The Complete Guide to Driving in Samoa
Whether you’re beach and waterfall-hopping on the roads of Upolu or driving the quiet roads and waving to the locals on Savai’i, there’s nothing like a road trip in paradise! All you need to do is sort out the logistics of hiring a car and know some essential road rules to keep yourself and others safe. Luckily, this complete guide to driving in Samoa can help with all of the above and more, covering driver’s licenses, vehicle rentals and the road rules you need to know.
How Long Does it Take to Drive Around Samoa?
Go in-depth on the driving times around the islands in Samoa Travel Times & Distances: How Long Does it Take to Travel Around Samoa?
What License Do You Need to Drive in Samoa?
First things first, when you’re wanting to drive in Samoa, you need to make sure you have a valid driver’s license.
Temporary Driver’s Licenses
Visitors in Samoa with a full and valid overseas driving license are only eligible to drive on Samoa’s roads if they obtain a Temporary Driver’s License (TDL) or have their International Driving Permit (IDP) endorsed by the Land Transport Authority (see below).
The TDL is valid for a duration of one or two months and can be obtained from either the Samoa Land Transport Authority, the Samoa Post Shop in Apia, the Samoa Tourism Authority Information Centre or from selected car rental companies.
The list of licensing authorities and details on how to apply for the TDL can be found in How to Get a Samoa Temporary Driver’s License.
International Driving Permit (IDP)
Those with an International Driving Permit (IDP) regulated by the United Nations can use it to drive on the roads in Samoa only if it is endorsed by the Land Transport Authority. This may mean a short and at least inexpensive taxi ride to the LTA office on the outskirts of Apia.
Learn more about using your IDP in Samoa in our guide, Can You Drive in Samoa With an Overseas License?
Renting a Vehicle in Samoa
Car and scooter rental is available in abundance on Upolu, while Savai’i has a smaller selection of rental companies.
Although the legal driving age in Samoa is 17, note that most vehicle rental companies will only hire to drivers aged 21 years and older. In some rare cases, some rental companies will only hire vehicles to drivers over the age of 25.
Car Hire Companies in Samoa
Compare vehicle rental companies in the following:
- 10 Best Car Rentals in Samoa
- 10 Best Car Rentals in Apia & Upolu
- 5 Best Car Rentals on Savai’i
- The Cheapest Car Rentals in Samoa
Scooter Hire Companies in Samoa
And compare scooter hire in the following:
Vehicle rental can usually be delivered anywhere in Apia free of charge or to the airport or your accommodation for a fee which is comparable to a taxi rate. Some, but not all, vehicle rental companies in Samoa will go through the usual process of a car inspection, taking your driver’s license details and upselling you insurance, additional drivers, etc. Get a full cost breakdown in The Cost of Renting a Car in Samoa: Full Car Rental Cost Breakdown.
Remember that on returning your vehicle, you need to fill up the fuel tank or else you will be charged a premium for fuel – more on gas stations in the section below.
For more advice on hiring a vehicle in Samoa, head to our full guide, What You Need to Hire a Car in Samoa.
What are the Roads Like in Samoa?
Samoa’s roads are easy to drive and navigate with each of its two main islands having relatively well-maintained tar-sealed roads (especially in comparison to other South Pacific islands) which run around the perimeter, while three main roads also cross the island of Upolu.
Is it Easy to Drive Around Samoa?
The road network in Samoa isn’t too complex, with main roads circumventing the coast and only three main roads crossing the island of Upolu. Roads are easy to follow on tourist maps. However, directional signage is where Samoa’s roads lack, so it’s best to plan your route in Samoa rather than rely on road signs and Google Maps to point you in the right direction.
There is very little traffic in Samoa with the exception of Apia, which can feel a little chaotic as it’s not uncommon for drivers to forget to use indicators when switching lanes, for example. Be aware of the road rules (see below), take it easy but be alert when driving in Apia and you should be just fine.
Samoa is not a country to speed around. Speed limits are low and there are many hazards on the roads; children are likely to be playing on the roadside, especially when school closes at 2 pm and then again around 4 or 5 pm when they are outside playing during the cooler hours. There are also animals on the road to watch out for. Roads are not well-lit at night, so also be sure to slow down more after dark.
