How do you travel to Samoa

South Seas Paradise Samoa

The South Seas have always been my dream. Maybe because she always seemed so remote and unreachable to me. But maybe also because she owns these dreamlike islands that seem to promise paradise in its purest form. And now that I was finally able to travel longer than a maximum of three weeks, the time had finally come. Now all that was left to do was to decide which of the fifty or more interesting islands of the more than 7,500 would be considered ...

When choosing, one island seemed more tempting than the other, there was French Polynesia with Tahiti and Bora Bora, the Cook Islands, New Caledonia and the so-called Society Islands, to name a few. Only the island was not the only decisive factor for my decision, it was also about which one would be accessible in the best possible way at a relatively affordable price.

After I had just finished reading the book "Under the South Sea Moon" and a good friend mentioned in conversation a few days later that Samoa should be very beautiful, I took it as a hint of fate and booked the somewhat inconvenient flight connection to the small island without a return ticket in the South Pacific. How long I would stay there was written in the stars and would be left to fate.

Already on the plane I got a premonition about the local Samoas: Mostly massive, large and tattooed bodies - men and women - squeezed into the seats of the small plane, in which only a few white faces appeared. And then I noticed people who could not be clearly assigned their gender, because although they had male characteristics, they clearly presented themselves as women. And also in the taxi to the hotel late in the evening I had a new experience when the taxi driver asked me after ten minutes if we could take his wife with us so that he wouldn't fall asleep on the long way back.

Traditionally, people in Samoa live in "Fales", which are open wooden houses on stilts that can be closed with curtains made of coconut palm leaves if necessary (e.g. when it rains or if there is more privacy). My accommodation near the capital Apia offered this kind of living in a pleasant way and it honestly took a little to get used to the spartan sleeping on a sagging mattress on the floor of the bungalow under a mosquito net.

On the other hand, a great feeling that a bed and a roof over your head are actually more than enough in this wonderfully warm weather ... at least as long as there are no noteworthy spiders or snakes.

What did I expect from an island in the distant South Pacific? I asked myself. Shining turquoise water and fine, white sand as far as the eye can see? Or ripe fruit falling from the trees straight into my arms? Was this paradise here? To be honest, I didn't really know anything about it and that was actually the exciting thing about this new travel destination.

At least I knew by now that the assumption that only honeymooners vacation on such islands was not true. In fact, quite the opposite: the region in the South Pacific is a popular travel destination, especially for New Zealanders and Australians, which is why the distribution of single travelers and couples of all ages was almost even.

Samoa consists of two larger and many small islands and I was just on the main island called Opolu, whose capital Apia with its mostly small shops full of cheap Chinese goods didn't really remind you of paradise. But at least this would be the only place on this island where there were real shops, because the rest of the island consisted exclusively of villages with at most a small mini market.

And now I wanted to get to know this other part. The east of the island seemed to be the more interesting part and so I decided - like almost all travelers - for the beach named Lalomanu in the south East. This time I got a closed fale right by the sea, which finally showed the longed-for, strong turquoise color. Arrived in paradise!

But such a paradise also has disadvantages, as I had to find out. Real luxury problems arose here: While one always dreams of the sound of the sea, for example, with which one gently falls asleep in the background, I couldn't even fall asleep because of the strong surf.

And then there has always been the great desire for sweet idleness, letting your mind wander and lounging around - but what if you have had enough of it ?! How does boredom work? What do I do if I don't want to or can't sit in the blazing sun all the time? Here at the latest it became apparent that Samoa is a very quiet travel destination - with little action, but a lot of nature and culture.

The Samoans are incredibly friendly, interested and it is not uncommon for them to be invited to their home after just a few exchanges. As soon as you are driving your car in relaxed left-hand traffic, you will have to stop more often on the streets because of crossing chickens, little pigs, dogs, children and cows.

Everyone seems to somehow live together in harmony, at least until the moment when one or the other animal ends up on the plate. And also all other dishes are usually freshly prepared, be it raw fish in coconut milk or potatoes or rice with various vegetables, which sometimes reminds a little of our German food.

The little jewel Opolus ’is probably called the green lagoon "To Sua" which is just a few minutes' drive from Lalomanu Beach. For a fee of approx. 7 € you can bathe in this greenish shimmering water, which you climb down a steep staircase.

Afterwards most of them sit in an open fale, picnic and enjoy the view through the meticulously laid out garden to the long cliff. The roads along the coast are also absolutely worth seeing (especially the eastern part) and lead through the many small villages, which of course always have at least one imposing church.

The interior of the country is also impressive. Roads in unexpectedly good condition, relaxed Samoan drivers, in the middle then a breathtaking view over a valley to the distant sea and in the back the mountains covered with rainforest, where the volcanic origin is difficult to hide.

