Some overseas treatment centers known as Behavior Modification Facilities operate in Samoa. Although these facilities may be operated and staffed by U.S. citizens, the Samoan government is solely responsible for their compliance with local safety, health, sanitation, and educational laws and regulations, including all licensing requirements of the staff in country. These standards may not be strictly enforced or meet the standards of similar facilities in the United States. Parents should be aware that U.S. citizens and non-citizen nationals 16 years of age and older have a right to apply for a U.S. passport and to request repatriation assistance from the U.S. government, both without parental consent. Any U.S. citizen or U.S. national has the right to contact a representative from the U.S. Embassy. Parents may also contact the U.S. Embassy in Apia or the Office of American Citizens Services, Bureau of Consular Affairs, at 1 888 407 4747 (toll free) or 1 202 501 4444 (overseas).
Stray Dogs: In Apia, and in many villages, stray dogs wander the streets. You should not approach or feed them; they can become aggressive in the presence of food or if they feel threatened. There have been several cases of attacks by multiple dogs. Please exercise appropriate caution when you are walking, running, or riding a bike near stray dogs.
Ferry Service: Although there have been no major accidents involving the ferry service linking Upolu and Savai’i, vessels are sometimes overloaded. One of the ferries, a multi-deck, automobile ferry, sometimes transports passengers on its automobile deck. To avoid injury from shifting vehicles, you should ride only in the passenger compartment, not remain on the automobile deck during the crossing, if you choose to use this ferry.
Blowholes: Samoa has numerous “blowholes” (lava tubes open to the sea where wave action produces often spectacular geysers). These blowholes are popular tourist attractions. The footing around the mouths of most blowholes is very slippery. To avoid being swept in, you should not approach too closely and should never stand between the opening of the blowhole and the sea.
Water Sports: Snorkeling and diving in ocean lagoons are popular activities for many visitors to Samoa. Tide changes can produce powerful currents in these lagoons. You should consult local residents and tour operators about hazards and conditions at a particular location before you venture into the water. There are virtually no lifeguards in Samoa. You are responsible for your own safety. Carefully investigate the qualifications of guides and tour operators, especially regarding water sports.
Financial Transactions: Although some businesses in Apia, especially those frequented by tourists, do accept credit cards, many do not, including gas stations. Major hotels and some restaurants and stores accept major credit cards (Visa, Master Card, and American Express). You can get Samoan currency from ATMs, which are located in Faleolo Airport, Salelologa, and in many locations in Apia. For more information on ATM locations and banking services, visit the ANZ Bank website or the WESTPAC website.
Disaster Preparedness: Samoa is located in an area of high seismic activity. Upolu and Savaii are volcanic islands. One of Savaii’s dormant volcanoes erupts approximately once every 150 years. The most recent eruption was 1908. On September 30, 2009, an 8.0 earthquake in the South Pacific Ocean triggered tsunami waves that hit the islands of Samoa causing extensive damage to life and property, primarily on low-lying coastal areas of the south and east coasts. Major cyclones have occurred in the past and are always a concern. The cyclone season is from November to April, when strong winds, heavy rains, landslides, and disruptions to services could occur. During this period, Samoa receives most of its annual average of over 115 inches of rain. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), or in Samoa from Disaster Management, the Samoa Tourism Authority, or major resort and hotel operators.
Customs: Samoan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations about importing or exporting items such as firearms, fruits, pets and other animals, and drugs. You should contact the Samoan Mission to the United Nations at 800 2nd Avenue, Suite 400J, New York, NY 10017, telephone: (212) 599-6196 for specific information regarding customs requirements. You can also consult the Samoa Ministry of Revenue and Customs website and the Samoa Quarantine website.