World Travel Guide > Guides > Oceania > Samoa

Samoa travel guide

About Samoa

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.

Key facts


2,831 sq km (1,093 sq miles).


194,523 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

69.9 per sq km.





Head of state:

Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi since 2007.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Tuila'epa Sailele Malielegaoi since 1998.

Travel Advice

Before you travel 

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you: 

Travel insurance 

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency. 

About FCDO travel advice

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated. 

This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel. 

The authorities in Samoa set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Samoan High Commission in Brussels

COVID-19 rules 

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Samoa. 

The authorities ask that you wear a face mask on arrival and identify yourself to border officials if you have any COVID symptoms. 

Passport validity requirements 

To enter Samoa, your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 6 months after the date you arrive. Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.  

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen. 

Visa requirements 

You can visit Samoa without a visa for up to 60 days. Border officials will issue a free visitor permit or business visitor permit using your arrival card. You may need to show: 

  • an onward or return ticket 
  • sufficient funds – a bank statement is acceptable evidence 
  • confirmed accommodation such as a hotel booking or letter of invitation 

To stay longer than 60 days, or for work, study or other reasons, apply for a Samoan entry permit

Vaccine requirements 

To enter Samoa, you must have a certificate to prove you’ve had a yellow fever vaccination if you’re coming from a country listed as a transmission risk.  

For full details about medical entry requirements and recommended vaccinations, see TravelHealthPro’s Samoa guide.  

Departure tax for flights to American Samoa  

If you are flying from Samoa to American Samoa, you must pay a departure tax of 40 Samoan tala.  

Customs rules 

There are strict regulations covering the import of firearms, plant and animal products, pets and recreational drugs. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty. 

Taking money into Samoa 

Declare cash or travellers cheques if the value is 20,000 talas or more. You will get a certified declaration to show you brought it with you.  


There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.      

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad

Terrorism in Samoa 

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Samoa, attacks cannot be ruled out. 


The level of serious crime is low, and incidents of petty theft are uncommon and opportunistic.   

Do not leave your belongings unattended. Use hotel safes or deposit boxes for passports and valuables. 

Laws and cultural differences  

Dress code 

Local communities expect you to dress modestly when visiting towns and villages. Swimwear is acceptable on the beach or by streams and waterfalls, but anywhere else it is likely to receive negative attention. 

Mobile phone coverage 

Phone coverage in rural areas and outlying islands can be limited or non-existent. Many UK mobile phones do not work, as your provider may not have an international roaming agreement in Samoa.  

You can buy Vodafone and Digicel SIM cards at the airport and at convenience stores and supermarkets. You must register your SIM card if you buy it locally. 

Alcohol laws and bans 

It is illegal to drink alcohol in public except at bars or restaurants. The legal drinking age is 21. 

Illegal drugs and prison sentences 

Possession of illegal drugs carries a possible 14-year prison sentence. 

LGBT+ travellers 

Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Samoa and same-sex marriage is not recognised. Showing affection in public is likely to receive negative attention.  

Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers

Outdoor activities and adventure tourism  

Swimming and surfing safety 

Samoa’s tides can produce powerful currents in ocean lagoons. Take local advice before swimming. There have been fatal accidents at popular beaches.  

Many waves break directly on to reefs and the currents can be harsh. Take local advice before surfing.  

For more advice, see water safety on holiday from the Royal Life Saving Society. 

Scuba diving 

Dive companies and tour operators may have limited resources and do not always observe safety and maintenance standards.  

Check that your travel insurance covers you and see if the policy has conditions – for example, using a qualified instructor.  

Ask the dive operator about the safety procedures they use. If you’re not satisfied, use a different provider. 

Stray dogs 

Stray dogs are common in Apia and in many villages. They can become aggressive if you approach them or if they feel threatened. There have been cases of attacks by dogs. Keep your distance when cycling or walking. 

Transport risks  

Road travel  

If you are planning to drive in Samoa, see information on driving abroad.  

To drive in Samoa, you must buy a temporary driving permit, which requires your UK driving licence. Car rental companies will help you with this. You can use the permit for up to 90 days a year. To drive for a longer period, you must get a Samoan driving licence. 

The speed limit is 40kmph in towns and villages and 56kmph outside. If you have an accident, you must report it to the police within 24 hours. When driving near villages watch for children and animals on the roads. Avoid driving at night as roads are poorly lit and any hazards make driving very dangerous. 

Extreme weather and natural disasters 

Find out what you can do to prepare for and respond to extreme weather and natural hazards

Earthquakes and tsunamis 

Samoa is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, an active zone where earthquakes and tremors are a constant risk. The last major earthquake was in 2009.  

The US Federal Emergency Management Agency website has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake and resulting tsunamis

Tropical cyclones 

The tropical cyclone season normally runs from November to the end of April, but most rain falls from December to March. Higher rainfall inland can cause flooding. Monitor local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organization, the Samoa Meteorology Division or the Fiji Meteorological Service.   

Before you travel check that: 

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need 

  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation  

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant. 

Emergency medical number 

Call 911 and ask for an ambulance. 

Contact your insurance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment. 

Vaccine recommendations and health risks 

At least 8 weeks before your trip:  

 Go to TravelHealthPro to see what health risks you’ll face in Samoa, including:  

  • Zika virus 
  • dengue 


The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries. 

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro

The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad

Healthcare facilities in Samoa 

If you have a medical emergency, evacuation to Australia, New Zealand or Hawaii is likely to be the only option for treatment.  

Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation. 

Travel and mental health 

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel. 

Emergency services in Samoa 

Telephone: 911 (ambulance, fire, police) 

Contact your travel provider and insurer 

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do. 

Refunds and changes to travel 

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first. 

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including: 

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider 
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim 

Support from FCDO 

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including: 

Contacting FCDO 

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated. 

You can also contact FCDO online

Help abroad in an emergency 

If you are in Samoa and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British High Commission in Wellington who provide help for British nationals in Samoa.  

If you’re in Samoa and you need emergency help urgently (for example, you’ve been attacked, arrested or someone has died), call +64 (0) 4 924 2888.  

FCDO in London 

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad. 

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours) 

Find out about call charges 

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