COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Independent State of Samoa consists of two large islands, Upolu and Savaii, two smaller inhabited islands of Manono and Apolima, and several uninhabited islets. Samoa is located approximately halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand in the Polynesian region of the South Pacific. The main island of Upolu is home to nearly three-quarters of Samoa's population and Samoa’s capital city of Apia. The country has a stable parliamentary democracy with a developing economy. The Samoa Tourism Authority provides a wide range of information for travelers. Please read the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Samoa for additional information.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live or visit Samoa, please take the time to tell the Embassy about your trip. If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Here’s the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
The U.S. Embassy in Apia
Accident Compensation Corporation Building (ACB)
P.O. Box 3430
Ph: +685 21436
Emergency after-hours telephone: (685) 777-1776
Fax: +685 22030
The Embassy is open for public inquiries from 9:00 – 11:00 am, Monday – Friday, and by appointment.
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: Everyone needs a valid passport and an onward/return ticket to travel to Samoa, whether as a U.S. citizen or as a non-citizen
U.S. national. A U.S. passport shows if you have U.S. citizen or non-citizen U.S. national status. U.S. citizens do not need
a visa for stays in Samoa of 60 days or less. U.S. nationals of American Samoa living in American Samoa will need a visitor
permit before travelling to Samoa. American Samoa-issued Certificates of Identity may be used to travel to Samoa only in certain
U.S. nationals can apply for a visitor’s permit at the Samoa Consulate General office in Pago Pago, American Samoa:
Consulate General Of Samoa
PO Box 1313
Iupeli Siliva Building
Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799
Ph: +684 6335919
Fax: +684 6335929
You must pay a departure tax of WST 65.00 (approximately $30.00 USD) when you leave the country. You can find more information
about entry requirements and the departure tax from the Samoa Mission to the United Nations at 800-2nd Avenue, Suite 400J, New York, NY 10017, ph: +(212) 599-6196 and fax: +(212) 599-0797, or by email. Visit the Samoa Immigration website for Samoa’s most current visa information.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of Samoa. Visitors indicating they have tested HIV positive will be subject to questioning by a health professional upon entry. Prior to traveling to Samoa, HIV positive travelers may wish to contact the nearest Samoan Overseas Missions to get up to date information and guidance.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: Recent disputes between villages and the central government have led to protests, road blocks, and shootings between the
police and villagers. To date, no bystanders or tourists have been injured in such incidents, but travelers should be alert
to avoid inadvertently encountering such confrontations.
Stay up to date by:
CRIME: Although Samoa has a low level of crime, you should remain aware of your surroundings, lock your doors at night, and not
leave your belongings unattended. Incidents of petty theft and robberies are common. Some incidents have involved residential
break-ins. While rare, violent assaults, including sexual assaults, have occurred in Samoa. No specific groups have been targeted,
and there have been no reported racially motivated or hate crimes against U.S. citizens. Police in Apia generally respond
quickly to incidents. However, since there is a very limited police presence elsewhere in Samoa (where order is maintained
primarily by local village authorities), police response outside of Apia is not as quick or reliable as it is in Apia.
Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, but if you purchase them, you may also be breaking local law.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S.
embassy or consulate.
The Samoa Victims Support Group is a non-profit entity established to help victims of crime in Samoa. They can assist with local law enforcement liaison
and other related matters. They can be contacted at +685 27904.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Samoa is “994” for fire emergencies, “995” for police assistance, and “996” for ambulance/medical assistance.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Samoa, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems
can be vastly different than our own. You can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods in a foreign country.
Likewise, engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime
prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Samoa, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to
know what’s legal and what’s not wherever you go.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
Behavior Modification Facilities: Some overseas treatment centers known as Behavior Modification Facilities operate in Samoa. Although these facilities may
be operated and staffed by U.S. citizens, the Samoan government is solely responsible for their compliance with local safety,
health, sanitation, and educational laws and regulations, including all licensing requirements of the staff in country. These
standards may not be strictly enforced or meet the standards of similar facilities in the United States. Parents should be
aware that U.S. citizens and non-citizen nationals 16 years of age and older have a right to apply for a U.S. passport and
to request repatriation assistance from the U.S. government, both without parental consent. Any U.S. citizen or U.S. national
has the right to contact a representative from the U.S. Embassy. Parents may also contact the U.S. Embassy in Apia or the
Office of American Citizens Services, Bureau of Consular Affairs, at 1 888 407 4747 (toll free) or 1 202 501 4444 (overseas).
Stray Dogs: In Apia, and in many villages, stray dogs wander the streets. You should not approach or feed them; they can become aggressive in the presence of food or if they feel threatened. There have been several cases of attacks by multiple dogs. Please exercise appropriate caution when you are walking, running, or riding a bike near stray dogs.
Ferry Service: Although there have been no major accidents involving the ferry service linking Upolu and Savai’i, vessels are sometimes overloaded. One of the ferries, a multi-deck, automobile ferry, sometimes transports passengers on its automobile deck. To avoid injury from shifting vehicles, you should ride only in the passenger compartment, not remain on the automobile deck during the crossing, if you choose to use this ferry.
Blowholes: Samoa has numerous “blowholes” (lava tubes open to the sea where wave action produces often spectacular geysers). These blowholes are popular tourist attractions. The footing around the mouths of most blowholes is very slippery. To avoid being swept in, you should not approach too closely and should never stand between the opening of the blowhole and the sea.
