The Host Country
Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:09 PM
Samoa is a group of volcanic islands in the heart of the South
Pacific. Independent or “Western”Samoa lies halfway between Hawaii
and New Zealand and just to the west of American Samoa. Samoa
consists primarily of two major islands, Upolu and Savaii, which
together make up an area of approximately 2,680 sq. km (115 sq.
miles). The capital, Apia, sits on the northern coast of Upolu.
Savaii is a few kilometers to the west of Upolu and slightly larger.
The only other inhabited islands Manono and Apolima, are two small
land masses in the Apolima Strait, which separates Upolu and Savaii.
Many tiny uninhabited islands and a few lonely atolls comprise the
remainder of the country.
Samoa's proximity to the Equator results in hot and humid
conditions throughout most of the year. There are two distinct
seasons, the dry season (winter) between May and October and the wet
season (summer) between November and April. The average annual
temperature is 26.5 °C in coastal areas, with a decrease in
temperature as the land rises inland. Southeasterly trade winds make
April to October the more pleasant months. Samoa lies in the cyclone
belt and is periodically buffeted and bruised by cyclones, the
majority of which occur between November and April.
Lush forests of predominantly broadleaf evergreens, vines, ferns,
and mosses cover the upland areas of the islands. The mountains of
Upolu and Savaii are host to temperate forest vegetation, such as
tree ferns, wild coleus and epiphytic plants (mosses and other
nonparasitic creepers) and grasses. Banyan trees dominate the
landscape at higher elevations. The tropical rainforests are both a
source of food as well as a rich resource for natural medicine.
Traditional healers use 75 plant species to treat up to 200
different types of diseases. Scrubland, marshes, pandanus forests
and mangrove swamps cover the remainder of the island.
Samoa's remoteness has limited the diversity of its fauna. Apart
from two species of flying fox, the small sheath-tailed bat and the
Polynesian bat, mammals are limited to the marine varieties. Whales
(particularly pilot whales), dolphins and porpoises, migrate north
and south through Samoa, depending on the season. Skinks (“pili”)
and geckos (“mo'o”) proliferate, and the green turtle and endangered
hawksbill turtle are rare visitors. Native doves and pigeons are
found throughout the islands. The beaches and reefs of Samoa are
homes to numerous species of shellfish, starfish and crustaceans,
together with a brilliant array of tropical fish. Some 900 species
of fish and 200 species of coral have been documented.
Deforestation poses a major environmental threat. Agricultural
change is a culprit although logging has played its part in
disturbing the ecosystem. The practice of fishing with explosives,
over fishing, and an increase in the destructive crown-of-thorns
starfish, pose threats to the marine environment. The Government of
Samoa is making a concerted effort to develop ecologically friendly
industries and conserve the beauty and biological diversity of the
rain forests that cover much of the uplands.
Population Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:09 PM
Approximately, 180,000 persons live in Samoa. The official
language is Samoan; however, most people speak English, especially
in the capital city of Apia. The Samoans are the second-largest
Polynesian group in the Pacific behind the Maoris of New Zealand.
Apia is the only major population center in Samoa. Most people
live in some 400 coastal villages, with populations ranging from 100
to more than 2,000. About 3,200 foreign nationals live in Samoa.
Samoan culture and way of life (“fa'a Samoa”) survives despite
globalization. The extended family (“aiga”) is very close knit
within the village community, and the chiefs (““matai”) are well
respected and honored. A village council is composed of a high chief
and extended family chiefs who make the laws for each village. In
addition to representing the family in a village, the chief is
responsible for the general welfare of the family and directs the
use of land and other assets. Separate women's committees also have
strong influence in village affairs.
Public Institutions Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:09 PM
The national government operates under a British-based
(Westminster) parliamentary system that has been revised to
accommodate local custom and some Christian principles. The head of
state, Malietoa Tanumafili II, was one of the two initial heads of
state designated to hold the title for life when the country gained
its independence. Although the constitution provides for the head of
state to be elected by the parliament or legislature every 5 years,
the provision will not take effect until after Malietoa Tanumafili
II leaves office.
Although Samoa (formerly Western Samoa) became independent in
January 1962, it did not adopt universal suffrage until 1990. One
must still be a “matai” (chief) to run for office. There are over
25,000 registered matais in Samoa, but only 5% of them are women.
