Independent Samoa, until recently known as Western Samoa, has two main islands – Upolu and Savaii. About 4500km east of Australia, Samoa is in the heart of Polynesia.
History & Culture
Originally settled by people over 3000 years ago by people from Fiji and Tonga, the islands have several archeological sites, including the remnants of a pyramid on Savaii, now overgrown.
European contact started in the 1700s, and by the early 19th century whalers, escaped convicts and missionaries had settled on the islands. An 1899 treaty made Germany the colonial power in the western islands of Samoa (the eastern islands went to the USA), but Samoans resisted the increasingly oppressive regime.
New Zealand took over control during WWI, but the Samoans still sought independence, and in 1962 Western Samoa finally became self governing under a new constitution. English is widely spoken and many Samoans live, or have lived, in New Zealand. In Samoa itself, the majority of people work in agriculture and “fa Samoa” – the Samoan way – is still the basis of social and community life. Samoans are devoutly Christian and observe a quiet period of prayer called “sa” at about 6.30 every evening as well as a day of rest on Sunday.
A 30-day tourist holiday visa is granted on arrival.
Samoa is generally a healthy holiday destination with no malaria and low risk of tropical diseases (there have been some occurrences of dengue fever). Tetanus, Typhoid and Hepatitis A and B vaccinations are advised as a precaution. Over exposure to the sun and infection from coral cuts are the two main hazards for surfers – booties and helmets are recommended. For very serious injuries evacuation to New Zealand or Hawaii may be necessary. It is essential to have adequate travel insurance to cover these possibilities.
Holiday visitors can bring a litre of spirits and 200 cigarettes. Quarantine regulations prohibit any meat or plant products.
Dress & Etiquette:
In towns and villages, both men and women should wear a shirt and shorts or a skirt of at least knee length. Remove shoes when entering a private house. Remember that Samoans observe a day of rest and prayer on Sunday, so be sure not to create any disturbance. Remain quiet and respectful during any family or community prayers.