There is not much choice of accommodation in Mt Hagen in Papua New Guinea. It is a fast developing town due to the mines in the highlands of PNG.
The Highlander Hotel is close to the main centre of Mt Hagen and about 15 minutes’ drive from the airport. A courtesy bus will meet you.
This is an old hotel that is tatty around the edges. However, the good news is that the owners, the Coral Sea Hotel Group, are in the process of spending some money on it and have built a new reception area, restaurant and bar.
The restaurant, being new, looks great. A serious attempt to improve the quality of food over recent years is paying off and the menu is more interesting than it has been. A large open-plan kitchen, where you can see the chefs at work, is a modern touch that works well. Prices are not cheap but then eating in Papua New Guinea, whether in a restaurant or via the local supermarket, is expensive. Expect to pay Australian four-star hotel prices.
Breakfast was either a buffet or, as we were very pleased to see, lighter alternatives which were freshly made. Coffee is always good and, here, is served in a plunger. Being an area for coffee growing, it is what you might expect!
The Highlander Hotel has a separate bar that is modern, clean and spotless, and is a relaxing place to spend an evening. It is also a centre for the locals.
The reception area is new and modern, with a business centre and small shop. There are also plenty of eating areas to meet people, both indoors and outdoors.
For recreation there is a small gym with a few machines and a swimming pool with chairs, tables and poolside lounges around it.
A pleasant feature at the Highlander Hotel are the gardens and, whilst not big enough to jog around, do allow a gentle stroll. This is a much needed feature in a town where you are advised not to walk around in public places as it is deemed unsafe, although that might be somewhat exaggerated.
There is wireless Internet at the hotel but, as seems to be the norm whenever we stay in PNG, it does not work well. Sometimes you can be lucky, but do not count on it. The best idea is to buy a relatively inexpensive Digicel modem to use; for us, this worked well. About 200 metres down the road is an Internet café as another alternative.
The worst part of staying here are the rooms—they are old and show it. The television failed to work and the bathroom fittings we dropping off the wall. However, the rooms are cleaned well and there is no problem with the helpful housekeeping staff. One assumes that rooms will be improved by renovations as the owners are certainly spending up on the hotel.
A test we always make in Papua New Guinea is the security. The Highlander has a high fence with barbed wire all around and a noticeable presence of security personnel. You do feel safe inside and no safety problems have been experienced in our various test stays over the last few years.
All of the staff are very friendly and smile a lot. They do try very hard to please and we have seen many examples of staff doing the little extra things that make a big difference.
Overall we rate the Highlander as a hotel that you would not choose to stay at, if there was a choice. Given that there is no choice, you have to accept that the Highlander is not a bad place to stay and serves the basic need of safe accommodation. Like all hotels in PNG, it is not cheap.
Highlander Hotel and Apartments, West Wahgi Parade, Mt Hagen, Papua New Guinea
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