Despite being one of Australia’s closest neighbours, Papua New Guinea remains largely undiscovered, and offers families the chance to rekindle their spirit of adventure in an exotic, friendly and safe environment. Here are 5 tips for cruising in Papua New Guinea with kids.

Explain the customs and culture

Even though a cruise makes travelling around Papua New Guinea easy, it is still an adventure, even for seasoned travellers. While some experiences such as snorkelling will likely be familiar, others could seem very exotic and unusual, especially to kids who have grown up in a city. For example, traditional dance performances often include bare breasted women. To avoid culture shock and potentially embarrassing comments (something kids seem to excel at!) have a chat to your children about Papua New Guinea’s culture and traditions before you leave home. Show them some colourful photos to get them excited about the trip and prepare them for any cultural differences they may encounter.

Choose your excursions carefully

Papua New Guinea played a significant role in the Battle of Milne Bay in 1942. Because of this, you will likely find a number of different war history tours on offer during your cruise. However, while these tours are excellent, they are unlikely to be a hit with young kids. It can be better to opt for a family friendly excursion such as a lively cultural festival instead. No formal tours are offered at some ports but there is plenty to keep you and the kids entertained with (free) dance performances, interesting stalls to explore and a very unusual game of cricket at Kiriwina which passengers of all ages are welcome to join.

Take some kina with you

While Australian dollars are accepted at most cruise ports in Papua New Guinea, it is very expensive for locals to exchange foreign currency for kina. Purchasing kina to spend on the islands before you leave home is a great help to the communities you visit. Ask for small notes at the currency exchange as most things such as drinks and raft trips don’t cost much. Some locals may ask to swap their Australian dollars for kina. This is not a scam. It is a sensible way for locals to avoid the high exchange fees from local money changers. Do them a favour and swap any leftover kina for Australian dollars before you leave Papua New Guinea.

Encourage your kids to talk to strangers

It is common for locals to approach passengers for a chat, especially on the smaller islands such as Kitava. Don’t shy away from these encounters. While travellers are naturally suspicious of this type of approach (as it is often a tourist scam in cities such as Paris), there is nothing bad about someone coming up to you in Papua New Guinea. Make time for a chat and – if the offer is made – a walk around the village so you and your kids can learn about the local way of life.

Bring the essentials with you

Papua New Guinea is not developed by western standards which is part of it charm. However, if you’re expecting a typical South Pacific port experience with all its associated facilities, this is not the place to find them. There are basic amenities such as pit toilets and you can buy water and canned drinks but it is best to arrive on the islands prepared with essentials such as enough bottled water for everyone in your family, sunscreen, and insect repellent. Tissues also come in handy if you need to use the toilets. While you cannot take food such as sandwiches off the ship due to quarantine regulations, packaged snacks from the supermarket such as muesli bars are fine. These are akin to gold if there is a long queue for tenders back to the ship and your kids are hungry and need a snack to keep them going.

Disclosure: The writer loved visiting Papua New Guinea with her family and travelled at her own expense.