ARRIVING AND DEPARTING FALEOLO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
‘Talofa!’ is how Samoans greet you welcome. But the first ‘welcome to Samoa’ comes forth as soon as one exits the plane and feels the warm tropical air, especially when coming from the middle of winter.
With my most recent visit, passing through their Customs and Immigration was very strict. Twice an officer asked me to put my phone away because they prohibit any picture-taking. Honestly, I was just putting it out to contact our family members that we have reached Samoa already because our flight got delayed. But their process is straight-forward and efficient. For Filipinos, no visa is needed and Samoans welcomed me warmly with fondness for Filipino series.
There is a line for International Passport holders and a line for Samoan Passport Holders. Often, there is a live Polynesian string band to welcome visitors singing traditional Samoan songs.
WHAT VISITORS NEED TO KNOW
To foreigners visiting Samoa, money can be exchanged from ATM’s and Banks, both Westpac and ANZ. It is advisable to bring your money in US dollars in case of emergency. Please be informed that you can exchange your US dollars in chosen supermarkets. You pay with US dollars and your change will come in Samoan Tala already. With our most recent visit, US$100 is more or less equal to 280 Samoan Tala.
While at the airport, take the opportunity to join the local network by picking up a local SIM card. Digicel and Blue Sky were the ones on a soar during our visit last March 2018. Often it is cheaper to do this at the airport than in town. Do choose the data you need with the number of days you intend to stay. It is cheaper than global roaming, but do shop between the network providers. Smartphones and androids work fine in Samoa and coverage is good.
Be reminded that data packages eat your money fast. The best way to save as much data is to turn it off when you’re not using the internet. Reading articles, composing your email or editing your photos don’t need you to go online anyway. So turn the data off while doing so. There are settings in your phone that automatically use up data like updating your apps, syncing in with your location and getting notified of latest social platforms that you follow.
The Samoa Tourism Authority has a Visitor Information Centre at the airport and the team are most helpful with advice and help and they can make bookings for visitors.
MODE OF TRANSPORTATION FROM THE AIRPORT
Rent a car. This is the best option for tourists since these services are widely adopted among Polynesian islands, including Samoa. It saves you a lot of money and it enables you to visit more places this way. You hold your time and you don’t need to conform to anybody’s schedule. Right-hand drive is the practice. Consider this if you plan to rent a car. Make sure also that you hold an international license active if you’re not a local.
Most rental car services offer bringing the car to the airport for you to use as soon as you land in Samoa.
If you are not picking up a rental car at the airport nor have you pre-arranged transport, there are taxis and shuttles. Do inquire and agree on the fare before accepting. It is 40km(25mi) west of Apia, the capital of Samoa. If your flight arrives before 5:00pm, you may catch the local bus at the airport gate. This may serve the backpackers more than those with huge luggage though.
If you are picking up a rental car at the airport, make sure your license is valid. Most rental car operators can do this for you but arrange it right before coming over online. It is important to know that many streets don’t have signs. But, if you know the village location finding your destination should be easy breezy.
If you are travelling straight on to Savai’i, the ferry terminal at Mulifanua Wharf is near the airport. If you want to cross to Savai’i, you can buy the ticket from Samoa Shipping booking office at Beach Road Apia, before the marina.
Domestic flights and flights to Pago Pago International Airport, American, Samoa leave from Fagali’i Airport located 5 minutes out of Apia. A small turboprop connect Samoa to American Samoa.
If you are in Samoa to do business, government offices and shops usually open from 9am-5pm. Saturday shopping hours are from 8:00am -12:30pm. Take advantage of these days because on Sundays, what’s open is close to nothing.
Six of the most important words worth remembering are:
- Talofa – Hello
- Malo – Hi
- Fa’amolemole – Please
- Fa’afetai – Thank You
- Tofa or Fa – Goodbye
- Sofia – Long may you live
On your way back home through Faleolo airport, cafeterias and cafes are located just across the parking lot. It serves quality food, coffee and Samoan cocoa. Also, at the departure area are many more choices if you decide for a late minute snack.
There are duty-free shops.
There is no departure tax.
Disclaimer: These information are subject to change. Information serves real, correct and are based on experience. Please consider the date of this writing if you plan to depend on some details as you decide to visit Samoa.