Let's face it, the capital of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby, gets a bad rap. Many visitors arrive with a litany of security advisories tucked in their briefcases and are destined to sit in hotel rooms, fearful of engaging local people for their entire stay.
The truth is, most residents of Moresby are generous and friendly. "A lot of the bad reputation is created by some expatriates who live here and is due to their lack of understanding of the culture," says Suzanne Robson, an Australian who has lived in the capital for 12 years. "There is a certain crazy bravado in going home and bragging about how dangerous it is."
That is not to say that there isn't risk from violent crime and Moresby's notorious raskol gangs, but with an ounce of urban savvy you can go to that meeting safely, enjoy the graceful curves of the parliament building and shop at Ela Beach market. Here are some tips: Go with the locals Melanesian culture is as gregarious as it gets, so hanging out with local peers is the best way to have fun and avoid trouble.
Use discreet transport Brand-new suvs are prized by Moresby's carjackers. Ensure your local office sends something modest to pick you up.
Don't self-drive Driving is tricky in Moresby. You have to go slow enough to avoid accidents (a collision with the wrong people might become the cue for violent confrontation) but quick enough to avoid being a target. Hire an experienced local driver if you can.
Carry some cash Always have about 50 kina ($15) on you that way, if you're stopped by a raskol, you've got something to pacify him with.
Drink like a tourist By that we mean stick to the big hotels and smarter restaurants. Don't get drunk in unfamiliar surroundings.
keep your wits about you Don't walk alone late at night; don't wear expensive jewelry; avoid carrying handbags; don't appear lost or uncertain.
And finally, if you really want to blend in, that's easy: just chew betel nut and wear old clothes. Any self-respecting raskol is likely to think twice when he sees you with ripped jeans and a mouth full of scary red spit.