Samoa Tourist Information
Year round, the daily maximum temperature is about 31°C and the overnight minimum seldom drops much below 24°C. Samoa doesn’t really have true wet and dry seasons, but May to October tend to be drier and November to April wetter and more humid.
Cycling hills on a windless sunny afternoon can be unpleasantly hot. However we find riding in the mornings before 10am can be very pleasant and cycling through lunchtime showers with no coat – refreshing. Regardless of the time of year, you are likely to have lots of mostly fine days, a good change of 2-3 wet days and almost certain to have an afternoon shower or two. The locals seldom wear waterproof coats, as they choose to just enjoy the showers. An umbrella is a good idea for tripping between fales and dining room and bathroom etc.
The cyclone season is December to April, but cyclones average less than 1 per year. With global warming the pattern is changing, with more rain December to April and a later cyclone season. But at present most cyclones are forming well to the West of Samoa and tracking below it.
The wet season from December to March tends to be wetter and more humid. So any time from April to November is good for cycling.
That said – the winds on the South Coast are strongest in July-August – so kayaking is better March-May and October – December – but reasonable at any time of year.
Mostly sealed (but pot holed) roads circle the two main islands offering a total of about 400kms of riding. The speed limit outside the main town of Apia is 35mph (56kph). In 2009, traffic changed to driving on the left hand side of the road. The speed limit is not particularly well observed, but pedestrians heavily use the roads and cyclists are generally given plenty of room. Other than the stretch between Apia and the airport/ferry terminal, traffic tends to be light and on Savaii you may only see a dozen vehicles an hour.
Despite being a coastal route, there are hills. The route around Savaii has a total of about 1,000m of climbing and it is about the same around Upolu.
Many villages offer fales (pronounced far-lays) as tourist accommodation. These beach huts consist of thatched roofs, matting sides, and wooden floors.
The huts are often in the most stunning settings and allow you to sit or lie on your bed and look out across the beach to the most amazing sunrises or sunsets. Breakfast and dinner are usually included and served in a common dining room and the bathrooms are shared facilities. Mattresses, pillows, mosquito nets and bed sheets are included.
The fales are equivalent to a permanent campsite and the more traditional ones like Namua are often a highlight for guests. Fale resorts are changing with the times and some offer lockable rooms, corrugated iron roofs, hot showers and ensuites. However, the traditional units are often cooler and much more pleasant.
Hotels and upmarket resorts
These come in all shapes and sizes with all manner of reputations. Unfortunately, they are not distributed to fit with a cycling tour and the very good ones are usually too full to want cyclists for 1-day visits while the poor ones are less enjoyable than the fales. We use several (see the itineraries) because they are conveniently located and usually offer something quite unique.
There are no camping grounds and generally camping is not worthwhile. This is because there are no public beaches, as all beaches are communally owned by the local village. So if you are not staying in a resort or village fale you will be asked to pay for your camping spot. Tents tend to be too hot and not nearly as pleasant as a fale. So it just becomes easier and not much more expensive to stay in a fale and take the opportunity to interact with the locals.
Samoan currency is the Tala, often abbreviated to WST. Note: Samoa changed its name from Western Samoa to Samoa, but do not confuse it with American Samoa, a dependency of the US located 60kms to the east.
A Tala costs 60 to 70 NZ cents or 50-60 Australian ones (Ignore the googled rates, these are “mid-market” positions and not available to travellers). Exchange rates vary hugely and the gap between buy and sell rates is larger than for most countries. On Savaii in particular you will need to pay for most of your expenses in Tala cash. The economy end resorts often do not take Visa or NZ$. The best rate for buying Tala is often at the airport on arrival with cash (even at 2am). ANZ banks in NZ and Australian cities have much better rates than those at Auckland and Sydney Airports.
There are ATMs that accept NZ cards in Apia, Salelologa and Manase. Rates are reasonable, but fees can be substantial.
Never travel anywhere overseas without at least Medical Travel Insurance. Client feedback indicates online deals from Tid.co.nz are competitive. SCTI.co.nz is often well priced.
The best time to purchase travel insurance is when you decide to travel, as it also covers travel cancellation due to health issues.
There are no poisonous land snakes, spiders, scorpions or large predatory mammals. There is a giant centipede that (from personal experience) has a very unpleasant bite, but it is not fatal.
Malaria and yellow fever are not considered risks but dengue fever, zika and chikungunya are present. Do use mosquito repellent at dusk and do sleep under the supplied mosquito nets or in mosquito proof rooms.
Many Samoans keep small dogs and they wander. The tourism authority has been shooting/spaying strays and the problem is mostly under control. The guidebook has suggestions on managing dog concerns.
This is the biggest and most commonly seen issue. Drink plenty of fluids, always carry spare water and monitor your companions for dehydration. Nui (young coconuts) are incredibly refreshing. Coke is also thirst quenching even if you usually avoid fizzy drinks!
Food and Water Quality
Despite a solid program to supply safe piped water to all villages, tap water is often not safe to drink. Bottled water is cheap and available in all resorts and some villages. We supply filtered water on all our supported tours.
We have seen occasional incidences of upset stomach, but think this is seldom related to food. Swimming in the turtle ponds is strongly recommended against as the water is badly contaminated. Watching water quality will generally keep stomachs at optimal efficiency.
The hot climate keeps bugs alive and skin infections can quickly turn nasty – take a good antibiotic with you and know how to use it. Treat even minor cuts with an antiseptic and cover.
See the What to Take page for essential items and other gear we hire.
We wrote a small book on Cycling Samoa. It covers more on where to go and what to bring. You can order it here.