Is Samoa Safe? 8 Travel Tips to Avoid Trouble

Samoa is one of the most stable nations in the Pacific, but be aware of street crime and natural hazards with these travel safety tips.

Swimming in To Sua Ocean Trench in Samoa Photo © Getty Images/Sammy Toar Heintje Mantow / EyeEm

The Samoan Islands are an archipelago covering 1,170mi² (3,030km²) in the central South Pacific ocean. Samoa (not to be confused with American Samoa) is made up of the westernmost islands, and it's two largest islands are Upolu and Savai'i. The capital, Apia, is located on Upolu.

1. Is there any Crime in Samoa?

Samoa's crime rate is relatively low compared to nearby Pacific Islands. Samoa does have issues with residential break-ins, but this isn't much of a concern for travelers.

The majority of crime occurs in and around Samoa's capital city, Apia. The most common offenses are possession of drugs, theft and assault. Avoid poorly lit areas at night and keep a low profile – don't be flashy with jewelry, cameras, phones or belongings to risk your chances of being a target. 

Street crime in major urban areas, such as theft from vehicles, drunken fights at local night clubs, pick-pocketing, and scams are common in Samoa, and travelers should be on the lookout to avoid becoming a victim.

2. Road safety in Samoa

Traffic congestion in Apia's Central Business District can be an issue. There is a large number of unlicensed drivers who are in vehicles that aren't roadworthy. Poor maintenance of roads, potholes, and flooded roads can be a headache for drivers.

3. Politics and civil unrest in Samoa

Samoa has had very little political violence, making it one of the most stable island nations in the Pacific. 

The HRPP (Human Rights Protection Party) under the leadership of Prime Minister Fatialofa Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi have been the ruling party since 1998.

At the turn of the 20th century, the Samoan islands were split into two sections. The eastern islands became territories of the United States in 1904, and are known as American Samoa. The western islands became known as Western Samoa (now the Independent State of Samoa), passing from German control to New Zealand in 1914. Western Samoa was administered until independence in 1962, and was the first Pacific Island country to gain independence.

In 1997, the country's name was changed from Western Samoa to Samoa (officially the "Independent State of Samoa").

The risk of civil unrest in Samoa is very low, but travelers should check local news and media before departure.

4. Is terrorism a threat in Samoa?

The Pacific island nations are increasingly being used as transit points in the illicit movement of drugs, weapons, and people by organized crime groups, which can go hand-in-hand with terrorism. Organized crime groups are typically involved in transnational crime with overseas criminal connections. While the threat of terrorism remains low, no country is completely safe from terrorism.

5. Natural hazards in Samoa

Natural disasters are a danger to travelers in Samoa, including cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. Samoa is located in a seismic region, where earthquakes do happen throughout the year – and some cause tsunamis. In September 2009, a magnitude 8.1 earthquake south of Samoa generated a tsunami, which killed 189 people in Samoa and caused massive damage. Samoa has installed a tsunami warning system, and to help in reaction time, local telephones services send instant messages in the case of an emergency.

The cyclone season runs from November to April in Samoa, and these tropical storms can cause significant damage. When heavy rainfall causes flooding of coastal areas, water supplies may be tainted and landslides can happen.

6. Drug laws in Samoa

The Pacific island nations are increasingly becoming transit points for the shipment of illicit drugs.

Do not accept or buy drugs in Samoa. There are strict laws in place for drug possession, including fines and imprisonment.

7. Health and medical facilities in Samoa

In November 2019 a state of emergency was delcared in Samoa due to a measels outbreak. Before you go, make sure you are up to date with all routine vaccinations. Ask your travel doctor which vaccinations you need.

Here are a few recommended vaccinations for Samoa:

  • Hepatitis A and B
  • Influenza
  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
  • Typhoid
  • Yellow fever
  • Chickenpox
  • Shingles
  • Rabies
  • Meningitis
  • Polio
  • Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis)
  • Pneumonia

Medical and dental care throughout Samoa isn't of a high standard, and as a result, medical evacuation for serious illness or injury might be your best option. For medical emergencies, depending on the severity of your situation, you may be evacuated to one of the two national hospitals located on Upolu and Savai'i.

Emergency numbers in Samoa:

  • Fire emergencies: 994
  • Police: 995
  • Medical emergencies: 996

8. Important safety tips for Samoa

The majority of crimes in Samoa are crimes of opportunity. Always be aware of your surroundings and be extra cautious if you are in the area of the seawall adjacent to the local night clubs and bars, especially at night.

  • Avoid taking short cuts via narrow alleys, or poorly lit streets
  • If you can, travel in groups at night
  • Avoid public demonstrations and protests
  • Walk away from loud conversations or arguments
  • Be wary of strangers who approach you and offer to be your guide or sell you something at bargain prices – it could be a scam
  • If you are confronted, hand over what they are asking for – keeping your possessions is not worth losing your life or being injured
  • Keep the door to your accommodation locked at all times
  • Do not leave valuables visible in any vehicle. If you must leave items in a car, keep them locked in the trunk
  • Never pick up hitchhikers
  • Do not flash large amounts of money.

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1 Comment

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