Just a quick search online for info about Samoa will reveal, well, not very much!
And it’s hardly surprising given how remote this Pacific country is and how few people get there.
But, I’ll let you in a little secret, this is exactly what makes Samoa so special and after spending an amazing week in this paradise, I wanted to bring you all the info to help you plan your trip there too.
And so here are my top tips, including the best time to visit Samoa, because trust me, you gotta get here…
- 21 Epic Things to Do in Samoa
- 9 Reasons to Get Samoa on Your Bucket List ASAP!
- Top 15 Spots to Snap an Australian Sunset
My trip to Samoa was kindly sponsored by Samoa Tourism, but, as always, all views are my own.
This page contains affiliate links meaning Big World Small Pockets may receive a small commission on any purchases at no extra cost to you.
#1 When is the Best Time to Visit Samoa?
With a tropical climate and some pretty contrasting wet and dry seasons, there’s no doubt the best time to visit Samoa is during the latter… aka the dry season!
With all the outdoor fun to be had in Samoa, visiting when it’s dry enough to get out there really is key, so do make sure you book your trip to these islands at the right time.
So you are aware, the wet season, which does bring occasional cyclones, generally runs from November to April.
Conversely, the dry season runs between the months of June and October.
This is definitely the best time to visit Samoa because the weather is sunny and hot, but the humidity much lower.
I visited Samoa in June and found it perfect – brilliant blue skies shone overhead every day and there was just one morning when a few showers threatened my plans, but then quickly dissipated.
And while it was humid and warm (this is the tropics after all) it was completely bearable and never too hot for sightseeing or hitting the beach.
#2 Where is Samoa?
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again… Samoa is about as remote as remote gets!
Situated way out in the Pacific Ocean – about a 4 hour flight east of New Zealand, Samoa actually edges the international dateline.
This means it’s the first place the sun rises on a new day (good choice sun) and also if you travel just a short distance further east to, say, American Samoa, you actually travel back in time to the previous day!
How crazy is that!
#3 How Many Samoan Islands Are There?
And unbeknown to me before my visit there too, Samoa isn’t just one island either.
An independent country, Samoa actually consists of 10 islands, but only 4 are inhabited.
(And it’s worth knowing too, that American Samoa is actually a separate jurisdiction so not included in this number).
The 2 main Samoan islands are Upulo and Savai’i.
Upolu is home to the international airport and capital Apia, as well as most local services. It has the largest population of almost 150,000 people and most tourists choose to base themselves here.
Savai’i is the second largest island, with a population of just 50,000 and has a good choice of hotels and attractions for tourists too. Understandably however, it is quieter and therefore ideal for those of you really looking to get away from it all!
The islands of Manono and Apolima, which are situated in the Apolima Strait between Upolu and Savai’i have some tiny populations concentrated in 1-2 small villages.
The remaining 6 islands of Fanuatapu, Namua, Nu’ulopa, Nu’ulua, Nu’usafe’e and Nu’utele are all uninhabited and can only be reached by private boat.
#4 How Do You Travel to Samoa?
So as I’ve mentioned, Upulo is home to the international airport in Samoa. This means 99.5% of tourists who visit Samoa arrive here.
There are direct flights from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and American Samoa.
The international Samoan airport has been recently renovated and is very clean, modern and organised.
It is situated outside the capital of Apia in an area called Faleolo, which means that sometimes flight tickets give this as their destination, sometimes they give the old location of Apia and sometimes they just say Samoa, which can be a little confusing.
Just to make it clear, the Airport Code for Samoa is APW, so if in any doubt, double check this matches your booking!
The airport is around an hour’s drive from the capital and there’s always taxis waiting outside to take you to your destination. Otherwise, many hostels can also organise shuttle services for you.
Most nationalities do not require visas to enter Samoa as a tourist, but do check the full list here before making your travel plans.
Generally, 60 day tourist visas are given on entry, as long as you have 6 months validity remaining on your passport and a return ticket.
#5 How Can You Get Around Samoa?
As a sparsely populated country, with a low number of travellers, Samoa isn’t hugely geared up for tourist transport.
That said, it’s easy enough to drive here as traffic is rare outside the capital and speed limits low.
The cheapest way to get around Samoa however is via local bus.
On Upolu these services run regularly from the bus station, by the flea market in the capital Apia, to different parts of the island.
In Savai’i, they operate out of the terminal at the market in Salelologa, which is near the ferry port.
Routes generally aren’t circular, but linear, meaning they all begin or end on Apia / Salelologa, as such these are probably the best places to base yourself if you plan to use this method of transport the most.
If you’re not basing yourself in Apia / Salelologa, you should however, still aim to take a local bus ride just once in Samoa, simply because it’s such a fun, colourful and authentic experience.
Essentially old school buses that have been decked out with some outrageous lights and sound systems and decorated in the brightest colours imaginable, experiencing a bumpy ride crammed on the wooden benches inside with locals sitting on each others’ laps shouldn’t be missed.
