Everything You Need to Know About Planning a Trip to Samoa
Rising from the deep blue South Pacific Ocean, the islands of Samoa with their bush-clad mountains and villages decorated with flowers are certainly a sight to behold. Not only are the islands about basking in lagoons and chasing waterfalls amidst Jurrasic-like jungles, but this is the heart of Polynesia. The tiny nation’s proud history spans more than 3,000 years, with many believing Samoa is the ancestral centre of the Polynesian culture. With that, the culture and traditions of the Samoan people are incredibly easy and a joy to access, as visiting the islands of Samoa truly feels like a world of its own.
So, how do you plan a trip to such islands? Fortunately, you’re in the right place; where Samoa’s largest travel guide has condensed everything you need to know about planning a trip to Samoa into one place. This is it; the best travel guide to Samoa (even if we do say so ourselves).
An Intro to Samoa
Location: Samoa is a small archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean in between American Samoa, Tokelau, Wallis and Futuna, Fiji, Tonga and Niue. It is approximately 3,000 km (1,864 mi) northeast of New Zealand and 3,700 km (2,300 mi) southwest of Hawaii. Find out more in Where is Samoa Located?
Climate: Temperature – 24-30°C (86-75°F), yearly average rainfall – 2,800 mm/110 in, and year-round high humidity.
Find out more in our guide to Samoa Weather, Seasons & Climate.
Time zone: UTC/GMT +13.
Find out more in What is the Samoa Time Zone?
Find out more in Who are the People of Samoa?
Languages: Samoan and English.
Find out more in What is the Samoa Language?
How to Get to Samoa
What is the best way to get to Samoa? Samoa can be accessed by flight, cruise ship or private sailing yachts. The most popular way to get to Samoa is by international flight, so let’s start with that.
Flying to Samoa
Direct international flights to Samoa come from New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, French Polynesia and Hawaii. If you’re coming from further afield, the most connecting flights can be made in New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and French Polynesia. See our guide, Which Airlines Fly Directly to Samoa? for more advice.
All international arrivals land at Faleolo International Airport on the island of Upolu, approximately 45 minutes from the nation’s capital, Apia. Find out more about the airport and what to expect in Which Airport to Fly into Samoa.
Cruises to Samoa
Samoa is on the itinerary of several South Pacific cruises from New Zealand, Australia, the US and French Polynesia as well as round-the-world cruises from the UK and Europe. There is one port of call in Samoa, Apia, where tours of the greater Upolu island are easy to organise. Find out about which cruise liners have Samoa on their itinerary, as well as what to do at each port of call in the 10 Best Cruises that Go to Samoa.
Sailing to Samoa
Samoa is situated on the Transpacific journey between the US and New Zealand. The yachting season is between May and October. Learn about the sailing formalities and the port of entry in our Sailing Guide to Samoa.
A Note on Customs Declarations
Samoa has strict biosecurity measures at the border to stop unwanted pests and diseases from entering the country. Therefore, anyone arriving in Samoa has to declare any “risk items” they have packed in their luggage – even common items like food and sports gear. Be sure to read up on Arriving in Samoa: Airport Customs, Biosecurity & Arrival Process so you are prepared.
Check out our complete guide on How to Get to Samoa for even more tips on making your way to the islands.
When to Visit Samoa
Samoa is a tropical country and experiences consistently warm temperatures throughout the year, as well as high humidity. It has two distinct seasons, a dry season which is drier and less humid, and a wet season which is hotter and more humid. Learn more about the climate in our guide, Samoa Weather, Seasons & Climate + Samoa Weather by Month.
Dry Season (May to October)
The dry season is the most popular time to visit Samoa, not only for the temperatures of around 23-29°C (73-84°F) but the lower (but not exactly low) rainfall per month at an average of 133-257 mm (5.2-10.1 in). The dry season is also the time for surfing, clearer scuba diving conditions, catching the Teuila Festival, seeing the occasional whale and catching wahoo.
Wet Season (November to April)
The wet season is hotter and more humid, with temperatures around 24-30°C (75-86°F) and an average monthly rainfall of 270-419 mm (10.6-16.5 in). This is also the South Pacific’s cyclone season, which means there’s a risk of cyclones (but only a risk, which you can learn more about in A Guide to Cyclone Safety in Samoa). The wet season is also the best time for catching Marlin and Yellowfin Tuna, experiencing some popular events, getting cheaper travel deals and avoiding other tourists.
Still can’t decide when the best time is to travel to the islands? Check out our complete guide, The Best Time to Visit Samoa, which dives much deeper into the subject.
