Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]
Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2024]


Essential Travel Tips for Your First Time in Samoa

Looking for a getaway with the perfect balance of relaxation and adventure? Perhaps an authentic destination with a proud culture instead of spoiled and touristy? Where you can be revelling in waterfalls and natural wonders one minute or sipping on coffee in the cosmopolitan capital the next? Well, you could be picturing the islands of Samoa.

Although one of the easiest island nations to escape to in the South Pacific, there are a few minor quirks that you need to know about, as well as some handy tips that will make that trip seamless. We go through them all in this list of Smaoa travel tips and the things you need to know about travelling in Samoa!

1. You Don’t Need a Visa to Visit Samoa

Samoa is a very welcoming country for visitors. Not only is entering the country incredibly easy, but all international passport holders are welcome into Samoa for up to a whopping 90 days! Learn more about visas and permits in our guide to the Samoa Visitor Visa.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

2. Know the Name of Your Accommodation and Details of Your Return Flight

One aspect of the arrivals process that throws many travellers off, however, is completing the Passenger Arrival Declaration Card. While most of this mandatory form is pretty straightforward, a couple of sections that stump the unprepared include writing the name of their accommodation, as well as their flight number and date of departure. In short, have this information handy during your flight to Samoa!

Get fully prepared for the arrival process using Arriving at Faleolo Airport, Samoa: A Step-by-Step Guide.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

3. Know What You Need to Declare and What You Can Bring to Samoa

An important part of the arrival formalities is declaring any potential “risk” goods that may be harmful to Samoa’s ecosystem, public or economy. While you can bring certain foods into Samoa, there are others you can’t. There is also an allowance for duty-free goods.

All of what you can and cannot bring to Samoa is detailed in Arriving in Samoa: Airport Customs, Biosecurity & the Arrival Process.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

4. There’s More to Samoa than “Apia”

Most travellers arrive on Samoa’s main island, Upolu, and head straight for the capital, Apia. While Apia is pretty awesome and is well-supplied with hotels, restaurants and activities, it’s far from the “real” Samoa. Samoa is made up of around 10 islands with two main islands boasting their own unique experiences and charm. Be sure to do some island-hopping! Get some inspiration on where to go with our island guides:

For a complete comparison of the islands, take a look at The Best Islands to Visit in Samoa.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

5. Be Prepared to Disconnect (Or Pay a Premium for WiFi)

Needless to say, we’re big fans of “the internet” – we mean, how else are you going to access! Free WiFi connection is few and far in between in Samoa, while most accommodations will charge a premium to access WiFi. If you absolutely need to connect while on your island holiday, it’s best to get a local SIM card or portable modem with one of the local network providers. More advice can be found in How to Get Internet & WiFi in Samoa.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

6. Accommodations Might Not Be as “Luxurious” as You’re Used To

It’s important to set a few expectations straight before checking into your resort or hotel in Samoa. Samoa is a developing country with far fewer resorts and, in turn, expertise than some of the more developed tourist hubs of the South Pacific. Many properties are a little overpriced for the quality offered and even the most “upscale” resorts may have a few hiccups like air-conditioning not working, ants in the bathroom, and many items missing from the dinner menu.

That all said, the location on pristine beaches and the unspoiled un-touristy vibe tend to make up for the lack of “luxury”. Check out your accommodations options in The Top 25 Resorts in Samoa, as well as Where to Stay in Samoa: The Best Accommodations in Samoa.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

7. Beach Fales are Amazing But They’re Not for Everyone

An iconic accommodation type in Samoa is the beach hut experience of “beach fales”. “Fale” means “house” in Samoan. With that, beach fales are made in the most traditional sense. These open-sided structures raised on the beach with a partially tin and palm frond roof are just a step up from camping; more like beach “glamping” considering stays are the full Samoan experience complete with a substantial breakfast and dinner. If you truly want to experience “Fa’a Samoa” or “The Samoan Way”, then stay in a Samoan beach fale. We have some of the most breathtaking listed in the 20 Best Beach Fale Accommodations in Samoa.

