- We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Samoa.
- Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
- Cyclone Evan hit Samoa on 13 December 2012, causing damage to local services and infrastructure, including communications, and water and electricity services. You should contact your airline, travel agent or accommodation for up to date information.
- There have been a number of violent assaults and robberies in Samoa, including sexual assaults. Sexual assaults against foreigners, including Australians, have occurred.
- On 7 May 2012, an exchange of gunfire causing serious injuries and one death took place between police and suspected criminals at a section of Faleatiu village at a location about seven kilometres from the Faleolo international airport, some distance inland from the main road. Australians are advised to be vigilant in the Faleatiu area when travelling along the main road to and from the airport, and to keep well away from the inland section of Faleatiu village.
- Cyclone season in Samoa is from November to April. However, tropical storms and cyclones may occur in other months. For information on cyclones, including links to local metrological services and advice on what to do in the event of a cyclone, see Additional information: Natural disasters, severe weather and climate.
- Outbreaks of the mosquito-borne illness dengue fever occur in Samoa. See the Health Issues section below for further details.
- Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
Entry and exit
Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy of Samoa for the most up-to-date information.
Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.
Safety and security
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General Advice to Australian Travellers.
We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions. You should pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible new safety and security risks.
There have been a number of violent assaults and robberies in Samoa, including sexual assaults. Sexual assaults against foreigners, including Australians, have occurred in Samoa. Females, in particular, should avoid going out alone at night or alone to isolated locations, including beaches.
Brawls between rival groups of youths took place in central Apia late on the nights of 10 and 11 July 2011.
Petty crime, particularly theft from motor vehicles and accommodation, is prevalent. Burglaries are common and are sometimes accompanied by violence.
Particular care should be taken near Apia’s downtown bars and restaurants where a number of violent incidents involving foreigners and Samoans have occurred. A number of incidents have taken place in the sea wall area along the harbour front at night.
Australians should be careful if they visit bars and nightclubs, and when in quiet and remote areas. They should exercise caution in response to unsolicited advances from strangers at all times.
Money and valuables
Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out the most appropriate currency to carry is and whether your ATM card will work overseas.
Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.
While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.
As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.
You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.
During 2012 villagers in Satapuala, which is located one kilometre from Faleolo International Airport held demonstrations against Government land development plans. On 16 August 2012, there were roadblocks on the main road to Faleolo International Airport. Australians travelling to and from Faleolo International Airport on the main road to Apia should exercise vigilance.
On 7 May 2012, an exchange of gunfire causing serious injuries and one death took place between police and suspected criminals at a section of Faleatiu village at a location about seven kilometres from the Faleolo international airport, one kilometre inland from the main road. Australians are advised to be vigilant in the Faleatiu area when travelling along the main road to and from the airport, and to keep well away from the inland section of Faleatiu village.
Visitors must obtain a temporary driver's licence before driving in Samoa. These are available from the Ministry of Transport, Works and Infrastructure office in Vaitele, the Polynesian Explorer Office at Faleolo airport and from some car hire agencies in Apia. Visitors must present their current Australian driver's licence.
Driving in Samoa can be dangerous, particularly at night, due to insufficient street lighting, and poor road conditions. The general standard of driving is poor and many motor vehicles are not well maintained. For further advice, see our bulletin on Overseas Road Safety.
In September 2009 Samoa switched from driving on the right-hand side of the road to the left-hand side. As many vehicles in Samoa are left-hand drive, you should take care when driving.
Levels of motor vehicle insurance can vary from rental car company to company. You should ensure you understand the insurance portion of any rental contract. Before you depart Australia, you should discuss hire car insurance cover in Samoa with your travel insurance provider.
The safety standards Australians might expect of tour/ferry operators are not always met, especially for adventure sports and when undertaking inter-islands trips. Check operators’ credentials and safety equipment beforehand and ensure your travel insurance policy covers your planned activities. Inter-island ferries may be overcrowded, which could impede access to life jackets or life rafts and proper implementation of safety procedures during an emergency.
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. Consult local residents and tour operators for advice on possible hazardous swimming and water sports areas.
Poorly controlled stray dogs are common in Samoa. As they may be vicious we advise you not to approach them. Dog attacks have occurred in suburban areas and on beaches.
