Oceania : Samoa
It is a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, about one-half of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand. The islands have narrow coastal plains with volcanic, rocky, rugged mountains in the interior.
Shopping, restaurants, public market. There are half a dozen bars in Apia. Beer can be bought at any corner store
Samoa is composed largely of two islands, Upolu and Savai'i. These islands are the result of countless volcanic eruptions, leaving easily visible volcanic cones all over both islands. None of the volcanoes are currently active, but small earthquakes often rock the island, reminding people of their presence. The last eruption was in 1911 on Savaii.
The eerie, lifeless lava fields that remain from this event can be visited easily, since the only sealed road on Savai'i goes right through the middle.
Both islands are almost entirely covered by lush vegetation, although almost none of it is the original rainforest that covered the island before humans arrived. Most of the land area is given over to plantations or semi-cultivated forest, providing food and cash crops for the locals. Since Samoa has been inhabited for over three and a half thousand years, the cultivated lands around villages can often seem like deepest, darkest jungle to a foreigner(palangi).
The climate is tropical with a rainy (and tropical cyclone) season from October to March and a dry season from May to October. It has an average annual temperature of 26.5°C. This makes it a suitable winter vacation destination for southern hemisphere countries.
New Zealand occupied the German protectorate of Western Samoa at the outbreak of World War I in 1914. It continued to administer the islands as a mandate and then as a trust territory until 1962, when the islands became the first Polynesian nation to reestablish independence in the 20th century. The country dropped the "Western" from its name in 1997.
National holiday : Independence Day Celebration, 1 June
Samoa is governed by an elected council, or fono, under a constitutional monarch, Malietoa Tanumafili II.
Local government is by village in the form of a Matai, or chief.
The legal system is based on English common law and local customs.
The economy of Samoa has traditionally been dependent on development aid, family remittances from overseas, and agricultural exports. The country is vulnerable to tropical storms, and was hit by two cyclones in quick succession in 1991.
Agriculture employs two-thirds of the labor force, and furnishes 90% of exports, featuring coconut cream, coconut oil, and copra. The manufacturing sector mainly processes agricultural products.
The decline of fish stocks in the area is a continuing problem, due to both local overfishing and severe overfishing by Japanese factory trawlers. Tourism is an expanding sector, accounting for 16% of GDP; about 85,000 tourists visited the islands in 2000.
The Samoan Government has called for deregulation of the financial sector, encouragement of investment, and continued fiscal discipline. Observers point to the flexibility of the labor market as a basic strength for future economic advances. Foreign reserves are in a relatively healthy state, foreign debt is stable, and inflation is low.
People sail their yachts to Samoa and dock at Apia.
A twice monthly service by the MV Tokelau leaves from Apia Harbour and runs to Tokelau.
Ports and harbors include Apia, Asau, Mulifanua, Salelologa. Container ships and cruise liners dock in Apia Harbour or Salelologa, but many smaller fishing boats and village boats use the smaller docks.
Generally your best bet. They are cheap and plentiful. The Samoa Visitor's Bureau has a price list for Apia. Do agree on a price ahead of time, if they think you look rich they may try to overcharge you. You can get one for a whole day for about the same price as a rental car. A taxi from one end of Apia to the other should only cost about 40-50 Tala.
As international driving licences are not accepted you need to obtain a temporary local licence. These are easy to get from the police station in Apia or direct from a number of car rental firms.
Cheap but is a good experience for Westerners. A ride on the bus will be a memorable experience
Possible and quite enjoyable but 'Upolu has a few fairly steep and hilly sections and the cross island roads are about 7kms steep uphill to their crests. Savai'i has only 2 or 3 small steep sections (around the western end).
Languages spoken include Samoan (a Polynesian language) and English.
- Currency : Tala (WST)
- Exchange rates
- Tala per US Dollar - 2.613 (July 2007)
- 1.00 AUD Australia Dollars = 2.06122 WST Samoa Tala (Sept '05)
Samoa is relatively inexpensive for western visitors. Haggling is not customary.
- Apia Public Market. Great place to buy Siapo (tapas cloth), 'ava (kava), hand carved kava bowls, produce, donuts, etc.
- Apia Flea Market, In the 'old' public market building.
