Samoan Islands
How to travel cheap in a tropical paradise

Expensive Way to Paradise
The main item in your budget when travelling to paradise islands of Polynesia (Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, and Easter Island) or Melanesia (Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands) is going to be your flight ticket! If you travel from Europe these beautiful islands are surely between the furthest places you can get. We decided to travel to Samoa from New Zealand which is relatively close (about 3000 km) but we still paid almost 600 NZD for a return ticket. We thought it was cheaper but after our booking we realized the prices were shown in US dollars. We would probably buy it anyway because we didn’t find any cheaper option. Our best advice for you is to check the websites of all airlines that fly to the islands and try to find hot deals! If you start looking in advance you should be able to get a better price than us.

Many times we used to get better prices of the flight tickets so you can try to search also there to save some money!

Arrival in Samoa
We left Auckland and after 3,5 hours we arrived at Faleolo airport on Upolu Island in Samoa. It was 9 p.m. We were standing at the airport and we didn’t have any plan. We were thinking of renting a car but after paying such an expensive flight we didn’t want to spend more money on transportation and so we started to walk with our huge backpacks right from the airport. It was quite funny because we didn’t know where to go. When we got to the main road there was a lot of taxi drivers offering us a ride to the capital city of Apia. We refused all of them even though it wasn’t easy and we continued walking until we reached a small shop. It was quite late but still very hot and humid and we were all sweating from the first moment. Big Samoan lady didn’t seem to have many things in her shop but as we realized later it was one of the best shops on the island. “Do you have a beer?“ We asked. “Of course! Small or big?“ She replied in fluent English because English and Samoan are the official languages in Samoa. “Thanks god she understands! We don’t have to use body language like all the time in China.“

We drunk a few beers while talking to the lady asking her questions about the island. “Where are you guys sleeping tonight?“ She was worried. “We are looking for a place to put our tents. Do you know about anything around here?“ We asked. „Not really because we are very close to the airport but you can sleep in our garden if you want. It will be safer!“ We were very happy to hear that because we didn’t have any other place to go. She asked us if it was ok to sleep in their Fale which is a classic Samoan house with open sides and thatched roof and almost everyone in Samoa has it next to the main house. It was a perfect place for our tents because it was raining most of the nights during our stay. And that’s how we spent our first night on the island. From the first moment we started interacting with very friendly and hospitable local people.

Travelling around the islands
Samoa consists of 2 main islands: Upolu and Savai’i and several smaller ones. If you have more time you can also travel to American Samoa which belongs to the USA. Travelling between the main islands is easy by cheap ferry. The islands are quite small so you can go around them in a few days. We had 5 days to travel on each island and it was enough to see the main things without any time pressure. We didn’t rent a car so we decided to hitchhike. If you have a car you become independent and if you don’t need anybody’s help you end up alone. We didn’t want that! We wanted to get as close as possible to the local people and we made it!

Hitchhiking in Samoa is very easy because there is only one main road around each island and you meet a lot of various trucks that almost always stop to help you. We never split and all 4 always jumped into the truck. The only problem is that the drivers usually don’t drive too far and only go to the next village. Our tactics was to walk through the village to the end where we stopped the next car. Hitchhiking and walking turned to be the best way how to get to know local life. The life on the island goes a bit slower and people are not in a hurry. You can get used to it very quickly in very hot and humid weather. You can also use wooden public buses that drive around the island. They are very cheap but sometimes crowded especially when you travel with school kids.

Sleeping in Samoan families
The best experience in Samoa weren’t beautiful beaches or waterfalls. For us it were its incredible people. These Samoan people never hesitated to help us and they always invited us to their homes and let us build our tents there. We spent all nights in Samoan families except the last night when we all got terrible diarrhoea and paid for Fale on the beach to have standard toilet facilities. :-) Every night in the family was special and we always experienced something different. For example one night we were dancing Zumba with all villagers. Other nights we were playing games with the kids, watching a movie, helping with homework, listening family singing, playing pool all just talking while setting our tents. All activities were happening in people’s houses and so we were lucky to see Samoan style of life.

Problem with the food
We experienced a little problem with food on the island because there are almost no restaurants and there are only small village shops that sell basic stuff like tuna cans, instant noodles, biscuits, coffee or coke. A family sometimes shared their dinner with us and we gave them some money or bought something for the kids in return. You can buy proper food in hotels but it’s very expensive and there are not many hotels once you leave the capital city. Thus we ate tuna with crackers or noodles and biscuits most of the time and we drunk coca cola from 1 litre glass bottle to get some energy. We didn’t want to save money on food but there was just nothing to buy. Some members of the team sometimes almost cried because of hunger. Our problem with the food was finally solved at the end of our stay when we all got stomach problems and we couldn’t eat at all. :-)

Jump into To Sua Ocean Trench and other great experience
In Samoa you have to pay for visiting tourist places like waterfall all caves because they are privately owned by families. However admission fee is not very pricy. The most expensive was entrance to the main attraction of Samoa Island which is To Sua Ocean Trench (20 Tala / 12 NZD). It’s a big natural swimming hole made by volcanic activity. People that visit To Sua Ocean Trench usually jump into the water from the end of the ladder which is pretty high. When we arrive we had to wait for a high tide because there wasn’t more than 2 meters of water inside the trench. „I’m not jumping there!“ said David when he saw the water level. We went for a swim and we were completely alone.

After one hour of relaxing some American guys came and started to jump from that incredible height. The water increased but not very much. The guys advised us to jump little bit on the butt to avoid touching the bottom of the trench. “OMG! Now we have to jump when everyone did it!“ David climbed the ladder and jumped first into the scary hole. He survived and wanted to jump more. Kata jumped as the second and came out of the water with a big bruise on her leg. After that Karel didn’t want to do it and it took him almost 15 minutes to decide. David was excited and went to jump from even higher point. Everyone in the water was counting down to make him jump: “10, 9, … 3, 2, 1, jump!” David jumped and survived also the massive jump from the bush. With a good feeling we again pushed our limits and jumped we left the place and continued hitchhike around the island.

Another great experience in Samoa was definitely our visit of primary school. Director of the school showed us the classes and Kata with Edita started to teach small Samoan kids. The pupils have classes in Samoan and English. English is very important for them to communicate with tourist and for overall development of the island.

It’s also interesting how Samoa works as a state. There is a system of villages ruled by the chief of the village. The chief takes care about the village and sets the rules for the people living in there. If someone breaks the rule he or she has to pay a fine or even leave the community. We always felt very safe in Samoa. Samoan people are very religious and they all meet in the church on Sunday Morning. It’s nice to visit the church to see them singing all dressed in white clothes.

We showed you that a tropical paradise in Pacific and that you can travel differently and cheaper! Why to pay for expensive hotels, tours or car rentals? You won’t have the same experience with smiling Samoan islanders if you only stay by the swimming pool of your hotel.

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