Levels of services in Samoa for travellers with disabilities are extremely limited. The lack of footpaths or adequately paved walkways makes it difficult for individuals in wheelchairs or the walking impaired to travel around Samoa. There are few, if any, motor vehicles capable of transporting wheelchairs and the lack of disabled ramps and access points at major hotels makes finding suitable accommodation difficult. None of the tour operators cater specifically for the disabled.
Please refer to our travel bulletin for information about Aviation Safety and Security.
When you are in Samoa, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Court processes in Samoa can be lengthy.
Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.
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 should expect to be held in custody while the police investigation is underway.
Homosexual acts are illegal in Samoa.
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties for up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.
There are conservative standards of dress and behavior in Samoa and you should take care not to offend.
We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.
Your doctor or travel clinic is the best source of information about preventive measures, immunisations (including booster doses of childhood vaccinations) and disease outbreaks overseas. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our Travelling Well brochure also provides useful tips for travelling with medicines and staying healthy while overseas.
Hospital and medical facilities are limited and medical evacuation may be required in serious cases. To receive medical services you may be required to pay in advance and provide a deposit if hospitalised. Medical evacuation by air ambulance to Australia or New Zealand is extremely expensive. Evacuations using commercial airlines may be delayed during June and November to January 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 Suva, Fiji, or Auckland, New Zealand. All registered dive companies carry basic treatment equipment to meet PADI standards.
Outbreaks of the mosquito-borne illness dengue fever occur. It is strongly recommended you take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes, including using insect repellent, wearing long, loose fitting, light-coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof. For further information see the World Health Organization's factsheet on dengue fever.
Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including typhoid, hepatitis, filariasis and tuberculosis) occur, with more serious outbreaks from time to time. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before travelling. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has confirmed cases of avian influenza in birds in a number of countries throughout the world. For a list of these countries, visit the OIE website. For more information see our travel bulletin on avian influenza.
Where to get help
In Samoa, Australians and Canadians can obtain consular assistance from the:
Australian High Commission, Apia
Telephone: (685) 23 411
Facsimile: (685) 23 159
If you are travelling to Samoa, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.
If you require after-hours advice regarding a consular emergency, please call the Australian High Commission on the above number. By following the prompts you will be put through to the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre. If you are unable to contact the above High Commission you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre directly on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.
Natural disasters, severe weather and climate
Samoa is subject to earthquakes. All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.
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, including damage to some hotels and beach-side accommodation (fales). One hundred-and-forty-three people were killed, including five Australians. Visitors to Samoa staying at beachside resorts should check with their accommodation providers for advice on procedures to be followed in the event of an earthquake. Reconstruction efforts in the affected areas are well underway. The majority of tourist infrastructure damaged by the tsunami has been rebuilt and reopened.
Cyclone Evan hit Samoa on 13 December 2012, causing damage to local services and infrastructure, including communications, water and electricity services. You should contact your airline, travel agent or accommodation for up to date information.
Cyclone season is between November to April when flooding, landslides and disruptions to services can occur. However, tropical storms and cyclones may occur in other months. The direction and strength of tropical cyclones can change with little warning. Australians should monitor the typhoon and storm information available from the World Meteorological Organisation Severe Weather Information Centre, the USA National Weather Service Forecast Office (American Samoa), the Humanitarian Early Warning Service, the Fiji Meteorological Service and the Samoa Meteorology Division.
If you are travelling during cyclone season, you should contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.
In the event of an approaching cyclone, you should identify your local shelter. We encourage Australians in affected areas to follow the instructions of local authorities and monitor the media for the latest developments. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly. The cyclone could also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe cyclone may not be available to all who may choose to stay. You should familiarise yourself with your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. You should carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo identification) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. We also suggest that you contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts. For further information, see also our Severe Weather page.
If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.
Australians are advised to respect wildlife laws and to maintain a safe and legal distance when observing wildlife, including marine animals and birds. You should only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators and closely follow park regulations and wardens' advice.
For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with Children brochure.
If you are planning on placing your children in schools or childcare facilities in Samoa we encourage you to research the standards of security, care and staff training within those establishments.