or back in their home country. Your medical insurance provided by your company should include Medivac by default. thanks Aaron

      • Aaron,
        Thanks for your prompt reply. I have one more question. The project is located in the military base in a highly secured area and protected by US soldiers as they said .do you know exact location of US base ? I googled it million times but I couldn`t find it. In your previous article which has a map i can see a navy base. can it be the exact location or is it outside of the city like any other bases all around the world ?

      • Hi Enes,

        I am unaware of any US Military Base here in Port Moresby. The small Naval Base is for PNG Navy. The only project that I know of in existence regarding the US is the building of a new US Embassy which is located at the bottom of Spring Garden Road (Google Maps show 2 construction sites, the US Embassy build is the non residential area) close to the harbour. Currently the US Embassy is based in Town opposite Deliotte Tower. The build of their new premises stalled last year and has been boarded up partway through. At the moment – if that is not what you are coming here for, and the US do have a full Military Base here – then it’s the best secret in Port Moresby.


  3. I know the embassy project which has completed by Cadell(American)&Enka(Turkish) Consortium in 2015. I think it is something new in POM so most probably it will be far from the town. they told me they just started the mobilization. so you can just see some site office containers.
    and they told me it is a big project it means minimum budget of 500 M-1B USD . embassies are simple structures.

    • Hi Enes – the embassy is not completed – it’s barely a shell, it’s also quite an extensive development – far bigger than other Embassies I have seen. As I said earlier, I have no knowledge of any other US building going up, thanks

  4. Hi There,

    I have been reading your blogs. Great penmanship by the way.
    Decisions made, I will be relocating to POM 21 Mar and looking forward to it.
    The problem is that I know nobody there and although I have been lucky enough to work in several countries, this will still be an adventure and one in which I am really looking forward to. Firstly. If you are able to answer a few questions for me, will be great as I think HR is getting over me asking them needless questions.
    I will be living in Trade Winds apartments on Touaguba Hill. Any information on that building will be great if you don’t mind.
    Also (although I may sound stupid). Are lpg gas bottles available readily, as yes I am an Aussie, and I loooove a bbq.
    Your help and answers are much appreciated.

    • Hi Jason,

      I haven’t been to Tradewinds apartments in a couple of years, but from memory they were better than average. I can’t recall much about them, but I’m sure you will be fine there. Touagub Hill can be a pain in the backside getting there, it looks close to town, but has skinny wee lead in roads – so you need to be on your game driving up as there are a couple of accident spots. Don’t worry about your BBQ, LPG bottles are easy to get here – although charcoal BBQ’s are better hahaha… There are a few swap-a-bottles around the place, so you will have no problem, and a lot of compounds do supply at least a communual BBQ with gas in the Haus Win (BBQ, Pool common area).

      Good luck on the move,

  5. Thanks for your positive and supportive comments about our city. Need more people like you with the right attitude. Salute you for the comments. Its not always about the cons but the pros that bring about a better image of our Nation.

  6. Hi there, I’m fascinated by PNG and with a background in NGO word would love to come live there. Do you think it’s wise to come there to seek work or continue sending applications from afar? Any advice gratefully received. Many thanks

    • Hi Heather – Sending applications from afar is your best bet, or picking up a consulting contract that then leads into on the ground employment. Coming here on holiday doesn’t achieve much unless you have an expansive network already here :). Hope that helps

  7. i lived in Moresby for a too short couple of years, probably before you were born, made a couple of unbelievable friends the, twins and Richard who changed his name became known as” Donavon” we all packed up and went to London for the glorious 60s’ 70s’ where i lived between London Pamplona ‘ run with bulls’ and paris , bastille day celebrations. I ended up living in Johannesburg until I was attacked by 3 gents from Alexandra township 1 gun 1 panga and 1 wiith a common old steak knife. needless to say I have now moved to the comparative safety of Sydney from where I hope to revisit moresby

  8. I am a very proud Papua New Guinean living in Auckland with my Kiwi husband and our children.
    I want to say a big “THANK YOU” for correcting all the misconceptions and the bad publicity our beautiful country gets.
    Everything you’ve said about our people our country is absolutely correct.

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