See & Do
- Palolo Deep Marine Reserve, Vaiala Beach, Apia. The only beach in Apia to the East of the harbour. Not really much a beach, though, it's mostly coral gravel. It's an official underwater park. The snorkelling initially seems pretty poor but if you venture further out (probably a good quarter mile swim) it gets a bit more interesting with the occasional turtle and black tip reef shark ask at the entrance where to swim - there's a marker post that helps. If you are stuck in Apia it's not a bad way to kill a few hours or just hang out at the "beach". You can rent snorkels here although seriously bring your own. Also check the tide chart at the gate before you pay, at low tide there is a long paddle out over very sharp coral to get anywhere deep enough to snorkel. * Vailima Brewery Tour, Vailima, Upolu(10 minute drive west of Apia), ☎ (685) 20 200(firstname.lastname@example.org), . Make reservations because tours are only given on certain days.Free. * Aggie Grey's ''Fia Fia'', Aggie Grey's Hotel, ☎ (685) 22880(email@example.com), . Every Wednesday evening. This is a must-see. Traditional Samoan dancing, singing, drumming, and the amazing fire-knife dance! Fia fia literally means "happy," although it really means "party hardy". As long as you're there you might as well splurge on Aggie's buffet dinner, which is very good. This isn't the only fia fia in Samoa, but it is the best. Can you spot the fafafines dancing with the ladies?
- Penina Golf Club, Penina Golf Club (http://www.peninaresortandgolfclub.com), ☎ (685) 770 4653(firstname.lastname@example.org), . The Penina is a new 18 hole par 72 championship course located adjacent to the Aggie Grey resort. The course features all modern conveniences: driving range, new Club Car golf carts, new Cobra rental clubs right and left handed men’s and women’s, toilet facilities on the course, and snacks on the course.
The usual kinds of European, Asian and fast foods are available, but be sure to try the "umu", which is a traditional pit-oven, using red hot lava stones heated by charcoal. Whole pigs, fruits, chickens, fish, etc, are placed among the rocks for many hours, and covered with banana leaves. The food has an absolutely delicious smoked flavour, and meats are as tender and juicy as possible.
Most places are casual and inexpensive.
- Apia Yacht Club, (On the peninsula on the west side of the city. Take a taxi, it's quite a walk.). * Rainforest Cafe, Central Apia near the police station. Good food, good price.
Samoa brews the amazing Vailima beer. Even Germans say it's good beer, probably because the brewery was founded by a German. It sure kicks the snot out of Hinano (yeah take that, Tahiti). It's cheap and you can buy it everywhere. Sure you can get other beers in Samoa, like Tabu or Heineken, but why would you want to?
Liquor is plentiful in the bars. There's not that much in most stores and it tends to be expensive. Le Well near the market (ask any taxi driver) has a good range at the best prices. It's a good idea to bring your own bottle in if you plan on drinking a lot of hooch.
Unfortunately the government shut down most of the popular and legendary bars and night spots in Apia in 2006, citing underage drinking, drugs, noise, and crime. They were reopened several weeks later. There are lots of smaller bars and night spots to check out. Also every hotel has a bar as do most of the restaurants.
- The Hot and Spicy, (Near Aggie Grey's). Bar, music. Interior is in good shape.
- Aggie Grey's Hotel & Bungalows(Not to be confused with the new Aggie Grey's Resort), Downtown Apia(On the main drag, can't miss it), ☎ (685) 22880(email@example.com, fax: (685) 23626), . The most upscale hotel in Apia. Aggie Greys started as a hamburger stand for allied GIs during WWII and has become something of a legend. Nice pool, several bars. The Fiafia is an must-see. It's not a good place for budget travelers. The staff can be a little bit ornery although not outright rude. It's definitely worth spending one night here just for the history behind it. Spring for a garden bungalo, they are way cool.Starts around $130 US.
- Seaside Inn, Downtown Apia, ☎ (685) 22578(firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: (685) 22918), . Excellent choice for budget travelers. Short walk to downtown. Deck with a bar and a bit of a view. Serves food. Kitchen, laundry, and internet access. Short walk to under water preserve. Best deal in Apia.
- Pasefika Inn, Downtown Apia. Don't stay here. Grumpy staff, kinda dumpy.
- Samoan Outrigger Hotel, Downtown Apia, near the hospital, ☎ (685) 20042(Outrigger@samoa.ws). A prime choice for medical students doing their electives at the local hospital. Run by a Danish bloke and his Samoan wife. Clean and friendly with a pool and beautiful gardens. Option of staying in a traditional fale (very economical) or air conditioned rooms. Discounts can sometimes be negotiated for longer stays during medical electives, etc. $16 for a fale to $40 for single occupancy rooms.
