The Complete Guide to Taking the Bus on Upolu
Icons of Samoa, the buses on Upolu are kitted out like something out of MTV’s Pimp My Ride with vibrant paint jobs, plasma-cut designs, hood ornaments and speakers booming reggae/techno remixes. Needless to say, taking the bus on Upolu is something of an experience and ultra-cheap too should you need to make your way around Apia or across the island. There are a few “quirks” of riding the bus, however, which means that they’re perhaps not the most efficient transport method for busy tourists but if you embrace “island time” you’re sure to have a blast.
In this guide, we go over everything you need to know about taking the bus on Upolu, including bus routes, fares, timetables (?!) and more! Plus, for more ways to get around the island, don’t forget to check out our Upolu Transport Guide.
5 Tips for Taking the Bus in Apia and Upolu
- Use it for the experience and the price; not for a timely and efficient transport service
- Pay when leaving the bus and with as close to the correct change as possible
- Buses depart every 30 minutes to two hours with no set schedule, so be prepared to go with the flow
- Avoid the bus stations in Apia around 2-3 pm when school is out as the kids can get pretty “riotous”
- Want to sit on a Samoan’s lap? Take the bus at the beginning or the end of the working day or on a Saturday when drivers push the limits of how many people they can fit on a bus!
Upolu Bus Routes: Where to Catch the Bus on Upolu
Buses chug along the roads of Upolu throughout the day, starting around 6 am until around 4/5 pm in the outer villages and until 6/7 pm within Apia. The main bus stations for the island can both be found in Apia: one by the Fugalei Market off Fugalei Street and one behind the Savalalo Flea Market off Mulinuu Road.
Although there may be an odd shelter for waiting bus passengers, there are no official bus stops or stations outside of Apia; passengers simply catch a bus by waving it down from one of the main roads. That’s why it’s usually easier for first-time bus passengers (i.e. tourists) to catch a bus from Apia, as it’s more predictable to determine where the bus is going to go.
Apia and Upolu Bus Names and Where They Go
Buses on Upolu are named after the village they serve but will drop off passengers at any village on the route between Apia and their destination village. Although not a comprehensive list, the list of Upolu buses below are the buses to the destinations that most international visitors need to know. Note that every bus mentioned below departs/returns to the bus stations at the Fugalei Market and Savalalo Bus Station in Apia.
Vaoala – Insel Fehmarn Hotel and Robert Louis Stevenson Museum.
Fagalii – Apia Park Stadium and the Royal Golf Course.
Seesee – Mormon Temple and Papase’ea Sliding Rocks.
Salani Falealili – (takes the Cross Island Road) Bahai’i Temple, Papapaitai Falls, Togitogiga Waterfall and Salani Surf Resort.
Falefa – Piula Cave Pools, Le Uaina Beach Resort and Falefa Falls.
Lotofaga – (takes Le Mafa Pass) To Sua Ocean Trench.
Faleolo – EFKS Museum and Faleolo International Airport.
Pasi O Vaa – Faleolo Airport, Sheraton Samoa Beach Resort and Mulifanua Wharf.
Manono-uta – Faleolo Airport, Mulifanua Wharf, Manono-uta (ferry to Manono Island).
Bus Fares on Upolu
The local buses are by far the cheapest way to travel around Upolu. Bus drivers only accept cash (in the local Samoan Tala currency, of course) and this is paid at the end of your journey when you are exiting the bus at your destination. Try to give as close to the correct change as possible in case the driver can’t break a $50 or $100 note!
Bus fares are very cheap and you will never usually pay anything over ST$12 per person. To give a rough idea of fares, an approximate Upolu bus fare list is as follows:
- Around Apia – ST$0.50-$3
- Apia – Faleolo Airport – ST$5
- Apia – Mulifanua Wharf – ST$5.50
- Apia – Lalomanu – ST$7.70-$8
- Apia – Piula Cave Pool – ST$4-$5
- Apia – Maninoa (Sinalei Reef, Coconuts, etc.) – ST$7.20-$7.50
- Apia – Lefaga (Return to Paradise) – ST$6-$6.50.
Upolu Bus Timetable
Erm, what timetable? That’s right, Upolu‘s bus services don’t necessarily run on timetables. When the bus sets off is at the discretion of each individual bus driver, most of which are certainly on island time. What’s more, just because the bus has “left the station”, so to speak, doesn’t mean you’re on your way, as stopping at the fuel station or supermarket or making a loop around town in an attempt to pick up more passengers are all possibilities before your bus journey actually gets underway.
Despite the lack of scheduling, passengers aren’t usually left without a bus for too long. Each village destination on Upolu has around three buses, so when one bus has left the station, there’s usually another one on its way. The most you’ll have to wait between buses is two hours. Buses that run around Apia, on the other hand, usually have departures every half an hour to an hour.
In short, the buses on Upolu are only worth considering if you know that you have a lot of time to spare. If you’d like to visit a remote spot, like Lefaga (Return to Paradise Beach) or the Aleipata Islands, for the day and return to Apia on the same day, make sure you’re at the Fugalei Market or Savalalo Bus Station for 6 am or 7 am! Similarly, if you’re needing to catch the ferry to Savai’i at Malifanua Wharf, for example, catch the bus in Apia at least 1h30mins before your ferry is scheduled to depart.
Upolu Bus Etiquette
Like travelling anywhere new, there are customs to bear in mind when taking the bus on Upolu. A few bus etiquette tips include:
- To stop the bus from the roadside, simply wave to the bus driver to stop
- Let the driver know where you are going when you board the bus; they usually remember to stop when they get there
- If you see your stop coming up, however, pull the cord overhead to indicate the driver to stop. If there’s no cord, tap on the walls with some change
- Try to have the correct change ready when leaving the bus (i.e. don’t be “that guy” that pays for his ST$6 fare with an ST$50 note!)
- There’s a seating hierarchy on buses that typically palagi (foreigners) and older people sit near the front; locals will show you where to sit if the bus is full
- Just because the bus is full means it is full though; locals simply sit on each others’ laps; tourists are usually spared by sitting at the front or having luggage on their laps but if you want to avoid one of these busy bus journeys, aim for mid-morning or midday bus rides
- Wear respectable clothing knowing that you’re sharing the bus with locals.
For more customs to respect while visiting Upolu, check out Samoan Etiquette: Samoa Customs & Traditions.
More About Buses and Getting Around Upolu
That’s it for our complete guide to taking the bus on Upolu, including bus fares, timetables and more. For more ways to get around Samoa’s main island, check out the following guides:
- Upolu Transport Guide: 11 Ways to Get to (& Around) Upolu
- 10 Best Car Rentals on Upolu: The Top Upolu Car Rental Companies
- Samoa Travel Times & Distances: How Long Does it Take to Travel Around Samoa?
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in Taking the Bus in Samoa: Bus Fares, Routes & More.