What to Pack for Samoa
The main thing you need to keep in mind when packing for Samoa is having a tropical wardrobe that includes some more modest items of clothing for going out in villages. A packing list for Samoa might look a little something like this:
- 4 Singlets/T-Shirts
- 2 Blouses/Shirts to cover the shoulders for church, visiting villages and exploring
- 2 Shorts/Skirts which are not too short so you can enjoy wearing them at both your resort and when out exploring
- 1 Light evening dress to impress at dinner
- 1 Dress/Skirt below the knee for church, going to town or villages, etc. We recommend light fabrics such as the sustainable bamboo dresses and skirts by Moso Morrow
- 1 Sarong (Lavalava) will be your best friend for hitting the beach and covering your swimwear in between swimming. You can bring your own or there are plenty for sale once you arrive in Samoa
- 1 or 2 Light sleepwear if you’re against sleeping in your undies
- 1 Light Cardigan/Pashmina/Poncho for windy/rainy days
- 1 Sports shorts/Leggings for hiking/active activities
- 1 Sports T-shirt/Singlet for hiking/active activities
- 1 Outfit to travel between Samoa and home
- 3 Bras including strapless, sports and comfortable bras
- 6 Underwear
- 4 Socks
- 1 Bikini for resort beach/pool
- 1 One-piece for swimming tours/public beaches
- 2 Boardshorts for guys
- 1 Rash vest (we like sustainable Sharkskin rashies)
- Light shirt to cover arms and back
- Light rain jacket
- Walking shoes/Sneakers
- Reef shoes/Water shoes.
And that’s just the clothes! For a full packing list of everything to take, including accessories and toiletries, check out What to Pack for Samoa: A Full Samoa Packing List.
With high UV levels and the presence of mosquitos, certain health products are essential to take to Samoa. Samoa also has a fragile marine ecosystem so reef-safe sunscreens and repellents are a must. On a similar note, a reusable water purification bottle is preferable to buying bottled water for obvious environmental reasons. See our health essentials packing list in What Medication to Pack in Your First Aid Kit for Samoa, as well as tips for protecting the health of the environment in the 31 Ways to Travel More Sustainably in Samoa.
The currency in Samoa is Samoan Tala. Cash is king in Samoa and is the most accepted form of payment, so having enough with you while exploring the islands is essential. Some vendors accept Visa and MasterCard while others also accept other credit card brands. ATMs are scarce outside of Apia, Faleolo Airport, Salelologa and Fagamalo. Get more money tips in What is the Best Way to Pay in Samoa?
Travel Documents and Paperwork
Visitors to Samoa do not need a visa but do need a passport that is valid for no less than six months after the intended date of departure. There may be other current entry requirements, which we keep up to date in What Documents Do I Need to Travel to Samoa?
How Long to Spend in Samoa
Samoa might make for an idyllic resort getaway to simply relax for a few days and that’s fine; we all need to R&R from time to time. More intrepid travellers, however, will find that Samoa is an excellent country not only for some minor island-hopping but mostly for road-tripping around its two main islands.
We’d recommend the minimum number of days to spend in Samoa is seven days if just visiting Upolu. However, 10 to 14 days are the recommended number of days for a satisfying trip to Samoa, especially if you include both Upolu and Savai’i.
For those of you who want to explore, here’s what you can achieve in certain timeframes… (And don’t worry, we’ll get onto the destinations in the next few sections).
3 Days / A Long Weekend in Samoa
Over three days or a long weekend, you have enough time to visit Samoa’s capital, Apia, and perhaps one side of Upolu. Check out The Best Samoa Itineraries for 3 Days for a compilation of itineraries.
5 Days in Samoa
Five days give you just enough time to fully explore the main island of Upolu and its capital, Apia, but not Savai’i. See The Best Samoa Itineraries for 5 Days for trip ideas.
7 Days / 1 Week in Samoa
Some travellers will find that seven days is ideal for a mix of adventure and relaxation on Upolu, while more intrepid travellers might want to squeeze in a trip to Savai’i. Get some inspiration on what to do and where to go from The Best Samoa Itineraries for 7 Days.
10 Days in Samoa
10 days is a comfortable amount of time to enjoy both of Samoa’s largest islands, Upolu and Savai’i. Check out The Best Samoa Itineraries for 10 Days for a complete list of our recommended itineraries.
14 Days / 2 Weeks in Samoa
Find the perfect balance of sightseeing, adventure and relaxation or simply enjoy Upolu and Savai’i for longer – there’s plenty to do! You could even easily add an overnight stay at the lesser-visited Manono island on a 14-day trip. See The Best Samoa Itineraries for 14 Days for a whole list of exciting itineraries.
