There are a multitude of ways to get around Samoa, and like in many countries, the mode of transport you use can influence what kind of holiday you have. We suggest you go with a mix of everything if you want the full Samoan experience. Here are your options:
The most convenient way to travel round most Pacific Islands is by renting a car. With so many off-the-beaten track activities it’s great to have an air-conditioned vehicle to get to where you want, in the time frame you need. Local companies rent everything from tiny cars to 16 seater vans and four wheel drives for off road exploring. Before you drive in Samoa, you'll need a temporary drivers’ licence from the Transport Enforcement Division of the Ministry of Police; check with the rental car company whether they offer that or whether you’ll need to apply at Faleolo International Airport. In Samoa people drive on the left hand side of the road and the limit is 40km/h in towns and villages and 56km/h on the open road. Embrace island time and speed when you’re driving here, and keep your eyes peeled at night for animals you might not be used to at home. Read our helpful tips on hiring a vehicle in Samoa.
Renting a scooter is another great option (make sure you wear a helmet). You can duck and dive between traffic - well, traffic Samoan style - and have a fabulous open air experience which will enable you to enjoy Samoa’s wealth of natural beauty as it should be - blues skies above, gorgeous beaches to one side and lush green vegetation to the other.
Do not leave Samoa without riding a colourful local bus, at least once. It’s essential for really understanding Samoan life and is a wonderful and vibrant experience. Many buses are quite old, there is no glass on the windows, they may break down from time to time and it’s not unheard of for buses to stop at supermarkets and wait while passengers do their shopping. They run on island time, so are not appropriate if you need to be somewhere at a specific time, but despite all of this there is no better way to get to know the locals and experience their beautiful smiles, laughter than by riding public transport. When you take a bus you step temporarily out of the tourist realm and are instantly immersed in the real Samoa in all its warmth and glory. To catch a bus, wave it down (there are no bus stops) and when you want to get off, pull the cord. Payment is in cash so make sure you’re prepared with small change.
Hiring a bike is another great way to experience Samoa. Both islands have coastal ring roads but there are also tracks suitable for mountain biking, if that’s more your thing. There are bike tours if you want to get orientated - or have a guide through a particular part of Samoa, or you can just freestyle it yourself. The main roads are generally sealed, but you will definitely come up against potholes and patched up pieces of road - it’s all part of the fun. Bikes can be rented from some resorts and from Outdoor Samoa on Upolu and Savai'i. You can also find companies that offer a bag carry service or full support vehicle if you’re not feeling intrepid, and just want to enjoy the cycling part rather than balancing packs and provisions. Make sure you take a bike lock with you if you’re planning to cycle in Samoa.
Sometimes it’s just easier to get to where you’re going with a local in the driver's seat. You’ll see lots of taxis throughout Upolu and Savai’i and they are not super costly to use. You’ll notice they aren't metered, so you agree on a fare before departing. Do note they might drive slower than cabs in your hometown - there are pot holes, kids and animals to avoid so plenty of care is taken.
To get to and from the main islands, people take car and passenger ferries operated by Samoa Shipping Corporation Ferry terminals (located at Mulifanua Wharf on Upolu, and Salelologa Wharf on Savai’i). The crossing takes 60-90 minutes; for walk-on ferry passengers, tickets can be bought at Shipping House in Apia or at the ferry terminal (cash only). A VIP ticket for an additional fee allows you to access the VIP lounge onboard the larger ferry which offers air conditioning, tea, coffee and a snack.