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Travel Security Advice for Samoa

Samoan_National_Flag

samoa_mapSamoa_Overview


COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

Samoa consists of the two large islands of Upolu and Savai’i and seven small islets.  The country has a stable parliamentary democracy with a developing economy.  Tourist facilities are accessible by bus, taxi, and car and are within walking distance of access roads.  Infrastructure is adequate in Apia, the capital, but is limited in other areas.  Nearly all Internet connections use a relatively slow dial-up method.  Samoa has two digital telephone service providers, and visitors can easily purchase prepaid phones that cover virtually the entire country.  The Samoa Tourism Authority  provides a wide range of information of interest to travelers.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on Samoa  for additional information.

 

REGISTRATION/ EMBASSY LOCATION:  

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Samoa are encouraged to register with the U.S. embassy in person or at the Department of State travel registration page , so that they can obtain updated information on local travel and security.  Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency. 

The U.S. Embassy in Apia  

Is located in the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC formerly and more well known as ACB) Building, Fifth Floor, Apia.  The Embassy's mailing address is U.S. Embassy, P.O. Box 3430, Apia, Samoa 0815.  The telephone numbers are (685) 21436/21631/22696 and 21452.  The fax number is (685) 22030.  An Embassy officer can be reached after hours in an emergency involving the welfare of a U.S. citizen or non-citizen national at (685) 777-1776.  The Embassy is open to the public from 9:00 am-12:45 pm, and 1:30 p.m-4:00 pm from Monday – Friday except Thursdays when it is open only from 9:00 am -12:45 pm.



ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: 

Visitor permits are not required for U.S. citizens seeking to stay in Samoa for up to 60 days.  They are required for non-citizen U.S. nationals of American Samoa who reside in American Samoa, who must obtain visitor permits prior to all travel to Samoa.  They are no longer permitted to travel to Samoa on certificates of identity except on a case-by-case basis. (U.S. law distinguishes between individuals who are citizens and those who are non-citizen nationals.  The U.S. passport bio-page shows one’s status as either a citizen or a non-citizen national.)  Visitor permits to travel to Samoa can be applied for at the new Samoa Consulate General office in Pago Pago, American Samoa.  The Samoa Consulate General address is P.O. Box 1313, Pago Pago, American Samoa, telephone (684) 633-5919, fax (684) 633-5929.  A valid passport and an onward/return ticket are required for all Americans (both citizens and non-citizen nationals) to travel to Samoa.  All visitors are required to pay a departure tax of 40 Tala (approximately 17.50 USD) upon leaving the country.  Further information about entry requirements and the departure tax may be obtained from the Samoa Mission to the United Nations at 800-2nd Avenue, Suite 400J, New York, NY 10017, telephone (212) 599-6196, fax (212) 599-0797, or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it Visit the Permanent Mission of Samoa to the United Nations website.  For the most current visa information, visit the Samoa Immigration website .

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.



THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY:

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's, Bureau of Consular Affairs' website

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on traveling safely abroad .



CRIME:

Samoa has a low threat environment for crime.  Nevertheless, visitors should remain aware of their surroundings, lock their doors at night, and not leave their belongings unattended.  Incidents of petty theft and robberies of personal effects are common.  Some such incidents have involved residential break-ins.  While rare, violent assaults, including sexual assaults, have occurred in Samoa.  No specific groups have been targeted, nor have there been any racially motivated or hate crimes against U.S. citizens.  Police responsiveness in Apia is generally good.  Because of the very limited police presence elsewhere in Samoa (where order is maintained primarily by local village authorities), police response outside of Apia is problematic. 

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.  In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.



VICTIMS OF CRIME :

If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see the Department of State list of embassies and consulates ).  This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Samoa is: 994 for fire emergencies, 996 for the Ambulance, and 995 for the Police.

Please see our information on victims of crime , including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.



CRIMINAL PENALTIES: 

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States .

Persons violating Samoa’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.  Penalties for possession or use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Samoa are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. 



SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Behavior Modification Facilities: 

Some overseas treatment centers, known as Behavior Modification Facilities, operate in Samoa.  Though these facilities may be operated and staffed by U.S. citizens, the Samoan government is solely responsible for their compliance with local safety, health, sanitation, and educational laws and regulations, including all licensing requirements of the staff in country.  These standards, if any, may not be strictly enforced or meet the standards of similar facilities in the United States.  Parents should be aware that U.S. citizens and non-citizen nationals 16 years of age and older have a right to apply for a U.S. passport and to request repatriation assistance from the U.S. government, both without parental consent.  Any U.S. citizen or U.S. national has the right to contact a representative from the U.S. embassy.  For further information, consult the Department of State's Fact Sheet on Behavior Modification Facilities , available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.  Parents may also contact the U.S. Embassy in Apia or the country officer in the Office of American Citizens Services, Bureau of Consular Affairs, at 202-647-5226.

Stray Dogs:   In Apia and in many villages, stray dogs wander the streets.  Visitors should not approach or feed them; they can become aggressive in the presence of food or if they feel threatened.  There have been several cases recently of multiple dogs attacking; care should be taken when walking, running, or riding a bike.

Ferry Service:   Although there have been no major accidents involving the ferry service linking Upolu and Savai’i, vessels are sometimes overloaded.  One of the ferries, a multi-deck automobile ferry, sometimes transports passengers on its automobile deck.  U.S. citizens who choose to use this ferry are encouraged not to remain on the automobile deck during the crossing and to ride only in the passenger compartment in order to avoid injury from shifting vehicles.

