American Express -- There is no American Express representative in Samoa.
Area Codes -- Samoa does not have domestic area codes. The international country code is 685.
Bookstores -- Aggie's Gift Shop (tel. 23-626), next to Aggie Grey's Hotel & Bungalows on Beach Road, carries books on Samoa and the South Pacific and a few paperback novels.
Business Hours -- Most shops and government offices are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm and Saturday 8am to 12:30pm. Except for the major hotels and restaurants, the only mom-and-pop grocery shops are open on Sunday.
Camera & Film -- Image Lab is located on Convent Street, west of Vaea Street (tel. 28-053).
Customs -- Customs exemptions for visitors are 200 cigarettes, 1 liter of liquor, and their personal effects. Firearms, ammunition, illegal drugs, and indecent publications are prohibited. Plants, live animals, or products of that nature, including fruits, seeds, and soil, will be confiscated unless you have prior permission from the Samoa government's Department of Agriculture and Forest. All incoming baggage is X-rayed.
Drugstores -- Samoa Pharmacy (tel. 22-595) and Apia Pharmacy (tel. 22-703) are both on Beach Road west of the Town Clock.
Electricity -- Electricity in Samoa is 240 volts, 50 cycles, and most plugs have angled prongs like those used in New Zealand and Australia.
Embassies & Consulates -- The U.S. Embassy (tel. 21-631) is in the ABC House on Beach Road west of the Town Clock. New Zealand and Australia both have high commissions here.
Emergencies & Police -- The emergency phone numbers are tel. 995 for police, tel. 994 for fire, and tel. 996 for an ambulance. The police station (tel. 22-222) is on Ifi'ifi Street, inland from the prime minister's office.
Eyeglasses -- Try the National Hospital.
Gambling -- There are no casinos in Samoa, but you can play the local lottery at its office on Vaea Street.
Healthcare -- The best doctors are at the MedCen Private Hospital, a modern facility on the Cross Island Road (tel. 26-519). The government-run National Hospital, on Ifi'ifi Street in Apia (tel. 21-212), has an outpatient clinic open daily 8am to noon and 1 to 4:30pm. Ask your hotel staff to recommend a dentist if you need one.
Insects -- There are no dangerous insects in Samoa, and the plentiful mosquitoes do not carry malaria. Bring a good insect repellent with you, and consider burning mosquito coils at night.
Internet Access -- You can access the Internet at Computer Services Ltd. (CSL), at Vaea and Convent streets (tel. 24-149), and at Lesamoa.net, across the street in the Lotemanu Centre (tel. 20-926). You'll pay between S$2 (US80¢/40p) for 10 minutes to S$10 (US$4/£2) for 1 hour of ADSL access.
Libraries -- Nelson Memorial Public Library, on Beach Road at the Town Clock (tel. 21-028), is open Monday to Thursday 8:30am to 5pm, Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm, and Saturday 8:30am to 12:20pm.
Liquor Laws -- The legal drinking age is 21. Except for a prohibition of Sunday sale of alcoholic beverages outside the hotels or licensed restaurants, the laws are fairly liberal. Bars outside the hotels can stay open Monday to Saturday until midnight. Spirits, wine, and beer are sold at private liquor stores.
Newspapers & Magazines -- The daily Samoa Observer (www.samoaobserver.ws) carries local and world news.
Mail -- The main SamoaTel post office is on Beach Road, east of the Town Clock (tel. 23-480). It's open Monday to Friday 9am to 4:30pm.
Radio & TV -- Samoa has two broadcast television stations. Many homes on Upolu's north shore can receive the American Samoan channels, one of which has commercial shows, the other Public Broadcasting System programs and live news from the United States. The government also operates two AM radio stations, on which most programming is in Samoan. The world news is rebroadcast from Radio Australia and Radio New Zealand several times a day. Three privately owned FM stations broadcast lots of music.
Safety -- Although street crimes are rare here, remember that the communal property system still prevails in the Samoas, and items such as cameras and bags left unattended may disappear. Women should not wander alone on deserted beaches. Samoans take the Sabbath seriously, and there have been reports of local residents tossing stones at tourists who drive through some villages on Sunday. If you plan to tour by rental car, do it during the week.
Taxes -- Samoa imposes a 15% General Services Tax, which is included in restaurant and bar bills and is added to the cost of some other items, including rental cars, but be sure to ask if your hotel has included the tax in its room rates. Also, an airport departure tax of S$40 (US$16/£8) is levied on all passengers over 12 years of age leaving Samoa from Faleolo Airport. No tax is imposed on domestic flights or on the ferry to Pago Pago.
Telephone & Fax -- SamoaTel (www.samoatel.ws) operates both the post office and the land-line phone system here.
To call Samoa: Dial the international access code (011 from the U.S.; 00 from the U.K., Ireland, or New Zealand; or 0011 from Australia), Samoa's country code 685, and the local number (there are no area codes within Samoa).
To make international calls from within Samoa: First dial 00, then the country code (U.S. or Canada 1, U.K. 44, Ireland 353, Australia 61, New Zealand 64), and then the area code and phone number. International calls to North America and Europe cost about S$4.50 (US$1.80/90p) per minute. Calls to Australia and New Zealand are about half that amount.
To make domestic calls within Samoa: No prefix or area code is required for domestic long distance calls, so dial the local number.
For directory assistance: Dial tel. 933 for domestic information, tel. 910 for international numbers.
For operator assistance: Dial tel. 920 for operator assistance in making international calls.
Toll-free numbers: Calling a 1-800 number in the U.S. or Canada from here is not toll-free. In fact, it costs the same as an overseas call.
Pay phones: You will need a prepaid phone card to make calls; buy them at post offices and most small shops. A digital readout will tell you how much money you have left on your card.
Cellphones: Two companies rent mobile phones and sell SIM cards for unlocked GMS cellphones: SamoaTel's Go Mobile (tel. 44-600; www.telecomsamoa.ws), in the post office building on Beach Road; and Digicel Samoa (tel. 28-003 or 30-313; www.digicelsamoa.com), in the Chan Mow & Co. building, corner of Beach Road and Vaea Street. Both have booths at Faleolo International Airport. Phones rent for about S$6 (US$2.40/£1.20) a day, but you must buy prepaid time cards to use them. Both sell SIM cards for S$30 (US$12/£6), which includes S$10 (US$4/£2) worth of airtime -- S70¢ (US28¢/14p) per minute weekdays, S25¢ (US10¢/5p) a minute nights and weekends.
Time -- Local time in Samoa is 11 hours behind GMT. That means it's 3 hours behind Pacific Standard Time (4 hr. behind during daylight saving time). If it's noon standard time in California and 3pm in New York, it's 9am in Apia. Samoa is east of the international date line; it shares the same date with North America and is 1 day behind Tonga, Fiji, Australia, and New Zealand. Remember that if you are going on to those countries or will be arriving from one of them.
Tipping -- Tipping is discouraged as being contrary to the traditional way of life.
Water -- All tap water should be boiled before drinking. Safe bottled water is produced locally and is available at most grocery stores.
Weights & Measures -- Samoa is officially on the metric system, but in their everyday lives, many residents still calculate distances by the British system used in American Samoa and in the United States. Speed limits are posted in miles per hour, and the speedometers of many local vehicles (most of which have the steering wheels on the left side, in the American and European fashion) show both miles per hour and kilometers per hour.