Travel Tips for Samoa

Some things to keep in mind when traveling to Samoa...

Location

Found in the heart of the Pacific Ocean below the equator, the islands are half way between Hawaii and New Zealand.

Climate

Samoa's weather is warm and tropical all year round, with two distinct seasons – the dry season running from May to October and the wet season from November to April.  Samoa's climate is hot and humid with an average daily temperature of 29 degrees Celsius and ocean temperature in the low 20s. In the eastern and south-eastern parts of Samoa, trade winds will year-round bring cooling breezes late afternoon and early evening.

 

Time Difference

There is one time zone in Samoa.  Samoa is 20 hours ahead of Los Angeles, CA.  4:00 PM Thursday, in Los Angeles, CA is 12:00 PM Friday, in Samoa.  Daylight savings is the opposite.

 

Departure Taxes

The departure tax for Samoa is included in airfares.

 

Entry Requirements

Visitors to Samoa are not required to obtain an entry permit for stays of less than 60 days. Travelers must have a return or onward ticket and passports must be valid for six months or more at the time of entry into the country.

 

Tipping Protocol

Tipping is not practiced or expected in Samoa. However, if a guest wishes to leave a gift for good service then you are welcome to do so directly with the employee or the hotel reception.

 

Dress

Just like its Pacific neighbours, Samoa’s climate is tropical and warm all year round. Light summer clothing is appropriate all year round. As Samoa has a strong cultural structure and Christian faith, tourists are asked not to wear bathing suits in Apia or in villages. Modesty is observed by all.

Language

Talofa! You'll be hearing that many times when you visit Samoa. Learn some other basic words in Samoan. The national language of Samoa is Samoan, although English is used for business communications. English is widely spoken, especially in Apia, but it's always helpful to know a few words of the local language.

 

English

Samoan

Pronunciation

Hello

Talofa

Tah-lo-far

Goodbye

Tofa

Toh-far

Thank you

Fa'afetai

Fa-ah-feh-tie

Please

Fa'amolemole   

Fa-ah-moh-le-moh-le

Yes

Ioe

Ee-oh-e

No

Leai

Le-ai

Maybe

Masalo   

Ma-sa-loh

Health & Safety

Samoa is one of the safest travel destinations in the world, boasting a low crime rate, no terrorist activity, and very few diseases to worry about. There are many medical clinics in Apia should you require a doctor.  However, we still recommend that you apply the same common sense approach to your health and safety as you would at home, by not leaving valuables unattended, and investing in both travel insurance and a basic travel first aid kit.

Currency & Exchange, Credit Cards, Banking

The Samoa decimal currency is the Tala (dollar) and Sene (cent): 100 Sene = ST$1 (Tala). All major foreign currencies are exchangeable in Samoa.  Samoan Tala can also be purchased outside the country from a few selected banks, however you will need to check with your bank if you can order some before you depart.

Credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diners & JCB) are widely accepted in the major hotels, restaurants and stores. Travellers’ cheques are also widely accepted at major banks and hotels.

Eftpos machines are found throughout Upolu and Savai'i in major hotels, resorts and supermarkets and accept the following cards – Visa, Mastercard, Cirrus, Amex, JCB & Plus Cards and Access International Debit Card. 

ANZ and Bank South Pacific are the two international banks found in Samoa. Both have branches at the international airport, in Apia and at Salelologa on Savai'i. National Bank of Samoa and Samoa Commercial Bank provide services, currency exchange and ATMs.

Business Hours

Government offices and shops usually open from 9am–5pm. Saturday shopping hours are from 8am–12.30pm.

Cigarettes, Tobacco & Alcohol

Passengers aged 21-years and over may import up to 2.25 liters of alcohol and 200g of cigarettes free of duty. 

Samoa has two breweries, Vailima Breweries and Samoa Beverage Company. Vailima is Samoa's local brew and can be found almost everywhere. Originally set up by the Germans, Vailima now produces one of the finest lagers in the South Pacific. Samoa Beverage Company is a new manufacturing beverage company locally producing and marketing a range of beverages.

Beer can be purchased almost anywhere on the islands throughout the week, although on Sundays alcohol is strictly prohibited for sale except for in hotels and restaurants.

 

Bars and Nightclubs

There are many bars and nightclubs to provide a good night out and are mostly in and around Apia. Doors close at 12am.

Electricity

In Samoa the power sockets are of type I which looks like the below. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.

