When I first decided to come to the Pacific Islands, I had no idea what to expect. The lonely planet I borrowed was not only out of date, but also very vague about costs. The internet didn’t help much either on this front, with the only accommodation providers who had internet web pages being the ones that were out of my budget.
I had no idea what to expect from Samoa I didn’t know if it would be as cheap as Asia, the same price as travel in Australia, or maybe it would be even more? I had heard rumours of the Islands being not budget friendly from other travelers, and this did worry me slightly. But when would I ever have another opportunity to go to the Pacific Islands?
To fly to Samoa from where I live in Canada, would easily cost me $2,000, but to come here from Australia only set me back $315 one way. Who can argue with those numbers?
I’m hoping this guide will serve as a good resource for other budget travelers wishing to experience the unique culture and lifestyle of Samoa…(not to mention the amazing beaches!)
Your biggest expense, transport wise, is getting TO Samoa. Flights are relatively cheap from Australia and New Zealand, where there are often great deals and sales. If you are coming from anywhere else though, you may want to consider basing yourself in Fiji, which acts as the main hub in the Pacific. From there you can fly very cheaply to most other Pacific Islands.
If possible, try to arrange your flight so that you arrive in Samoa during the day. During the day, public buses run between the airport and Apia, or the airport and the ferry to Savai’i. There are no set bus stops, so just hail down a bus that is going in the right direction. Or read my guide on how to take the bus in Samoa… Bus fare should cost you no more than 3 Tala. (Try to get some smaller bills or change when you exchange money at the airport if you plan to take the bus)
If you are arriving late at night (like I did), you have two options. Arrange an airport pick up by your hotel, or if you are unprepared like myself, take a taxi. I shared a taxi with some other travellers, but it still cost me 40 tala. Which is a lot more than 3. A lot more.
No matter where you want to go in Samoa, you will be able to get there by bus. There are no set timetables or stops, so you just need to hail one going the right way. The Samoan people are extremely friendly, and it won’t be hard to find someone who is willing to let you know when you are at your correct stop.
There are no hostels in Samoa. Ok…whoa.. calm down. I know, I had that reaction as well. The most common type of accommodation there are beach fales or bungalows. A basic beach fale with no frills, will cost you between 50 – 70 tale per night. This is roughly what I would pay for a dorm room in Australia, so I wouldn’t go ahead and call it overly budget… but at least I get two beds and my own room. It is also good to note that in many fales, breakfast and sometimes even dinner are included in the price of the room. When you consider that your meals are often included, the initial price stops feeling like too much at all.
You will be buying most of your food during your stay in Samoa, as in most villages, restaurants are scarce. Also, most fale’s or guest houses will not have kitchen facilities available.
However, if you chose your accommodation wisely, this may not be a concern for you. Many fale’s offer breakfast and/or dinner in the price of accommodation, and if you lucky, you may get all your meals provided.
Another option, if you are in one of the bigger villages, is to go to the markets and sample some of the traditional fare on offer there. I’m not sure of the average price of food in the markets, since I was lucky enough that almost all of my food was provided in the cost of my accommodation.
The reason most people come to Samoa is for the beaches and natural beauty. And lucky you, because that is mostly free! I say mostly because some waterfalls or community beaches require you pay a small entry fee (usually 5 tale) which does not amount to very much really.
The only other thing that you may end up spending money on is connectivity. Yes, I am referring to our good friend, in Internet. The internet is neither cheap nor plentiful in Samoa. But it is available for those who desperately seek it out… umm yes… that’s me.
Wireless spots (called lava spots) are available from most fale’s and beach hotels, and will cost you about 20 tale per hour. Please don’t do that math on that one… it hurt’s too much. Things get a little cheaper at the internet cafes, and these are a good option if you don’t need to use your own computer. At the travel centre in Salelolonga on Savai’I, an hour of internet will cost you about 12 tale. Please don’t do that math on that either… and yes.. that is more expensive than hostels in Australia.
Cell phone costs are a little more reasonable. For 20 tale you can get a digicell simcard with 10 tale credit already loaded on it. I chose to go with digicell because I saw that most little road side shacks were selling top ups. Also because it promised good reception with it’s promotional material of two fit looking Samoans texting on the beach. That 10 tala lasted me for my entire 10 days in Samoa, and believe me, I am a prolific texter.
On average I spent about $43 per day in Samoa. Not too shabby. Not too shabby at all! If you want to see a more in depth look at my spending, please see here.