Most Samoans support the matai system. Samoans owe respect and
obedience to their matai in family and communal affairs, and the
matai in turn have well-defined responsibilities toward their family
groups. If these responsibilities are not met, the matai can be
removed. The position of the head of state, known as the (“O le Ao o
le Malo”) is mostly titular. However, the holder has the power to
appoint or remove the Prime Minister and to grant pardons. The
legislature must approve all official acts. The 49-seat “fono” is
made up of 47 members of parliament headed by a speaker. The
remaining two seats are held by members elected by a small body of
naturalized Samoans and, in theory, represent the interest of ethnic
Europeans and Chinese who are citizens of independent Samoa but are
not members of any Royal Family.
There are currently two major political parties represented in
the legislature—the ruling Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP)
under Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and the opposition
Samoan National Development Party (SNDP) led by Le Mamea Ropati. The
Samoan Progressive Conservative Party (SPCP), the Samoa All Peoples
Party (SAPP) and the Samoa Liberal Party (SLP), although small, also
participated in the March 2001 elections.
The judicial branch of government comprises four courts—the
Supreme Court, the Magistrate’s Court, the Lands and Titles Court,
and the Court of Appeals. Court proceedings are held in English,
with simultaneous translation into Samoan. Although the legal system
is modeled on Britain’s, Samoan tradition is also considered in
cases where it becomes an issue. Local governments include
administrative districts that oversees the operation of educational
and medical facilities, agricultural offices, and police.
Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:09 PM
Samoa’s high literacy rates and almost universal primary
schooling reflect long years of community and government cooperation
in education. Churches also provide basic primary education.
Education is compulsory but not free. Samoa is faced with declining
primary school enrollment (from 87% in 1991 to 83% in 1993), and
high dropout rates, 16% after primary level.
The government is giving priority to the expansion of tertiary
schooling opportunities to spread access to education more equitably
and to address the shortage of technical expertise in the workforce.
Major initiatives include new facilities for the National University
of Samoa. Opened in 1995, the school has 1,000 students and offers a
bachelor’s degree. Other opportunities for tertiary study are
available through the University of the South Pacific School (USP)
of Agriculture. The USP has an Extension center that offers courses
by distance education. Samoan Polytechnic offers a 2-year technical
Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:11 PM
The Samoan economy is dependent upon agricultural exports,
tourism, and capital flows from abroad. Long-run development depends
upon upgrading the tourist infrastructure, attracting foreign
investment, and further diversification of the economy.
Two major cyclones hit Samoa at the beginning of the 1990s.
Cyclone Ofa left an estimated 10,000 islanders homeless in February
1990. Cyclone Val caused 13 deaths and hundreds of millions of
dollars in damage in December 1991. As a result, GDP declined by
nearly 50% from 1989 to 1991. These experiences and Samoa's position
as a low-lying island state punctuate its concern about global
Further economic problems occurred in 1994 with an outbreak of
taro leaf blight and the near collapse of the national airline
Polynesian. Taro, a root crop was Samoa's largest export, generating
more than half of all export revenue in 1993. A fungal blight
decimated the plants, and each year since 1994 taro exports have
accounted for less than 1% of export revenue. Polynesian Airlines'
financial crisis in 1994 disrupted the tourist industry and
eventually required a government bailout.
The government responded to these shocks with a major program of
road building and post-cyclone infrastructure repair. Economic
reforms were stepped up, including the liberalization of exchange
controls. GDP growth rebounded to over 6% in both 1995 and 1996
before slowing again at the end of the decade.
The service sector accounts for more than half of GDP and employs
about 30% of the labor force. Tourism is the largest-single
activity, more than doubling in visitor numbers and revenue over the
last decade. More than 85,000 visitors came to Samoa in 1999,
contributing over $40 million to the local economy. One-third came
from American Samoa, 28% from New Zealand and 11% from the U.S.
Arrivals increased in 2000, some of the growth attributable to
visitors avoiding political strife in neighboring Fiji.
The primary sector (agriculture, forestry, and fishing) employs
nearly two-thirds of the labor force and produces 17% of GDP.
Important products include coconuts and fish. Industry accounts for
over one-quarter of GDP while employing less that 6% of the
workforce. The largest industrial venture is Yazaki Samoa, a
Japanese-owned company processing automotive components for export
to Australia under a confessional market-access arrangement. The
Yazaki plant employs more than 2,000 workers and makes up over 20%
of the manufacturing sector's total output. Net receipts amount to
between $5 million and $10 million annually, although shipments from
Yazaki are counted as services (export processing) and, therefore,
do not officially appear as merchandise exports.
