If you enjoyed the movie Moana, you will love Samoa. Located in the South Pacific, this tropical Island can be quite the journey to get to, but worth it.
My friend Megan and I were there for eight days. In that time we were able to see and do almost everything. It has many great sites and such a relaxing tone. The general vibe of the place is chill, simple with a true sence of community.
As fantastic as Samoa was, it wasn’t the most backpacker friendly. Not saying it can’t be done backpacker style, but there are things I would have done differently if I were to go again. I hope this post can shed some light for you.
What You'll Find
- How To Get There
- How Long To Stay
- Getting Around
- Where to Stay
- What To See
- What To Eat
- Money & Costs
- Wifi and Phones
1. How To Get There
AIRPLANE : The Pacfic Islands are quite remote. Making the journey difficult and pricey. Even flying between other Pacific islands is expensive.
Megan and I booked flights through Air New Zealand, as we were in NZ at the time. We were lucky, that air nz was having a sale on flights to Samoa when we booked. Saving us about $300. Total around $700. If you are flying from the northern hemisphere be prepared to pay more.
CRUISE: There are cruises from Australia to the Pacific Islands. Cruises are not my first choice of travel. However, they are the best bang for your buck. You can see a handful of Islands in a short amount of time for same price as a week on fiji.
2. How Long To Stay
This really depends on two things:
- Your travel style
- If you have a vehicle or not.
I highly recommend renting a vehicle if you want to travel around the Island. As small as the islands are, everything is still faaaar apart. During our 8 days there, we were able to have a few rest days, and also see the majority of Upolo without feeling rushed.
We did make a day trip over to Sava’ii, but didn’t see much as we had to catch a ferry back the same day. If you want to add Sava’ii to your itinerary, alow at least two extra days.
Upolo 8-10 days. *Including Vehicle
Upolo and Sava’ii 10 -12 days. *Including Vehicle
3. Getting Around
Driving isn’t common once you are out of the city. The most popular mode of transportation is walking!!! There are people walking everywhere. You have to be careful while driving there are so many people walking on the roads. That being said, there are other ways to get around the Island.
TAXI– there is no Uber here. If you are staying in Apia, the capital, or just at a resort, I recommend a Taxi. Everything is pretty close. However, if you are wanting to get out and see the Island, expect the taxi bill to rack up fast.
BUS- Most budget/backpacker friendly choice. However, Samoa’s public transit is infrequent, cramped, and requires many transfers. especially if you are leaving the city.
To put it into perspective, a couple Czech travellers we talked to had taken the bus to the hostel. It is about a 2hr drive from the airport, but it took them 8 hours and 3 bus transfers! I would take the bus simply for the experience, but not as my mode of transportation.
RENTAL CAR – My reccommendation. It is the only way to see the entire Island in the small time frame. Even though the Island take 2.5 hours to drive across, everything is far and few between. Especially once you exit the city. Not to mention many of the sites require you to drive 20 minutes or more down gravel roads. We booked through AA Rent-A-Car and they were fantastic.
SCOOTER – Scooters are not popular in Samoa. For the first two days Megan and I rented a scooter. It was budget friendly, but 40min-1hr each way on that thing was not comfortable, nor were the roads made for scooters.
We switched over to the car after the seat decided to fall off the while we were on it! It was an unexpected expense, but worth every penny.
HITCH HIKING – Don’t it. Is non existent in Samoa. One of the locals mentioned that if you have hitch hike, it’s okay for men to do, but not for women. Preferably not do to it at all.
BICYCLE – There were a few cyclists.. The only thing I would note, not all roads are paved, as well you’ll need to give yourself extra time on the Island(s) if you wanted to see it by bike.
FERRY – There is a ferry between the Islands. Make sure you book in advance! There is no guarantee if you show up you’ll get on the ferry. You can get the car rental company to book for you upon pick up or you can book yourself here. You must make a booking for the way there and back, or you may face being stranded for a day.
4. Where To Stay
First, you have to choose which Island to stay on. Upolo or Sava’ii.