How Long Can You Stay in Samoa?
Visitors to Samoa can stay up to three months (90 days)! Visitor extensions are available, however, which you can learn more about in our guide, How Long Can You Stay in Samoa on a Visitor Visa?
Which Island to Visit in Samoa
Samoa is made up of around 10 closely compacted islands with two large main islands, Upolu and Savai’i. The most-visited island, most populated and the easiest to get to is Upolu, while Savai’i sits some 20 km (12 mi) away and is the largest island.
Compare the most popular islands to visit, as well as how to experience some of Samoa’s smaller islands in The Best Islands to Visit in Samoa and Which is Better, Upolu or Savai’i? Otherwise, here’s a quick rundown of each destination.
Home to Samoa’s only international airport, as well as the capital, Apia, which is also the country’s only port of entry, Upolu is everyone’s arrival island in Samoa. As the most populated of Samoa’s islands, Upolu has an established tourism scene of beachside resorts and fales while Apia is an urbanised hub of restaurants, markets, shops and hotels. The island is also home to some of Samoa’s most iconic attractions, particularly To Sua Ocean Trench.
Just a 60-90 minutes ferry journey from Upolu, Savai’i is Samoa’s largest island yet much less populated and developed, which could be an endearing prospect for more adventurous travellers. With the majority of accommodations here being beach fales, and only an exclusive handful of resorts, authentic island culture is easy to come by. The landscape is characterised by volcanic activity, which makes the island home to some of the country’s best cave and blowhole attractions. Learn more about the “big island” in The Complete Travel Guide to Savai’i.
Again, be sure to check out The Best Islands to Visit in Samoa for more of a comparison, as well as to check out some of Samoa’s smaller islands.
How to Get Around Samoa
The distances between islands in Samoa are relatively short, making island-hopping by boat a very viable option. Once you have arrived on your island of choice, getting around is also made extremely easy between the abundance of taxis and vehicle rentals available.
Ferries and Boat Transport
Ferries sail back and forth between Upolu and Savai’i one to three times per day, while boat transport to some of the smaller islands like Manono and Numu’a is easy to arrange. Learn more in our Samoa Ferry Guide: How to Use the Ferry for Interisland Travel in Samoa.
Renting a car is the most popular way for travellers to get around each of the islands. A Samoa Temporary Driver’s License is essential for drivers but easy to obtain. Find out everything you need to know about hiring in What You Need to Hire a Car in Samoa.
Although not as popular as in nearby destinations like Rarotonga, scooter rental in Samoa is available as a cheaper and more fuel-efficient vehicle rental alternative. See the 10 Tips for Riding a Scooter in Samoa to start your research.
If you ever wanted to do some tropical “bikepacking”, Samoa makes an ideal destination to try. Multi-day touring bicycles and e-bikes are available to hire, with guides and support vehicles if preferred. Check out The Ultimate Guide to Cycling in Samoa for more details.
Both Upolu and Savai’i have a vibrant fleet of buses that cart around locals and tourists for pittance. On the downside, they don’t run on schedules so getting anywhere fast isn’t usually an option. Find out more in our guide, Taking the Bus in Samoa: Bus Fares, Routes & More.
Taxis are also in abundance on both the main islands of Samoa, offering cheap rides for short distances, while fares can be negotiated for longer journeys. Ask about driver daily rates for sightseeing. See Taxis in Samoa: Taxi Fares, How to Use & More for more useful advice.
While those are the main ways to get around Samoa, you can dive into all of your options, including sightseeing tours and airport transfers, in the Samoa Transport Guide: 14 Best Ways to Get Around Samoa.
Where to Stay: Accommodation in Samoa
Samoa has holiday accommodation experiences across the spectrum; from familiar-feeling resorts to uniquely Samoan beach fales. As Samoa is a developing country, accommodation standards might not be as high as you’re used to for the price, especially for a 3-4-star resort. But where the country truly shines is its more authentic beach fales and budget hotels.
Take a look at accommodation styles across Samoa in Where to Stay in Samoa: The Best Accommodations in Samoa.
Resorts in Samoa provide the complete holiday experience with various grades of rooms/bungalows usually containing an ensuite and basic hotel-like facilities, such as air-conditioning, drink-making facilities and sometimes a TV. There are usually communal facilities, such as a swimming pool, restaurant (often providing the only dining options outside of Apia) and watersport equipment rental. Some resorts also arrange entertainment like fiafia nights. Compare resorts in our ultimate list of The Top 25 Resorts in Samoa and learn more about the resort experience in How to Choose the Best Resort in Samoa for You.