New Zealand is Samoa's principal trading partner, typically
providing between 35% and 40% of import and purchasing 45%-50% of
exports. Australia, American Samoa, the U.S., and Fiji also are
important partners. Samoa's principal exports are coconut products
and fish. Its main imports are food and beverages, industrial
supplies, and fuels.
The collapse of taro exports in 1994 had the unintended effect of
modestly diversifying Samoa's export products and markets. Prior to
the taro leaf blight, Samoa's exports consisted of taro ($3.7
million), coconut cream ($1.8 million), and "other" ($1.3 million).
Ninety percent of exports went to the Pacific region, and only 1%
went to Europe. Forced to look for alternatives to taro, Samoa's
exporters have dramatically increased the production of copra,
coconut oil, and fish. These three products, which combined to
produce export revenue of less than $100,000 in 1993, now account
for over $11 million. There also has been a relative shift from
Pacific markets to European ones, which now receive nearly 15% of
Samoa's exports. Samoa's exports are still concentrated in coconut
products ($7.8 million worth of copra, copra meal, coconut oil, and
coconut cream) and fish ($5 million) but are at least somewhat more
diverse than before.
The more than 60,000 Samoans who live overseas provide annual
direct remittances of approximately $40 million and account for more
than half of all tourist visits. In addition to the expatriate
community, Samoa also receives roughly $25 million annually in
official development assistance from sources led by Japan,
Australia, and New Zealand. These three sources of revenue—tourism,
private transfers, and official transfers—allow Samoa to cover its
persistently large trade deficit.
Automobiles Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:11 PM
Most Embassy personnel bring a vehicle to post. Samoa is a
beautiful country with beaches, mountains and valleys that can be
explored safely. Roads are well kept on the two main islands of
Upolu and Savaii. There are no vehicles on the other islands of
Samoa. A standard economy car is adequate but a sport-utility
vehicle is ideal for travel in the countryside and is the choice for
travel in the capital city by local government officials.
Vehicle break-ins are not common in Samoa, and car alarms
generally are not used. Personnel with diplomatic privileges may
import or purchase automobiles in Samoa duty free. Employees who
wish to purchase vehicles locally have the option of purchasing from
two local car dealerships who deal in Toyota or Mitsubishi vehicles.
There are several rental car companies that offer decent vehicles at
about the same prices as in the U.S.
Apia traffic can be congested but rush hours are brief. There is
one road to Apia toward either the eastern or western side of the
island and one road to travel across the center of Upolu to the
south side of the island. In Savaii, there is one road that travels
around the entire coast of the island. A trip around Upolu can take
approximately 4 hours traveling at the maximum legal speed of about
30-mph. To travel around scenic Savaii takes a little less time.
Unleaded, diesel and kerosene fuels are available and tend to run
about 25% above current U.S. fuel cost at time of purchase. Embassy
personnel can purchase fuel duty free from local establishments
where accounts are in place.
The Embassy will assist in obtaining drivers licenses, license
plates, and automobile insurance, but coverage is limited.
Supplemental policies are available through some U.S. based
Local Transportation Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:12 PM
Public transportation is limited, and a personal vehicle is
necessary. Taxi service for travel within Apia is inexpensive but
not always available. Local buses do not meet U.S. standards and are
Regional Transportation Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:12 PM
There is both air and ferry service to Savaii. Flights are
available on Polynesian Airlines, and there is a ferry that crosses
the Apolima Strait in about an hour from the Mulifanua Wharf on
Upolu Island. The ferry allows for the option of taking your own
vehicle at a cost of about US$40. The cost of round-trip airfare to
Savaii from Upolu is approximately US$30. There are also inexpensive
daily flights, and a ferry that travels weekly to Pago Pago,
Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:13 PM
Telephones are installed in all Embassy housing. Service is
generally good but expensive. The cost of a call to the U.S. from
Samoa is set at ST$4.50 per minute (about US$1.40 per minute). Fax
machines and computers with Internet and E-mail access are available
at the Embassy and at other places in town.
Internet Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:13 PM
Several companies offer Internet services for personal home use.
Service is steadily improving. Cost is significantly above U.S.
Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:14 PM
Both the international mail and the pouch usually take about 2
weeks. The usual restriction on pouch service will apply, e.g., no
glass, liquid, or aerosol containers; no mail (other than returned
catalog merchandise from employees to the U.S.) larger than a
videotape cassette or more than 2 pounds; not more than 24 inches in
length and not more than 62 inches width and girth combined; no
mailing tubes longer than 32 inches; and a maximum weight of 40
There are five ways to receive mail in Samoa: international mail,
the diplomatic pouch, the APO, or through DHL or FedEx. Pouch and
APO mail is couriered to Auckland once a week. The local post office
is generally reliable, but packages have been known to disappear,
especially packages coming to Samoa. All private packages must be
cleared through customs.
U.S. Embassy Apia U.S. Embassy Dept. of State 5th Floor John
Williams Bldg 4400 Apia Place Private Bag, 92022 Washington, D.C.
20521-4400 Tamaligi Apia, Samoa U.S. Embassy Apia P.O. Box 3430
Apia, Samoa 0815
Radio and TV Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:16 PM
Samoa has one television station that broadcasts a half-hour,
mixed Samoan and English news nightly. New Zealand news is also
beamed in via satellite. In July 2001, the BBC news began
broadcasting a few hours a day. Nightly, a B-rated English movie is
shown along with various sitcoms imported from the U.S. and New
Zealand. Local television operates on the European PAL system;
videotapes available locally are made for the same system; however,
American NTSC videos are also readily available for rent. In order
to enjoy programming and videotapes available in Samoa, as well as
American videotapes, it is necessary to have a multisystem TV/VCR
that can handle both PAL and U.S. NTSC systems.
There are several local radio stations on both AM and FM. Radio
Pacific International broadcasts Pacific regional as well as
Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated:
9/3/2003 1:17 PM
A few popular American magazines are available along with
Australian and New Zealand publications. There are several local
newspapers that are published in both English and Samoan.
Health and Medicine
Medical Facilities Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:18 PM
The Embassy relies upon local medical staff. Local pharmacies
have limited supply of medicines. Employees should bring with them
into country all needed prescription and nonprescription medicines
and supplies for both routine and chronic medical conditions.
The first medical challenge for newcomers is acclimatization to
Samoa's hot and humid weather. It is common to become easily
dehydrated in this environment.
The most common illnesses found in Samoa are upper respiratory
infections, skin infections (from cuts), and influenza. Communicable
diseases include tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and typhoid fever.
Mosquito-borne dengue is not common but an outbreak has been known
to occur during rainy seasons. This is not hemmorrhagic dengue.
There have been no reported cases of Malaria. Insect repellant is
All water for consumption should be filtered and boiled. Fruits
and vegetables should be peeled, cooked, or disinfected by soaking
in a solution of bleach (available locally) and water.
Public medical, dental, diagnostic and hospital facilities in
Samoa do not meet Western standards. Most are overcrowded, have a
limited stock of medicines, and are poorly maintained. Limited
laboratory tests and X-ray services are available. A new private
medical facility, Medcen Hospital, opened in 1998, is better
equipped than the public hospital, but patients requiring medical
assistance other than basic services are evacuated to New Zealand or
the U.S. Employees and their dependents should have all necessary
dental work done before arrival at post. In case of dental
emergencies, evacuation may be authorized.
Community Health Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:18 PM
Two hospitals, one public and one private, serve the 100,000
residents who live on Upolu Island. There are several dispensaries
which are village based. Overall health care is very limited, but
the population is relatively healthy. Dengue fever is common and
there have been outbreaks about every 3 years.
Preventive Measures Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:19 PM
Travelers are advised to take standard inoculations prior to
travel. Typhoid vaccination is advised. There is no malaria or
rabies in Samoa.
American Embassy - Apia
Post City Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:19 PM
The capital of Apia is a clean, attractive, and relatively safe
city of some 30,000 people. The main street in the capital, Beach
Road, runs parallel with the Apia Harbor. Just opposite the Apia
Harbor is the Palolo Deep Marine Reserve where you can find some of
the best snorkeling in the South Pacific. The city is small with
The small village of Tauese sits in the center of Apia on Beach
Road and comes alive at night, as its restaurants and cafes open and
fill up with locals and foreign nationals. Traditional markets can
be found only blocks away, offering food items, local handicrafts,
clothing, and other items.
The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:23 PM
The U.S. Embassy in Apia consists of one American Deputy Chief of
Mission who reports to the Ambassador, resident in New Zealand.
