A tourist: 24 hours in Port Moresby

Papua New Guinea does get quite a few tourists, with most opting for either trekking the Kokoda Track, or venturing further afield to various tourist hotspots around the country.  PNG has started to really open up, and the experienced traveller who wants the experience of a lifetime can certainly build a great itinerary here.

However if you are just in Moresby for the day, or maybe have come up for work and have a day spare – here is my “You can do this in one “week” day Moresby list”…

5:30am – Head down to the Royal Papua Yacht Club to walk/run the breakwater.  1km each way, it’s a great way to see the sun come up and you might even meet a few people on the way

7am – Pop over to Edge by the Sea for Coffee and Breakfast.  The Poached Eggs on Hummus is terrific.

8am – Moresby has truely woken up and the roads into Town are getting congested, so head out of Town to Bomana War Cemetery and pay your respects to all those service personnel killed in action.

9:30am – Now head on up to Owens Corner and the start of the Kokoda Track.  The road to Owens Corner can be a bit dodgy with potholes and PMV’s to negotiate, but the cooler air and scenery will at times leave you gasping.

10:30am – You could try Kotaki Country Club, Bluff Inn or the Kokoda Trail Hotel for brunch, or snake off over to Crystal Rapids for a quick dip, but don’t be too long.  Otherwise – head back towards 14 Mile and the Adventure Park where there are giant crocodiles.  If you can get back here for 3pm their handler will put on a live feeding show and climb on the Puk Puk’s back.  If you like Orchids, then the famous Orchid Gardens are right next door.

12:00pm – Head straight for Vision City Mega Mall, which isn’t huge by developed countries standards, but is the largest mall in PNG.  There are some great eateries inside and I recommend the dumpling restaurant around by the food hall.

1:30pm – Now head down to look at Parliment House which is close by, and the Museum.  But don’t spend too long – we are trying to get as much done in one day as we can.

2:30pm – a 15 minute trip now to Gerehu and you will drive past the University of PNG to the best little Zoo in the world, PNG’s own Nature Park.  You can race around the Nature Park in an hour (or a day) but make sure you spend 15 minutes or so going through handicrafts in their shop.

4:00pm – Drive the backroad past the notorious Baruni Dump (this was a no go road a few years ago but is now pretty awesome). Heading left towards the City you will come across firstly Elevala then Hanuabada Villiage’s (or HB as it’s collectively known).  Make your way to Harbourside and have a final coffee of the day at Duffy’s (They do their own coffee blends), or grab an SP at Naked Fish – to sound like a local ask for a Stubbie (for an SP Lager Bottle), Green Can (SP Lager Can), Long Neck (SP Export bottle) or White Can (SP Export can) – if you want to sound like a tosser, ask for a South Pacific Lager, then everyone will look at you strange :).

5:30pm – Head back to your Hotel to spruce yourself up for the night – smart casual is the way – ditch the jeans unless you want to spend the night sweating.  If you have an Exec Room at Grand Papua or The Stanley, the Executive Club’s will be open about now.

6:30pm – Choose a place to go for dinner, if you go early – you won’t need to book a table, and if the place is full – then there are plenty of other options; for Asian, you could head back down to Harbourside and go to Asia Aroma’s, or go to my favourite Fusion which is situated between BSP and the new US Embassy that is being built.  If you are after Indian, you can’t go past Tasty Bite which is situated in Town, or for fine dining there is Airways Hotel, Grand Papua or The Stanley to choose from.  Lamana Hotel has Italian and Brazilian (TIP: you can sit at any restaurant in Lamana, and order from any menu), and there are a myriad of other restaurants tucked away that are really quite good.

9:30pm – You’ve got your dancing shoes with you, so head back to Vision City and the Cosmopolitan NightClub, where they have acts such as Shaggy come and play in Port Moresby.  Cosmo has a couple of levels, and if you can get upstairs you can boogie the night away on a dancefloor above the dancefloor.  Make sure you are travelling with others or have an escort, Port Moresby after dark isn’t a place for making friends on the side of the road.  There are also lots of police checkpoints, so have a sober driver with a license…

1:30am – You are still killing it, so head off to Lamana Hotel and PNG’s first real club – The Gold Club.  Perch yourself on the balcony and watch Papua New Guinean’s strut their stuff.  Don’t lose your mates, it’s been known to have happened….

3:00am – It’s either home time, or Club Illusion’s in Town which winds down around 5am.  Have a crack on the pool tables, or slot yourself in on the dance floor.  When you leave the Illusions car park – turn right…  It’s a one way street and the police tactically sit there waiting for you and your mates to take a shortcut ūüôā

5:30am – Roll into bed, hoping you are catching the 2pm flight out.  Your Hotel will have complementary transport leaving at 11am’ish so set your alarm!  If you are getting the 6am flight out – then you’ve missed it!

