Visitors Guide V


A va’a in Samoa is a boat. As Ratty in Wind in the Willows said, “There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” Especially in the tropics.


There are no nasty third world diseases in Samoa you have to be protected against, but a current tetanus shot is not a bad idea in case of coral cuts or (rare) a bite from a local dog. Inoculations are not required unless you have been in an area affected by Yellow Fever recently (Central Africa, parts of South America). Visit The Travel Doctor for all vaccination and travel medicine information.


Vailima is the name Robert Louis Stevenson gave to the 162 hectares of bushland he purchased in 1889. The property is three and a half km inland from Apia with sweeping views. The name means ‘five waters’ and refers to the small streams that run across the property. According to an ad produced by Samoan Breweries for Vailima beer (below), the word also goes back to a legend about a couple who crossed the mountain range that runs down the centre of Upolu and arrived at these streams. The man was dying of thirst and the woman fetched water from a stream using the palms of her hands to revive her husband and, according to the brewery, Vailima literally means ‘water in the hand’… Well, no one ever let a beer get in the way of a good story…

Vailima Beer

Vailima lager is a refreshing light beer that complements the hot weather. Closer in taste to Heineken than Fosters it was awarded the Grand Gold Medal at the Le Monde Selection in Brussels in 1990, 1992, 1995 and 1998.


Vanuatu (previously New Hebrides) has a tropical location in common with Samoa but the culture is Melanesian, not Polynesian. It gets a mention here because the author of this site lived in Vanuatu for a few years and the Rev John Williams resided there for a lot less time. When he arrived on the island of Erramango as a missionary in 1839 he was killed and dealt with by cannibals. Rev Williams changed Samoan society forever in 1830 when he introduced Christianity to the islands of Samoa. See Missionaries and Religion. For more on Vanuatu, visit Vanuatu A to Z.


Samoa has a Value Added Tax of 12.5% on goods and services (VAGST). When getting prices on accommodation be sure this is included so there’s no nasty surprise when settling your account. This tax is also on food and meals.


Samoan villages can appear to be one continuous village, especially between the airport and Apia, with fales, churches and gardens running into more fales, churches and gardens. The boundary of a village may end at a designated coconut palm so it is hard for an outsider to tell when one may start or end. Visitors can stay in the villages and experience real Samoan hospitality. In return for the gift of food and lodging, the gift should be reciprocated. This ‘gift’ (mea alofa) can be money, but this should not be seen as a payment for room and board. Phrased in a way like “please accept this to buy something for the children” shows appreciation. $50 (Samoan) per person per night is the going rate.


Virgin Airlines owns 49% of Polynesian Blue, the international carrier with direct flights from Australia and New Zealand… Virgin’s Grave is an attraction in the lava fields in northeast Savai’i and a taupau is traditionally the virgin daughter of a village high chief who would prepare kava for important ceremonies. I only mention this because it is vary rare these days to find three virgins in a row.


Visitors require a return (or onward) ticket and six months validity on passports and don’t need a visa for stays up to 30 days (apart from Chinese nationals).

Visitor Information

  • Samoa Tourism Authority – PO Box 2272 Apia Ph +685 63 500 or +685 63 523-


Mt Matavanu provided the fascinating lava fields in northeast Savai’I (1905 – 1911). Finding the crater without a guide isn’t difficult but do be careful of deep crevices and crumbling edges as there has been loss of life.

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