Talofa! You’ll be hearing that many times when you visit Samoa. The national language of Samoa is Samoan, although English is used for business communications. English is widely spoken, especially in Apia, but it’s always helpful to know a few words of the local language.
The following Samoan phrases will probably be useful during your stay in Samoa. By adding a few Samoan words to your conversations, you will be sure to win smiles from the locals.
The local lingo
|That’s all right||‘Ua lelei||Oo-a-lelay|
|big / small||tele / la’ititi||teh-leh / lah ee-tee-tee|
|quick / slow||tope / gese toh-peh||lah ee-tee-tee|
|early / late||vave / tuai||vahveh / two-eye|
|near / far||latalata / mamao||lah-tah-lah-tah / mah-maow|
Getting between the Samoan Islands
The Samoa Shipping Corporation runs the passenger/vehicle ferry between the main islands of Upolu and Savai’i. The ferry departs from the Mulifanua Wharf on Upolu near the international airport, so if you are travelling from Apia, allow 45 minutes for the journey. The ferry departs from the Salelologa Wharf on Savai’i for the return journey. The trip takes just over one hour each way and it pays to arrive early at the wharf to purchase your tickets.
Check with your accommodation hosts or online at: www.samoashipping.com/domesticsailing_schedule.htm for sailing times. One way passenger fares are ST$6 for child 2–12 years and adults ST$12. Vehicle charges (depending on the size of the vehicle) are between ST$80 $110 each way. The full fare list is available here. Polynesian Airlines operates flights between Fagalii (Upolu) and Maota (Savai’i) every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. For schedule information and bookings visit Polynesian Airlines website.
To get to Manono Island, boats operate from the Manono-uta at the western end of Upolu, just down the road from Mulifanua Wharf. One way fares cost ST$1 for children and ST$3 for adults one way. The boats to Manono Island do not operate to a set timetable, but can be arranged on site at Manono-uta. If you wish to take a charter ferry, you will need to pay WS$25 one-way. If not, you can wait for other passengers and pay WS$3.
ANZ and Bank South Pacific are the two international banks found in Samoa. Both have branches at the international airport, in Apia and at Salelologa on Savai’i.
National Bank of Samoa and Samoa Commercial Bank provide services, currency exchange and ATMs. ATMs are located in and around Apia and on the island of Savai’i.
Travellers can use credit cards in the machines but you are required to have a PIN to withdraw cash.
Staying connected with family and friends, and maybe sharing a status update or photos of your Samoan stay on Facebook or Instagram is easy with eight broadband internet cafes to be found around Apia and one on the island of Savai’i.
Major hotels and resorts also offer internet terminals for guests in their business centres. WiFi is also available at many locations.
There are two main telecommunications providers in Samoa: Digicel and Bluesky Samoa. Both providers offer extensive coverage. Prepaid SIM cards are available at Faleolo International Airport and at outlets in Apia.
Taxis are abundant around the islands and offer their services at a very good rate. Taxis are not metered so it’s good to have an idea of what the journey will cost and agree on a price with the driver before setting off.
Catching the bus in Samoa
Another fun way to explore the islands – and get to know the locals – is to take a map and board a local bus. Samoa’s brightly coloured buses provide inexpensive transport for the locals, and an invaluable experience and memories for visitors.
In Apia, the bus terminals are located next to the food market in Fugalei and also opposite the flea market at Savalalo. On Savai’i, the bus terminal is at the market in Salelologa.
All buses are named with their destination, so ask the driver which bus you need to catch. Note that aside from the terminals, there are no designated bus stops, so you will need to wave down a bus (use your whole arm and keep your palm facing downwards) as it approaches.
The seats are wooden benches, and if the bus becomes full, the locals will opt to sit on each others’ lap, rather than stand in the aisles. This is a courtesy often offered to visitors as well, so don’t be offended or shy if someone offers you their lap. If the bus is heading into either Apia or Salelologa, the locals may carry their produce on board to the markets.
When you want to get off, simply pull the cord to ring the buzzer. You pay your fare as you leave the bus.
Tipping is not practised or expected in Samoa. However, if a guest wishes to leave a gift for good service then you are welcome to do so directly with the employee or the hotel reception.