Samoa offers visitors the chance to experience Polynesia at its most authentic. The capital, Apia, lies on the beautiful north coast of Upolu, the largest and most populous of the country’s nine islands.
In the Aleipata district, waterfalls and white-sand beaches dominate the landscape. A 65km (40 mile) drive from Apia leads to the Falefa Falls, Mafa Pass and the Fuipisia Falls. Indeed, Samoa’s natural attributes have an intoxicating effect on first-time visitors – islands’ teeming jungles, mighty waterfalls and stunning sea have won many a tourist’s heart. Thankfully, there are no colossal resorts to mar this landscape, while the locals are humble and welcoming. For the closest thing there is to earthly bliss, head to Savai’i, a veritable land before time, only a stone’s throw from the relative civilisation of Apia.
The fa’a Samoa (the Samoan way) is arguably the most vibrant living culture in Polynesia, with a heritage that dates back 2,000 years. Only a small nation, Samoa is nevertheless the heart of Polynesia both culturally and, indeed, geographically. Compared to almost any other Pacific island, its hangs on staunchly to the traditional Polynesian way of life. Efforts by 19th-century missionaries sought to challenge the time-worn ways of the Samoans, to little effect. Ruled by both Germany and New Zealand in the 20th century, Samoa gained independence in 1962.
The Scottish poet and novelist, Robert Louis Stevenson, spent his final five years living on the island – his tomb on Mount Vaea is visible from the lawn of his house, now a museum. That Samoa must have influenced Stevenson’s most famous book, Treasure Island, hardly needs saying. Samoa is as isolated as it is enticing, much-loved of the adventurous and with a rich, precious culture to boot. There are few destinations as unique as this one.
2,831 sq km (1,093 sq miles).
194,523 (UN estimate 2016).
Head of state:
Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi since 2007.
Head of government:
Prime Minister Tuila'epa Sailele Malielegaoi since 1998.
230 volts AC, 50Hz (110 volts AC in some hotels). Australian-style plugs with three flat, angled pins are standard.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
The level of serious crime is low, but incidents of petty theft are fairly common. Don’t leave your belongings unattended. Use hotel safes for passports and valuables.
Samoa switched to driving on the left in 2009, however, many vehicles still have the steering wheel on the left of the vehicle. You should take care when driving on the roads, observing speed limits. You should avoid driving at night out of built-up areas.
You should avoid driving at night out of built-up areas. Vehicle safety regulations are not consistently enforced and traffic violations occur routinely. Roads in Samoa often cross small streams. Take care when crossing these streams.
Tide changes can produce powerful currents in ocean lagoons. Take local advice before swimming. Fatal accidents have occurred at popular beaches.