The Only Budget Travel Guide to Apia You’ll Ever Need
And you thought Samoa was all fancy resorts, didn’t you?… The capital of this South Pacific paradise not only treats you to the sights, sounds and scents of modern Polynesia but treats your wallet with affordable places to stay, free attractions and activities, as well as cheap eats! Plan the perfect cost-effective trip to Samoa’s capital with this complete guide to Apia on a budget.
5 Tips for Visiting Apia on a Budget
Before we jump into our complete budget travel guide for Apia, here are just a few ways you can save money on your vacation:
- The cheapest way to get around Apia, other than on foot, is by taking the bus. If you’re on a tight schedule, however, taxis in Apia are also very affordable
- Stay in accommodations with shared bathrooms for the cheapest rates
- Pick up meals from takeaways and markets for the cheapest meals
- You can save a ton by picking up groceries from Apia’s supermarkets and convenience stores and using your accommodation’s self-catering facilities
- Internet is expensive, so get a local SIM card with a data plan for much better rates (or buy a coffee at one of the cafes mentioned in the 10 Places with Free WiFi in Samoa).
How to Get to Apia
Apia is located on the north coast of Upolu, Samoa’s eastern island some 3,000 km (1,864 mi) northeast of New Zealand and 3,700 km (2,300 mi) southwest of Hawaii.
The closest international airport is Faleolo International Airport, approximately a 50-minute drive along the north coast where airport shuttles, taxis and buses provide transfers. The airport receives regular flights from New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii and Fiji, which are all well-connected to the rest of the world. Find out about airlines travelling to Faleolo Airport in our guide, Which Airlines Fly Directly to Samoa?
Alternative ways to get to Apia include day trips with cruise liners, as well as via private sailing yacht; both of which anchor in the Apia Harbour. Find out more about your arrival options in Getting Here: How to Get to Samoa?
How to Get Around Apia
Apia has an inexpensive public transport network of taxis and buses. Car and scooter rentals are also available should you want to make your way around independently, while tour operators provide guided tours with transport included. The city centre is quite compact, with plenty to see on foot.
Find out all you need to know about transport in our Apia Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get to (& Around) Apia.
Free Activities in Apia
Apia has enough going on between the markets, parks and even a marching band to keep you entertained without having to spend a cent. Although most natural attractions and museums have an entry fee in and around Apia, as per Samoan customs, there are a rare few attractions that you can enjoy free of charge, which include…
Samoa Cultural Village
“Fa’a Samoa” means “The Samoan Way” and you’ll certainly get the full flavour of the Samoan culture at Apia’s best-value attraction (and not only because it’s free).
Happening from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm, Tuesday to Friday, Samoa Cultural Village starts with a hands-on experience of weaving your own plate for the umu. You’ll then be formally welcomed with an ‘ava ceremony before seeing how a traditional umu feast is prepared. While your lunch is cooking, see how ‘ava bowls are carved and even witness a painstaking Samoan tatau (tattoo) being applied in the traditional way.
Finally, sit down with your freshly prepared umu lunch while watching a fiafia cultural performance including fire dancing.
Find Samoa Cultural Village at the back of the Samoa Tourism Information Centre on Beach Road.
Free to attend, the markets of Apia are certainly worth perusing even if it’s just for the cultural ambience.
The largest market in Samoa and a hotspot for all sorts of cultural goings-on, Fugalei Market is a sight not to be missed, the Flea Market is a more compact version and specialises more in crafts, while the Samoa Women’s Association of Growers (SWAG) Market is a cute Saturday gathering and the Night Market on the last Friday of the month is a street food storm.
Learn more about each market and more in the 8 Best Markets in Samoa.
Falemata’aga, Museum of Samoa
The free but donation-based Museum of Samoa, Falemata’aga has an impressive collection of historical artefacts from across Samoa and the South Pacific. If you don’t want to sift through it all yourself, free guided tours are available with passionate guides to show you through six different galleries (in air-conditioned rooms, might we add) boasting 3,000-year-old Lapita pottery, colonisation history and even a small art exhibition, there’s plenty here to keep you occupied for as long as you wish.
Find this museum on Vaitele Street – look out for the large mural on the building. Plus, get more of a museum fix from the 5 Best Museums in Samoa.
Royal Samoan Police Marching Band
Each weekday morning from around 8:45 am, the Royal Samoa Police Band brings the streets of Apia to life with trumpets, trombones and drums as they march along Beach Road from the Police Station Headquarters. At 9 am, they raise the Samoan flag on the lawns of the Government Building before marching their merry way back to the Police Station. A sight not to be missed!
More Free Activities in Apia
While the above mentions are just a taster of Apia’s free activities, there are attractions like Friendship Park, Vailima Botanical Garden and the Mt Vaea Robert Louis Stevenson Tomb Walk and more that are also free to enjoy. Check them out in the 15 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Apia, as well as for experiences across the greater island in the 25 Free & Cheap Things to Do on Upolu.
