Before I visited Samoa, I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t know a single person who had been. When people ask me why I went to Samoa, I tell them I don’t really know. You see, when Jess and I were sitting in STA Travel planning our route, we had reached New Zealand and kinda knew we wanted to visit a Pacific Island but wasn’t sure where. Then one of us just randomly pointed to one, and it happened to be Samoa. And that was that. Decision made.
Samoa is like nowhere I had ever been before. The culture and lifestyle are completely different to New Zealand where I had been visiting just before I flew here, and to be honest, I struggled at first. But then I relaxed into it, realised that it’s ok to stop and open my eyes to the natural and simple beauty of the island.
So if you’re heading to Samoa, here are the things to know before you go. Be prepared to come away feeling smug from discovering this gem before everyone else!
Made of 2 separate islands (Savai’I and Upolu), this country is super small. I hired a car for 2 days on X and nearly accidentally made it round the whole island in 1 day before realising and stopping at a fale for a night. This is great though as you’re never really too far away from anything and it’s easy to explore a lot in a small amount of time.
It’s seriously hot here in a humid and sticky kind of way, but when it rains it very much pours! The tropical storms are magnificent but fierce. Make sure you pack light and thin clothes to keep cool. The beaches are beautiful but make sure you have a cover up as you can still burn through clouds. A good waterproof suncream is also essential for swimming.
There are a lot of dogs
Yeah, sounds cute for all dog lovers like me, but these are not treated like pets at all. They are basically wild dogs that have chosen to make a home somewhere and now act as guard dogs. They are very territorial and can be vicious so I really wouldn’t recommend walking around the more rural areas too much.
The mosquitos are lethal
With the tropical climate comes the inevitable midges. These guys are everywhere and on top of that, there are also sand-flies that give particularly nasty bites. Make sure you bring repellent with you and I would also recommend burning some incense as well to try and get rid of them. It becomes a game trying to get into the mosquito nets without their company at night time too, and you will become incredibly jealous of the immunity the locals have to their bites.
The people are incredibly friendly
Honestly, the locals are so welcoming and hospitable. They want you to love their country as much as they do and learn about the culture and history. If you stay in a family run beach fale (which you totally should, by the way) you will become part of the family and they really go out of the way to make you feel so.
The food is seriously fresh
Think picking bananas off a huge bunch that has been cut from a tree, or eating fish that has been caught that day kinda fresh. Food is cooked on a Umu (earth hot stone oven) and dishes are filled with fresh fruit, veg, pork, chicken and freshly made coconut cream. It’s absolutely delicious!
There’s limited internet and no phone signal
Remember the days when internet cafes were a thing? Well, it’s still very much the case here. There was no Wi-Fi in the budget hotel I stayed in and understandably none with the Fales. The only way I was able to get onto the internet was on the family laptop of the Fale I was staying at and they charged me a pretty hefty amount for a tiny amount of time. As for phone signal, be prepared to not pick up any other network at all. If you want to be able to communicate with the rest of the world, you’re gonna have to buy a local SIM card.
The ocean is unbelievable
The sea here is completely clear, turquoise and beautifully warm. It’s perfect for snorkelling, scuba diving, and swimming. The sea life here is stunning so make sure you get hold of a mask and snorkel and see it for yourself.
Nothing runs on time
Well, to be more accurate, there isn’t really a time schedule for anything. Everything there is so laid back it’s practically horizontal. So be prepared to just go with the flow and not to stress when things aren’t really happening. Don’t worry if you don’t see a bus for a while, there’s
possibly probably one coming, and the ferry between the islands will leave eventually.
It’s a very colourful country
This applies to literally everything. The nature here covers the full colour spectrum, the food is Instagram perfection (not that you’ll have internet anyway) and both the traditional and everyday clothes are amazingly colourful. You will see that everyone wears a ‘sarong’ called a lava lava all the time and it’s a great item to pick up from a local market to take a little piece of the Samoan vibrancy with you.
English is widely spoken
The local language in Samoa is Gagana Samoa but many people also speak English. Both are official languages of the country but it’s always polite to learn a bit of a local language.
Hello – Talofa
Thank you – faafetai
Please – fa’amolemole
Goodbye – tofa