Polynesian Airlines (tel. 800/264-0823 or 22-737; www.polynesianairlines.com) used to fly several times a day between Faleolo Airport and Maota Airstrip, near Salelologa on the southeastern corner of Savai'i, but during my recent visit it was down to one plane, which shuttled between Faleolo and American Samoa. Check with Polynesian Airlines to see if its Faleolo-Savai'i service has resumed.
Two passenger-automobile ferries run between Mulifanua Wharf on Upolu and Salelologa on Savai'i every 2 hours Monday to Saturday from 6am to 4pm and Sunday 10am to 4pm. The Lady Samoa is larger, faster, and more comfortable than its smaller, open-air companion, with which it alternates trips. Plan on about 90 minutes each way. The one-way passenger fare is S$9 (US$3.60/£1.80). Local buses leave regularly from the Apia market and pass Mulifanua Wharf on their way to Pasi O Le Vaa. Taxi fare to the wharf is S$60 (US$24/£12); bus fare is S$3 (US$1.20/60p).
I bring my rental vehicle to Savai'i because it's much less of a hassle than renting another one on Savai'i. The one-way fare for vehicles is S$65 (US$26/£13), including the driver's fare. Buy your vehicle ticket in advance at Samoa Shipping Corporation (tel. 20-935; www.samoashipping.com), at Mulifanua Wharf or on Beach Road opposite the main wharf in Apia. Vehicles must be at Mulifanua Wharf at least an hour before departure.
Be sure to ask if the car rental firms will allow you to take their vehicles to Savai'i.
By Rental Car
Budget Rent-A-Car (tel. 800/527-0700 or 20-561; www.budget.com) and Avis (tel. 800/331-1212 or 20-486) have agencies in Apia.
Among more than 30 local firms are Funway Rentals (tel. 22-045; fax 25-008; www.funwayrentals.ws); Apia Rentals (tel. 24-244; firstname.lastname@example.org); Blue Pacific Car Hire (tel. 22-668; www.bluepacific.ws); Samoana Rentals (tel. 28-460; email@example.com); and Southpac Rentals (tel. 22-074; firstname.lastname@example.org).
Savai'i Car Rentals (tel. 51-392; fax 51-291; email@example.com) and PK Rentals (tel. 51-025; firstname.lastname@example.org) have offices on Savai'i.
The car-rental firms will arrange to pick you up at Faleolo Airport, for an extra charge, if you have reservations. Insurance policies do not cover damage to the vehicles' undercarriages, which may occur on some rocky, unpaved roads. Depending on your own insurance policies, you might also want to buy optional personal accident coverage, which covers you and your passengers.
The main roads on both islands are paved and in reasonably good condition.
Driving Rules -- You drive on the right-hand side of the road, as in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, but be extremely careful when starting out because the government has proposed changing to left-hand drive, as in Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K. You must stop for pedestrians in crosswalks and not exceed the speed limits of 35 mph on the open road or 25 mph in Apia and the villages.
Visitors are required to get a local driver's license from the Ministry of Transport (tel. 21-611), on Beach Road opposite the Old Apia Market. There is a S$12 (US$4.80/£2.40) fee. Bring your home license. No test is required.
Watch Out for Dogs, Chickens & Pigs -- Samoans and their dogs, chickens, and pigs have a habit of walking in the middle of the roads that pass through their villages, so proceed with care when driving. Even if the way is clear, local courtesy dictates that you slow down when going through the villages so as not to kick up dust. Special care is required on Sundays, when Samoans usually lounge around the village after going to church.
Samoa has a system of "aiga buses" which take passengers around the islands. The main bus station is behind the Old Apia Market on Beach Road, but the buses stop at the New Market before leaving town. They have the names of their villages written on the front. The first buses usually leave their villages between 5 and 7am, with the last departure between 2 and 2:30pm. They turn around in Apia and go back to the villages. The last departure from town is about 4:30pm. They do not run on Saturday afternoon or Sunday.
Jason's Samoa Visitors Guide, available at Samoa Tourism Authority, has the bus lines and fares. Here are the destinations most often visited, followed by the names of the village buses that go there:
To Robert Louis Stevenson Museum: Vaoala, Si'umu.
To Sinalei and Coconut Beach resorts: Si'umu.
To Piula Cave Pool: Falefa or Saoluafata.
To Return to Paradise Beach: Lefaga.
To Papase'a Sliding Rocks: Se'ese'e.
To Faleolo Airport: Faleolo, Pasi o le Vaa.
To Muliafanua Wharf: Pasi o le Vaa.
The Si'umu bus is the only one that goes all the way to the south coast via the Cross Island Road.
In general, 50 sene (US20¢/10p) will take you around Apia and into the hills above the town. The maximum fare is about S$4.50 (US$1.80/90p) to the most distant villages, S$2.50 (US$1/50p) to Mulifanua Wharf, where the Savai'i ferries land on Upolu's western end.
Apia has no shortage of taxis. The easiest way to get one is to hail a cab along Beach Road. You can also ask your hotel desk, or call Central Taxi (tel. 23-600), Silver Star Taxis (tel. 21-770), Marlboro Taxis (tel. 20-808), Vailima Taxis (tel. 22-380), Heini Taxis (tel. 24-431), and Town Taxis (tel. 21-600). They have stands at the Town Clock on Beach Road and nearby on Vaea Street. Town Taxis also has a stand at the airport.
The cabs do not have meters, but fares are set by the government. The minimum fare of S$2.70 (US$1.10/50p) will take you around Apia and its hotels. One-way fares are S$7 (US$2.80/£1.40) from Apia to Vailima; S$50 (US$20/£10) to Faleolo Airport; S$60 (US$24/£12) to Mulifanua Wharf; S$40 (US$16/£8) to Coconuts Beach Club & Spa and Sinalei Reef resorts; S$55 (US$22/£11) to Lefaga and Return to Paradise Beach; and S$25 (US$10/£5) to Piula College and Cave Pool.