Everything You Need to Know About Transport on Upolu
Isolated in the South Pacific Ocean some 3,000 km (1,864 mi) from New Zealand and 5,000 km (3,107 mi) from Australia, Upolu takes a little getting to unless, you know, you come from those countries… Nevertheless, once you’ve crossed the Pacific and experienced that moment of respite when you see the main island of Samoa jutting from the vast ocean, the island is easy enough to get around. Enjoy the convenience of hiring a car or jumping on a guided island tour or, do what the locals do, and take one of the suited-up buses around the island! We go through all of your transportation options in this Upolu transport guide, which includes how to get to and around Upolu.
Before we begin, don’t forget to organise your accommodation and activities with ease using The Complete Travel Guide to Upolu and Where to Stay on Upolu: The Best Upolu Accommodations.
1. Upolu by Flight – How to Get to Upolu
Most travellers get to Upolu by international flight. The majority of international flights come from New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii and Fiji, which all make good stopovers if you’re coming from further afield. Upolu and Samoa’s only international airport is Faleolo International Airport, which is about a 50-minute drive from Apia and a 5-minute drive from Mulifanua Wharf where you can take the ferry to Savai’i. Find out about airlines travelling to Upolu in our guide, as well as how to get a good deal in Which Airlines Fly Directly to Samoa? and How to Book a Cheap Flight to Samoa.
Note that on arrival, you will be asked questions concerning biosecurity and, the one that trips many travellers, “Where are you staying?” Find out more about the arrival formalities in our guide, Arriving in Samoa: Airport Customs, Biosecurity & the Arrival Process.
2. Car Rental – How to Get Around Upolu
A popular and convenient way to travel around Upolu at your own pace is by renting a car. There is a substantial selection of car rental companies on Upolu – most based in Apia. Be sure to do your research using the 10 Best Car Rentals on Upolu. While most visitors will only need a 2WD to enjoy Upolu’s attractions, note that there are a rare few places that require a 4WD vehicle. Also note that you’ll need to pay for a temporary driver’s license for your time driving on Upolu, which you can learn more about, as well as other requirements, in What You Need to Hire a Car in Samoa.
We also recommend that you become familiar with the local road rules, which we outline in How to Drive in Samoa + 10 Road Rules You Need to Know.
3. Bus Services – How to Get Around Upolu
Ultra-cheap and a fun experience, Upolu’s buses are a vibrant and popular way for locals to get around the island. With no real schedule, however, and no eagerness to get anywhere too quickly, buses should only be considered as a transport option if you’ve got plenty of time on your hands. Otherwise, you might just want to take the bus to do short trips into Apia city centre if you’re staying nearby.
Find out more about taking the bus in our guide, Taking the Bus in Upolu: Bus Fares, Routes & More.
4. Taxi Services – How to Get Around Upolu
Readily available across Upolu, taxis provide an easy and reasonably priced way to get from A to B. There are taxi stands in many of Upolu’s villages, as well as in Apia. Your accommodation provider should be able to get in touch with the nearest one. Taxis don’t run on metres, so agree on a fare with the driver before departing.
Learn more about how taxis work in our guide, Taxis in Samoa: Taxi Fares, How to Use & More.
5. Airport and Accommodation Transfers – How to Get Around Upolu
A simple way to get between Falelolo International Airport and your accommodation is to book a transfer with your accommodation provider or an airport shuttle service. While resorts tend to offer airport transfers, only some beach fales and hotels provide this service – so be sure to ask. Needless to say, airport transfers should be arranged with your chosen accommodation or shuttle company prior to arrival. Compare all of your options for getting to and from the airport in the 10 Best Airport Transfers in Samoa.
6. Guided Island Tours – How to Get Around Upolu
If you don’t want to find your own way around Upolu, consider a guided tour. Not only do many resorts and beach fales offer their own selection of island tours including transport to each of Upolu’s sightseeing highlights, but independent tour companies are also abundant across Upolu and include accommodation pick-ups. Choose your island tour from the 10 Best Day Tours of Upolu.
7. Bicycle Rental – How to Get Around Upolu
Take in the sights, sounds and smells of Upolu at a much slower pace by cycling around the island. Choose either fully guided tour packages or freedom hire with Outdoor Samoa or opt to stay in a resort offering bicycle rental, such as Return to Paradise Resort. Cycling is mostly on quiet sealed roads (not counting Apia) with only a small number of uphills, making this an appealing option for most fitness levels.
Learn more about travelling around Upolu by bike in The Ultimate Guide to Mountain Biking in Samoa.
8. Scooter Rental – How to Get Around Upolu
With mostly sealed roads in good condition, riding a scooter around Upolu is another viable option for those who wish to explore independently. A small number of scooter rentals are available on the island where you’ll need to get a visitor’s driving license to legally drive on Upolu’s roads. Needless to say, scootering is best if you’re carrying a backpack rather than a suitcase and you have a waterproof cover for that backpack as the rain can come down hard on Upolu.
For more tips on hiring a scooter, check out Scooter Hire in Samoa: Where to Rent, Cost & More.
9. Upolu by Cruise Ship – How to Get to Upolu
For a quick visit to Upolu, the island is on the itinerary of several South Pacific cruises. Cruise passengers typically enter Upolu from Apia Harbour. From there, passengers spend the day exploring Apia or travelling around the island on island tours, as listed in the 10 Best Shore Excursions in Samoa. Find out which cruises visit Upolu in the 10 Best Cruises that Go to Samoa.
10. Upolu by Ferry – How to Get to Upolu
It is possible to get to Upolu via the sea from its closest neighbours, Savai’i and American Samoa. Ferries from Savai’i arrive at Mulifanua Wharf on the west coast of the island, with arrivals several times a day and once on a Sunday. Ferries from American Samoa (Pago Pago) arrive in the Apia Harbour every Thursday and sometimes on a Saturday.
Find out more about ferry travel from Upolu, particularly between Upolu and Savai’i, in our Samoa Ferry Guide: How to Use the Ferry for Interisland Travel in Samoa.
11. Upolu by Yacht – How to Get to Upolu
With the exception of the cyclone season (November to April), Apia on Upolu is the official port of entry for Samoa. For the rare few that arrive on Upolu by private yacht, you will need to go through the entry customs at the Ports Authority. Find out more about visiting Samoa via yacht and the protocols involved in our Sailing Guide to Samoa: Tips for Yachting in Samoa.
More About Upolu Transport and Getting Around Upolu
That’s it for our guide to Upolu transport with the ways to get around Upolu, as well as how to get to Upolu. If you have more questions about travelling around Upolu, check out the following guides:
- Samoa Transport Guide: 10 Best Ways to Get Around Samoa
- The Driving Times in Samoa You Need to Know
- 5 Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Renting a Car in Samoa
Finally, see where your transport can take you with our itineraries: The Best Samoa Itineraries for 2 Weeks, The Best Samoa Itineraries for 10 Days, The Best Samoa Itineraries for 1 Week, The Best Samoa Itineraries for 5 Days and The Best Samoa Itineraries for 3 Days.