Apia

The clock tower in downtown Apia

Apia is the capital of Samoa. It is on the island of Upolu and has a population of around 40,000.

Understand

Apia was founded in the 1850s and has been the official capital of Samoa since 1959. The harbor was the site of an infamous naval standoff in 1889 when 7 ships from Germany, the US, and Britain refused to leave the harbor when a typhoon was approaching, for fear of losing face. All the ships were sunk, except for one British cruiser. Nearly 200 American and German lives were lost. Eventually, New Zealand occupied the area after World War I. During the struggle for independence organised by the Mau movement, a peaceful gathering in the town resulted in the killing of the paramount chief Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III and ten others by New Zealand police on 28 December 1929. The country attained independence in 1962.

As with most Pacific Island capitals, Apia is a little shabby and run down. Reasonably small in size and with few obvious attractions, Apia is very useful as an initial stop-off point for first time visitors to get their bearings, plan travel around the island of Upolu, organise accommodation on the beach, and recover from jet lag. The vast majority of Samoa's highlights can be found outside this town, although most are within a very short drive.

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 30 29 30 30 29 29 29 28 28 29 30 29
Nightly lows (°C) 23 24 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23 23
Precipitation (mm) 450 380 350 250 160 120 80 80 130 170 260 370

Source:w:Apia#Climate

Climate

Located just 13 degrees south of the Equator, Apia's climate is tropical with constant temperatures around the year. The amount of precipitation varies around the year; from December to March over 300 mm of rain per month can be expected while it's a bit dryer during the austral winter.

Tourist information

The Samoa Tourism Authority manages an information centre offering maps, brochures and other information for tourists.

STA Visitor Information Fale, Beach Rd, Matafele (next to the government building on the harbour),  +685 63520, +685 63521, fax: +685 20886, e-mail: . 9-5pm Monday to Friday and 8am-12pm Saturday morning.

Get in

For more detailed Get In information, see Samoa.

By plane

Apia is approximately 20 miles from Faleolo Airport. Outside the terminal are the normal stream of taxis, which will cost between 30 and 50 tala for a ride into Apia. Several hotels operate shuttle buses for guests. Arrange this in advance, as the scrum of arriving passengers and eager taxi drivers can be confusing when a whole planeload of tourists step outside to the small drop off/pick up point. Flights from American Samoa land at Fagalii Airport, which is very close to Apia.

By boat

Occasional cargo ships dock at Apia port on their way around the world. A twice monthly ferry sails to Tokelau. Yachties can berth in Apia Harbour, where there are good facilities. See Samoa.

By car

For car rental information, see Upolu

Get around

Map of Apia

Much of Apia is within walking distance, although this may not be a comfortable experience on a hot and humid Samoan Day. Another thing to consider is the number of aggressive dogs towards dusk and in the evening. A walk from the suburbs into the centre is best avoided at any time for this reason. Most households have a dog, and even an innocent walk past their driveway could encourage an attack. Culling prior to the South Pacific Games (August 2007) reduced the numbers in the centre of town for a short period of time.

Taxis are cheap, safe and easy to hail down but single women are advised to sit in the back seat, particularly if wearing a short skirt.

Buses fan out to the whole of Upolu from downtown Apia. If you are staying at a hotel outside the immediate center of the town it may be possible to get downtown by bus. Ask at your hotel.

See

Do

Apia Protestant Church, Beach Road
  • Samoa Sport Fishing
  • Troppo Fishing Adventures

Buy

Markets in Apia are host to many interesting stalls and locally made souvenirs. Note, however, that many of the items on sale, such as cloth in Samoan patterns, are actually imported from China.

Eat

Apia has several quite reasonable places to eat. Beer and soft drinks are available at most places.

There are numerous restaurants that cater for locals on a budget and will sell the sort of food that is eaten in the average household. The menu is likely to include chop suey, chicken curry, and mutton flaps. Umu or earth oven cooked local food include roast pig, and the great delicacy, palusami. Palusami is made of onions, and coconut cream with possibly chicken or prawns, all wrapped in a new taro leaf and baked. This is a "must try" and goes well with taro.

Remember that restaurants tend to close early by Western standards and that, with a few exceptions, the restaurants in the big hotels are the only ones open on Sunday. There are no street numbers in Apia so you will have to ask for directions if you do not take a taxi. The town is divided into lots of smaller villages and the restaurant location is given by village, road (e.g. Beach Road, which is a couple of miles long), or the building, which is not much use to foreigners.

Budget

Mid-Range

Splurge

Drink

Alcohol can be bought at almost all restaurants. Soft drinks and bottled water are generally available and safe. While the purity of the tap water is questionable, all factory-bought ice is safe. It is only later handling that can contaminate it.

Bars

At the end of 2010 the Apia bar scene had been thrown into some confusion by the puritanical tendencies of the Prime Minister, who was trying to get them closed by 22.00. Given the confusion opening hours are not specified here. You should check when you arrive. All bars are closed on Sundays.

Gay Apia

There is no "gay scene" nor gay community, per se. In common with much of the rest of Polynesia there is widespread acceptance of homosexuality in Samoa. This acceptance of fa'afafine (the way of a woman) owes much to the tradition of raising some boys as girls. In families with all male children parents would often choose one or more of the boys to help the mother. Because they would perform the work of women they were raised as if they were girls. Although their sex was widely known, they would usually be dressed as girls. Many, however, would eventually get married (to women). Modern fa'afafine are more likely to have chosen to live as women, and more likely to be homosexual. Boys who appear effeminate may be recognised as fa'afafine by their parents. They will neither be encouraged nor discouraged. Fa'afafine tend to hang out together and bars popular with them tend to change over time.

Gays who are self-aware enough to realize they are gay, and not fa'afafine, may travel in fa'afafine circles, and thus be more readily recognized as gay. There is an annual fa'afafine pageant.

The friendly Samoan culture combined with a desire to shine favor from visitors (who are presumed to be very wealthy, by comparison) can lead to confusing signals from friendly men.

Lesbianism is much less accepted. While there are, of course, lesbians, there is no such thing as a lesbian scene and nowhere to easily meet Samoan lesbians.

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge


Stay safe

Samoa is generally very safe. Locals who strike up a conversation are unlikely to have sinister motives, however you will often be asked for money.

Free roaming dogs can be a safety problem in the capital Apia. The Government of Samoa (GoS) passed the Canine Control Act in 2013 as an initial step toward addressing dog management. Most dogs ignore you and don't see you as a threat if you ignore them.

Nearly all of Samoa's nightlife is centered in Apia, and so, like anywhere in the world around closing time, it can get a bit rowdy. Samoans are, on the whole, extremely friendly and despite their size, remarkably relaxed and gentle people. This does not mean you should let your guard down. Alcohol related violence is a major problem in Samoa.

The concept on ownership in Polynesia is different. Locals believe in sharing everything, and this does mean that items can be swiped. Do not leave anything of value lying around.

Cope

Embassies

Only Australia, China and New Zealand have full diplomatic representation in Apia. The U.S. is represented by the Ambassador in New Zealand but maintains an Embassy in Apia. Britain and some other countries have Deputy High Commissions.

Go next

Take a local bus, tour or car out and around the island of Upolu. Take the ferry to Savaii and spend a week or two staying in beach fales around the island. Pop across to American Samoa and visit Pago Pago, the inspiration for Somerset Maugham's play "Rain".

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, January 26, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.