The friendly staff of the Samoa Tourism Authority, P.O. Box 2272, Apia, Samoa (tel. 63-500; fax 20-886; www.samoa.travel), have free brochures, maps, and other publications available at their office in a handsome Samoan fale on the harbor side of Beach Road, east of the Town Clock. The bureau is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm and Saturday 8am to noon.
The visitors bureau has offices in:
- Australia: P.O. Box 611, Leumeah NSW 2560 (tel. 02/4627-5926; fax 02/4627-5926; firstname.lastname@example.org)
- New Zealand: Level 1, Samoa House, 283 Karangahape Rd. (P.O. Box 68423), Newton, Auckland (tel. 09/379-6138; fax 09/379-8154; email@example.com)
The bell captain's desk at Aggie Grey's Hotel & Bungalows also has brochures and other information.
Except for American Samoans, who must get a permit and pay a fee, no visa or entry permit is required for visitors who intend to stay 60 days or less and who have a valid passport, a return or ongoing airline ticket, and a place to stay in Samoa. Those who want to stay longer must apply, before arrival, to the Immigration Office, Government of Samoa, P.O. Box 1861, Apia, Samoa (tel. 20-291; www.samoaimmigration.gov.ws).
Vaccinations are not necessary unless you're arriving within 6 days of being in an infected area.
Samoa uses the tala (pronounced tah-lah; the Samoans' way of saying dollar), which is broken down into 100 sene (cents). Although many people will refer to them as dollars and cents when speaking to visitors, you can avoid potential confusion by making sure they mean Samoan talas, not U.S. dollars. The banks use both WST and SAT for the tala, but I have used S$ here. Samoa's major hotels and some other firms quote their prices in U.S. dollars. U.S. dollar prices are given in this guide as US$.
How to Get Local Currency -- ANZ Bank, Westpac Bank Samoa, National Bank of Samoa and Samoa Commercial Bank have offices on Beach Road in Apia. ANZ and Westpac both have ATMs at several locations in Apia and at Faleolo Airport, and ANZ has one at Salelologa on Savai'i. GlobalEX will exchange currency and traveler's checks at its office on Beach Road. Banking hours are Monday to Wednesday 9am to 3pm, and Thursday and Friday 9am to 4pm. All are open on Saturday 8 to 11am for foreign currency transactions.
The banks also have offices in the baggage claim area at Faleolo Airport, which are open when international flights arrive and depart, and there's an ATM outside in the main concourse.
Get Rid of Your Talas --- Because the Samoan tala is virtually worthless outside the independent nation of Samoa (and that includes American Samoa), don't buy any before you get here. Be sure to change your leftover talas back to another currency before leaving Samoa. Use them to pay your hotel bill or change them at the airports.
The Samoan Tala, the U.S. & Canadian Dollars & the British Pound -- At this writing, US$1/C$ = approximately S$2.50 (or, S$1 = US40¢), which is the exchange rate I used to calculate the dollar values given in this guide. For British readers: At this writing, £1 = approximately S$5 (or, S$1 = 20p). Note: International exchange rates fluctuate depending on economic and political factors. Thus, the values given in this guide may not be the same when you travel to the Cook Islands.
Credit Cards -- American Express, Visa, MasterCard, and Diner's Club credit cards are accepted by the major hotels and car-rental firms, and many restaurants accept MasterCard and Visa. Discover cards are not accepted. When traveling outside Apia and to Savai'i, you should carry enough cash to cover your anticipated expenses.