We stayed on Upolo. It has more amenities than Sava’ii. However, Sava’ii has that slow pace secluded feel. It’s really all about what you are looking for. If we could do it again We would split our trip up and stay on both Islands.
We stayed in a bungalow in Sa’Moana Resort and Taufua Beach Fales (FA-LAYS). Both were backpacker style, but had eventhing you needed. Their customer service was fantastic, and in beautiful locations.
Taufua Beach Fales was my favourite. They were super cozy with everything you needed. Breakfast and Dinner is included. Plus they had a fantastic communal feeling. The meals were served at one long table and everyone sits together. It allows you to sit next to your fellow accommodaties of all ages and chat. It is sort of awkward at first, but once you start talking it turns into great fun. Not to mention it’s a great way to share your travel experiences and learn any tips and trick others may have, while making friends along the way.
There are a few all-inclusive resorts on the island if that if that is more your style. As well as a handful hostel and motels in the Apia.
5. What To See
Surprisingly, for such a small Island there is such diversity of things to see and do. Here is a list of some the many things we did.
- To Sua Trench 20 WST
- Sopo’aga Falls 5 WST
- Togitogiga Waterfall By Donation
- Papasseea Sliding Rocks 5 WST
- Papapapaitai Falls 5 WST
- Afu Aau Waterfalls 10 WST
- Church Ruins in the Lava 10 WST
- Ma Tree By Donation**Cost is subjet to change
6. What to Eat
Fish is their specialty here, but do not expect it to be luxury. I know they try, but Samoa isn’t the place you come for good food. Since it is a remote country in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It is quite limited in its food diversity. I don’t think I saw one carrot while I was there.
Locals main dishes are either deep-fried or pastry types. Megan tried Palusami, a local dish, which is Taro leaves (their version of Spinach) and coconut cream. Man it was yummy. Make sure you put it on your food bucket list. Along with deep-fried banana. Nom nom nom.
Cooking your own food can be challenging. Most accommodations don’t have kitchens for use. Not to mention the only place to buy food is in Apia. All the local corner stores just sell bread and packaged junk food. Another good thing to know is, the only restaruantsare are at resorts once you leave the city.
Eating meat… I ate a few dishes with chicken, and believe me I wish I hadn’t. Not that I got sick, but it wasn’t pleasant. I would play it safe and stick to a pescetarian or vegetarian diet.
Megan and I went out for every meal. Meals cost around 10-25WST ($7.50 – $12.50 CAD). Which we figured was reasonable. Note to self: grab snacks in Apia before doing anything else.
Megan and I were there in August. We had a few days of rain, but it was mostly sunny with an averaged around 25C-27C (77F-81F)
We found the weather changes daily. It may be beautiful on the north end of the Island, but the south can be miserable. We found you have to check the weather daily as you never know what you will get. Ask you accommodation to check the weather for you each day. Or if you have 3G check using Weather Underground.
Read more about yearly weather forcast here
8. Money and Costs
Western Samolian Tala (WST) is the currency. You can google currency covnerter is great. I also had the “XE Currency” converter app on my phone.
Rough estimates in CAD
- Accommodations $40-$60 (Backpacker Style Accommodation)
- Food $7.50 – $12.50/meal
- Vehicle $80-110/day
- Sites $2.50-$5.00
- Phone/3G $2.20 – $15.00
- Gifts $10
9. Wifi and Phone
There is limited to no wifi. Expect to pay for wifi, including at your accommodation. I recommend getting a sim card and buying a phone plan. Our “new customer” beginner package was 5WST ($2.50). It included calls, text and 5G of data for 5 days.
While we were there I never felt unsafe or threatened. Samoa has a 1% crime rate. However, we did hear about a few people who had their items stolen at a hostel. Even though the crime rate is low and I never felt unsafe, it still happens.
For most travellers, your visa is given upon arrival in Samoa. You can check here.
Have you been to Samoa? What would your number one piece of advice would be??
Read more about Samao in my SamaoTravel Storie Series!!