The islands of Samoa are generally known as the ‘Treasured Islands’ because of their tropical climate, pristine beaches, spectacular rainforests and unique natural features such as waterfalls, volcanoes and mountains.
Independent Samoa (hereafter called Samoa) lies immediately west of the 171st meridian2 at 13° south of the Equator. It is made up of two large volcanic islands, Upolu and Savai'i, and two smaller inhabited islands, Manono and Apolima. The remaining five islands are uninhabited.
Apia is the only town and is the nation's capital, located on the north coast of Upolu on a natural harbour near the Vaisigano River. The city is home to approximately 40,000 residents, most of whom are Samoan.
Flights between Samoa and American Samoa are currently solely handled by Polynesian Airlines with flights throughout the week and several times during the day.
Arrivals and departures are conveniently located at the Fagalii airport, next to the Fagalii Golf Course about 10 minute’s drive from Apia. Air New Zealand, Polynesian blue and Pacific Airlines fly into the international airport at Faleolo several times a week. Arrivals and departures tend to be during the night.
It is a 35-minute drive from Faleola into Apia, where most of the accommodation is located and it is a good place to start a visit to Samoa. The Samoa Tourism Authority is here, as are the shops, the ANZ, Westpac, Samoa Commercial banks, and the post office.
Samoa has two distinct seasons - the dry season, which runs from May - October and the wet season from November to April. Average monthly minimum temperatures are in the low 20's (Celcius, 70's Farenheit), with maximums in the low 30's (Celsius, up to 90 Farenheit) all year round.
Samoa's population is approximately 180,000. The 2011 Census is currently underway.
Samoan is the national language, but English is the official language of business. Most Samoans are competent in English. Below are some useful Samoan words to learn:
car; po-night; ao-daylight
pretty (girl); nice (dress)
greeting word meaning hello
goodbye or farewell
to drink (a coconut, juice)
formal word for eat
Light summer clothing is appropriate all year round, with perhaps a light sweater for the cooler evenings. Smart casual evening wear is appropriate for hotels and restaurants. Visitors are requested not to wear bathing suits in Apia or in the villages. No nude or topless (for women) swimming or sunbathing. Women are recommended to wear a lavalava (sarong) or dress, rather than shorts or trousers, if they attend church.
Religion & Church
Sunday is a special day in Samoa dedicated to God. ‘Samoa is founded on God’ (E faavae i le Atua Samoa) and is a reminder that God is the source of all blessings. Families show their gratitude to God by attending church in the mornings followed by a family to'onai (lunch) and resting for the remainder of the day.
Visitors are welcome to attend the services. Christianity flourishes in Samoa with the main religious denominations being Congregational Christian Churches of Samoa, Anglican, Catholic, Methodist, Assembly of God, Seventh Day Adventist, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) and Jehovah's Witnesses.
Ports and Harbours
Fotu o Samoa II passenger and cargo ferry operating between Upolu and Savai'i islands. Ports and harbors:
Small wharf on the north west coast of Savai'i island which is seldom used commercially.
The main ferry terminal on Upolu island for passenger, cargo and vehicles to Savai'i island.
The only ferry terminal on Savai'i island and the main entry point onto the island.
Driving from right-hand to left-hand
In 2009, Samoa became the first country in nearly 40 years to change which side of the road is driven on. Iceland and Sweden did it in the 1960s, and Nigeria, Ghana and Yemen did it in the 1970s.
The controversial switch came into effect at 6:00 am on Monday, 7 September 2009. The 7th and 8th September 2009 became public holidays, so that residents would be able to familiarise themselves with the new rules of the road.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi said that the purpose of adopting left-hand traffic was to allow Samoans to use cheaper RHD vehicles sourced from Australia, New Zealand or Japan, and so that the large number of Samoans living in Australasia can drive on the same side of the road when they visit their country of origin.
The aim was to reduce reliance on expensive, left-hand drive imports from America. The government also widened roads, added new road markings, erected signs and installed speed humps to reduce accidents. The speed limit was also reduced from 35 mph (56 km/h) to 25 mph (40 km/h) and sales of alcohol banned for three days.
While there were some switch hiccups, there were no reports of accidents and the switch has gone rather smoothly in 2 years
When you drive around Samoa keep it fairly slow, and be very attentive. There are speed humps from Apia to the wharf at Mulifanua and just as many from Apia to the eastern side of the island. Savaii also has speed humps to watch out for.
Most can be taken at about 20-30km/hr, but the big concrete ones at Pesega and Vaimoso near Apia need a speed of less than 15km/hr.