There you have it, a taster of Moresby in 24 hours.  And if you don’t think it can be done, you’d be wrong – it just takes a lead foot and a lot of luck ūüôā

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Getting the “right” PNG contract

I can’t count the number of emails or questions that I receive regarding Salaries and Contracts, and although I can answer most questions, I can’t tell you if your salary is good enough, or that you will save enough money.

There are many types of Expats that travel to PNG, the Diplomats, the Aid Workers, the Volunteers, the Missonaries, the FIFO workers, the Singles, the Couples, the Families. ¬†And they all come from a variety of places, NZ, Australian, Phillipines, India, USA, Malaysia, China, Fiji to name but a few. ¬†Some of them are on Salaries the same as back “home”, others are on significantly higher, some are lower, some are even on tax-free dollars getting allowances for being in a hardship area.

If you are like me and work(ed) for a normal corporate organisation, then you may not get the “perks” that some people get, but you will find that you don’t have so many restrictions on you. ¬†I know of single men working for government agencies living in 3 bedroom apartments that cost over PGK7000 per week, with all expenses paid, they leave the Air Con going even when they aren’t there. ¬†I know of Pinoy’s who are living in shared accomodation where they have a communual kitchen (some people may call that a perk!). ¬†There are those workers that only fly up the front, and those that get one economy class trip home per year, in the cheapest seat possible. ¬†Some people even have paid for “sanity” breaks that they must take, and so off they hop to Cairns for a long weekend or more on the company. ¬†There are expats with good disposable income, so they buy a boat and spend their weekends out on the water, and others that barely make it up to Koitaki with a tent in tow. ¬†Some expats have full schooling paid for on top of normal renumeration, others that have it as included in renumeration, and others that don’t get it at all. ¬†Some people are dictated to about where to live, others may or may not have a company car. ¬†Some companies have drivers that you have to book, others have security escorts available at any time day or night. ¬†Some companies will provide membership to a Club of your choice, others won’t. Some expats can’t drive to Sunset Lodge – others have no restrictions…

The things you SHOULD get put into your contract I believe are as follows:

1. A salary!  PNG Central Bank now dictates that all expat salaries are to be paid in PGK locally.  So your salary needs to be paid locally, then you can remit funds back to your country of origin if you want.  This is a significant change, as some companies used to remit your money back to place of employment for you or if they had an offshore account, would just pay you from there.  Ideally, you will have an AUD or USD based salary, but lots of salaries are now in PGK as a PGK salary.  If you are working on an overseas Salary Base, then you need to ensure they work on your FX at the same rate as you moving the money out of the country, otherwise you lost lots of money.

How much salary is entirely up to you, however it is worth factoring in that PNG is 30% more expensive to live than baseline, and that you will be living with significant security issues. ¬†This also means that you will actually save quite a bit too – as you won’t want to go out, and material things are so expensive that you just won’t buy anything anymore.

You will also need to consider all the tax implications of PNG.  Salaries are taxed up to 42% on a gradual basis, then you will also have a nominal tax if you have a company provided vehicle, and you will also be significantly taxed on your accomodation.  You will then incur a further 10% tax on all goods and services (GST).

You can however salary package some items, and you should make sure your employer will allow you to do this, the items to consider salary packaging would be:  Superannuation; up to 15% of salary can be contributed pretax.  (Refer Nambawan Super & Nasfund).
Travel to place of recruitment; If you have Economy Class included in your package, you can Salary Sacrifice the difference between Economy Class and Business.  To get quotes call Patrick at Travel Services in Port Moresby.
Novated Leases; Rather than a Company Car, check to see if your company will do a Novated Lease.  A number of financial institutions will do this for you, but I would recommend talking to Kina www.kina.com.pg as they have dedicated specialists and are the market leaders.
Medical insurance; these can be salary sacrificed – however should really be apart of your normal employment package.
School Fees; If you don’t have school fee’s included in your contract, then you can Salary Sacrifice for them for your children (Primary and Secondary only).

2. Bonuses! ¬†Some companies have them, some don’t. ¬†If you don’t ask – then you will never know….

3. Annual Leave: ¬†Most expat contracts will come with either 4, 5 or 6 weeks Annual Leave. ¬†Some may come with 3 weeks which is what PNG Employment Law stipulates for Papua New Guineans. ¬†I’d suggest that 5 weeks is the perfect medium as you will most likely have less public holidays in PNG than where you are from and most other inbound countries will be on 4 weeks. ¬†You may find though, that even 4 weeks is too much leave….