 

Religion

Samoa is a Christian nation and the main denominations are – Congregational, Anglican, Catholic, Methodist, Assembly of God, Seven Day Adventist, Bahai, Latter Day Saints and Jehovah’s Witness. Visitors are welcome to attend church and we recommend that you go if only to hear their beautiful singing!  Check with your hotel reception for service times.

Sports

The main sports played in Samoa are rugby union, rugby league, and Samoan cricket (kirikiti). Other popular sports are netball, volleyball, and soccer.

Communication

Internet cafes: Staying connected with family and friends, and maybe sharing a status update or photos of your Samoan stay by Facebook or Instagram is easy with eight broadband internet cafes to be found around Apia and one on the island of Savai'i. Major hotels and resorts also offer wifi cards that can be purchased.  Wifi is expensive in Samoa.

Mobile Phones: There are two main telecommunications providers in Samoa: Digicel and Bluesky Samoa. Both providers offer extensive coverage. Prepaid SIM cards are available at Faleolo International Airport and at outlets in Apia.

Jet Lag

Westbound flights appear to be the worst for jet lag but many people report feelings of jet lag with any long haul flights. To prevent feeling the worse for wear when you arrive at your destination try the following tips: Be well rested before boarding your flight, drink plenty of fluids and cut back on the alcoholic and caffeinated beverages, try to exercise by stretching in your seat or strolling the isle. One of the best tips is to try to set your body clock to your destination’s time while in flight. Waiting until you land can leave you literally in the wrong time zone.

Driving

Samoans drive on the left side of the road. Care should be taken to follow all road signs and the occasional traffic lights. International travelers are encouraged to pay close attention to their driving, especially when driving for the first time. International driver’s licenses are not necessary but a valid US or Canadian driver’s license is a must.  Cars and scooters can be rented on both Upolu and Savai’i.  You can take the cars on the ferry between islands or drop off on one side and get a new car on the other side.

Vaccinations

No vaccinations are required to enter Samoa unless you are arriving from, or transiting through, an area infected with yellow fever within 6 days. However, we still recommend that you consult a travel doctor prior to arriving in Samoa to discuss your health needs.

Water

The water in Samoa is generally safe to drink, although we recommend that travelers purchase bottled water, which is widely available – remember to be an eco-conscious visitor. Ice used at most eating spots, nightclubs and bars is generally prepared from treated water, and is therefore usually safe to drink – but if in doubt, ask your waiter first.

Dangerous Creatures?

There are no poisonous insects or animals in Samoa, although keeping some tropical strength mosquito repellent at hand is advisable. If you go diving or snorkeling in Samoa, keep an eye out for the Crown of Thorns starfish.

In An Emergency

Medical:               996
Police:                   995
Fire:                       994

 

Village Protocol

Fa’a Samoa has a strong focus on welcoming visitors, and, if you’re travelling outside the resort areas, you may well be invited to visit a family home where you’ll find Samoans are friendly and hospitable hosts. However, be mindful of local protocol when you enter villages and use village resources, including the beaches and waterfalls or swimming holes.

Avoid walking through villages during the evening prayer curfew (usually between 6–7pm). Sa (sacred) usually lasts for 10 to 20 minutes and is often marked at the beginning and end by a bell or the blowing of a conch shell (wait for the third bell before continuing on your way).

Samoans observe Sunday as a day of rest. While many visitor attractions are open, you are expected to behave quietly and to travel slowly through the villages. If you are staying at family-run accommodation, you may find that your hosts will not provide a cooked breakfast on a Sunday.

Skimpy clothing is not recommended in villages. If you are staying in a village, it may even result in a fine for your hosts.

Nude and topless (for women) swimming or sunbathing is prohibited and when leaving the beach to venture into the villages, guests are asked to wear a lavalava (sarong) pants or shorts and t-shirt.

If attending church on Sunday, women are asked to wear a dress or blouse and skirt and men trousers and shirt.

Shoes should be removed before entering a fale.

When elders are seated in a fale, you should not stand.

When sitting in a fale, avoid pointing your feet at others. Either tuck them away, cross them (yoga style) or cover them with a lavalava or mat.

Always ask permission from your host before taking photos in a village.

If in doubt about protocol, ask your host or a village member for advice.

 

Access and Entry Fees

Most land and areas within a lagoon (or bay) is the property of a village, family or individual. You should always ask permission at the nearest village, as you may have to pay a small entry fee. Even if it looks like no one is around, it pays to wait, as someone will usually be along shortly, and it’s always best to ask first rather than apologize later.