Do You Need a 4WD in Samoa?
Most tourists do not need a 4WD in Samoa. However, it is recommended that you rent at least a high-clearance vehicle, as some unsealed access roads to attractions such as the Alofaaga Blowholes, Coastal Walk and Aganoa Beach are not suitable for town cars. You’ll find that the majority of cars for rent in Samoa are SUVs (sports utility vehicles) with budget and premium options available.
What Side of the Road Do They Drive on in Samoa?
Samoa drives on the left side of the road. In September 2009, Samoa became the first country in more than 40 years to make the switch of which side of the road is driven (from driving on the right to driving on the left, in this case). It’s also the reason why the speed limit in Samoa is an unusual “56 kmh” – an expedient conversion of the old 35 mph.
For more facts like this, check out the 25 Fun Facts About Samoa.
Gas Stations in Samoa
When you’re hiring a vehicle, you’re going to need to know where to fuel up.
Gas stations can be found in and around Apia, as well as near Faleolo International Airport on Upolu, as well as along the main road around Savai’i and within Salelologa. Note that there are no gas stations on the east side of Upolu, so be sure to fuel up before road-ripping on this side of the island. Details of which can be found in our guide, Information, Shops & Services in Samoa.
Note that gas stations in Samoa are full-service gas stations, i.e. a gas station attendant fills up your vehicle with fuel for you. Tell the attendant how much money you would like to fuel up, then pay the attendant with cash.
For the most recent fuel prices, check out The Cost of Renting a Car in Samoa: Full Car Rental Cost Breakdown.
10 Road Rules in Samoa You Need to Know
While most road rules in Samoa are similar to other countries, especially New Zealand, there are a few differences that many visitors are surprised by or find different from home. We’ll go through some of the most important road rules for visitors here:
- Drive on the left side of the road
- The maximum speed limit is 56 kph (35 mph) or slower in Apia and villages – signs usually indicate the speed limit in a given area
- At roundabouts, give way to vehicles approaching from the right
- All vehicles are allowed to make a free left free turn at all intersections when clear, except where controlled by traffic lights with left turning lights
- When turning right, give way to an oncoming vehicle turning left
- You may pass or overtake on the right half of the road when overtaking a vehicle travelling in the same direction as you, there is no immediate traffic coming from the opposite direction, and only on broken line markings on the road (not an official road rule, but a couple of quick sounds to the horn before passing or overtaking is customary)
- At an uncontrolled T-intersection, all traffic from a terminating road (bottom of the T) should give way to all traffic on a continuing road (top of the T); remember “Top of the T goes before me!”
- It is illegal to leave any part of a vehicle on or over any footpath
- If you are involved in an accident, whether directly or indirectly from the use of your motor vehicle, you must stop your vehicle unless it is unsafe for you to do so. In which case you must drive directly to the nearest Police Station and report the accident
- Adults in the front of the vehicle must have their seat belts on at all times, although it is legal for adults to sit at the back of the car without seat belts (whether you should is a different matter). Children under 12 must use a seat belt or a child safety seat. If there is no safety seat, the child must use a seat belt if it fits. If the seat belt does not fit, the child must sit in the back seat.
If you find any of these road rules confusing or just want to see the full list of road rules in Samoa, take a look at the Samoa National Road Code published by the Samoa Police.
As there are also quite a few road hazards that are essential to be aware of, make sure to also check out the 10 Safety Tips for Driving in Samoa.
More About How to Drive in Samoa
That’s it for our complete guide on how to drive in Samoa, including 10 essential road rules in Samoa that you need to know. For more road trip advice, check out more of our guides:
- Samoa Travel Times & Distances: How Long Does it Take to Travel Around Samoa?
- 10 Ways to Save Money on Car Rental in Samoa
- Samoa Transport Guide: 14 Best Ways to Get Around Samoa
Finally, plan the ultimate round-the-island road trip using A Self-Guided Day Trip Around Upolu: East Coast Itinerary and A Self-Guided Trip Around Savai’i: Two-Day Itinerary and more in our Day Trips category.