Water Sports: Snorkeling and diving in ocean lagoons are popular activities for many visitors to Samoa. Tide changes can produce powerful
currents in these lagoons. You should consult local residents and tour operators about hazards and conditions at a particular
location before you venture into the water. There are virtually no lifeguards in Samoa. You are responsible for your own safety.
Carefully investigate the qualifications of guides and tour operators, especially regarding water sports.
Financial Transactions: Although some businesses in Apia, especially those frequented by tourists, do accept credit cards, many do not, including gas stations. Major hotels and some restaurants and stores accept major credit cards (Visa, Master Card, and American Express). You can get Samoan currency from ATMs, which are located in Faleolo Airport, Salelologa, and in many locations in Apia. For more information on ATM locations and banking services, visit the ANZ Bank website or the WESTPAC website.
Disaster Preparedness: Samoa is located in an area of high seismic activity. Upolu and Savaii are volcanic islands. One of Savaii’s dormant volcanoes erupts approximately once every 150 years. The most recent eruption was 1908. On September 30, 2009, an 8.0 earthquake in the South Pacific Ocean triggered tsunami waves that hit the islands of Samoa causing extensive damage to life and property, primarily on low-lying coastal areas of the south and east coasts. Major cyclones have occurred in the past and are always a concern. The cyclone season is from November to April, when strong winds, heavy rains, landslides, and disruptions to services could occur. During this period, Samoa receives most of its annual average of over 115 inches of rain. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), or in Samoa from Disaster Management, the Samoa Tourism Authority, or major resort and hotel operators.
Customs: Samoan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations about importing or exporting items such as firearms, fruits, pets and other animals, and drugs. You should contact the Samoan Mission to the United Nations at 800 2nd Avenue, Suite 400J, New York, NY 10017, telephone: (212) 599-6196 for specific information regarding customs requirements. You can also consult the Samoa Ministry of Revenue and Customs website and the Samoa Quarantine website.
Accessibility: While in Samoa, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what they find in the United States. There is no law pertaining specifically to the status of disabled persons, although the “Samoa National Policy for Persons with Disabilities 2009-2012” emphasizes the Government’s commitment to the rights and empowerment of the disabled. This policy also recognizes that the family is the main source of their support. The “Ministry of Women, Community, and Social Development” is the government ministry responsible for public outreach and social development for persons with disabilities
Most major hotels, restaurants, and cafes are actively restructuring their facilities to accommodate persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities have easy access to medical facilities. However, disabled travelers should clarify with the hotel what accommodations are available before they book. Some family-based beach accommodations in the outer villages are also working to provide accessibility for disabled persons. Many of the new multi-story buildings provide ramps and elevators, but older public buildings do not. The blind and persons in wheelchairs or on crutches will have difficulty navigating in and around Apia because of a limited number of stoplights and sidewalks. Traffic is particularly hazardous for the disabled in rural areas that have no footpaths and sidewalks. Most buses and taxis do not have ramps to accommodate wheelchairs.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Health care facilities in Samoa are adequate for routine medical treatment but are limited in range and availability. Complex
illnesses and life-threatening emergencies, as well as related laboratory work, generally need to be treated elsewhere. Serious
medical conditions and treatments that require hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands
of dollars. You should have emergency evacuation insurance before you travel abroad.
The national hospital is located in Apia, and there are several small district hospitals on Savai'i and in outlying areas of Upolu. Dental facilities do not meet U.S. standards, but good dental treatment and some emergency medical care is available at the LBJ Tropical Medical Center in Pago Pago, American Samoa. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Pharmacies may not carry prescription or over-the-counter medicines, or the medicines may be of a different quality than those available in the United States.
There are no hyperbaric chambers on any of the islands for the treatment of scuba diving-related injuries. Serious cases of decompression sickness are evacuated to the nearest treatment center in Suva, Fiji, or Auckland, New Zealand.
You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctor and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, you should take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Samoa, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. This information
for Samoa is provided as a general reference, and it may not be the case in all locations or circumstances.
Urban roads in Apia and the main roads circumnavigating and crossing the island are all generally kept in fair condition though bumps and potholes are common. Side streets tend to be gravel or dirt and their condition varies considerably, particularly during the rainy season when ruts and bumps develop. Roads outside Apia are often narrow, winding, relatively steep, with narrow or no shoulders, and poorly lighted. Pedestrians as well as vehicles and livestock regularly travel these roads. Due to poor and deteriorating road conditions, night driving on unlit rural roads can be dangerous and should be avoided if possible. Roads in Samoa often traverse small streams. You should exercise extreme caution when fording these streams, which can become swollen and dangerous with little warning. Vehicles should never enter a stream if the roadbed is not visible or if the water’s depth is more than the vehicle’s clearance.
Taxis are widely available and used by Samoans and visitors alike. However, some are unlicensed, so you should use care in choosing a taxi and driver. Buses are slow, crowded, uncomfortable, undependable, and rarely used by visitors. You can use rental cars, but be aware that limited roadside assistance is available. Most major roads are tar-sealed, but secondary roads are predominantly dirt and gravel and may be rough and/or overgrown with vegetation. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended for travel on these roads. You should be aware that vehicle safety regulations are rarely enforced, and traffic violations occur routinely.
In September 2009, Samoa switched from driving on the right side of the road (as in the United States) to driving on the left side (as in the United Kingdom). Some vehicles in Samoa remain left-hand drive, including rental vehicles and public transportation. Drivers should familiarize themselves with operating requirements and local traffic laws before operating a vehicle in Samoa.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Samoa’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Samoa’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA's safety assessment page.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Samoa dated June 17, 2011.