Samoa’s homegrown style of hospitality, beach fales are traditionally constructed open-sided huts that are raised on the beach. Beach fales are usually kitted out with woven mat, mattresses, a mosquito net and perhaps woven blinds for privacy/rain protection. Shared facilities are a bathroom block and dining fale where the usually included breakfast and dinner shared with fellow guests is served. Compare beach fales in the 20 Best Beach Fales in Samoa and learn more about what to expect in our guide, Staying in a Beach Fale in Samoa + 10 Essential Tips!
Primarily limited to Apia, hotels range from 2 to 4 stars. Most 3-4-star hotels provide the international experience with added facilities like a swimming pool and restaurant, while budget hotels offer a more homely experience, typically boutique and run by locals. You can also find the odd hotel in Salelologa on Savai’i. Check out the 30 Best Hotels in Samoa for examples.
Guesthouses, B&Bs and Motels
Making up the rest of the accommodation scene of Samoa is a miscellaneous category of primarily budget lodges. These are similar to B&Bs or backpacker accommodations where guests sleep in private rooms but share communal facilities such as a bathroom and kitchen. Find out more in the 10 Best Guesthouses & B&Bs in Samoa.
Things to Do in Samoa
Contrary to popular belief, there’s more to do in Samoa than drink cocktails and sit by the pool! Samoa exceeds in adventure, sightseeing, culture and relaxation, providing a generous mix of water and inland experiences. There’s so much to do that we could hardly fit it all into our 101 Best Things to Do in Samoa!
Water Activities in Samoa
- Snorkelling – Snorkel in the lagoons or join boat tours
- Waterfalls – Swim at the base or admire from afar
- Swimming holes – Freshwater springs galore!
- Kayaking & SUP – Join tours or hire to explore mangroves and lagoons
- Scuba diving – Choose from tens of dives sites, from drop-offs to wreck dives
- Game fishing – The South Pacific’s largest pelagics can be caught
- Surfing – Hit uncrowded reef breaks on the south coast
- Canyoning & abseiling – Scramble up and down waterfalls.
Land Activities in Samoa
- Culture tours – Take part in traditions, see crafting and food demonstrations
- Fiafia nights – Cultural show with local food
- Caves – Explore lava tubes with “sonar” swiftlets
- Hiking – Samoa’s interior is awash in jungle and volcano hikes
- Markets – Delight in street food and browse local handicrafts
- Shopping – Apia provides the opportunity to buy all sorts of amazing crafts
- Historical sites – Ancient star mounds and churches engulfed in lava flow
- 4WD tours – Self-drive quad tours
- Cycling tours – Experience villages at a natural pace
- Island tours – Explore the island with a local guide
- Museums & art galleries – Be inspired and learn something new
- Spa treatments – Visit a day spa or get a massage in your resort bungalow.
Food in Samoa
Food is an integral part of the Samoan culture. Despite there being limited dining options outside of main centres like Apia and Salelologa, accommodation hosts will ensure you won’t go hungry by either providing homecooked meals of Samoan fare or boasting their own restaurant with an international menu. Everything you need to know about food in Samoa can be found in The Food Guide to Samoa: Places to Eat & Food Tours.
Restaurants and Cafes
Restaurants and cafes come with plenty of choices in Apia, serving up international favourites including Asian, European, American and Samoan dishes. Outside of the capital, however, restaurants can almost only be found at resorts, which are fortunately open to casual visitors but charge the usual premium for meals. The odd hidden gem is listed in The Food Guide to Upolu and The Food Guide to Savai’i, while our favourites are in The 20 Best Restaurants in Samoa.
Self-catering is totally viable in Apia but much less available outside of the capital. Although there are well-stocked convenience stores across the country, it is the lack of accommodations with kitchen facilities that’s a real issue for self-catering. Nevertheless, take a look at the 10 Best Self-Catering Accommodations in Samoa for your options.
As self-catering is such a big topic to cover, we have a separate guide in A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Samoa. You also might like to know about bringing food to Samoa, which you can read up on in our guide, Taking Food to Samoa: What You Need to Know.
With tropical vegetables and coconut cream being staple ingredients in Samoa, vegans and gluten-intolerant diners are usually easy to cater for but you may struggle to find “creative” dishes outside of Apia. Nevertheless, as long as you let your accommodation hosts know about any dietary requirements before you arrive, you’re sure to get a delightful dining experience. Check out Samoa for Vegans & Vegetarians + 10 Best Restaurants, as well as The Gluten-Free Guide to Samoa for more advice.