Peace Corps has two directors, one Country Director and one Director
for the Pacific Regional Initiative. The Embassy has been in
existence since 1988. The first Peace Corps volunteers arrived in
1970. At the time, the sole diplomatic presence was a Consular
The Chancery is located on the fifth floor of the John Williams
Building, Beach Road. Phone number (685) 21631 or 22696. The
Chancery is scheduled to relocate in 2003. The Embassy is supported
by Embassy Wellington and Consulate General Auckland for most
functions. A Security Assistance Office based in Wellington also
administers Apia's program. Auckland based Foreign Commercial
Services provide commercial support.
The Peace Corps Office, supporting some 70 Peace Corps
volunteers, includes three direct-hire Americans and 35 foreign
national employees. The focus of the Peace Corps in Apia is moving
from basic education to business administration and technical
The Embassy work schedule is 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through
Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:24 PM
Newcomers usually move directly into permanent housing. If the
house is not ready, Aggie Grey's hotel is two blocks from the U.S.
Permanent Housing Last Updated: 5/31/2003 6:00 PM
The DCM is housed in a U.S. Government-owned home, which sits on
2 acres about 5 miles from downtown Apia. However, the home was
vacated in February 2001 to accommodate a planned renovation. That
has not taken place, and plans for the house have been postponed
indefinitely. The DCM currently is housed in a furnished rental home
some 6 miles from the Embassy.
Furnishings Last Updated: 5/31/2003 6:00 PM
Furniture is also provided, including carpets, lamps, and
standard items for the living room, dining room, kitchen and
bedrooms. All basic necessities are provided as well, such as
refrigerator, and freezer, oven, dishwasher, microwave, and washer
Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:41 PM
The electrical current at both the Chancery and residence is 220
volts. Telephone service is reliable, but Internet service is not.
Water supply is subject to occasional cutoffs. Electricity in
increasingly unreliable in both the residence and Chancery. The
Chancery does not have a generator or a water tank. The U.S.
Government-owned residence has an above groundwater tank. However,
the temporary residence does not. The temporary residence also does
not have a generator. There is a generator available at times
through a connection to the owner and neighbors' home. Both the
Embassy and residence use a delivered bottled water supply.
Food Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:45 PM
There is no commissary in Apia. Employees receive a consumables
allowance. There are two main open-air markets offering local
produce, and food items. There are two small “U.S. style” grocery
stores, which offer both local goods and imported items, mostly
vegetable, meat, and dairy products imported from New Zealand. There
are numerous corner stores throughout Samoa, packed with everything
from food items to batteries. There are also bakeries offering fresh
baked bread and cake. There is one McDonalds in Apia and a Kentucky
Fried Chicken is scheduled to open this year.
Local fresh roduce, although limited in variety, is inexpensive
and easily obtained from corner stores and the downtown markets.
Some of the produce is seasonal, however, and there are occasional
absences of some items. Almost always available are onions,
potatoes, Chinese cabbages (bok choi), tomatoes, cabbage, hot
pepper, garlic, and ginger. More seasonal are green beans, eggplant,
pepper and avocados. Bananas, papaya, and citrus fruits are
available throughout the year, but other fresh fruits are seasonal,
including mangoes and pineapples. There are several local stores
that import fresh fruits from New Zealand like pears, apples, and
kiwi. Fresh beef and pork are also imported from New Zealand while
frozen chicken is imported from the U.S. and is available for sale
at most markets and stores.
Staples such as flour (white only), rice, sugar, alt/pepper, and
vegetable and peanut oils are always on the shelves and quite
reasonable. Good coffee and chocolates can be found at a few stores
in Apia that specialize in imported goods. A limited supply of New
Zealand and Australian wines are readily available throughout the
country at various outlets.
U.S. imports are few, mainly from American Samoa. A large “Cost
You Less,” warehouse-type grocery store in neighboring Pago Pago
will ship goods. However, the freight cost is significant.
Clothing Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:49 PM
Most events in Samoa stipulate casual dress. Formal attire is
needed for designated government events and church services.