If giving up modern comforts is not for you, however, then you may want to reconsider staying in a beach fale. Check out our guide, Staying in a Beach Fale in Samoa + 10 Essential Tips to learn more about the experience.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

8. Yes, You Do Have to Pay for the Beach…

Many of us come from countries where paying for the beach seems like an insane thought! The beaches we’re usually thinking about, however, are on public land maintained by local governments but that’s not the case in Samoa.

Beaches in Samoa are owned by local families and communities who provide infrastructure like beach fales and access roads for the public to enjoy these beaches. To help fund and maintain these sites you are usually charged a customary fee, either to access the beach and its facilities or to hire a day fale.

Expect fees to be approximately ST$5-$10 per person or ST$20-$30 per vehicle. Resorts charge more to hire a resort room for the day. Sometimes purchasing something from their resort restaurant, for example, is enough payment. When in doubt, ask if it’s Ok to use the beach. Needless to say, guests of resorts and beach fales are not charged an extra fee.

For tips about respecting Samoan customs, check out our guide, Samoan Etiquette: Samoa Customs & Traditions.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

9. … And Waterfalls and Other Natural Attractions

For the same reason as having to pay for beaches in Samoa, you also have to pay to visit waterfalls, snorkelling sites, caves and other natural attractions. Again, most land in Samoa is owned by local families and communities rather than government organisations. While many families have made amazing attractions on their land available for visitors, funding is required to maintain sites, as well as for other community projects. The rare few free attractions in Samoa are usually those on government-managed land.

Don’t let the entry fees put you off visiting Samoa’s many natural wonders though, as entry fees are very affordable, typically from ST$5 to $20 per person! See what marvels you could be experiencing in The Top 20 Natural Wonders in Samoa.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

10. Rely on Vocal Directions and Tourist Maps; Not Signs and Google Maps

Samoa isn’t too difficult of a country to get around, consisting of a very simple road network. Directions can get difficult, however, if you solely rely on Google Maps and/or road signs to make your way around. Directional road signage is lacking in Samoa, and the signs that do exist are usually sun-damaged and, quite frankly, falling apart. Google Maps, on the other hand, doesn’t even recognise some roads to key attractions!

With all of this in mind, we recommend picking up one of the crude albeit semi-functional tourist maps and even asking for some directions to your destination. It’s wise to make a bit of a plan for getting to the attractions that you want to visit before setting off.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

11. You May Be Charged for Using Photography Equipment (Including Drones)

Despite the glorious landscapes and photo opportunities, Samoa isn’t exactly a photography-friendly country. You’ll be fine if you’re taking photos with your phone or a small camera, but some attendants at Samoa’s attractions may ask for an additional fee if using heavy photography equipment, like a DSLR or a drone. What’s more, getting your drone license in Samoa isn’t exactly easy, as you’ll need to apply for a permit, pay the fees and have a pilot’s license. More information on that can be found in What You Need to Know About Flying a Drone in Samoa.

For avid photographers wanting to snap up some amazing shots, however, we list the attractions where you won’t be charged extra in the Where to Take Pictures in Samoa: 10 Best Photography Spots.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

12. Not All Samoans Speak Fluent English; Be Patient and Talk Clearly

Samoa is a country with a culture and language of its own. With that, not everyone here speaks English fluently so be patient, talk clearly and, well, don’t be a d*ck. There may be some communication issues but most Samoans are very accommodating and want to help if they can. On a similar note, sometimes they want to be too accommodating so may say “yes” to your query even if, indeed, the answer is “no”. If you have doubts, perhaps ask someone else…

Learn more about the Samoan language in What is the Samoa Language? and 15 Samoan Words You Need to Know When Visiting Samoa.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

13. Cover Your Swimmers with a Lavalava

Being a primarily Christian nation, Samoans take modesty very seriously. As a result, it is seen as disrespectful to walk around villages in your shorty-shorts or just your swimmers. That’s why the lavalava (sarong) is one of the favoured clothing items in Samoa, for both women and men, as it provides an easy throw-on to keep your modesty in check when you’re not swimming or chilling at your resort.

Again, see more tips for respecting the local customs in Samoan Etiquette: Samoa Customs & Traditions.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

14. Cash is King!

Cash is the preferred method of payment across Samoa and is, in many cases, the only form of payment. Natural attractions, beach fales, buses, markets, and small tour operators; there are many instances where cash is the only accepted form of payment. While car rentals, restaurants and resorts accept card payments, there is usually a 3-5% fee. Remember, cash is king and you’ll want to withdraw or exchange as much as you’re comfortable carrying, especially for the east side of Upolu or the west side of Savai’i where there are no ATMs available.

For more advice on paying your way through Samoa, check out What is the Best Way to Pay in Samoa? and How Much Spending Money Do You Need for Samoa?.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

15. “Garden Toilets” are Public Toilets

Sometimes we gotta go! But instead of looking out for “public toilet” signs, look for “garden toilets” instead. We think you’ll prefer these charming potty-time alternatives, with each bathroom unit having a quaint wee garden and walkway outside. Why aren’t all public toilets like this?!

On a similar note, knock on public bathroom doors before you enter, as not all of them have locks. Plus, close the door when leaving.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

16. Sundays are a Little Quieter

As mentioned, Samoa is a primarily Christian country so locals see Sunday as a day of rest and worship. That’s why you’ll find that most shops close by Saturday afternoon, most tours don’t operate on Sunday, and some attractions are closed. While Sunday customs are strong (and you’re expected to wear respectful clothing when you go to church, just in case you decide to check out the experience), it doesn’t mean that the entire country closes for the day. There is still the odd attraction and shop open, depending on the religious background of the owners. For example, some Chinese-run stores are open on Sunday, while some stores will open very early on a Sunday morning so locals can prepare for their Sunday to’onai.

Learn more about what’s open on a Sunday in the 10 Things to Do in Samoa on a Sunday.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

17. Check the Prices for Laundry at Your Accommodation Before Using

Got dirty clothes? Well, you might want to think twice before using a hotel or resort’s laundry service. It’s not uncommon for accommodations to charge per eachindividual… clothing item which can lead to a pretty huge bill! Enquire if your hotel has coin-operated laundry machines instead or head to the nearest laundromat (available in Apia and Saleologa). Alternatively, pack some travel laundry detergent like these Wenge Eco-Friendly Laundry Sheets that are perfect for handwashing in the bathroom sink!

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

18. It Sometimes Rains in Samoa, But That’s Ok!

We all have visions of an idyllic sunny holiday when jetting off to a tropical country but, well, “tropical” climates also mean that there is rain involved – sometimes a substantial amount! Simply taking it on the chin and moving on with your day is the best way to handle when the heavens open, as it’s likely that the shower will pass quickly anyway. If it doesn’t, well, at least you have 20 Things to Do in Samoa on a Rainy Day. If you want to decrease your chances of getting rained on while in Samoa, you should consider visiting during the “drier season”.

See Samoa Weather, Seasons & Climate + Samoa Weather by Month to learn more about the weather patterns.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

19. Snorkelling is Awesome But Be Careful of the Passages and Bring Your Own Gear

Samoa is a fantastic destination for snorkelling, especially within its lagoons. One thing you especially need to be mindful of, however, is the strong currents in the lagoon passages. Passages are where there is an opening in the reef and the water rushes out to sea. Never go snorkelling in these lagoon passages unless you’re part of a guided snorkelling tour or seriously know what you are doing. In addition, we recommend bringing your own snorkelling gear if you can, as snorkelling masks and fins are not always readily available and when they are, they are not always in the best state.

