By Jade Johnston
How To Take The Bus In Samoa
If you are like me, then you probably try to seek the most authentic experience possible when travelling. And yes, that means taking public transport. And nowhere can this whole experience be more interesting than in less developed countries.
In Samoa, taking the bus is not only interesting, it’s fun as well
Considering Samoa’s position; a small country in the middle of the South Pacific, where the majority of its economy is supported by remittances sent home from abroad, it is no wonder that the term “laid back” is hardly enough to explain the psyche here.
That being said, don’t expect a bus timetable… just don’t. Take your itinerary, and leave it at the airport.
Busses run from early in the morning, until early or mid afternoon. Sometimes later.. sometimes. They leave when the bus driver deems they are full enough, and they stop wherever they please.
If you have to, say, be at the ferry or the airport at a particular time, it is probably best to give yourself a lot of time to get there. Also, don’t be too alarmed if you seem to be waiting quite a while for the bus – it will come, eventually.
Getting on and off
To get on the bus, simply hail the approaching bus of your choice, and they will pull over for you. Busses will stop wherever there are passengers, so no need to walk to the bus stop with your luggage. They also let you disembark at any place you wish, which is convenient if you want to be dropped off just outside the door of your destination.
Some busses have a rope that you can pull, which will ring a bell to alert the driver to stop for you. Some don’t however. On these busses simply loudly tap the window to signal that you wish to get off. The best way to do with is to tap the window with the coins you mean to pay the driver with, this will ensure that the tapping is loud enough to be heard.
Riding the bus
The busses can get very crowded in Samoa, and most people hate to stand on the bus (I don’t blame them). Also, Samoan’s don’t have the strong sense of personal space that some of us in the West do, which means that sitting on a strangers lap on a crowded bus in not uncommon. If you don’t want your lap to end up as someone’s seat, the best strategy is to grab a small child and sit them on your lap instead. (This was the advice given to me by a peace corps volunteer that I met.) However, if you are travelling with your luggage, chances are that will be on your lap instead, and you will be safe from other’s bums.
Another joy of riding the bus (for me, it’s an annoyance for some others) is the loud, and totally awesome, Samoan remix of pop and reggae music… remixes that are so cheesy, they are awesome. I’m not sure who is responsible for these remixes, but they are fully cool in my books.
Pay for your journey when you are leaving the bus, not before. The Jason’s Samoa brochure (available free in most fales and the tourism office) lists the usual rate for most journeys. I found that, unless it was a very long journey, 3 tale seemed to be the acceptable amount for bus fare.
Bus drivers will give you change if you only have bills, but try to only use small bills if you must. Keep some change with you, or some 5 tale notes on your person if you plan to take the bus.