The Complete Guide to Health and Safety in Samoa for Travellers
Crime is minimal, there are no crocodiles, no malaria and not much else to be too concerned about. All in all, Samoa is a very safe place to visit. However, mosquitos can be a pain and spread diseases, drinking tap water can leave your stomach feeling funny, and being swept away in a reef passage is never fun. In this guide on how to stay safe in Samoa, we outline the health and safety issues to be aware of in Samoa and how you can reduce the risks.
10 Health Tips for Samoa
Before we go into our in-depth health and safety tips for Samoa, here are a few quick tips to keep in mind while travelling:
- If you are feeling ill, be proactive and see a doctor in Samoa. They are more likely to know the local illnesses than your doctor back home
- Go heavy on the sun protection
- Be serious about avoiding mosquito bites
- Make sure your travel vaccinations are up-to-date. See a doctor 4-6 weeks before travel at the latest
- Know what water is safe to drink
- Focus on hand hygiene when staying in villages or beach fales
- Pack a first aid kit specifically for Samoa
- If you get cut, act quickly to clean the wound, disinfect and place an adequate band-aid
- If you have pre-existing conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, see your doctor a few weeks before your trip and ask them to make a note of your medication and condition
- Know the emergency number in Samoa: 911.
Now, let’s get onto our health and safety advice for Samoa.
Health Tips for Samoa
Samoa presents a few environmental hazards but very few diseases. Like travelling anywhere in the world, it’s smart to have your travel vaccinations up-to-date and to prepare a first aid kit for injuries or minor health issues that might occur. See our advice in What Medication to Pack in Your First Aid Kit for Samoa and Do You Need Vaccines to Travel to Samoa?
Medical Issues That Can Occur in Samoa
The most common medical issues that can occur in Samoa are sunburn, heatstroke, mosquito bites and coral cuts. These are very easy to keep in check with simple precautions. Other medical issues may occur when it comes to drinking water and food, which we cover in our “Food and Water Hygiene” section.
Overexposure to the sun and high humidity can lead to heatstroke. Symptoms include exhaustion, confusion, headache and vomiting. To avoid, wear high-factor sunscreen, reapply every three hours or straight after swimming, and drink plenty of water. If symptoms occur, move out of the sun immediately and try to cool the victim down by wrapping a wet towel around them. See a doctor as soon as possible. For more sun protection tips, check out The Best Sunscreens for Samoa + Sun Protection Tips.
Mosquitos can leave a nasty itchy bite, which is enough to ruin an evening under the stars. What’s more, day-biting mosquitos transmit dengue fever (see below) and, more rarely, chikungunya and zika. Check out 12 Ways to Avoid Mosquito Bites in Samoa for ways to avoid bites.
Ciguatera is fish poisoning caused by eating reef fish that have eaten particular types of toxic algae. Symptoms occur within 24 hours of eating contaminated reef fish and include vomiting, diarrhoea and numbness in the fingers. The best way to prevent it is to avoid eating reef fish altogether; eating deep-sea fish, like tuna, wahoo and mahimahi, is fine.
Cuts from live coral can leave prolonged infections, so if you are injured by live coral, get out of the water immediately and cleanse the wound. Take out all of the bits of coral, apply antiseptic cream, and cover with a dressing. You should have all this stuff in your Samoa First Aid Kit!
Scuba diving is a popular activity in Samoa, but neglecting the strict depth and timing precautions of scuba diving can result in decompression illness, otherwise known as “the bends”. Note that there are no decompression chambers in Samoa.
Dengue fever is a mosquito-transmitted disease that has regular outbreaks in Samoa. It is only the day-biting mosquitos (black and white striped) that cause the infection, so take a precaution by preventing mosquito bites. See the 12 Ways to Avoid Mosquito Bites in Samoa for tips.
Similar to dengue fever, chikungunya is another mosquito-transmitted disease also spread by day-biting mosquitos. There is no vaccination or specific treatment for the disease, so, again, sensible mosquito avoidance is recommended.
E.coli (Traveller’s Diarrhoea)
E.coli is a virus resulting from food and water that is contaminated with faecal matter, for instance. Precautions to take include boiling water for at least 10 minutes if the water is not from a safe source and washing hands regularly. See Is the Water Safe to Drink in Samoa? for more tips. Symptoms include fever, drowsiness and diarrhoea. If symptoms occur, hydrate by taking small sips of fluids continuously, alternating between electrolytes and water. If you don’t have an electrolyte solution, drink Coca-Cola or salty broth. In most cases, you will need to wait out the symptoms, as antibiotics rarely treat E-coli effectively.
The COVID-19 virus has been present in Samoa. Symptoms are flu-like including fever, cough, tiredness and loss of taste or smell. It is recommended that you are fully vaccinated before travelling to Samoa. See Do You Need Vaccines to Travel to Samoa? for more details.
Typhoid Fever, Meningitis, Measles and Hepatitis A
While rare, typhoid fever, meningitis, measles and hepatitis A outbreaks have occurred in the past 5-10 years. It is recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to be up-to-date with routine vaccinations and to get travel vaccinations, such as diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and polio, regardless of where you are travelling to. Find out more in Do You Need Vaccines to Travel to Samoa?