See The Best Snorkelling in Samoa: Top 10 Places to Snorkel for all the best snorkelling hotspots, quick tips for safe snorkelling, and the limited options for snorkel hire.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

20. … And Be Careful of Mosquito Bites

Mosquitos aren’t just a minor annoyance that can leave an itchy bite, but day-biting mosquitos have been known to spread dengue fever and chikungunya in Samoa – a major blow to your holiday if you contract the virus! With that in mind, don’t cheap out on your mosquito protection method, whether it’s an effective but safe mosquito repellent or simply covering up with clothing. Check out the 10 Ways to Avoid Mosquito Bites in Samoa for all of our tips on managing bites.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

21. Apply Reef-Safe Sunscreen (And Bring Plenty With You)

Sunscreen is obviously essential for your trip to Samoa but the marine ecosystem surrounding the islands is badly threatened by sunscreen-induced bleaching. The problem is easy to fix, however, by opting for “reef-safe” sunscreen rather than the standard stuff. Unfortunately, the supply of reef-safe sunscreen in Samoa is extremely limited, so we highly recommend bringing enough for you and your whole crew for the entire trip. See The Best Sunscreens for Samoa + Sun Protection Tips for more on the subject!

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

22. Some Waterfalls Can Dry Up, While Others are Not Safe for Swimming After Heavy Rain

Samoa is brimming with waterfalls which is a major draw to the islands. You can witness them in their full glory during the wet season, although some waterfalls are unsafe to swim at after heavy rain, such as Fuipisea Falls. On the other hand, some waterfalls like the Togitogiga Waterfall can dry up completely if there hasn’t been enough rain, which is more likely to happen mid-way through the dry season and at the beginning of the wet season (August to November, for example).

For more on Samoa’s waterfalls, take a look at the 10 Best Waterfalls in Samoa, while more information on the best season to visit the islands can be found in The Best Time to Visit Samoa: A Month-by-Month Guide.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

23. Samoa Can Be Enjoyed in 7 Days to 14 Days+

How long should you spend in Samoa? Well, this depends on a number of factors, from budget to how many islands you want to visit. However, a comfortable amount of time in Samoa is from 7 days, if just visiting Upolu, to 2 weeks if you want to enjoy both Upolu and Savai’i! With visitor visas allowing you to stay for up to three months, you could even stretch your stay further if you have the time. There’s plenty to do! Otherwise, check out our itineraries for the most popular durations to stay in Samoa:

We also have itineraries for 3 days and 5 days, should things be really desperate, but we strongly recommend that you spend more time in Samoa. You won’t regret it!

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

24. You Need a Temporary Driver’s License to Drive in Samoa

Car or scooter rentals are popular ways to explore the islands of Samoa. It’s important to note, however, that you will need to apply for a Temporary Driver’s License before you can legally drive in Samoa. Fortunately, many rental companies make this process incredibly easy by either issuing the driver’s license themselves or providing transport to the nearest licensing authority. Either way, be sure this is organised before renting a vehicle, as outlined in How to Get a Samoa Temporary Driver’s License.

Also on the subject of car rentals, check out What You Need to Hire a Car in Samoa for more essential tips.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

25. The Buses are Fun But Not the Most Reliable Transport

Suited up like something out of Pimp My Ride, Samoa’s buses are an iconic part of the landscape. Using this mode of public transport can be heaps of fun but when it comes to actually travelling somewhere in a timely fashion, well… Like much of Samoa, the buses are on “island time”. Nevertheless, you can learn more about how to catch one in Taking the Bus in Samoa: Bus Fares, Routes & More.

For alternative ways to travel around the islands, including cycle touring (which is pretty epic) and guided tours (which are super convenient), check out the Samoa Transport Guide: 14 Best Ways to Get Around Samoa.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

26. Taxis are Actually Reasonably Priced and Worth Using in Samoa

Taxis are a pretty universal service that we’re all familiar with, but in some countries, they can be extortionately expensive while in others, they can be well-priced. In Samoa, taxis fortunately fall into the latter, offering very favourable fares for getting around, especially around Apia. Some taxi drivers can even be hired for a day of sightseeing as a stress-free alternative to driving yourself.