There’s more information about riding local buses here on the Samoa Tourism website.
Taxis are easy to catch when you visit Samoa, however, they are not metered, so do agree a price beforehand.
Uber is available within Apia on Upolu island.
For many independent travellers, renting a car is the way to go in Samoa as it will allow you to explore the islands at your own pace, as well as get to many remote spots where some of the country’s top natural attractions lie, such as hidden beaches and delightful waterfalls.
Samoans drive on the left side of the road. Low speed limits, low traffic volume and quiet roads mean it’s easy to get around this way. Just watch out for animals crossing the road and kids playing / walking alongside too.
There’s plenty of car rental companies on both Upolu and Savai’i islands with sedans and 4wds.
Before hiring a car however, you need to be aware that every visitor to Samoa who wishes to rent a vehicle must apply for a Temporary Drivers Licence, which costs 20 Tala for one month and 40 Tala for two months.
In order to qualify for this, you must have a full Drivers Licence from your country of origin with you when you visit Samoa.
Most hire car companies, as well as Samoa Post and an office at the airport, will validate your Temporary Drivers Licence.
#6 How Do I Travel Between the Different Islands?
It’s also good to know that you can take your vehicle on the ferry between the 2 main islands of Upolu and Savai’i if you wish.
This ferry is the only way to travel between these Samoan Islands, but it runs regularly (twice daily, weather dependent) and is very affordable. The journey takes around 1 hour.
The main ferry port is located on the west of Upolu island at Mulifanua Wharf. It runs to and from the town of Salelologa on Savai’i.
The prices are 12 Tala for an adult, foot passenger one-way ticket or 95 for vehicle tickets.
It’s worth knowing you can upgrade, for a fee of 30 Tala, to first class, which you may want to do if a seat and aircon are important to you!
When boats are packed, you’ll find many locals just lying all over the decks, so it depends how down with the authentic experience you want to get!
Tickets can be bought on the day, just turn up early and get them at the port.
However it is advised you book vehicle crossing tickets a day in advance.
#6 Money and Telecommunications
The currency in Samoa is the Samoa Tala (WST).
At the time of writing, 1 Tala was equivalent is 30 US cents or 50 Aussie cents.
When you arrive in Samoa, Faleolo International Airport has an ATM machine you can use, as well as a number of currency exchange outlets – the best currencies to swap are Australian Dollars (AUD), New Zealand Dollars (NZD) or American Dollars (USD).
There are also currency exchange offices and ATM’s scattered across the capital of Apia, which accept both Visa and Mastercard.
Equally, there are a number of phone shops where you can buy local SIM cards both at the airport and in Apia.
The main telecommunications companies are Blue Sky and Digicel and both offer short-term tourist SIM / data packages for those who visit Samoa.
I highly advise getting a Digicel SIM as they had the best coverage while I was there and will set everything up for you in the shop which makes life a lot easier.
#7 Culture, Language & Safety
Samoans have a strong and thriving Polynesian culture and getting to learn a bit about it will definitely enrich any trip here.
The Cultural Village in Apia is a great place to start, with their free demonstrations which run on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 10:30am and last a few hours, being a great learning experience for the whole family.
During this time, you’ll discover traditional dance, music and song, the ancient arts of carving, weaving and fabric making, the cultural methods of cooking and you may even be lucky enough to witness a sacred tattoo ceremony.
Most Samoans are also deeply religious, so heading to one of the many churches on a Sunday morning can also be a great cultural experience.
Samoans are some of the most welcoming, friendly and relaxed people and you will certainly be looked after during your travels here.
The islands are most definitely very safe and solo female travellers can rest easy that they are unlikely to be pestered, hassled or feel uncomfortable.
That said, this delightfully chilled vibe does feed into an “island time” culture, so don’t expect punctuality or efficiency to be top of the list!
But who cares, you are on holiday after all!
The national language of the country is Samoan, but most people speak a good level of English, which makes travelling here very easy. However, learning a few words of Samoan, such as thank you (Fa’afetai) will go a long way to ingratiating yourself with the locals.
#8 Dress Code & What To Pack
What this chilled vibe does mean however, is a very relaxed dress code and travellers will be delighted to find an easy-going approach to clothing when they visit Samoa.
Shorts and singlets are totally fine and swimwear down at the beach is definitely the go!
Even evening meals are casual affairs in most hotels / restaurants, so no need to pack anything to smart.
What you definitely do need to pack for Samoa however is:
- Singlets / T-Shirts
- Beach Dress
- Sandals / FlipFlops
- Beach Towel
- Insect Repellent
#9 Food & Drink
Loads of people had warned me before I visited Samoa that a) the food was awful and b) that I would struggle as a vegetarian.
However, I’m delighted to report that neither of these warnings proved to be remotely true!