Natural Disasters in Samoa
Although Samoa is usually blessed with buckets of sunshine, its location in the South Pacific means that it is at risk of extreme weather events and natural disasters.
The South Pacific cyclone season runs from November to April. On average, Samoa experiences a big cyclone once every five or so years. Samoa is well prepared for cyclones, however, so check out Cyclones in Samoa: A Guide to Cyclone Safety for advice on safety precautions.
Being just north of a major earthquake zone, Samoa has had rare but serious incidents of being impacted by tsunamis. Anyone visiting Samoa should know how to identify the signs of a tsunami and know what to do in the case of one before visiting; The Guide to Earthquakes & Tsunamis in Samoa will give you some pointers.
Knowing that some of Samoa’s most famous attractions have been caused by volcanic activity, you can be forgiven for thinking that volcanic eruptions are a risk. The last eruption was between 1905 and 1911 and eruptions in the near future are considered unlikely.
Dangerous Animals in Samoa
Samoa doesn’t have any poisonous spiders or poisonous land snakes (one of the 25 Fun Facts About Samoa) but there are venomous fish, as well as other animals that you’re best to avoid. These include:
- Aedes aegypti – The day-biting mosquito that can transmit dengue fever
- Centipede – Will leave a painful bite if provoked
- Dogs – More of a problem for their bark than their bite
- Crown-of-thorns starfish – Has venomous spikes
- Stonefish – Rare but camouflage fish that have venomous spines
- Fire coral – Has bright yellow branches and leaves a nasty sting or rash
- Lionfish – Fish that leaves a painful sting
- Man o war jellyfish – Rarely seen but they can get carried over reefs after storms.
For more information about the sort of animals you’ll see in Samoa, check out Wildlife in Samoa: Animals in Samoa & Where to See Them.
Food and Water Hygiene
Food and water in Samoa are generally safe and readily available, but you shouldn’t drink from any old tap. Basic travel-health rules are worth keeping in mind. We go over a few food and water hygiene tips for Samoa here.
Know What Water is Safe to Drink
Tap water is generally not safe to drink, even if locals are drinking it. Resorts normally let guests know where to get safe drinking water at their facility. Many have their own filtration system installed but always be sure to ask where to get safe drinking water (as it’s not always from your bathroom’s tap). Otherwise, bottled water is readily available to buy throughout Samoa.
To avoid water-borne diseases, such as traveller’s diarrhoea, and reduce the negative impact bottled water has on the environment, take precautions like boiling water for about 10 minutes before drinking it. Water purifying tablets and Lifestraw bottles are also effective, but boiling water is the safest option.
See Is the Water Safe to Drink in Samoa? for much more of a deep dive into the subject.
Focus on Hygiene Especially When Staying at Beach Fales
Staying at a beach fale or with a local family can be an enriching cultural experience, but you will need to accept a small portion of risk with conditions being different from home. First, focus on hygiene by washing your hands regularly or using a hand sanitiser, especially before eating food. In the unlikely case that you do start feeling ill, act quickly by seeking medical attention. If you let the situation worsen, it may be very strenuous to wait to see a doctor.
Be Aware of Food Safety
Eating in restaurants or at tourist accommodations is usually very safe in Samoa. But if you’re eating street food, like from roadside barbecues, then there are a few things to be aware of. For instance, if you’re in an area that may have unsafe water, avoid eating salads or uncooked food that might have been washed with contaminated water. Preferably, eat food that has been cooked in front of you. Vegetarian food is usually the safest option.
To avoid gastro bugs, use hand disinfectant and only eat cooked food. If you get diarrhoea, drink water regularly and alternate between electrolytes and water. If other symptoms occur, see a doctor.
Finally, avoid salmonella by not eating runny eggs or undercooked meat. If you have blood in your stool, see a doctor immediately.
Travellers with gluten intolerance can get advice from The Gluten-Free Guide to Samoa.
Hospitals, Medical Centres and Pharmacies in Samoa
If you have health issues or serious injuries while in Samoa, then there are hospitals (some of which also act as medical centres/GPs), as well as private medical centres and pharmacies. Basic over-the-counter medical supplies can be bought at supermarkets and some convenience stores.
Note the phone number in an emergency is 911.
Pharmacies in Samoa
- Niu Pharmacy, signposted off Vaea Street, central Apia, Upolu
- Maria’s Healthcare Pharmacy, Vaea Street, Taufusi, Apia, Upolu
- Samoa Pharmacy Sogi, Mulinuu Road, Mulinuu Peninsula, Apia, Upolu
- Samoa Pharmacy, Mulinuu Road (between the Mall and BSP Bank), Apia, Upolu
- Alpha Cafe & Chemist, Ififi Street, Moto’otua, Apia, Upolu
- Maria’s Healthcare Pharmacy, Ififi Street, Moto’otua, Apia, Upolu
- Maria’s Healthcare Pharmacy, Vaitele Street (at Farmer Joe’s Complex), Vaitele-tai, Apia, Upolu
- Salelologa Pharmacy at the traffic light intersection on South Coast Road and the main road into Salelologa, Savai’i.