Blowholes:  Samoa has numerous “blowholes” (lava tubes open to the sea where wave action produces often spectacular geysers).  These blowholes are popular tourist attractions.  The footing around the mouths of most blowholes is very slippery.  To avoid being swept in, visitors should not approach too closely and should never stand between the opening of the blowhole and the sea.

Water Sports:   Snorkeling and diving in ocean lagoons are popular activities for many visitors to Samoa.  Tide changes can produce powerful currents in these lagoons.  Visitors are encouraged to consult local residents and tour operators about hazards and conditions at a particular location before venturing into the water.

Financial Transactions:  Although some businesses (especially those in Apia or those frequented by tourists) do accept credit cards, many (including gas stations) do not.  Major credit cards (Visa, Master Card, and American Express) are accepted at major hotels and some restaurants and stores.  Samoan currency can be obtained from ATMs, which are located in Faleolo Airport, Salelologa, and in many locations in Apia.  For more information on ATM locations and banking services, see the ANZ Bank web site or the WESTPAC web site .

Disaster Preparedness: 

Savaii has one dormant volcano with a pattern of erupting about once every 150 years.  The most recent eruption was 1908.  Upolu and Savaii are volcanic islands, with many other dormant, but not extinct, volcanoes.  Samoa is located in an area of high seismic activity.  Although the probability that a major earthquake would occur during an individual trip is remote, seismic activity happens regularly.  In most cases, there is little or no damage.  It would be possible for a major earthquake to trigger a tsunami.  Major cyclones have occurred in the past and are always a concern.  The cyclone season is from November to April when strong winds, heavy rains, landslides and disruptions to services could occur.  During this period, Samoa receives most of its annual average of over 130 inches of rain.  General information about natural disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Customs:  Samoan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Samoa of items such as firearms, fruits, pets and other animals, and drugs.  It is advisable to contact the Samoan Mission to the United Nations at 800 2nd Avenue, Suite 400J, New York, NY 10017, telephone (212) 599-6196 for specific information regarding customs requirements or consult the Samoa Ministry of Revenue and Customs web site and the Samoa Quarantine web site .



MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: 

Health care facilities in Samoa are adequate for routine medical treatment but are limited in range and availability; complex illnesses and life-threatening emergencies generally need to be treated elsewhere.  Dental facilities do not meet U.S. standards, but good dental treatment and some emergency medical care can be obtained nearby at the LBJ Tropical Medical Center in Pago Pago, American Samoa.  The national hospital and a small private hospital are located in Apia, and there are several small district hospitals on Savai'i and in outlying areas of Upolu.  There are no hyperbaric chambers on any of the islands for the treatment of scuba diving related injuries.  Serious cases of decompression sickness are evacuated to the nearest treatment center in Suva, Fiji, or Auckland, New Zealand.  Serious medical conditions and treatments that require hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars.  Travelers are encouraged to have emergency evacuation insurance.  Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.  Occasional outbreaks of typhoid and non- hemorrhagic dengue do occur.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC website For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) websiteThe WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information .



MEDICAL INSURANCE: 

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad.  Important questions are whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.



TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: 

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning Samoa is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of public transportation and rural road conditions in Samoa are considered to be fair, while urban road conditions/maintenance is considered to be good.  Taxis are widely available and used by Samoans and visitors alike; buses are slow, generally crowded and uncomfortable, and rarely utilized by visitors.  Rental cars can also be obtained.  Limited roadside assistance is available.  Most major roads are tar-sealed, but secondary roads are predominantly dirt and gravel and may be overgrown with vegetation.  A four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended for travel on these roads.  Travelers should be aware that vehicle safety regulations are rarely enforced and traffic violations occur routinely.  Roads outside Apia are often narrow, winding, relatively steep, with narrow or no shoulders, and poorly lighted.  Pedestrians as well as vehicles and livestock regularly travel these roads.  Due to poor and deteriorating road conditions, night driving on unlit rural roads can be dangerous and should be avoided if possible.  Roads in Samoa often traverse small streams.  Drivers are urged to exercise extreme caution when fording these streams, which can become swollen and dangerous with little warning.  Vehicles should never enter a stream if the roadbed is not visible or if the water’s depth exceeds the vehicle’s clearance.  

On September 7, 2009, Samoa became the first country in three decades to switch from driving on the right side of the road (as in the United States) to the left side (as in the United Kingdom).  Visitors should remain vigilant when traveling by on local roads during the first 6 months of this change.  The majority of vehicles in Samoa remains left-hand drive, including rental vehicles and public transportation.  The ratio of right- to left-hand drive vehicles will change over time as more right-hand drive vehicles are imported and left-hand drive vehicles are taken off the road.  To improve road safety in the interim, the Samoan Government has lowered speed limits to 15 mph in urban areas and 25 mph in rural areas.  The Samoan Government also mandated bus operators to cut passenger access doors on the left side of their structure to allow passengers to enter and exit away from moving traffic.  This caused an absence of buses at first, but gradually, as buses make the modifications, public transportation and schedules are returning to normal.   Travelers should exercise particular caution when riding older wooden buses, recent modifications to which may have reduced their safety.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.  Visit the web site of the country’s national tourist office at Samoa Tourism Authority .



AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: 

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Samoa’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Samoa’s air carrier operations.  Further information may be found on the FAA's safety assessment page .



CHILDREN'S ISSUES: 

Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.


This replaces the Country Specific Information for Samoa dated February 20, 2009, to update Information on Special Circumstances, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions and Registration/Embassy Location.


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding travel to Samoa HERE.....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)...........

Regards

The SW Team.......

 

Direct Gov Travel News and Alerts