How to cross the border from Indonesia to Papua New Guinea
I posted last year on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum about my Indonesia-PNG border crossing and, since then, several people have sent me questions about the process. Here’s a handy guide.
Border cities: Jayapura and Vanimo
How long: five days
Bring some extra: visa money
Today’s travel problems are altogether different from those of Inca times. We can find cars and planes and travel bureaux but, so as not to make things altogether too easy, we have also got things called frontiers, with brass-buttoned chuckers-out who doubt one’s alibi, maltreat one’s luggage and weigh one down with stamped forms if one is lucky enough to get in at all. — Thor Heyerdahl, Kon-Tiki
Crossing the border from Jayapura in Indonesian Papua to Vanimo in Papua New Guinea is a worthwhile experience. Beyond the adventure and the fascinating experience of crossing from South-East Asia to Melanesia, the Jayapura-Vanimo route is the easiest option for any eastbound overland traveller in the Pacific.
Obtaining a visa for Papua New Guinea
The PNG Consulate in Jayapura is near Terminal Entrop, south of Jayapura City.
JL Kelapa Dua Entrop
Ruko Matoa Blok 6/7
Jayapura 9116, Irian Jaya Province
The visa service is open Monday-Thursday 0900-1200 and 1300-1400, Friday 0900-1200. Don’t try to visit on Easter Monday like I did!
Requirements for a PNG Visitor visa
- Entry permit form (download, print, fill in by hand http://www.immigration.gov.pg/form-downloads.html)
- Cover letter addressed to PNG Consulate General, explaining itinerary and reason for visit (you can make this up!). Explain that you are travelling independently and therefore have no sponsor.
- Photocopy of onwards airline ticket (mine was Port Moresby – Brisbane)
- Two signed colour photographs
- Passport and photocopy
As of April 2015, the visa application is free.
I submitted my visa at 10am and was told to return after 3pm the same day. My visa was ready! I was granted sixty days, entering PNG within the next six months.
Leaving Indonesia if you have overstayed your visa in Jayapura
Indonesian 30-day tourist visas can only be extended once for an additional 30 days before you have to leave the country. I was on an extended visa and wanted a few days more in Papua, so it worked out to be cheaper to pay the overstay fee than go on a visa run. But I underestimated all the bureaucracy…
In Jayapura, I went to the Kantor Immigrasi near the mall, made myself known and waited four hours to be seen by an officious boss who interrogated me a bit. He gave me a few slips of paper when I paid the fee (Rp 400k / day). I had to specify the day I planned to leave – weekends were forbidden – and he called his friend at the border post to arrange my passage.
Make sure you remember the name of who to talk to at the border, or they will demand a second overstay fee (of course, they tried anyway).
Travelling from Jayapura to the PNG border and onwards to Vanimo
I caught a bemo towards Koya from Terminal Iotefa, just south of Jayapura City. There I waited at the roadside for a while until I convinced a schoolboy to run me to the border post on his bike for Rp20k. It’s a half-hour ride along a forest road lined by military posts.
The border complex is chaotic. On the Indonesian side is a market where Papua New Guineans stuff their bags with cheap Indonesian goods. You need to go on foot, negotiating three or four Indonesian checks before crossing a bridge to the PNG side. Compared to over-zealous Indonesia, PNG border control was very easy and customs paid no attention to my small rucksack.
There are PMVs to Vanimo just outside the border complex. Ours was stopped a mile down the hill at a military post where soldiers dressed like Rambo cut open boxes and forced the driver to pay a bribe – hold on to your bag and you will be fine. This was the last time I saw any kind of official in PNG. The road to Vanimo had collapsed so we had to walk a little and take another PMV to the town.
That’s it: time for the adventure of a lifetime in PNG!
If you have crossed the border more recently, many people would really appreciate an update on the situation – leave a comment below.