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Samoa

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Summary

  • Exercise normal safety precautions in Samoa. Use common sense. Look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the media and other sources for changes to local conditions.
  • Protect yourself from mosquitoes, day and night. Dengue, zika and chikungunya outbreaks can occur. See Health.
  • Violent assaults and robberies occur in Samoa. Sexual assaults against foreigners, including Australians, have occurred. See Safety and security.
  • Samoa experiences tropical storms and cyclones throughout the year, mostly between November and April. See Natural disasters.
  • Driving in Samoa is hazardous, particularly at night. Drive defensively and choose transport providers carefully. See Local travel.

Entry and exit

If you'll be visiting Samoa for less than 60 days, you won't need a visa if:

  • your visit is for tourism
  • you have a return or onward ticket, and
  • your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to leave.

In other circumstances, you'll need a visa.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact a High Commission of Samoa or visit the Samoa Immigration website for up-to-date information.

Other formalities

If you've been to an Ebola-affected country within 21 days of travelling to Samoa, you may be quarantined on arrival or deported, regardless of whether or not you display fever or Ebola-like symptoms. 

Passport

Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to get access to your passport by deception. If you're forced to hand over it your , contact the High Commission for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

The local currency is the Samoan Tala (WST). Declare amounts in excess of WST 20,000 on arrival and departure. You can exchange money and access ATMs at commercial banks in major centres. Most hotels and large shops accept credit cards, though many smaller businesses don't.

Safety and security

Crime

Robberies, violent assaults, including sexual assaults can occur in Samoa. You're most at risk in downtown Apia bars and the sea wall area along the harbour front, particularly at night.

Petty crime, particularly theft from motor vehicles and accommodation, is common. Violent house break-ins can also occur.

  • Avoid going out alone at night or to isolated locations, including beaches.
  • Be alert to possible threats, particularly in downtown Apia and the harbour front.
  • Be wary of unsolicited advances from strangers.
  • Secure your accommodation. Keep doors, windows and gates locked.
  • Keep your vehicle locked at all times.
  • Don't tempt thieves – avoid displaying expensive watches, jewellery, cameras or mobile devices.
  • Carry only what you need. Leave other valuables, including your passport, in a secure location.

Civil unrest and political tension

You could encounter demonstrations or protests.

  • Avoid protests, demonstrations and other large public gatherings.
  • Keep an eye on the news and other sources for advice of possible unrest. Avoid affected areas.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world.

More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Local travel

Tours and adventure activities

Dive companies and tour operators, including for adventure tours, fishing and offshore surfing charters, don't always meet Australian safety standards. 

  • Make sure your travel insurance policy covers your planned activities.
  • Check operators' credentials and safety equipment before you book.
  • Always use available safety equipment, such as lifejackets or seatbelts, even if others don't.
  • If appropriate safety equipment is not available, use another provider. 

Swimming and beach safety

Fatal swimming accidents have occurred due to tidal changes and powerful currents in the many coastal lagoons that surround the islands, particularly at the ebb tide or when seas are heavy. Seek advice from locals and tour operators on danger spots.

Street dogs

Stray and poorly controlled dogs are common in Samoa. Dog attacks have occurred in suburban areas and on beaches. Don't approach or touch dogs.

Road travel

Driving in Samoa is hazardous, particularly at night. Street lighting and the quality of roads are poor. Driving standards are low and many vehicles are poorly maintained. You're almost three times more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in Samoa than in Australia.

In 2009, Samoa switched from driving on the right-hand side of the road to the left-hand side. Many vehicles in Samoa are still right-hand drive.

  • Make sure you understand the conditions and limitations of your travel insurance and any hire car insurance before you decide to drive.
  • Familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and practices.
  • Avoid driving at night, where possible.

More information: Road safety and driving

Driver's licence 

You'll need to get a temporary Samoan driver's licence before you can drive. These are available from the Apia Post Office, the Ministry of Works, Transport & Infrastructure office in Vaitele, and from some car hire agencies in Apia. You'll need to present your current Australian driver's licence and pay a fee.

Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when riding a motorcycle. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet.

Taxis

Only use registered taxis and authorised limousines, which can be arranged through your hotel or resort.

Public transport

Limited bus services operate in Samoa. Buses may be crowded and operate on restricted schedules on Sundays. Take care of your belongings as petty crime can occur.

Sea travel

Samoa's inter-island ferries are ageing and may not always meet Australian safety standards. Ferries can be overcrowded. If there is an emergency on an overcrowded ferry, there may not be enough life jackets and life rafts for everyone onboard and emergency safety procedures may not be fully effective.

  • Check operators' credentials and safety equipment before you book.
  • Don't travel on an overcrowded or overloaded vessel.
  • Always use available safety equipment, such as lifejackets, even if others don't.
  • If appropriate safety equipment is not available, use another provider. 

