I’ll review the basics and try to cover the most common questions you might have about what you can expect to find in Lae; however, for anything not on the list you can try the yellow pages. If you can’t find it ask around, there’s a good chance someone has one you can borrow or knows where you can find the item in an unexpected place…
Lae Main Market – an abundant source of produce from Lae and the Highlands (this is one area in which living in Lae has its advantage over Port Moresby)…
If you aren’t shopping for local products expect to pay a premium…import taxes and shipping prices are high and with limited competition, goods in Papua New Guinea can be costly.
- ALWAYS check the dates.
- Items about to expire can often be purchased at great discounts.
- If you don’t like crowds avoid shopping Thursday/Friday evenings (after paychecks have been released). Sunday morning is ok, but otherwise weekends are crowded.
- Prices vary from store to store so shop around, at least until you know the norm…
The main grocery stores are Andersons, Foodmart, Papindo, and Pelgens.
Andersons – the freshest imported food, and full range of groceries including a bakery, butchery, and bottle shop (when liquor sales are legal) are all available. There is also a pharmacy in the shop. Located in Eriku.
Foodmart – good range imported and international food items. Good sales. I would avoid the meats here, from personal experience. Located in Top Taun.
Papindo – Most variety in Asian and Indian spices and foods. If you don’t want to go the market this generally has the best produce prices on the local stuff. High turn over in the meat section so they tend to stay fresh. Upstairs is a general store with sewing goods, school supplies, light gardening tools, plastic containers, dishes, etc. Located in Eriku.
Pelgens – best known for their fresh Pork. Several locations
There are a few other places, for large amounts of noodles, tinned fish, rice by the bulk larger shops in the Industrial area will have the best prices.
Household goods –
For basic cleaning supplies (mops, brooms, buckets) upstairs Papindo’s is fine. Many of the shops (such as Ramu) in the Eriku area also sell similar varieties of inexpensive supplies and toys.
For nicer cooking supplies, dishes, white goods, furniture, fridges, electronics, sporting goods, etc. Bryan Bell’s (Industrial area, the Top Taun one is akin to an Annex store). Courts also has some nice, inexpensive options.
There’s another newer store which I forget the name of (Maybe BNBM Industries?), hidden down the road from Express Freight Management, they also have some household items and an upstairs full of furniture…
Believe it or not…2nd hand shops are the winner here. There are so many of them and it took me a while to get used to them, but for a few kina you can walk out with a bag full of new and next to new clothes. So what if they don’t all fit, there are plenty of people you can give your unwanted clothes too. If you are looking for new clothes you will be limited to non-brand name t-shirts, jeans – try SVS.
Shoes – you can find cheap (albeit mostly uncomfortable) flip flops (locally called: thongs), and a small variety of other shoes or hope for some luck in the 2nd hand stores. I’d recommend bringing shoes if you are at all particular about your footwear – plenty of flip flops…but also some dressier shoes. Flip flops are not allowed in the Lae Inter or the Yacht Club on member nights. My favorite 2nd hand shops were a couple of the small ones in and around Eriku. For sporting supplies there is a place, I always forget its name, across from Bryan Bell in the Industrial area that sells shoes and other sporting goods. It can take a while to find a pair of shoes they carry in your size. I’ve never had problems with my shoes but have heard from others the longevity isn’t always superb.*
Theodist has a good range in office and even surveying supplies. They also have a print shop and a bit of furniture. Some basic Art supplies (canvases, paints, and at my personal request – gesso). There store in POM has a better selection but if its something specific you can ask them to order it.
Morobe Stationary – School supplies, including some drafting supplies…
Seeto Kui Stationary also has a nice, new paper store in the industrial area, as does one of their building supply stores.
Hardware / Building supplies – includes Hardware Haus, BNBM, Bowmans, Plumbtrade, local timber – PNG Forest Products.
Able Computing, Datec (also provide repairs) are the two I can think of…Prices are so much better outside that unless you really need to I would try to avoid purchasing in the country. (Until recently Macs have been a scarcity in Lae, and there is little to no resources if you run into problems with yours…luckily macs rarely need help 😉 )
Most of the pharmacies are located on the same block in Top Taun – Chemcare and Morobe Pharmacy, there’s another one…name? Anyways, the pharmacies also sell a variety of other products, from toys for kids to photo printing so check them out if you can’t find a certain item where you normally would… Rarely do you need a prescription and you can place an order directly with the pharmacy (typical wait time is no more than a few weeks if it’s not already in stock).
In general the variety and selection of goods in Lae is always improving. A rule of thumb I was told is that if you see something you like – buy it…no guarantee it will continue to be stocked once it’s gone. Sometimes there will be a shortage of something, like cream cheese and the next shipment won’t come in for a few months, then there will be shelves, even aisles of the previously missing item, but generally speaking anything you need to survive (plus more) can be found. The best tip I was given:
Bring what you need to make you feel at home.
*Everything in Lae has to be shipped in and so goods have a tendency to have sat in hot containers for longer than is normal (unless they are flown in, which is why Anderson’s has the freshest goods)…