Elsewhere on Upolu
- Taufua Beach Fales, Lalomanu, Upolu(Take the cross island rd or the shore rd, it's about the same either way.), ☎ (++685) 41051(email@example.com, fax: (++685) 41347), . Arguably the best place to stay on Upolu with the best beach on the island. The reef inside the lagoon is healthy and teeming with life. There is a dive shop on premises that can also organize snorkeling and surfing trips. The fales are basic but in good shape and are right on the beach. It's social but also quiet (except for the constant pounding of the surf out on the reef). Meals are served long table style and are a mix of western, eastern, and traditional Samoan food. Bar on premises. Internet access available. Bodega 5 minute walk away for beer and basic food. There's a couple other places to eat and drink on this beach if you feel like some variety but there's nothing fancy. Take the cross island road and check out Goldfish Lake on the way.
- Namua Beach Fales, Namu'a Island. Includes meals and launch transfer. This place should definitely be included in your itinerary.70 tala per per night (as at July '05).
- Sunset View Fales, Lepuia'I Village, Manono Island, ☎ 45640. Tranquil Manono island - no vehicles - no roads - no dogs. Free launch transfer from 'Upolu. All meals included. Boat trips to reef. Outrigger canoe. 5 fales on the waters edge. Samoan family environment. Ferry wharf phone: 4617790 tala per night (as at July '05).
- Utusou Beach Fales, Falealupo-tai, Savai'i(just south of Tanumatius Beach Fales). 2 fales on beautiful secluded beach. Run by Tafa & Salia Seumanutata and their family who really look after you (and if you're lucky tell some excellent stories.)50 WST per night including meals.
Samoa is a safe destination. Crime rates are low and people very helpful and friendly. Pickpocketing and robbery do occur, but with sensible precautions, one should encounter few problems.
Samoans have a different concept of ownership from Westerners and don't really consider stealing to be a sin as long as they don't get caught. Keep your valuables close, especially money, especially if you are doing a home-stay.
Dogs are the biggest threat, roaming the islands freely, often in packs. They are extremely vicious. You will be approached, so avoid walking in remote locations unless you have a pointed object or a quick means of escape. Travel by taxi at night, as they become even more aggressive after dark.
Samoa is a malaria free zone. However, there are occasional outbreaks of Dengue Fever and so precautions should be taken such as mosquito nets and insect repellent.
Drink bottled water. It's cheap and readily available.
There are no known poisonous animals or insects on land, although centipedes can give you a very painful bite.
In the water beware of purple cone shells, sea urchins, sharks, fire coral, etc.
Samoa is quite religious, with most of the population following one of the Christian denominations. This means Sunday is generally respected as a holy day and most shops and businesses are closed. You should not walk through villages on Sundays.
Samoan culture is governed by strict protocols and etiquette. Although allowances are made for foreigners, it is wise to avoid revealing clothing and to comply with village rules which are enforced by the village matai (chiefs), although Apia is quite relaxed in these traditions.
Women going topless is taboo, and they should only wear swimwear at the beach. Shorts should be knee length. Shirts should be worn when not at the beach. A lavalava (sarong) is nearly always acceptable attire.
Other simple things, such as removing shoes before entering a house (or, for that matter, budget accommodation), should be observed.
The main island of Upolu is know as the "modern" island, where most northern coast villages are quite relaxed with the old strict traditions, whilst Savai'i is the more traditional island but has become more relaxed -- but nude bathing is taboo.
Samoa has an adequate telephone system with international calling. Some villages have public phones available and require a pre-paid phone card.
Samoa.ws and Lesamoa are the only Internet Service Providers, but there are at least two public Internet access points in Apia, where fast, reliable access can be had for around 12 tala (4 US dollars) per hour.
The CSL cafe across the road from McDonalds has fast internet connection for around 5 tala per 30 min. You can also buy credit there (~70 tala for 10 h) to use your laptop at wifi lavaspots at various locations around town, eg CSL, McDonalds, Aggie Greys, Cappucino Vineyard, La Manumea, etc. see: http://www.csl.ws/lavaspot.cfm The lavaspot connection and download speed is very good.
This page was last edited at 02:45, on 19 March 2009 by Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel. Based on work by Ian Sergeant, R. Quinn and Gary Arndt, Wikitravel user(s) Episteme, Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel and others.