4. Sick Leave: You need at least 9 days per annum – you can get some very serious bugs in PNG and you need to be covered for them. ¬†Some organisations will also provide Carer’s Leave.

5. Long Service Leave: There is a lot of confusion on LSL, however you will have it either included or not. ¬†LSL only comes available after 3 years service, so a normal 3 year contract will mean that you won’t qualify for LSL. ¬†As a rule, LSL is in the Employment Act so if the company wants to exclude it from your contract they need to specifically exclude it.

6. Moving to PNG, and repatriation afterwards. ¬†Repatriation is actually a law as governed by the Non-Citizen Employment Act of 2007* and your company is responsible for it. ¬†You will want a couple of things though, a reasonable amount of goods shifted to PNG and then repatriated (a 20ft Container is TOPS!) “or” an allowance to purchase necessities in PNG (sheets, pots, pans etc) in lieu of a Container. ¬†This can be far cheaper for the company, and it means that you come to PNG unhindered by all your possessions that really – you don’t need ;). If you get a 20 footer, throw a boat in there if you are into boating…

Some companies will restrict the size of your goods in/out – this can be a good thing :). I do know of people that have brought their car with them, but if it isn’t a 4×4 then don’t bother…

7. Accomodation: ¬†You want safe, secure accomodation. ¬†You will need a pool! ¬†Ideally, don’t sign a lease until you have been here and scoped the place out and talked to others. ¬†Then when you find a place, make sure you ask around what people think of it. ¬†The more your place costs, the more you will be taxed, in the K3000 to K6000 range you will find a great variety of good compounds – check out http://www.hausples.com.pg. ¬†I can assure you, Port Moresby looks small, but it’s actually quite big, and hilly. ¬†Places like Boroko don’t get the sea breeze!

8. Utilities: Maybe classified as a fringe benefit for tax purposes, so beware…. ¬†Some companies give you an allowance, others don’t. ¬†Be mindful that power is expensive, and so is Internet.

9. Vehicle: As I have mentioned, car, car allowance, novated lease, driver shared Рjust make sure you have wheels.  Port Moresby is not a place for you to be catching a cab or jumping on a bus Рunless you are my father, who jumps on a PMV (or me, who went on a tiki tour one day)

10. Medical Insurance, for you and any dependants.  Must include Medivac, will generally be a pay as you go with a claim back where they will re-imburse 90%.  If you are an Aussie, see if you can still get Medicare coverage, I think there is some rules around it.

11. Club Memberships:  At least 1.  Even though there are lots of eateries etc around POM (less in Lae) you still will want to have a go to joint where it is safe and secure and that you can do some extra-curricula.  In POM, you have the Yacht Club, Aviat, Golf Club, Pap Club (men only), Kotaki Country Club (although that is really cheap and easily paid for), Car Club.

12. Life Insurance: Yes, some companies will pay for this, some won’t. ¬†Get it defined, and if they won’t pay for it – then you need to check your own policy to see that it covers PNG.

13. Annual Pay Rises in line with inflation at the minimum. ¬†CPI is around +5% per year over the past 6 years, that’s a lot of backwards if you aren’t getting any pay rises to compensate. ¬†Or negotiate up front knowing that generally CPI is 5%pa
14. Leave Fares: Companies can provide you and your family (1) economy class return airfare for you and dependants as part of your package (and they should). ¬†Any others may be subject to Tax as a fringe benefit (unless of course you are tax free)…

15. Company Mobile: ¬†A must in PNG – it’s a really big security concern if you don’t have a mobile

16. Unpacking day – you should negotiate an unpacking day, you’ll need it as you will need to supervise

17. When you arrive in country, having a few weeks in a Hotel helps with being able to look for housing.

18. School Fees, check out http://www.elamurray.com for school fees, if you have kids – you need this included. ¬†Unfortunately companies generally don’t cover buses, uniforms etc, so make sure you have enough in the kitty to cover this.

19. Company giving you 3 months notice or pay in lieu of.  3 months resignation notice for you to the company is normal

20. You will have clawback penalties if you decide to leave – so make sure you really want that job and want to go to PNG before committing!

OK – so that’s what I would call an appropriate minimum. ¬†Of course, there are lots of other things that can go into your contract, some companies even pay for Haus Meri’s (your housekeeper), Electricity, Gas, Internet, Extra Car, Security Responders, Security Escorts etc, others don’t give you a Club Membership….

If you have any questions Рhappy to help. But please note РI am not an accountant, please contact your tax advisor for any questions or clarifications on tax РI have tried to simplifying things, but tax in PNG can be very complicated.  Also note, I am not a Financial Advisor, please talk to the correct people for clarification.  Eg Superannuation etc etc

Note: There are organisations that will give you a NET Salary, if you can get to that point – and you are happy with it, then that is great, they take the liability on anything else that happens, but you might lose out on FX gain etc.