Business/casual dress is fine for the work place. Men will find that
short-sleeve shirts and long pants are most acceptable for any
occasion. Women usually wear dresses below the knees with sleeves or
a shawl. Pantssuits are also common. Shorts are acceptable but not
for traditional occasions or rural areas where older Samoans are
Keep in mind the heat and humidity (90% most days) factors when
choosing what to bring. Sandals or open style shoes are the most
sensible types of footwear. Quality and sizes of shoes are available
locally. Clothing is more readily available, but some 20%-50% more
costly than similar summer wear in the U.S. Many of the locals wear
flip-flops (jandals thongs), and these are available for just a few
dollars at most stores.
Men Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:49 PM
Long pants and short-sleeve shirts are standard business wear. A
jacket and tie are required for formal occasions and meetings with
Samoan Government ministers.
Women Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:49 PM
Long (below the knee) dresses and skirts are general business
attire. Pants suits also are acceptable.
Children Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:49 PM
No requirements for boys or girls. Shorts and tee shirts are
appropriate for most occasions. All schoolchildren wear uiforms.
Supplies and Services
Supplies Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:50 PM
Most services in Samoa are quite basic and have few competitors.
Bicycle and car repair is available, but parts often must be ordered
from New Zealand or the U.S. Laundry services are available, and
there is one drycleaner. A few outlets offer basic color print film
developing including Advantix/APS services At least one of these is
able to output from digital media. There is no shoe repair. Hair
salons and beauty services are limited to about 3-4 outlets. Barbers
are basic as well. Experience of the stylist varies, and they may
not be familiar with different hair types.
Basic Services Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:48 PM
Utility services tend to be about twice as costly as in the
mainland U.S. Electricity is somewhat unreliable and many businesses
have generators. Water cutoffs are frequent. The telephone system is
quite old and the government announced in August 2002 plans to
revamp the entire system. Internet service is becoming more
reliable. Postal service is generally good. International mail may
take up to two-three weeks to reach the east coast of the U.S.
Domestic Help Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:50 PM
Most household employees are full-time domestic help. Duties and
working hours are negotiated individually with the employee.
Salaries range from US$200-$400 a month.
Religious Activities Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:50 PM
Most Samoans are devout Christians. Religion is a big part of
Samoan life, and Sunday services is the most important event in the
week. Absolute fealty to, and respect for, the church leader is a
must, as is the strict observance of religious rules. There are a
number of houses of worship that offer services in English,
including, Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, Bahai, Latter-day Saints
and Assembly of God.
At Post Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:50 PM All school tuition fees in
Apia are covered by the Department's education allowance. There is
no International School.
Robert Louis Stevenson School (RLS) is a primary and secondary
school. It is accredited by the Australian and New Zealand systems
but has no U.S. accreditation. RLS has an enrollment of about 500
students with a diverse mix of Samoan and expatriate students and
faculty. The school year runs from late January through early
December with two-week, semester breaks every 10 weeks. RLS requires
uniforms. There is bus service only from town center to school.
Students must make private arrangements from home.
Away From Post Last Updated: 5/31/2003 6:00 PM Employees assigned
to Apia are eligible for away-from-post educational allowance for
children in grades 6 to 12.
Special Needs Education Last Updated: 5/31/2003 6:00 PM
There are no local schools that have resources for children with
special learning needs.
Recreation and Social Life Last Updated: 9/3/2003 2:34 PM
Samoa has plenty of outdoor activities to offer visitors,
including exploring the rain forest, snorkeling in the lagoon,
surfing, diving, and deep sea fishing. There are also rowing and
Sports Last Updated: 9/3/2003 2:34 PM
There are a number of gyms in Apia that offer memberships with a
monthly or per visit charge that offer circuit training equipment,
free weights, and aerobic style classes. None of these facilities is
air-conditioned. Monthly rate runs about $10, and per visit rate is
less than $2. The Apia Park Compound is government run and offers
several activities, including lawn bowling, an outdoor clay track,
rugby stadium and tennis courts. There is no charge for use of these
facilities. Tennis courts can also be found on the grounds of the
Hotel Insel Fehmarn and can be used for a minimal fee.
Rugby is the most popular sport played in Samoa, and you will see
youth playing in the village fields on a daily basis. The Manu Samoa
is the national rugby team of Samoa, and they are highly ranked
internationally. There are also several soccer clubs that are open
for membership from any who wishes to join.
It is safe for male and female joggers to run anywhere in the
town area without fear of harassment. A popular jogging/walking
track is along the sea wall on Beach Road in Apia.
Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 9/3/2003 2:34 PM
The coral reef around Samoa offers excellent snorkeling, although
a good percentage of the coral was destroyed during the cyclones of
1990 and 1991. There are still many sites that have yet to be
explored and others that are rarely visited. In Apia, the Palolo
Deep Marine Reserve offers snorkeling and off-shore diving within
close reach of the city center. Entrance fee to the park is less
than $1. Fishing is also excellent, including tuna, king fish,
jackfish, and marlin.
There are many beaches to choose from, each boasting of a unique
beauty and tranquil setting. Options exist on the north, south, east
and west of both Upolu and Savaii Islands as well as on Manono
Island and the tiny island of Namua. In most areas, there are
families who entertain tourists with budget beach cabana-type ("fale")
accommodations. The simple, open-air beach fales are suited to the
climate and provide basic accommodation on many beaches. Prices
range from $20-$40 per night, including meals. Toilet and showering
facilities are usually adequate but not private.
Travel by road is good, although there are lots of potholes and
still some unpaved roads. It is best to use a four-wheel-drive
vehicle to travel in the rural areas.
Entertainment Last Updated: 9/3/2003 2:34 PM
There are several cinemas in Apia, but only one that offers a
U.S.-style, big screen. Most families rely on VCRs and DVD players
and make use of the many rental stores in town. All major hotels
offer weekly cultural shows called "Fiafia nights" that include
traditional dancing and singing.
There are decent restaurants in Apia but for fine cuisine you
must dine at one of the major hotels. Fish and chips (fries), as
well as burgers and fried chicken are available at most small
takeouts on just about every corner of Apia. Vailima, the national
beer is also available at most convenience stores throughout the
country. All bars and nightclubs in Samoa close at 12 am.
Social Activities Last Updated: 9/3/2003 2:34 PM
The expatriate community mixes well and often with the Samoan
community. Much of the focus is on at-home entertaining. Businesses
and the diplomatic corps offer cocktail receptions frequently. Night
life is limited. Night clubs close at midnight, mandated by the
government. There is no theatre. Musical events are limited to "fia
fia" nights; traditional dance is hosted at various hotels.
Official Functions Last Updated: 9/3/2003 2:35 PM
Official functions are numerous. The diplomatic corps along with
the eight resident United Nations agencies host cocktail receptions
almost weekly. The Samoan Government also hosts dinners and cocktail
receptions generally quarterly. Large annual events include the "Teuila"
Tourism Festival, which is the first week of September; a luncheon,
to which the diplomatic corps is invited to celebrate the Head of
State's birthday, January 4, and National Day ceremonies on June 1.
Special Information Last Updated: 9/3/2003 1:54 PM
Post Orientation Program
The DCM and the Peace Corps director, and the Associate Peace
Corps director are the sole USG employees on the island. There is no
formal post orientation program. However, the FSN staff of both
agencies provide a gcomprehensive overview of Samoa and assistance
in settling in. Embassy provides a detailed Visitor's guide to Samoa
with an overview of consular services, political/economic
background, and recreational sites.
Notes For Travelers
Getting to the Post Last Updated: 8/25/2003 12:58 AM
No American carriers serve Samoa directly. Transfers to a foreign
carrier for direct service to Samoa are available in Honolulu, Los
Angeles, Auckland, Sydney, and Suva. Official arrivals will be met
at the Faleolo International Airport and assisted through
immigration and customs.
For airfreight shipments, containers should be of a size
acceptable to a passenger aircraft for shipment. This size may vary
according to the airline. Containers should be marked:
U.S. Embassy (your name) Apia SAMOA Telephone: (685) 21631 or
Seafreight should be routed directly to Apia.
Customs, Duties, and Passage
Customs and Duties Last Updated: 8/25/2003 9:44 AM
Employees assigned to the Embassy are entitled to full duty-free
privileges for the duration of their tour. There are no restrictions
on items to be imported, except that vehicles cannot be right-hand
drive or more than 10 years old.
Passage Last Updated: 5/31/2003 6:00 PM
Each traveler must have a valid diplomatic or official passport,
as well as a valid Samoan visa. Visas are not required for U.S.
citizens who hold a valid round-trip ticket and do not plan to stay
for more than 30 days. Although visas may be issued at the airport
under special circumstances and with advance notification in
writing, this is not a customary procedure and should not be assumed
as a privilege granted to travelers.
