Constitutional monarchy. Gained independence from New Zealand in 1962.
Head of state:
Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi since 2007.
Head of government:
Prime Minister Tuila'epa Sailele Malielegaoi since 1998.
240 volts AC, 50Hz (110 volts AC in some hotels). Three-pronged plugs are in use as in Australia and New Zealand.
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.
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.The fa'a Samoa (the Samoan way) is arguably the most vibrant living culture in Polynesia, with a heritage that dates back for 2,000 years.
There is some risk to your safety in some parts of Samoa and travellers should exercise caution due to the devastating tsunami on 30 September 2009 and potential for earthquake aftershocks. Travellers are advised against all but essential travel to the south coast of Upolu until further notice. Most of Samoa, and particularly the sister island of Savaii, did not suffer damage.
Samoa has recently implemented a policy to switch the side of the road on which vehicles travel from right-side to left-side. As many vehicles currently being driven in Samoa have steering wheels on the left, care should be taken when driving on the roads.
Travellers should avoid driving out of built-up areas at night.
Most visits to Samoa are trouble-free but incidents of petty theft are fairly common.
Samoa lies on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" and regularly experiences seismic and volcanic activity.
The tropical storm season in Samoa normally runs from November to April.
There is a low threat from terrorism in Samoa. But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.
This advice is based on information provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. It is correct at time of publishing. As the situation can change rapidly, visitors are advised to contact the following organisations for the latest travel advice: