Travel to Samoa
Vacation in a Tropical Paradise
Travel to Samoa after 15 years was a nostalgia trip I was looking forward to. I had only been back to this fascinating travel destination once, since our two year experience, living in what was then considered a hardship post, in the mid 1980’s. My husband will travel to Samoa twice a year on business, and was sure I was about to see many changes.
Sure enough...I did! But it was
to see that while there are improved communications, shopping, plenty of choices for hotels, resorts and some great eating places, progress has not spoiled their traditional culture, as it does in some countries..
If you are looking for sun, sand, surf, snorkelling, and a totally relaxed holiday in a tropical paradise, you should travel to Samoa.Previously Western Samoa, I am not talking about American Samoa, which is a very small island, with not a lot to see and do, in comparison.
Samoa has always been the true example of the dream tropical destination. Pure white sand fringed with coconut palms, with crystal clear turquoise lagoons stretching to the white waves breaking on the reef.
If I had to use just one word to describe Samoa it would be "colourful"from the riot of colour in the well tended gardens, houses freshly painted in hues of lime green and purple, shocking pink and yellow, orange and bright blue, open air buses with psychedelic colour schemes, and multi coloured puletasi worn by the women.The markets are chock full of colourful clothing , fruit and vegetables. Every view is a visual feast in this magical tropical country.
General Information on Samoa
With a population of 186,000, almost all Samoans will have at least some relatives living in New Zealand, Australia or USA. Yet Fa’a Samoa " the Samoan way", is still an important part of every day life in the 362 villages and communities scattered throughout the two main islands – Upolu and Savai’i. There are eight smaller islands.
The villages are situated on customary land owned by the extended family or aiga ( i-ing-a) headed by a matai......or chief.
Samoans, who were introduced to Christianity by the missionaries, are very religious, which is reflected in their lifestyle. Sunday is a day of rest, and going to church.
When you travel to Samoa, on Sundays you will see the locals out in their white dresses,heads shaded by wide brimmed hats, and for the guys...white shirts and trousers, or lavalava’s, (sarong, sulu).
Every village has their own church...usually the largest structure in the village.
I was absolutely stunned at the size of the new Apia Morman Temple replacing the old one that burnt down. It would rival any large city church, and the lighting at night is impressive.
The main religions are Mormon, Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Seventh Day Adventist, Jehovah’s Witness and there is a large Bahai temple well worth a visit.
In October they have a special day called White Sunday. This is a children’s day, much like a birthday or Christmas, with presents, and a celebratory meal. They also get their white Sunday outfit for the next year.
Whether you are religious or not, travel to Samoa should include a visit to a Samoan church service...it is a wonderful way to enjoy their beautiful singing.
There are many more houses now than when we lived there, but there are still many traditional fale ( far – lay) – the open air structures with raised roofs , supported by a circle of thick poles.
Traditionally the roofs were of palm thatch, but now more commonly, corrugated iron. There are also large communal fales in the centre of each village where they hold meetings, socialise, weave mats, and relax.
Time in Samoa
Samoa is the last country to see the day and is exactly 24 hours behind New Zealand, who are the first to see the day dawn. My husband organised our travel to Samoa so he had two birthdays this year! They are 3 hours behind US Pacific time and 12 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time.
Think about the weather when you are deciding when to travel to Samoa.With a tropical climate with average temperatures ranging from 26 to 27 degrees all year round, Samoa has a lovely climate.
They do get a lot of rain, so it can be very humid, especially in the rainy season.......... October – January. Many shops are not air conditioned. The temperature does not drop much at night. The cyclone season is from November through to April.While it is now many years since they had a cyclone, the potential is higher at this time.
General Information About Samoa
- Internet Cafes - There are several internet cafes in Apia.
- Electricity is 240 volts, but can be converted to 110 volts in most hotels. The power points are as in Australia and new Zealand.
- Eftpost is readily available with over 300 outlets.
- Exchange Rates – You should do well on the exchange rate regardless of what your home currency is.
- Samoan Currency - a tala is the equivalent of a dollar, a sene equals cents.
- Departure Tax – Don’t forget to keep WS$40 for your departure tax. Free for children under 12 years old.
- Bottled Water - is provided free each day at most hotels. I would not recommend drinking water from the tap.
- Tipping – is not expected in Samoa. They will be grateful for a tip if you consider the service is worth recognition.
Visitors do not require a visa for visits of up to 60 days.You will need an onward or return ticket.Your passport must have a minimum of 6 months valid time left.
If you are staying for more than 60 days you will need to apply for a visa at the nearest Consulate of High Commission.
There are protocols it is important visitors who travel to Samoa understand and observe. Samoans are very friendly and welcome visitors, but they will be offended if you do not respect their culture.
- Church services are held each evening between 6-7 pm. Do not walk through a village while their prayer service is being held.
- Drive slowly through their villages, especially on Sunday being a day of rest, quiet,and for going to church.
- Remove your shoes when going into a fale.
- Never stand in a fale when elders are seated. You should be (literally) below an elder....you may see young people bend their knees, bringing them lower, when greeting an older person.
- Your feet should not point at others when you are sitting in a fale. Either tuck them to the side, or cover them.
- Women should be well covered in a village or public place including Apia . Wear a lava lava over shorts. If you are staying in a village do observe this, as it can be a problem for your hosts – they can be fined.
- Ask permission to photograph within a village.Don’t offer children money, even if they ask!
- Nude or topless sunbathing is NOT allowed
These cultural rules are not very different to many cultures that are not Western. As a visitor, it is important we respect the culture of the country hosting us.
More Samoa Information
Sightseeing in Samoa
Aggie Grey's Hotel and FiaFia
Hotels in Samoa
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