Air travel

The Australian Government doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths.

More information:

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

Penalties for the possession and use of illegal drugs, including cannabis, may include a prison sentence. Possession of drug paraphernalia is illegal. Suspected drug offenders are usually held in custody while police investigate.

More information: Carrying or using drugs

Other laws

Sodomy is illegal.

Local customs

Same-sex relationships aren't illegal in Samoa. However, male-male consensual sex is illegal under the Crimes Act and penalties include imprisonment.

There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in Samoa. Take care not to offend.

More information: LGBTI travellers

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation.

Regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government won't pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and aren't covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel

Local pharmacies have only a limited range of supplies. Take enough prescription medicine with you to last your entire trip so you remain in good health. Keep your medicines in their original packaging. Always carry  a copy of your prescription and a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Mosquito-borne diseases

Outbreaks of dengue fever  chikungunya and Zika virus can occur, particularly during the wet season. The mosquitos that transmit these three diseases are particularly active during the day.

The Australian Department of Health advises pregnant women to discuss any travel plans with their doctor and defer non-essential travel to areas affected by Zika virus. The Department of Health's Zika virus bulletin includes other advice for male and female travellers on how to minimise Zika virus risks.

Protect yourself against mosquito-borne illnesses, day and night:

  • ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including always using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • if you're pregnant, discuss your travel plans and possible health risks with your doctor before you travel; defer non-essential travel to Zika-affected areas.

More information:

Other infectious diseases

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including typhoid, hepatitis, filariasis and tuberculosis) are a risk, with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time.

  • Practice good personal hygiene.
  • Boil drinking water or drink bottled water with intact seals.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid uncooked and undercooked food.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever or suffer from diarrhoea.

Medical facilities

Hospital and medical facilities in Samoa are limited.  There is no helicopter service.

Doctors and hospitals may require you to pay up-front, before they will treat you.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you'll need to be evacuated to a destination with appropriate facilities. Medical evacuation by air ambulance to Australia or New Zealand is extremely expensive. Evacuations using commercial airlines may be delayed during Australian and New Zealand school holiday periods when flights are often heavily booked.

There are no hyperbaric chambers on any of the islands for treatment of scuba diving related injuries. Serious cases of decompression sickness are evacuated to the nearest treatment centre in Auckland, New Zealand. Both registered dive companies in Samoa carry basic treatment equipment to meet Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) standards.

Natural disasters

Samoa experiences severe weather, cyclones, earthquakes and tsunamis.

If a natural disaster occurs:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag)
  • closely monitor local media, the Samoa Meteorology Division and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

If you're due to arrive in Samoa after a natural disaster or during cyclone season, contact your tour operator to check whether services at your planned destination are affected.

Cyclones and severe weather

Samoa experiences tropical storms and cyclones throughout the year but most occur during cyclone season, from November to April. Storms and cyclones can cause flooding, gale force winds and disruptions to services. The direction and strength of tropical cyclones can change with little warning.

If there is a cyclone or severe tropical storm, you may not be able to leave the area: flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended and available flights may fill quickly. Access to sea ports could also be affected. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe cyclone may not be available for all those who stay.

Stay up-to-date on weather conditions and forecasts, cyclone watches and warnings throughout your stay in Samoa. Monitor the:

If a cyclone or severe storm is approaching, follow the advice for all natural disasters above and:

  • make sure you know your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans
  • identify your local shelter

More information: Severe weather

Earthquakes

Samoa experiences frequent earthquakes and aftershocks. Check with your accommodation provider about local procedures and advice for if there is an earthquake.

If there is an earthquake:

After an earthquake:

  • expect aftershocks
  • anticipate travel delays and plan accordingly
  • reconfirm travel arrangements and availability of accommodation with travel agents and tour operators.

More information: Earthquakes

Tsunamis

Samoa is susceptible to tsunamis. In September 2009, an earthquake near Samoa caused a tsunami to strike the southern coast of Upolu island, Samoa. A number of areas popular with tourists were affected and 143 people were killed.

 

Move immediately to high ground if advised by local or regional authorities or if you experience any of the following:

  • feel a strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand up, or a weak rolling earthquake that lasts a minute or more
  • see a sudden rise or fall in sea level
  • hear loud and unusual noises from the sea.

Do not wait for official warnings. Once on high ground, monitor local media.

More information:

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Fire: 994
  • Medical emergencies: 996 or go direct to the hospital
  • Criminal issues: 995 or contact police at the nearest police station

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas. For consular assistance, contact the Australian High Commission in Apia.

Australian High Commission, Apia

Beach Road
Apia, Samoa
Phone: (685) 23 411
Fax: (685) 23 159
Website: samoa.highcommission.gov.au
Facebook: Australian in Samoa

Check the Australian High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you're unable to contact the High Commission in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre directly on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources