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First timers, need advice :)

Perth, Australia
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32 posts
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First timers, need advice :)

Hi, We are wanting to travel to Samoa (from Perth) for the first time at the end of this month.

We both love to explore the land and culture so would look at hiring a car. We also both love snorkeling and/ or diving (although this isnt our sole purpose for the holiday) . Can anyone offer us advice on what islands we should book accommodation on? At the moment we are looking at Savaii & Upolu only because they look like they have the most to see on? (pls correct me if Im wrong) We will be there for 12 days so not quite sure how to split the days and where. Any one have any suggestions on which islands we should visit, which are better for us to stay on (as a base) any special places / experiences we shouldnt miss etc. We are not interested in night clubs more the cultural experience and natural wonder.

Any help or tips would be great - we are hoping to book this in the next day or so.

Always wanted to visit this island - cant wait!

Thanks in advance

Woolgoolga...
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for Apia, Samoa
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1. Re: First timers, need advice :)

Malo lava

What sort of budget do you have for accommodation, sight-seeing, food, hire car etc?

If you want a true cultural experience then you can't go past a village stay. I highly recommend Taumesina Hideaway which is just 10 mins out of Apia but you could be in a little piece of paradise a world away. Taumesina consists of 4 fales with verandahs alongside a lagoon which is great for swimming, very tranquil and quiet and as the villagers are your neighbours you get to experience everyday life fa'a Samoa (the Samoan Way). There are also 4 self contained units with kitchenette and ensuite, The owners Sara and Masi are very welcoming and a good source of info on what to see and do while you're there. You can check it out at taumesinahideaway.ws or on their FB page. It's a good base to use to travel around Upolu or you could stay for a couple of days then move onto Taufua Beach Fales or Litia Sini at beautiful Lalomanu Beach. Alternatively, if you feel like a little luxury by then you could look at Aga Reef Resort or Seabreeze Resort which are also in the vicinity of Lalomanu, a great beach for swimming and snorkelling. All beach fale properties have communal dining with breakfast and lunch being included in the price and have shared facilities.

I think with 12 days it's feasible to spend 6 on Upolu and 6 on Savaii. It'd be best to do Savaii first just for logistical reasons as it takes a day to get back to Upolu which you wouldn't want to be losing on your day of departure.

On Savaii have a look at Va-i-Moana Seaside Lodge, Vaisala Hotel, Tanu's Beach Fales, Jane's Beach Fales, Joelan's Beach Fales and Lauiula Fales. Resort wise you can't go past Savaii Lagoon Resort.

Also check out jasons.com/samoa for accommodation listings for all budgets and lots of other valuable info.

Hiring a car really is the best way to see both islands, The most reputable companies are Samoana Rentals, Blue Pacific Car Hire, Go Rentals, AA Hire Car and Island Rento. you'd be looking at 100 tala a day, less over and extended period.

As for other islands, the only other one with accommodation is Manono Island which is known as the heart of Polynesian culture. It's small and can be walked around in a couple of days. The culture is stronger than on either Upolu or Savaii and it really is an idyllic place to spend a relaxing couple of days.

It really would be a good idea if you could book within the next couple of days as end September is the tail end of high tourist season and many places will still be quite busy.

I'm glad you've chosen Samoa, apart from being a stunningly beautiful country, the culture is much stronger than in other island nations, the people are warm, funny and welcoming and it is not overrun by tourists, it's a very unique experience.

I hope this helps

Manuia le aso

Deb

Melbourne, Australia
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174 posts
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2. Re: First timers, need advice :)

Hi First timers,

We were first timers too. I used the Samoa forum and looked through SO many posts and found them invaluable. Our travel agent, much to our disappointment, only suggested Upolu when we wish that we'd been to both islands. Oh well, gives us a brilliant excuse to go back again. You seem to be looking for a more cultural holiday which you will definitely get in Samoa. Don't be put off by any negative posts, some people go there to get the same sort of holiday you would get in Fiji, Hawaii etc., Samoa is not what you would call 5 or 6 star. We loved the place!!

We were looking for somewhere in the Pacific my husband could surf while I snorkeled, without all the hype and crowds. We ended up staying at Coconuts Beach resort (South Upolu) and loved every minute of it. The snorkeling at Deep Water is good but you have to get the tide right. Lalomanu is beautiful as far as visibility goes and abundance of fish but the coral is all dead, tsunami. I can highly recommend getting to Black Sands beach in the south of Upolu. You can get yourselves there with a 4WD and walk or get a boat over. Black sands beach has been fairly protected from both Tsunami and cyclone and was the best snorkeling we had the opportunity to do at Upolu. Neil took us out in his boat (a fee of course). We were very spoilt with the knowledge of Manoa Tours (Neil) who is based at Coconuts. He is a separate business and will take anyone out from Coconuts or Sinalei as well as anyone that can get to his hut at Coconuts. I suggest you check out his website www.manoatours.ws

Look through as many posts as you can and be as well informed as we were and you will have a fantastic holiday in one of the most unspoilt places on the planet.

Gold Coast...
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3. Re: First timers, need advice :)

We were newbies too, did 21 days, split 9-11.. (9 on Savaii and 11 on Upolu.) Also hired a car, (Samoan Hire) so we used one place as a base on each island and enjoyed the drive around the islands. We snorkeled at both islands. Dive Savaii do a wonderful 3 location snorkel experience, which we took our kids etc. Upolu we did the Deep Marine which again was great :)

As the islands go, Savaii was our favourite by far. For a great "local experience" on Upolu we went to a village visit at the Litia Sini Beach Fales, for a day visit, where you can see first can village life and the making (and enjoying) of the Umu :)

We loved it so much we are already planning on going back next year :)

Perth, Australia
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32 posts
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4. Re: First timers, need advice :)

Thank you so much for taking the time to write back. Ok so Im pretty pumped, Ive just booked the tickets (29th to 14th Oct) and am now trying to figure out where to stay. The choices are amazing, but given the time we are going it appears my choices are more limited as some are fully booked (my fault for leaving this so late - one of the down sides of being a spontaneous traveler) I will do further research and send off some emails over the weekend.

So I have some further questions to put out there to see if anyone can help ...

* Will I be hot with out an airconditioner and just a ceiling fan? I understand in Open Fales I have the sea breeze, but is this enough and what if its not a fale?

Anyone know where the best snorkeling in Savaii is? I understand sadly the coral was damaged in Samoa after the Tsunami & Cyclone, but that there were some areas hit harder than others?

Do you use the bartering system in Samoa? If so is it as brash as Bali? I really dont want to offend the locals at offering such a low price - I have no idea of the prices over there? Any hints?

Has anyone taken back Tapa cloths or flax made items through Australian customs? Im wondering if they are allowed or confiscated? Also any other items that are a 'no go' to buy in Samoa?

Got butterflies in my tummy writing this - Ive not been so excited to travel to a destination for a while now.

thank you all again for your time x

Palmerston North...
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5. Re: First timers, need advice :)

Hi we got back on Tuesday, and got wooden items and tapa back threw NZ customs, any necklaces we bought we wore on the plane under our t-shirts and nobody noticed :P

We used the bartering system at the markets and got some good deals - we also bartered our taxi rides but you wont have that issue if you are hiring a car. At the market you get pulled aside alot with the locals trying to sell you things they tend to lower the price if you say no to something and walk away; they chase you and offer less which was pretty entertaining, we managed to get 2 wooden carvings for 15tala less each - just because we bought 2.

Not sure about the best snorkeling on Savaii, We had heard Dive Savaii did good tours but we cancelled our tour threw them as where we stayed at Va I Moana it was 5TALA to hire snorkels for the whole day and we were satisfied just swimming around looking at all the amazing fish and turtles there (more rocky then coral but still neat for us first time snorkellers otherwise you could use the free kayaks and kayak 1.5km to the island where the snorkeling was meant to be amazing). Also at Manase there tended to be more wild turtles around then we saw anywhere else on both Island's..

Samoa is HOT!! although i didn't find it much hotter then my quick trip to brisbane in January, it took me 2.5 days to adjust and getting off the air conditioned plane is the worst part. We stayed in Fales and even then we slept with no sheets or blankets, and we stayed in an enclosed room with no aircon (Just a fan which made no difference) and we were fine.

Please be aware CASH IS EVERYTHING!!! in Samoa, We moaned when the bank gave us all 20's but were grateful in the end as most places didnt even have enough change for a 20 Tala note. And most places (even the tourist attractions) do not take plastic eg: credit, debit,eftpos and eftpos machines are few and far between with large fees for taking out money when and if you find one.

Take a bottle opener if you don't no how to open bottles with a coin or lighter

Edited: 05 September 2013, 05:31
Woolgoolga...
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for Apia, Samoa
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6. Re: First timers, need advice :)

Malo lava

You'll be going into Wet season end Sept-Oct but it's more humid than continuous rain. It's very much like the weather in other Pacific Islands so if you've been to Bali in the Wet then that's what you can expect. I find the seabreezes and ceiling fans can often be enough and I'm not a fan of really high humidity. If you think the heat might ruin your holiday and your budget runs to a resort with air con and hot water you might be better off opting for that rather than fales and using it as a base to get around.

Savaii was barely touched by the tsunami but the cyclone did take out some coral which is regenerating and getting better everyday. Good spots for snorkelling are the village of Fagamalo (where Dive Savaii is), Manase Beach and Lano. At Fagamalo have a look at Savaii Lagoon Resort, my favourite in Samoa, huge bungalows all on a beautiful beach, great staff and fantastic food. There isn't any air con but the sea breeze does circulate well through the rooms and there are great ceiling and floor fans. SLR do cultural tours of the village for 20 tala, 50% of which goes to the village. You're free to wander through the village and talk to the locals, get a feel for village life. At Manase there is Tanu's, Jane's, Regina's and Vacations, all beach fale properties. At Lano have a look at Joelan's and Lauiula.