Medical Centres and Hospitals in Samoa
- Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital, Motootua, Apia, Upolu
- Poutasi District Hospital, Main South Coast Road, Saleilua, Upolu
- Leulumoega District Hospital, Main West Coast Road, Leulumoega, Upolu
- Saanapu Health Centre, Main South Coast Road, Saanapu-uta, Upolu
- Lalomanu District Hospital, inland road past the school, Lalomanu, Upolu
- Lufilufi Health Centre, just past the Piula Theological College and Cave Pool, Lufilufi, Upolu
- Faleolo Health Centre, down the inland road opposite Faleolo Airport, Faleolo, Upolu
- Plaza Medical Centre, SNPF Plaza, Convent Street, Apia, Upolu
- Samoa Healthcare Medical Clinic, Convent Street (behind Immaculate Conception Church), Apia, Upolu
- Aiga Manuia Clinic, North Coast Road, Lalomalava, Savai’i
- Tuasivi Hospital, North Coast Road, Tuasivi, Savai’i
- Safotu District Hospital, North Coast Road, Safotu, Savai’i
- Sataua District Hospital, South Coast Road, between Papa-uta and Satua villages, Savai’i
- Foailalo District Hospital, South Coast Road, Foailalo, Savai’i
- Satupaitea Health Centre, South Coast Road, Satupaitea, Savai’i.
For more essential services around the islands, take a look at the Information, Shops & Services in Samoa.
Crimes Against Tourists in Samoa
Samoa is generally very safe when it comes to crime, while tourist scams are unheard of, even if some tourists think paying for the beach is a scam (see Samoan Etiquette: Samoa Customs & Traditions to learn more). However, there is the occasional petty crime, like theft in cases where valuables are on display. Rarer still, violent and sexual assaults have occurred in Samoa.
Theft in Samoa
Beach locations are higher-risk areas for theft of unattended items, such as beach fales. Thefts are very rare for items that are out of sight at beach fales, but leaving items outside overnight like shoes is when they are likely to go walkabout (usually with a local dog).
Take the usual precautions for vehicles; don’t leave valuables visible. Ideally, take valuables with you.
In short, theft is not something to be too worried about in Samoa, but a bit of commonsense precaution is always advised.
Violence in Samoa
One precaution that the Samoa Police advise to drivers, is that if you’re in an accident or witness an accident, don’t get out of your vehicle unless it is safe to do so. Drive to the nearest police station to report the accident.
Emergency number: 911
There are police stations in the following locations:
- Main HQ Apia (Beach Road & Ififi Street, Apia)
- Afega (Main West Coast Road, Afega, Upolu)
- Tuanaimato Police Station (Vaitele, Apia)
- Faleolo (Main West Coast Road, Faleolo, Upolu)
- Lalomanu (inland road, Lalomanu, Upolu)
- Lotofaga (Main South Coast Road, Lotofaga-uta, Upolu)
- Maritime Outpost (Wharf, Beach Road, Apia)
- Poutasi (Main South Coast Road, Saleilua, Upolu)
- Tuasivi (Savai’i Police Headquarters, North Coast Road, Tuasivi)
- Vaito’omuli (Vailoa, South Coast Road, Savai’i)
- Asau (South Coast Road, Asau, Savai’i)
- Fagamalo (North Coast Road, Fagamalo, Savai’i).
Water Safety in Samoa
Water activities are a highlight of Samoa, but precautions should be taken when out swimming.
Not all beaches are good for swimming in Samoa, so you should always seek advice before heading out. Snorkelling, for instance, is not good at low tide in most snorkelling spots like Palolo Deep and the Savaia Giant Clam Sanctuary. You’ll want to avoid coral cuts or getting chomped by a giant clam!
Most essentially, swimmers should be wary of currents and tidal changes, particularly the swift movement of water through reef passages. Reef passages can usually be spotted from on-shore – better from an elevated position – as a width of darker (deeper) water can usually be spotted extending out to the reef.
Finally, never swim alone and always seek local advice on conditions.
Road Safety in Samoa
The final danger or potential hazard in Samoa is the roads. Although speed limits are low and there are efficient road rules in place, the roads can be congested in Apia, and accidents on the road do happen. Some safety tips for driving on the roads in Samoa include:
- Take it easy and stick to the speed limit
- Watch out for children and animals on the road
- Be mindful of the buses
- Wear a helmet when riding a scooter
- Take extra care when driving on unsealed roads
- Don’t park under coconut trees
- Wear your seatbelt (even if the locals don’t).
We have elaboration on these safety tips in the 10 Safety Tips for Driving in Samoa, as well as road rules to follow in How to Drive in Samoa + 10 Road Rules You Need to Know.
More About Health and Safety in Samoa
That’s it for our complete guide to health and safety in Samoa. For more Samoa safety tips, check out the following guides:
- 10 Best Reef-Safe Sunscreens for Samoa
- 25 Tips for Your Family Samoa Vacation with Kids
- 30 Ways to Travel More Sustainably in Samoa
Finally, get all the travel tips you need for Samoa from The Best Samoa Travel Guide: Plan a Trip the EASY Way and the 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa.