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Samoa Travel Guide

Beach Fale

Accommodations

The higher-priced hotels usually quote their rates in U.S. dollars to make them seem lower. Whenever a hotel mentions dollars, be sure to clarify how they wish to be paid. If the amount has to be converted into tala, whether you're paying in tala cash or by credit card, your bill could be inflated about 15 percent due to the exchange rates used. You can sometimes avoid this by paying in U.S. dollars, cash or traveler's checks, otherwise ask them to quote a price in tala, as that could work out cheaper. In all cases, a 15 percent value-added tax is charged and you should ask if it's included. Failure to pay attention to these details could well result in a bill 25 percent higher than you'd expected!

During the off season (Jan.-April) some of the upscale hotels in outlying areas slash their rates to attract business. The hotels on Savai'i often do this, but those at Apia and Siumu don't. About the only way to find out about these specials is to call and ask. Other travelers may know about some of the deals.

In Apia, plenty of rooms are available and there's no need to reserve. The only exceptions might be around Christmas and during the Independence Celebrations at the beginning of June, but even then you'll invariably find something, as most of the people arriving for these events will be overseas Samoans who generally stay with family and friends. Accommodations and transfers booked from abroad are always much more expensive than what you'd pay locally.

Most of the regular hotels and guesthouses are in Apia, but an increasing number of places to stay are found on Savai'i and around Upolu. Unfortunately mid-range accommodations are in short supply in Samoa and there isn't a lot in between the cheap beach fale and expensive resorts. In the past decade numerous locally operated low-impact ecotourism resorts have opened on outlying beaches. These offer mattresses, pillows, sheets, blankets, and mats in Samoan fale right on the beach, with local meals provided at reasonable cost. Mosquito nets are also provided, but the shared bathrooms can be primitive. Virtually all are run by the villagers themselves, and they're an excellent way to combine hiking, snorkeling, swimming, surfing, and just plain relaxing with a sampling of Samoan life. They're highly recommended.