What Food to Try
And what are the foods worth trying in Samoa? With a huge range of homegrown snacks, dishes and beverages, from rich and creamy palusami to comforting koko Samoa, trying the local staples is one of the best things about visiting Samoa. Look out for the items listed in the 20 Foods to Try in Samoa and 14 Drinks in Samoa You Have to Try.
Food and Water Safety
Tourist accommodations in Samoa have access to safe drinking water, whether it’s tap water with a UV-filtration system, a jug of filtered water at reception, or the option to buy bottled water. See Is the Water Safe to Drink in Samoa? for more advice. Food in Samoa is generally cooked to safe hygiene standards, but check out Samoa Safety Tips for precautions to take.
For all things “food” in Samoa, including markets to attend, foodie tours, restaurant recommendations and more, head to The Food Guide to Samoa: Places to Eat & Food Tours.
Typical Costs and Budget for a Trip to Samoa
We all travel very differently. Therefore, making a precise budget for everyone is an impossible task. Nevertheless, you can work out your own needs, thus budget, by simply looking at the typical prices listed below or in our article, How Much Does a Trip to Samoa Cost?
The Cost of Accommodation
- Beach fale/night – ST$40-$50
- Beach fale + meals/night – ST$70-$100
- Budget hotel room/night – ST$120-$220
- Mid-range hotel room/night – ST$240-$270
- Family hotel room/night – ST$240-$380
- Budget resort bungalow/night – ST$190-$320
- Mid-range resort bungalow/night – ST$340-$670
- Luxury resort bungalow/night – ST$690-$1,700
- Family resort bungalow/night – ST$265-$1,500
- Holiday home/night – ST$180-$400
The Cost of Food
- Main breakfast meal – ST$18-$35
- Main lunch meal – ST$15-$40
- Main dinner meal – ST$28-$90
- Fiafia night buffet and show – ST$50-$90
- Small coffee – ST$8-$11
- Bottle of beer – ST$6-$10
- Bottle of wine – ST$75-$90
- Cocktail – ST$10-$29
- Mocktail/Smoothie – ST$15-$20
- Soft drink – ST$4.50-$9
The cost of supermarket food can be found in The Cost of Food in Samoa.
The Cost of Tours and Attractions
- Waterfall attraction/person – ST$5-$20
- Beach access/person – ST$5-$10, or /vehicle – ST$20-$40
- Cave tour/person – ST$15
- Culture tour/person – ST$0-$25
- Full/multi-day guided hike/person – ST$110-$200
- Spa treatment/1 hr massage – ST$80-$190
- Guided island tour – ST$250-$440
- Museum entry – ST$0-$10
- Snorkel hire/day – ST$7-$25
- Snorkel tour/person – ST$50-$300
- Canoe/kayak tour/person – ST$35-$180
- SUP tour/person – ST$80-$410
- Fishing charter/private/half-day – ST$800
- Scuba dive/intro dive – ST$350-$400
- Surf boat/half-day – ST$80
The Cost of Transport
- Bicycle rental/day – ST$30-$100
- Temporary Driver’s Licence/month– ST$21
- Scooter rental/day – ST$50-$60
- Car rental/day – ST$90-$220
- Bus/one-way trip – ST$0.50-$12
- Taxi/around Apia– ST$3-$6
- Taxi/Apia to Faleolo Airport – ST$60-$80
- Airport transfers/person – ST$50-$180
- Savai’i – Upolu ferry/passenger – ST$10
- Savai’i – Upolu ferry/car + driver – ST$80-$100.
Spending Money for Samoa
Here are a few averages for a daily budget for Samoa. These include food, activities, transport and miscellaneous expenses. Each price is per person per day:
- Budget daily budget: ST$180
- Mid-range daily budget: ST$370
- Luxury daily budget: ST$510+
We break down the budgets further in How Much Spending Money Do You Need for Samoa?
Samoa Travel Guides: Plan a Samoa Trip According to Your Travel Style
Finally, this wouldn’t be the best travel guide to Samoa without taking into account that everyone likes to holiday differently. Here at Samoa Pocket Guide, we have travel guides for all styles of travel, including budget travellers, luxury travellers, honeymooners, families, adults-only and foodies. If one of these fits your style, then jump ahead to the appropriate travel guide:
- The Complete Backpacking Guide to Samoa on a Budget
- The Complete Luxury Guide to Samoa
- The Complete Travel Guide to Samoa for Families
- The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Samoa
- The Complete Adults-Only Travel Guide to Samoa
- The Foodie Guide to Samoa: Places to Eat, Food Tours & More
And if you simply can’t get enough Samoa wisdom, head over to the 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa.
Happy travels and thanks for checking out this travel guide to Samoa!