Near Va-i-Moana which Jess mentioned there is a very rustic old Samoan hotel called Vaisala Hotel which has air con and hot water for a very reasonable price. It has a very old world charm, great rooms all with veradahs and just a few steps from a little cove which is wonderful for swimming. The menu is limited but what there food is on offer is fresh and well cooked, you can get a full, freshly caught lobster for 30 tala.You could also use that as a base to discover the rest of Savaii.

It doesn't take a long time to drive around either island so you're probably best just picking one place as a base instead of moving around from place to place in the time that you have.

Which accommodation have you checked out so far, which ones are booked out? Do have a look at jasons.com/samoa and samoa-hotels.ws and you'll get a good idea of what's available.

On Upolu I think that Taumesina would give you the best cultural experience and is a good base to get around the rest of the island.

Bartering is fine and you can be a lot more successful with it if you can learn some of the Samoan numbers to get the best deal, Samoans respect you for it and have a lot of fun correcting you if you're wrong. We've had a few problems getting stuff back into Australia - don't buy anything that looks like it is made from seeds or have them on it. Wood is fine, anything from straw is a bit suss but if you really want something just spray it with Mortein 48 hours prior to your departure and inform Customs that you've done so. Tapa is also OK. If you buy ceremonial wooden weapons they need to be securely wrapped and given to the staff at check-in at Faleolo for on-forwarding to a security area in Perth where you can pick it up separate to the rest of your luggage.

I'm sure you'll love Samoa, it's pristine environment, unique culture, stunning scenery and warm, welcoming and funny people will capture your heart. At least you don't have long to wait.

Manuia le aso

Deb

Melbourne, Australia
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174 posts
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7. Re: First timers, need advice :)

HI Again Firstimers,

If you do look at a resort make sure you find one with a proper pool. We visited Hideaway resort (didn't stay there) and their pool was just an enclosed part of the beach (doesn't look like that on their website) so just be wary. The ocean gets pretty warm and it's nice to cool off in a swimming pool sometimes (even though they tend to get quite warm on the hot days). Keep plenty of drinking water handy.

Keep in touch before you go - you'll get plenty of advice.

Perth, Australia
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32 posts
23 reviews
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8. Re: First timers, need advice :)

Thank you, you are all so much help. Im away for a few days at the farm then back to Perth and at my PC so that I can get back into planing my trip. I just didnt want you to think Im ignoring your messages :)

Woolgoolga...
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for Apia, Samoa
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9. Re: First timers, need advice :)

Have a good time at the farm, we've just come back from ours after a couple of days of backburning, not a lot of fun!!

Perth, Australia
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10. Re: First timers, need advice :)

Hello Im back from the bush and have internet access again :)

Ok ... so silly me left all my notes at the farm (4 pages of accommodation research!)

We are two females traveling together so we would need 2 separate beds. At the risk of sounding picky, if I could have it all it would be accommodation on / near a white sandy beach with my own toilet and shower and air conditioning for under 300 Tala (for the 2 of us) per night. However in looking through many of the accommodation options I can see that I am going to have to curb my ways to gain in others and thats ok. What I dont want, is to go over the budget. I could go with out an aircon if Im close to the beach with a fan and sea breeze. The shower and toilet ... well I understand this is not a 5 star island, but clean is good. I am ...umm ... well ... a fuller figured woman so the idea of sleeping on a thin mattress on the floor hurts just to think about it - however in reading reviews I hear that you can request an extra mattress? Looking at all the accommodation sites I see that some of the beds are on legs so that also is a good thing. Im not a princess but I usually wouldnt go low budget, however am I wrong in thinking in Samoa it seems to go from one extreme to another? I dont want to stay in a European multi storied place and would like to soak up the culture but dont want to sleep on the floor - I hope that doesnt sound spoilt! There was a day I could have just slept on the beach sand for the night but Im getting a little older now and my body isnt as forgiving as it used to be :)

I hear you Deb in advising staying in the same place at each island and using it as a base to explore the rest of the island. I dont want to move around every few days(Its hard work and takes away from the chilled out holiday mode) however we arrive late at night and leave early in the morning so staying close to the airport for at least that one night each way would be a great help.

A few more questions ...

Is the departure tax 65 tala? Are there any other fees I should know about? Can anyone suggest a favourite fiafia night or will I enjoy any of them?

Blowing the budget totally (I know I said I wouldnt - but I might be able to make up for it else where) The Lupe Sina Tree Resort - just for a night, looks like an amazing experience! Anyone been?

Looking forward to finding accommodation so that I can check the availability.

Thanks again

Julie~