Long-distance buses run to Lalomanu, Lepa, Safata, Sataoa, Siumu, and Lefaga. Buses to the Savai'i ferry wharf at Mulifanua begin their trips at the Food Market, whereas all of the other buses begin from the Flea Market and only visit the Food Market to pick up additional passengers. Buses to Mulifanua leave the Food Market two hours before the scheduled departure times of the ferries to Savai'i.
On Friday afternoon, all buses departing Apia tend to be crowded with workers headed home. Saturday morning is a good time for buses, but on Saturday afternoon, Sunday, and evenings, service is limited. It's not possible to make a day trip to Aleipata or Lepa from Apia by bus—you must spend the night there.
In outlying villages, only bus drivers are reliable sources of information about bus departure times. Others may give misleading information, so ask three or four people. On weekdays buses to Apia often leave villages in south and east Upolu at 0500, and then again at 1030. They often set out from Apia to return to their villages at 1100 and 1400.
Most of these colorful homemade wooden buses are village-owned, and trying to use them to go right around Upolu is very difficult, as they serve outlying villages by different routes that don't link up. The Lalomanu bus goes via Falevao and Amaile, while the Lepa bus goes via Lotofaga to Saleapaga.
The Salani, Sapunaoa, and Vaovai buses follow the Cross Island Highway to Siumu, then run along the south coast via Poutasi toward Salani. Four buses serve this route, but they all seem to run about the same time, making three or four trips a day. The last bus back to Apia from Salani is at 1400 (important to know if you're making a day trip to O Le Pupu-Pu'e National Park).
There are good paved roads from Mafa Pass to Amaile and Lepa. The road along the south coast is paved from Siumu to Salani, but at Salani a river blocks eastbound vehicular traffic and cars must make a loop up and around via Sopo'anga Falls (no bus service). There's very little traffic along the south coast of Upolu if you intended to hitch.
Bus service is also very limited west of Siumu on the south coast. The Lefaga and Safata buses follow the north coast west to Leulumoega, then drive south through Tanumalamala to Matautu (Paradise Beach) or Tafitoala. The only convenient way to go right around Upolu is to rent a car.
The buses are without cushions and you should avoid sitting at the back, since there's no suspension and the roads are bumpy. On the plus side, they do have destination signs and their fares are the lowest in the South Pacific. On local buses around Apia, you pay as you get off. On long-distance buses, tell the driver where you're going as you boa Road You'll make a better impression on everyone if you have small change to pay your fare.
Standing isn't allowed, so once a bus is full, extra passengers must sit on the knees of existing passengers! (Half of all traffic convictions in Samoa are for overloading vehicles.) The stereo music is a bus plus. Sadly, these open buses are gradually being phased out as Toyota no longer makes the truck chasis used in their construction. The modern Korean buses replacing them offer softer seating but don't have the same charm.
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