Pets Last Updated: 9/3/2003 2:37 PM
There are no quarantine restrictions, but all pets must have an
up-to-date health certificate, including evidence of rabies
vaccinations for warm-blooded pets, especially dogs and cats. Only
basic veterinarian services are available in Samoa. It is highly
recommended that you have your pets examined and given all needed
vaccinations before coming to post, and that you bring all pet
supplies, including medicine with you. Dog and cat foods are
Make sure before you leave for Samoa that you have all necessary
paperwork to bring pets back to the U.S., particularly in the case
of parrots and other birds protected by the CITIES, contact Fish and
Wildlife Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 9/3/2003 2:38 PM
Both the Samoa Government and Embassy policy forbid the
importation of personal firearms. The Samoa Government also
prohibits the possession of personal firearms in the country.
Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated:
9/3/2003 2:40 PM
The Samoan currency is the tala, which is available in
denominations of: 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, and 2 bills. The current
exchange is approximately US$1=ST$3.23. Credit cards are
increasingly accepted in locally owned shops and restaurants and are
widely accepted by hotels, tour operators, and airlines.
There are three banks in Samoa — ANZ Bank Samoa Ltd., Wespac
Bank, and the National Bank of Samoa. The ANZ Bank is open Mon-Wed,
9 a.m.-3 p.m., Thur-Fri 9 a.m.-4 p.m and a number of ATM's
throughout Apia. Western Union branches offer money transfer
facilities and full international services.
Samoa is 7 hours behind (earlier) Washington, D.C., during U.S.
daylight savings months, and 6 hours behind for the rest of the
year. The metric system of weights and measures is used.
Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 8/25/2003
At this time, U.S. personnel are exempt from local income tax as
well as import and export duty taxes. If Embassy employees wish to
sell their cars on the local market, they are responsible for seeing
that import duties are paid either personally or by the buyer. Such
duties can run as high as 20%. Also, according to U.S. Government
policy, anyone wishing to sell items when leaving Samoa must provide
a list of the items and their sto the Ambassador for approval before
sale. No employee may make a profit on the sale of goods.
Recommended Reading Last Updated: 9/3/2003 2:41 PM
These titles are provided as a general indication of the material
published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse
Brown, George. George Brown, D.D., Pioneer-Missionary and
Explorer: An Autobiography: A Narrative of Forty-Eight Years'
Residence and Travel in Samoa, New Britain, New Ireland, New Guinea
and the Solomon Islands. AMS Press: 1976.
Calkins, Fay G. My Samoan Chief. University of Hawaii Press:
Keene, Day. Passage to Samoa. Ulverscorft Large Print Books,
Kramer, Augustin. Samoa Islands: An Outline of a Monograph with
Particular Consideration of German Samoa: (Material Culture) Vol. 2.
University of Hawaii Press: 1995.
Lawson, Stephanie. Traditional Versus Democracy in the South
Pacific: Fiji, Tonga, and Western Samoa. Cambridge University Press:
O'Meara, Tim. Samoa Planters: Tradition and Economic Development
in Polynesia. Harcourt Brace College Publishers: 1997.
Papua Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Western Samoa, Vanuatu,
Tonga: Business Risk Overview. Edited and Published by Rector Press
Perham, Margery F. Pacific Prelude: A Journey to Samoa and
Australasia, 1929. Dufour Editions, Inc.: January, 1988.
Stanner, W.E.H., South Seas in Tradition: A Study of Post-War
Rehabilitation and Reconstruction in Three British Pacific
Dependencies. Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc.: 1982.
South Seas in Transition: A Study of Post-War Rehabilitation and
Reconstruction in Three British Pacific Dependencies. AMS Press:
Turner, George. Samoa, a Hundred Years Ago and Long Before. AMS
West, Frances J., Political Advancement in the South Pacific: A
Comparative Study of Colonial Practice in Fiji, Tahiti and American
Samoa. Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc: 1984.
Local Holidays Last Updated: 9/3/2003 2:42 PM
New Year's Day January 1 Good Friday March 29 Easter Saturday
March 30 Easter Monday April 1 ANZAC Day April 25 Mothers-of-Samoa
Day May 13 Independence Day June 1 Labor Day August 1
Children’s-White-Sunday (Day after White Sunday) October 14 Arbor
Day November 1 Christmas Day December 25 Boxing Day December 26
All holidays which fall on Sunday are to be observed on the
following Monday. Subsequently, consecutive Holidays with one
falling on Sunday are likewise observed on the following days.