What makes Samoa a unique country to travel to?
The Independent State of Samoa consists of two large islands, Upolu and Savaii, two smaller inhabited islands of Manono and Apolima, and several uninhabited islets. Samoa is located approximately halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand in the Polynesian region of the South Pacific. The main island of Upolu is home to nearly three-quarters of Samoa's population and Samoa’s capital city of Apia. The country has a stable parliamentary democracy with a developing economy. The Samoa Tourism Authority provides a wide range of information for travelers.
Although Samoa has a low level of crime, you should remain aware of your surroundings, lock your doors at night, and not leave your belongings unattended. Incidents of petty theft and robberies are common. Some incidents have involved residential break-ins. While rare, violent assaults, including sexual assaults, have occurred in Samoa. No specific groups have been targeted, and there have been no reported racially motivated or hate crimes against U.S. citizens. Police in Apia generally respond quickly to incidents. However, since there is a very limited police presence elsewhere in Samoa (where order is maintained primarily by local village authorities), police response outside of Apia is not as quick or reliable as it is in Apia.
Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, but if you purchase them, you may also be breaking local law.
While you are traveling in Samoa, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. You can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods in a foreign country. Likewise, engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Samoa, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not wherever you go.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
Samoan is probably the oldest Polynesian language, and it is the official language of both Independent Samoa and American Samoa. English is the second official language. Samoans are proud of their language.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Health care facilities in Samoa are adequate for routine medical treatment but are limited in range and availability. Complex illnesses and life-threatening emergencies, as well as related laboratory work, generally need to be treated elsewhere. Serious medical conditions and treatments that require hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars. You should have emergency evacuation insurance before you travel abroad.
The national hospital is located in Apia, and there are several small district hospitals on Savai'i and in outlying areas of Upolu. Dental facilities do not meet U.S. standards, but good dental treatment and some emergency medical care is available at the LBJ Tropical Medical Center in Pago Pago, American Samoa. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Pharmacies may not carry prescription or over-the-counter medicines, or the medicines may be of a different quality than those available in the United States.
There are no hyperbaric chambers on any of the islands for the treatment of scuba diving-related injuries. Serious cases of decompression sickness are evacuated to the nearest treatment center in Suva, Fiji, or Auckland, New Zealand.
Safety and Security
Recent disputes between villages and the central government have led to protests, road blocks, and shootings between the police and villagers. To date, no bystanders or tourists have been injured in such incidents, but travelers should be alert to avoid inadvertently encountering such confrontations.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Samoa, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. This information for Samoa is provided as a general reference, and it may not be the case in all locations or circumstances.
Urban roads in Apia and the main roads circumnavigating and crossing the island are all generally kept in fair condition though bumps and potholes are common. Side streets tend to be gravel or dirt and their condition varies considerably, particularly during the rainy season when ruts and bumps develop. Roads outside Apia are often narrow, winding, relatively steep, with narrow or no shoulders, and poorly lighted. Pedestrians as well as vehicles and livestock regularly travel these roads. Due to poor and deteriorating road conditions, night driving on unlit rural roads can be dangerous and should be avoided if possible. Roads in Samoa often traverse small streams. You should exercise extreme caution when fording these streams, which can become swollen and dangerous with little warning. Vehicles should never enter a stream if the roadbed is not visible or if the water’s depth is more than the vehicle’s clearance.
Taxis are widely available and used by Samoans and visitors alike. However, some are unlicensed, so you should use care in choosing a taxi and driver. Buses are slow, crowded, uncomfortable, undependable, and rarely used by visitors. You can use rental cars, but be aware that limited roadside assistance is available. Most major roads are tar-sealed, but secondary roads are predominantly dirt and gravel and may be rough and/or overgrown with vegetation. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended for travel on these roads. You should be aware that vehicle safety regulations are rarely enforced, and traffic violations occur routinely.
In September 2009, Samoa switched from driving on the right side of the road (as in the United States) to driving on the left side (as in the United Kingdom). Some vehicles in Samoa remain left-hand drive, including rental vehicles and public transportation. Drivers should familiarize themselves with operating requirements and local traffic laws before operating a vehicle in Samoa.