And if you park the car on the side of the road, switch off the engine and get out, there is only one thing: silence. Until the next bus or taxi rushes by. Especially those Cross Island Road, which basically splits the island of Opolu in half from north to south, is well worth the drive. In addition to the scenic features of the island, it also offers an insight into the life of the wealthier in the country.

After my somewhat restless beach experience, I decided without further ado to spend the rest of the time in the Fale, where I had felt so comfortable from the first moment. So back to Apia on the sagging mattress by the beautiful pool with the unforgettable breakfast with a daily mountain of fresh fruits, a wafer-thin pancake in combination with Samoan honey (!) And delicious, dark wholemeal toast.

At first I wasn't aware that the island is actually so small that you can theoretically do anything from the capital - as long as you don't insist on lying on the beach every day. And it also took some adjustment if you are used to action when traveling, which you have to limit a bit due to the lack of available options.

All the more you can concentrate on the people of this small country. Everyone seems to be in a much too good mood, nobody argues, you seldom hear a car honking and again and again you hear "Noooo problem." Even when it rains, nothing changes, nobody unpacks an umbrella and they just keep playing football or rugby. Many women wear beautiful flowers behind their ears, laugh a lot and obviously enjoy their sometimes very feminine forms.

Even the taxi drivers are nice and open-minded, well-groomed and above all value a colorful, creative design of their cockpit, in which there are often up to ten scented trees that sometimes almost drove me to faint. Loud music is always playing in the local buses, which often have large guests, depending on the driver's taste.

And then there was something else I wasn't prepared for: the third gender! I had already noticed it on the plane, but hadn't attached much importance to it. However, when the sight of men in women's clothes increased in Apia, I wanted to know what was behind them. Fa’afafine is the name of the female Polynesian men who are born as men but raised as girls and then usually keep the female role throughout their lives.

And although homosexuality is not welcomed in such a Christian country, “the” Fa’afafine can live quite normally with a man. A bit of a strange theory, but one that is simply part of Polynesian culture. An evening with the "Divas of Samoa" is very reminiscent of a transvestite show, but it is absolutely worth seeing and funny!

My last trip to Samoa was to the neighboring islandSavai’i. In the west of Opolus, the ferry leaves for the 1 1/4-hour crossing and, for a small fee, brings you to the even greener and less populated Savai'i, which you can theoretically go around by bus, taxi or rental car in a few hours can.

Legendary sights will also be missed here; In addition to the many local villages, there are some very nice beach resorts in the north and east and then there are in the south-west in the village Taga the so-called Alofaaga Blowholes. These are deep holes in the lava rock on the coast through which the water shoots up at high tide.

Saying goodbye to Samoa was unexpectedly difficult for me. I got used to this relaxed, positive and uncomplicated way of life too quickly and also living in such a simple bungalow - thanks to which I could even sleep outside at night - I really enjoyed it. Things are still regulated here with common sense, which makes life and people incredibly lovable and natural. Whether the trip to Samoa is worthwhile cannot be answered with a resounding yes for everyone.

You have to accept a very long travel time, which by the way I would get over it as quickly as possible next time (without longer intermediate stops) and you should also consider that the island is small and not so much in terms of tourist events or activities has a lot to offer. For those who want to get to know a very authentic country with warm people, in which the clocks seem to tick even more slowly, Samoa is exactly the right place.

The nature is breathtaking, although you should also know that there are only a few places with the great turquoise sea. Living in a fale is, in my opinion, a unique experience and it is also a very safe island, which is why you can leave almost everything open anywhere. For me it is a little paradise that I hope will stay so natural and friendly for a long time to come!

My travel tips for Samoa:

  • My route: 1.) Emirates Frankfurt - Kuala Lumpur, 2.) Air Asia Kuala Lumpur - Melbourne, 3.) Virgin Australia Melbourne - Samoa (total one-way price approx. € 1,000) // other variants go via Seoul (South Korea), Hong Kong or Los Angeles. The combined flights that are thrown out by the classic flight search engines often cost € 2,500 for a return flight, which is why a little research of your own can be worthwhile. Samoa is a very popular destination for New Zealanders, which is why it would make sense, for example, to use the travel search engine to find a cheap flight to Auckland and also a flight from Auckland to Samoa.
  • Entry: No visa required; Upon entry, you will receive a stamp with your passport, which is valid for at least 6 months, for a maximum stay of 60 days. Attention: A return or onward travel ticket must be presented when entering the country!
  • Accommodation: The traditional sleeping option in Samoa is called fale. This is an open wooden bungalow on stilts, which is only equipped with a mattress on the floor, a mosquito net and, at best, a storage box for valuables. When it rains you can close the fale with coconut palm leaves. There are actually only a few accommodations on the island that can really be recommended. Most travelers end up at the Samoan Outrigger Hotel at the beginning (approx. 29 € / night including great breakfast, very recommendable, nice staff, beautiful garden and pool) and then later spend a few more days on one of the best beaches in Lalomanu, where the “Taufua Beach Fales” (approx. 39 € Tala / night including breakfast and dinner, on Saturdays with a performance of local dances, on Sundays free lunch) are the most popular accommodation.
  • Eat: Most things are freshly made. There are excellent fruits (be sure to try the local fruit Apiu), salads and raw fish in coconut milk. Meat such as pork and chicken as well as eggs come from local suppliers. Otherwise, potatoes and rice are staple foods. Very important: Sunday is a day of rest in Samoa, i. H. it will be difficult to even find a restaurant that is open. It is therefore advisable to go shopping the day before. One of my favorite bistros is the “Jalahs on Beachroad” in the capital Apia, right next to the largest Digicel store, with fresh salads, delicious smoothies and very good Cafe Latte. Another very good (slightly more expensive) restaurant is the Tatau bistro in Apia. You should definitely try Coco Samoa, which is rice in dark coconut milk. Speaking of coconut: The meat of a coconut is extremely high in calories (100g = 390 kcal). Tipping is uncommon in Samoa.
  • Means of transport: The colorful, local buses are very cheap and go to practically every corner of the island. So if you want to drive from Apia in the southeast to the beach in Lalomanu, for example, the approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hour trip costs just € 2.50. Payment is made to the driver before getting out. There are actually no bus stops, you just stop the bus on the way and signal when you want to get off. Taxis are a dime a dozen on the island and are also relatively cheap. 10 minutes to the center cost z. B. 1.70 €, the distance from the airport to the hotel in Apia costs 50-60 Tala corresponding to about 18-20 €. There are no taximeters, everything is negotiated, with most taxi drivers quoting the correct price straight away and not ripping you off. Alternatively, there are also shuttle buses that can be ordered at the hotel reception. Rental cars are quite cheap from around € 40 per day (left-hand traffic), in addition you have to purchase a Samoan driver's license (20 Tala), which you get immediately upon presentation of your German driver's license. It is best to drive across the island on empty streets on Sundays.
  • Internet: Wifi is available, but it is not available for free anywhere. The prices for wifi are very expensive and in most cases it is even worse than the internet via a prepaid cell phone card. There are prepaid cards z. B. from Digicel (you can also buy it at the airport), the card itself does not cost anything and from around € 7 you have been surfing the Internet for a relatively long time by mobile phone or modem. The data tariff should be set up by an employee. But the prepaid internet can also strain your nerves, especially on weekends or in the evenings the network is so overloaded that nothing works. Therefore one can refrain from buying large amounts of data; z. B. Watching videos is rarely or rarely possible with the connection. Warning: The German cell phone network does not work in Samoa!
  • To Do on Opolu (main island Samoas): If you come to Samoa, you shouldn't expect a wide range of sightseeing or adventure activities, but rather focus more on relaxation and nature. This is also not a classic honeymoon island and fortunately less touristy than many other islands in the South Pacific. The capital is not a beauty, but you can still spend a few days here and watch the local goings-on. A visit to a Fa‘faine event, men dressed as women (Divas of Samoa) is also worthwhile. One of the best beaches is Lalomanu (see accommodations) in the south-east of the main island of Opolu, whose drive along the coastal road is a very nice experience. Furthermore, not far from Lalomanu is the beautiful lagoon To Sua Ocean Trench. Snorkeling and diving are not part of the main spectrum in Samoa, as the tsunami in 2009 unfortunately destroyed most of the reefs. The Palolo Deep Marine Reserve is recommended for snorkeling and is not far from the center; I don't think it's really worth it, but before you get bored it might be a good alternative.Entrance and rental fee for mask, snorkel and fins in total 7 €.
  • Savai‘i:With the ferry you can get from the west of Opolus to Savai‘i in about 1 1/4 hours for € 4.50 each way. You can either get to the ferry port by bus for a couple of tala, or by taxi it costs 50 tala each way at best. Whether the trip to this island is worthwhile should, in my opinion, depend on the time available. A day trip makes little sense; you should choose a beach resort (Fales) in the north or east of the island for at least 2-3 nights.
  • Best travel time: All year round it is between 26-30 degrees Celsius, at night it can get fresher. The rainy season is usually from November to April. The best travel time is from May to October (dry season).
  • Safety and Health: both relatively unproblematic - see information from the Foreign Office
  • Solo travel: Samoa is fantastic for traveling alone. Since many New Zealanders go on vacation there, who obviously often travel solo, you come across an unusually high number of solo travelers here. And since the island is so small, you get to know each other quickly and can go on tours etc. together.
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