Oh – and above all – do some research on PNG, maybe see if you can fly over for a few days (look/see) and really research your company. ¬†There are a lot of companies out there with a track record of overhauling expat’s, and you don’t want to work for companies like that.

Papua New Guinea the Journey of the Land of the Unexpected

It’s all very exciting, coming to Papua New Guinea, but what’s it like to leave?  This is the PNG Journey (condensed of course):

Day 1 – you apply for a role in PNG, either you saw it on the internet, might have been headhunted, or even just been posted.  It could be a 2+1 Contract, a 2 Contract, a 3 Contract, a 3+1, or even a 3 year not fixed contract.

Day 2 – you’ve now done a heap of research on PNG and what life is like here as an Expat.  You’ve read some pretty horrible stories, and then some good ones.  You may have even come across some really good blogs and websites – like the one you are reading now.

Day 3 – you’ve slept on it.  It’s exciting.

Day 4 – you start telling people that you are thinking about going to PNG.  Or you don’t.

Day 5 – The interviews go well

Day 6 – They seem to like you, you get an invite to go have a look/see

Day 7 – You tell people you are off to PNG to look at a role – they think you are mad

Day 8 – You’ve sent everyone emails or Facebook messages with Blog addresses.  You tell them about this kiwi with his whole family and show them my blog http://www.kiwiexpat.com (I know – it’s hard to beat right)

Day 9 – You have mixed reactions from people.  Some of your friends and family are saying DO IT! Others think you should see a doctor.

Day 10 – You are off to PNG for a look/see, it’s very exciting

Day 11 – It’s hot!  You arrive at the airport, and having read the stories about not venturing outside the airport, you hang around beside Digicel and Bemobile (two local mobile carriers) looking for someone with your name on a board.  Someone picks you up and you stare wide-eyed out the window, maybe you take photos.  It’s either green or brown depending on the time of year.  You notice all the people sitting around doing nothing, but you are too shy to ask why that is.

Day 12 – You’ve been giving the tour of work, and of Moresby.  It’s growing on you already – or you hate it – or you think you might like it.  The people you are going to work with are a great bunch.  They take you out to dinner – everyone drinks excessively, you have a great time.

Day 13 – You’ve signed a contract, they have given you an offer that is pretty good, or it’s not.  You are not really that sure if it is alright, but you are happy with it and so you sign it.

Day 14 – You’ve pulled your hair out trying to get Visa’s and work permits.  The movers are all organised – it’s really happening, it’s only taken 6 months.  People still think you are mad, but secretly they would love to live somewhere where you can wear shorts and t-shirts all year around.

Day 15 – You are staying in a Hotel in Moresby whilst you try and get accommodation – Hotel food sucks, you’ve eaten the menu twice.

Day 16 – Your container arrives, you are settled in to your apartment, it has security guards and razor wire, you have figured out that everything is not like it was at home.  You are still pretty nervous, and your company has been great in helping you transition.

Day 17 – You have your first holiday, you go home – cause that just seems right.  Your friends look at you weird now as you act a bit different.  Trying to de-stress from PNG can be hard, but whilst you are out you have to see doctors, dentists etc – but your friends want all your time.

Day 18 – You are back in POM, your Moresby mates all hug you and tell you that they missed you.  You get back into a PNG routine – Moresby feels like home now.  You stop saying “dollars” or “in (country where I’m from)” in your sentences.  You’ve even got some Tok Pisin going…

Day 19 – You have your second holiday, you decide to go overseas – it’s a great holiday.  

Day 20 – You pop over to Cairns for a long weekend to do the things you would have done if you went home

Day 21 – Some of your friends are leaving POM – you are sad

Day 22 – You have met some more people, they look a little scared – you take them out and get drunk and have a great time.

Day 23 – You go to a Ball – all dressed up, what a night.  You wonder why you don’t do this back home

Day 24 – Work is hard

Day 25 – Someone at work or who you know just got carjacked – you worry

Day 26 – You have to deal with a domestic violence issue at work, it keeps you awake at night

Day 27 – It’s hot…

Day 28 – You host a fancy dress party – everyone turns up in fancy dress, it’s awesome.

Day 29 – Your contract is finishing in 6 months

Day 30 – The movers are coming, if you have a job to go to, then its all good, if you don’t then it’s a bit hard

Day 31 – You leave, all your friends, your workmates.  The company is getting you home, but your container is going to be months.  It is very hard to leave and you are now in limbo living out of suitcases for months.  Leaving is definitely harder than arriving.