Firstly, Samoa is filled with fresh produce thanks to its rich natural surrounds, so expect fresh fish a plenty, loads of coconut-infused dishes and tons of delicious tropical fruits.
And while you may not be able to enjoy everything on the menu as a vegetarian, almost everywhere I went, there was at least one veggie option, with plenty of fresh salads and vegetables also available.
I particularly enjoyed the yam and taro, cooked with coconut cream and taro leaves in the traditional Samoan way – which is when the food is slow-baked in the ground in an natural oven known as an Umu – yum!
Tap water is not recommended for travellers in Samoa, but big bottles of mineral water are cheaply available across the island.
Local beer is also cheap and totally drinkable!
The best brand is Taula which is brewed in Samoa by a locally owned and operated company. Occasionally it is available on tap. Samoans drink it in abundance!
#10 What Can I Do in Samoa?
For a full list of things to do in Samoa, do check out the article I wrote all about my top 21 picks!
To summarise however, Samoa is far more diverse than you may expect and, from cultural and historical attractions to watersports, beautiful natural spots to beachside chilled out bliss, a visit to Samoa can be as relaxed or as jampacked as you like.
Hopping between islands is a great way to experience more of what this country has to offer, with activities ranging from canopy walks in the jungle to museums, kayaking to markets.
Don’t forget to visit some of the stunning beaches in Samoa too – this is where the paradise factor really kicks in and, with so many to choose from, you’ll likely have each one largely to yourself!
Do be aware that most attractions however have a small entrance fee in Samoa as they are situated on private land and therefore are a key income for locals.
Roughly speaking beaches, waterfalls, swimming holes and walks cost between 5-15 Tala per adult to enjoy.
There are also several important days in the Samoan calendar it may be worth timing your visit to coincide with.
These include White Sunday – a special religious day that honours the island’s children and Independence Day – a national event I was lucky enough to witness when I visited in June.
Both of these special days provide a great insight into local culture, religious beliefs and national pride.
#11 Other Things To Know
One of the best things to know if you plan to visit Samoa is that these islands are plastic-free, or at least plastic straws and bags are banned, so don’t except to see either of the above – hoorah!
In keeping with this, is the fact that Samoa is incredibly clean – there are trash bins everywhere and people use them, which means this natural paradise island is wonderfully free of rubbish and pollution.
Samoa is not a wealthy country, but tourist provisions including hotels and resultants are of an excellent international standard, even if the service isn’t always quite there yet!
That said, visiting Samoa is a crucial way to support the island economy and this developing industry, which provides key jobs for people here, including for local woman.
There are supermarkets and small shops dotted around the island, but being remote, supplies can often be limited and expensive, so I’d advise bringing with you everything you think you may need.
Online Samoan Global News is a great site for picking up local info and checking weather forecasts.
Mini Travel Guide to Samoa
How to Get to Samoa?
It’s no secret that Samoa is about as remote as it gets, which doesn’t make journeying to this island especially easy or cheap.
That said, it’s worth every cent when you do get there!
Some of the cheapest flights to Samoa go direct from with Sydney or Auckland, so check out Skyscanner for the best deals around.
How Long to Spend in Samoa?
I guess the answer to this is really, how long have you got?
Because, if you’re anything like me, you’re probably going to struggle to pull yourself away from Samoa in all reality!
But knowing that most of us have to travel on timeframes, I’m going to suggest a week is the minimum time you should head to Samoa in order to get a good flavor of what the country has to offer and to justify the travel time to get there.
If you can stretch to 10 days or 2 weeks, you’ll have plenty of time to explore some of the other Samoan islands, such as Savai’i, as well as get off the beaten track on the main island of Upolu more too.
5 Packing Essentials for Samoa
#1 Dry Bag – I discovered dry bags during my time in Southeast Asia and now I wouldn’t go anywhere without one, especially not to somewhere like Samoa where the water activities, beach days and jungle adventures here are plentiful and the risk of your unprotected electronics getting wet therefore is high!
#2 Birkenstocks – A good pair of sandals are king in Samoa and I love my Arizona Birkenstocks which are perfect for keeping my feet cool, supported and for kicking on and off easily when you hit the beach. Literally wore them all day, every day in this island!
#3 Australia Power Adapters – Samoa primarily uses the Australian type power outlets, so make sure you come prepared with a suitable Skross adapter.
#4 Action Camera – I love my GoPro Hero 7, which was ideal for capturing all the watery and active fun of this diverse and delightful paradise.
#5 Sarong – A great multi-purpose travel item that can be brilliantly used through Samoa as a beach towel or a dress to slip over wet swimwear. A good sarong is a tropical island travel must-have in my book.
Travel Insurance for Samoa
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Alternatively, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker seeking travel health cover, check out Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance policies.
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Hopefully this advice about the best time to visit Samoa and my other top tips have helped you decide to visit this island paradise soon!
Let me know all (or fire over any questions) in the comments box below…