Cheap Activities in Apia
Don’t miss the natural highlights of Apia that are still very affordable. Most attractions that we list here have an entry fee, that ranges from ST$5 to $20 per person. Learn more about Samoa’s entry fees at attractions in our guide to Samoan Etiquette: Samoa Customs & Traditions.
Papase’ea Sliding Rocks
Try out nature’s waterslides at the Papase’ea Sliding Rocks. After walking down an anxiously high number of steps, knowing that you have to get back up them again, you’ll come across the first and biggest slide that locals call the “men’s slide”; a near verticle 5-m (16-ft) slide. Further down is the “kids’ slide”, a much less precarious slide with a little drop at the end of extra fun. Finally, at the bottom, you have the “women’s slide”. Lots of fun, lots of laughs; what’s not to love? Avoid the busiest times, which tend to be the weekends, to get optimal slide time.
Find this attraction in Se’ese’e, Faleata District on the outskirts of Apia. The access road turns off Maugafolau Road near the University of the South Pacific campus.
Palolo Deep Marine Reserve
At first glance, it might not look like much. But 100 m (109 yards) off the shores of Apia and under the lagoon’s surface hides an amazing array of marine life that will make you squeak in your snorkel. Hire snorkelling gear from the kiosk at Palolo Deep and swim out to the white buoy to see an underwater trench thriving with staghorn coral, hundreds of tropical fish species, starfish, octopus and, if you’re lucky, perhaps even some turtles. The latter is more likely to be seen near the tiny island.
Note that the water is way too shallow for enjoyable snorkelling when it’s not close to high tide, so plan your visit accordingly. Find this attraction between the Marina and Vaiala Beach along Beach Road, Apia.
For more sweet (and affordable) snorkelling spots, check out The Best Snorkelling in Samoa: Top 10 Places to Snorkel.
Robert Louis Stevenson Museum
Another museum in Apia that’s well worth scouting out, the impeccably maintained grounds and villa of the famous Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1895), who lived in Samoa for the remaining four years of his life, are preserved for visitors to enjoy today.
While “Villa Vailima” has had a few makeovers over the years, the home has been filled with replicas to represent what this classic colonial home would have looked like. That’s not to say there aren’t a few original trinkets, books and personal belongings to admire, as well as stories to immerse in while taking the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum tour with one of the museum’s incredibly knowledgeable guides.
Find the RLS Museum signposted along Cross Island Road in the village of Avele, just south of Apia.
Budget Dining in Apia
Budget travellers staying in Apia can eat for cheap thanks to the local takeaways, markets and supermarkets for self-catering.
Cheap Restaurants and Takeaways
If you’re willing to put that diet on hold, then you’ll find no lack of cheap takeaway options across Apia. Kardenia’z, Mr Chicken Plaza, Chickalicious, Mr Chippy, Raynim’s Fast Food are just a few takeaways offering deep-fried delights, kebabs and burgers between ST$5 and $20.
If just burgers are more your thing, then slightly better burgers can be found at Kilo’s Shack and Skippy’s Restaurant, while Jojo’s Diner and Kofe Hous also do decent burger meals on the outskirts of town.
Finally, get affordable Asian cuisine from Bella’s Kitchen and Yummy Fast Food. Tifaimoana Indian Restaurant and Cafe 1962 are also good for affordable curry meals.
Learn more about these cheap dining options in The Top Cheap Eats in Apia.
The best market for cheap street food is the Apia Night Market on the last Friday of the month from 4 pm (but it’s better from 6 pm). It’s when the island’s food vendors and eateries gather together for a whirlwind of tastes, from cheap steak sarnies to cupcakes to carnival favourites like candy floss and popcorn.
Alternatively, see what’s cooking at the Fugalei Market, available all day every day except Sunday. As well as fresh produce, some vendors sell cooked Samoan favourites. Find out more about Upolu’s markets in the 8 Best Markets in Samoa.
A surefire way to save money on food while staying in Apia is to cook for yourself. You’re never too far away from a local convenience store no matter where you are in the city. Check out what typical Samoan supermarkets stock in A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Samoa. As for where to cook your own meals, check out the 10 Best Self-Catering Accommodations in Apia & Upolu.
Finally, check out more tips for saving money on scran with the 10 Ways to Save Money on Food in Samoa.
More About Apia on a Budget
That’s it for our complete guide to Apia on a budget but by no means the end of our advice. Check out more guides to help save the cents on your trip:
- Is Samoa Expensive?
- How Much Spending Money Do You Need for Samoa?
- 8 Accommodations in Samoa with Free WiFi
Finally, don’t forget to open The Complete Backpacking Guide to Samoa on a Budget to plan more of your trip later.