Visitors Guide M


Malaria tablets aren’t necessary for a holiday in Samoa but insect repellent should be taken for comfort.


This is a colloquial greeting. While ‘talofa’ is ‘hello’, ‘malo’ is ‘hi’ or ‘g’day’. The response to this is ‘malo lava’. Some more Samoan ‘M-words’ below…


Many people have a love or loathe relationship with this tropical fruit. It is high in fibre, rich in Vitamins A and C and potassium and capable of drenching the front of a shirt in no time at all. Test the ripeness and quality of the fruit by smelling – no fragrance means little taste. They can liven up a salad and make excellent chutneys.


‘Manuia!’ is Samoan for ‘cheers!’ It comfortably accompanies Vailima, the local lager. ‘Manuia le po’ is goodnight.


The Flea Market is open pretty much all day and is worth a browse for handicrafts. The Fish Market (just behind the Flea Market) is best for visiting and purchasing before 11:00am by which time most of the fish will have been sold. The vegetable markets (Maketi Fou) on Fugalei Street are colourful and active 24 hours a day. Families spend the night rather than lose their allotted space. This is a great place to absorb a bit of fa’a Samoa (the Samoan way) and to pick up some local produce or cheap snacks from the food stalls (Flea Market also has a cooked food area). The markets at Salelologa on Savai’i are also full of character and colour.


Marriages in Samoa are legally recognised, easy to arrange, inexpensive and simply romantic. Couples can choose from a number of locations… a secluded beach, with a waterfall backdrop, in a tropical rainforest or a century old church with a Samoan choir. It is a perfect destination for couples to commit to each other or to have a wedding with guests. Catering for the reception can be arranged along with hair & makeup, flowers, wedding cake, photography and videography.

On the legal side, an application for a marriage licence must be lodged with the Justice Department in Apia at least 14 days prior to the wedding along with copies of the bride and groom’s passports, birth certificates and divorce papers if applicable. The cost for the application is $16. Unlike other parts of the Pacific you don’t need to attend the registry office in person but couples are required to be in Samoa for a few days prior to the ceremony. This is also good for the couple to meet with wedding coordinator, photographer and choose the location. Where do you start? Everything from the wedding and reception to special requests to flights and accommodation can be arranged for you. Visit for more.


Massages are good for the body and soul and somehow go with the rhythm of a tropical destination. The Sheraton Aggie Grey’s Resort has a stunning Day Spa with a number of fales in a rainforest setting offering different types of massage (body wraps etc) and there are Day Spas at Sinalei Reef Resort and Coconuts Beach Club Resort.


A matai is the chief or head of an aiga (extended family group). The matai is responsible for everything that involves the family – land, assets, disputes and well-being. There is no ‘custom’ dress to let you know you have met a matai but you will quickly observe that they are treated with respect and visitors should also do this. There are some 18,000 matai in Samoa, so there’s every chance you’ll bump into one.


I’m sure I’m not the only one who sighs regrettably on seeing the ‘golden arches’ spreading through the Pacific. Everyone knows what to expect from this family restaurant chain but every meal you have here is one you have missed out on somewhere special. Some tourists may embrace but ‘travellers’ should see it as a place that will have clean rest rooms in the event of an emergency. If anyone mentions the toilets are for patrons, just say you didn’t use them last time you bought a meal, so they owe you one.

Medical Services

Tourists requiring medical attention are welcome to go to the hospitals for an out-patient consultation but because of the inevitable long wait it is better to make an appointment with a private doctor and pay a bit extra. The phone number for the Tupua Tamasese Memorial Hospital in Apia is 21 212 and one private practice is the Soifua Manuia Clinic on Faatoia Road – Phone 26 113. For emergency dental assistance the Leavai Dental Surgery (Dr Peniamina Leavai) is at the end of Vaea Street – Phone 20172 and the Soonalole Dental Surgery is at Alamagato – Phone 21 145. Emergency numbers: Ambulance 999 and Hospital 996.


Milk is usually long-life or powdered – not particularly noticeable in tea or coffee but may be on cereal.


The Protestant London Missionary Society can claim credit for the Samoan people’s conversion to Christianity. In 1830, Reverend John Williams arrived on the island of Savai’i from the Cook Islands on his ship, the Messenger of Peace. He was given a receptive welcome because a local female prophet, Nafanua, had recently predicted that strangers would soon arrive with a new faith. Within a decade the country was Christian.

There’s a memorial to Williams at the landing spot on Savai’i (Sapapali’i) and another in front of the harbour in central Apia. This one bears the inscription:


The martyrdom on Erromango was at the hands of cannibals. It is not known how arrangements were made to get his remains from there to Samoa but it is said that he was reburied below the porch of the old Congregational Church across the street from the memorial.

Because other ‘white’ missionaries met the same end as Williams, Samoan missionaries were recruited so people with a similar skin colour could spread the word in other parts of the Pacific.

In 1836 Pope Gregory XVI divided Oceanica (which includes Samoa) between the Society of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and the Marists. The First Catholic missionaries (Marists) landed in Samoa in 1845.

In 1851 the Vicar Apostolic of Central Oceanica appointed by Pius IX was also Administrator of Samoa. This double title was borne by the succeeding bishops, Elloy and Lamaze, until 1896, when Mgr. Broyer was appointed Vicar Apostolic of Samoa and Tokelau, and took up residence in Apia.

Mobile Phones

There are two main telecommunications providers in Samoa: Digicel and Bluesky Samoa. Both offer extensive coverage. Prepaid SIM cards are available at Faleolo International Airport and at outlets in Apia.


The Samoan decimal currency is the tala (a.k.a. Samoan dollar), which is made up of 100 sene (cents). Note denominations are $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100. All major foreign currencies are exchangeable for tala in Samoa. For currency conversion, click here.

Motorbike Hire

Scooters can be hired but agencies come and go so best check with the Samoan Tourism Authority for locations (Ph 63 500).


Just the word ‘museum’ screams ‘boring’ to some people. The Robert Louis Stevenson Museum at Vailima is anything but and it should be on the ‘must do’ list for any visitor to Apia. The Falemataaga Museum of Samoa (weekdays noon to 3:30 pm, free) is upstairs in the old courthouse on Beach Road.


This is a curious Samoan trait – musu means ‘to be sullen’. Apparently this can happen at any time so if a Samoan companion or acquaintance suddenly goes quiet and moody, just be patient until they snap out of it. It could be a Polynesian way of simply dealing with stress/coping – cheaper than a psychiatrist!


  • maamusa: girlfriend
  • malae: meeting ground
  • malaga: journey
  • malu: female tattoo
  • manogi: smell
  • matafaga: beach
  • moe: sleep
  • motu: small island

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