See Taxis in Samoa: Taxi Fares, How to Use & More and A Guide to Private Drivers in Samoa to learn more.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

27. Apia is Well Equipped for Special Diets; Just Don’t Expect the Same Treatment Outside of the Capital

Apia‘s dining scene is diverse and getting better and better for those with special dietary requirements. Check out our guide for Samoa for Vegans & Vegetarians + 10 Best Restaurants and The Gluten-Free Guide to Samoa. Outside of Apia, however, not only are restaurants pretty scarce apart from those at resorts, but these are more likely to serve “fried chicken and chips” than catering to more complex diets. Wherever you’re staying in Samoa, if your chosen accommodation provides food or has a restaurant, we recommend getting in touch with them to see how they can cater to your diet – many of them are happy to with prior notice!

Oh, and if your solution was to self-cater; that too is pretty much out of the question unless you’re staying in Apia. There are only approximately two resorts outside of the capital that have kitchen facilities, as listed in the 10 Best Self-Catering Accommodations in Samoa.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

28. Samoa Can Be Expensive, But Can Also Be Pretty Cheap!

Samoa might look like a priceless paradise on your Instagram feed, but the reality is that a trip can range from a backpacking budget to a luxurious resort holiday. That’s why we have both backpacker guides and luxury guides to Samoa! Bearing in mind that we all travel very differently, we’ve compiled a complete Samoa Travel Budget listing all of the typical costs of restaurant meals, popular tours and activities, and transport so you can work out your own budget with ease.

And if you want to shave the cents off your holiday, be sure to follow the advice in the 20 Tips to Save Money in Samoa.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

29. Pack Right for the Tropical Climate

With temperatures reaching average highs of 30°C (86°F) and high humidity all year round, Samoa calls for a tropical wardrobe! Light clothing, sun protection, swimwear and sandals/flip-flops are all essentials, while other useful items like snorkelling gear, rash vests and walking shoes are optional extras.

Don’t worry, we’ve got every item covered in What to Pack for Samoa: A Full Samoa Packing List.

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

30. Make the Most of Samoa Pocket Guide

As Samoa’s largest travel guide, we’re here for you every step of the way! Get inspired by our Destinations guides to the capital, as well as each island and see where your wanderlust will take you.

Our Travel Tips section gives you all the practical advice you will need when planning your trip to Samoa. All your Samoa questions will be answered so you know what to expect when you arrive.

Looking for places to stay? Check out our Accommodation section where you’ll find the best options for all styles of travel: budget accommodation, luxury accommodation, resorts, beach fales, holiday homes and much more!

Whatever your tastes, you’re bound to find your dream bucket list of activities in our Things to Do section. Our Things to Do page is split up into easy-to-digest sections where you can browse the activities that you are interested in, including water activities, walking, tours, shopping, nature, food and drink, golf, fishing, Samoan culture, adventure and more!

We make getting around easy with our Transport section, where you can find more information on buses, ferries, vehicle rental, public transport, international connections and more.

Finally, whatever your taste and whatever your travel style, we’ve made the perfect Samoa itinerary in our Trip Ideas section. All the work has been done for you!

Samoa Travel Tips: 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa 🌴 [2023]©

More Samoa Travel Tips

That’s it for our list of essential Samoa travel tips! Now that you’re wiser about travelling in Samoa, you might like to start planning some things to do, where to stay and more! Check out these guides to get started:

Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in The Best Samoa Travel Guide, which goes through planning your whole trip from pre-arrival to departure.


Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Samoa Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in the South Pacific over 10 years ago with nothing but a backpack and a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to explore a paradise such as Samoa. She knows the islands inside out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience Upolu and Savai’i’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also the editor of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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