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American Samoa

American Samoa is a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean that lie about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand and about 100 km (60 mi) east of its neighboring country of Samoa, which is part of the same archipelago and ethnicity.

American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the United States of America. The citizens of American Samoa are US "nationals" and not US "citizens," but they are allowed to travel freely between American Samoa and the US mainland. They are not required to obtain green cards or visas to stay or work in the United States, and they are allowed to serve in the US armed forces (and often do). There are some ways that American Samoa's special status as an unincorporated territory has interesting legal consequences. The US Constitution is not necessarily the supreme law of the land in American Samoa, and Samoan cultural norms, in particular those related to the ownership of property and public displays of religion, actually trump certain well-settled US constitutional rights in American Samoa.

The main city is Pago Pago and the smaller Fagatogo is constitutionally designated seat of government. The governor's office is located in the village of Utulei, located on the opposite side of Fagatogo from Pago Pago.

Regions

Cities

Pago Pago (pronounced "Pango Pango") - capital city

Other destinations

  • Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary - a tropical reef, filled with all sorts of brightly-colored tropical fish including parrot fish, damselfish and butterfly fish, as well as other sea creatures like lobster, crabs, sharks and octopus
  • National Park of American Samoa - The Samoan village leaders and the U.S. Congress have set aside the finest samples of the islands' land and seascapes as a national park

Understand

The islands are frequently referred to as Samoa, which is the name of a separate island, and independent country, that used to be known as Western Samoa, that lies about 100 km west of American Samoa. Also the whole island group, including Samoa, are often identified as the Samoan islands.

Settled as early as 1000 BCE by Polynesian navigators, Samoa was reached by European explorers in the 18th century. International rivalries in the latter half of the 19th century were settled by an 1899 treaty in which Germany (later Britain) and the US divided the Samoan archipelago. The US formally occupied its portion, a smaller group of eastern islands with the excellent harbor of Pago Pago in the following year.

American Samoa is warm, humid and rainy year-round, but there is a long, wet summer season (October - May) and a slightly cooler and drier season (June - September). Total annual rainfall is 125 inches at the Tafuna airport and 200+ inches in mountainous areas. Such rainfall gave the English writer Somerset Maugham the name for his short story "Rain", based in Pago Pago, which was subsequently turned into a play and movie.

90% of the land in the group of islands is communally owned. Economic activity is strongly linked to the US and the greater part of its foreign trade is with the US. The private sector is dominated by tuna fishing and the tuna processing plants, canned tuna being the primary export. Monetary transfers from the US Government also add substantially to American Samoa's economic well-being. Since the emergence of US influence and control the government of the United States of America has put up resistance to the emergence of local independence movements. In the early 20th century the American Samoa Mau movement was actively suppressed by the U.S. Navy.

The Governor of American Samoa is the head of government and exercises executive power. American Samoa is an unincorporated and unorganized territory of the United States, administered by the Office of Insular Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior. Its constitution was ratified in 1966 and came into effect in 1967.

In both American Samoa and (independent) Samoa there is traditional village political system common to all of the Samoa Islands, the "fa'amatai" and the "fa'asamoa" interacts across the current international boundaries. The Fa'asamoa represents language and customs, and the Fa'amatai the protocols of the "fono" (council) and the chief system. The Fa'amatai and the Fono take place at all levels of the Samoan body politic, from the family, to the village and include regional and national matters.

  • American Samoa Visitors Bureau, Level 1, Suite #200, Haleck Center (Corner Ottoville Rd & Ili'ili Rd, Ottoville, Pago Pago), ☎ +1 684 699-9805, fax: +1 684 699-9806, e-mail: info@americansamoa.travel.

Get in

Visas

American Samoa lies outside federal U.S. immigration and customs jurisdiction. All visitors (except U.S. citizens and green card holders) to American Samoa require a passport valid for six months or more, a return ticket or onward ticket and enough funds to support their stay. US citizens and green card holders traveling from the US may enter without ID, though it is still recommended.

Passports not requiring visas

Entry is allowed for 30 days for tourism with a valid passport and proof of onward travel or local employment. Citizens of countries under the federal Visa Waiver Program plus Canada, Palau, the Marshall Islands, and F.S. Micronesia are allowed visa-free entry. To obtain a business or residence visa or to extend your stay to 60 days, you must visit the Attorney General's office after arrival.

Passports requiring visas

All other international passport holders intending to visit American Samoa for business or holiday are required to apply for an entry visa.

To apply for a visa please contact the Attorney General's Office, phone +1 684 633-4163, fax +1 684 633-1838 or American Samoa Immigration +1 684 633-4203 or +1 684 633-4204. At this time there is no on-line application , so one must contact the Attorney General's or Immigration office by telephone or fax. However they usually just tell you to ask hotel to apply on your behalf. They specifically mention Sadie's by the Sea and Trade Winds hotels as being able to provide this service. It's unknown whether other hotels do. Permit costs $40

By plane

There is one international airport, Pago Pago International Airport (IATA: PPG), with a runway length of 2,750 m (9,000 ft). This is also referred to as Tafuna Airport (or Tafuna International Airport) and is located at Tafuna 5 km (3 ml) southwest of the central business district of Pago Pago on the island of Tutuila

  • Hawaiian Airlines operates 2 return flights per week from Honolulu with Boeing 767 aircraft.
  • Polynesian Airlines operates services to Pago Pago from Maota airport (IATA: MXS) on Savaii Island in (independent) Samoa.
  • Inter Island Airways operates services to Pago Pago and Ta'ū island Fitiuta Airport (IATA: FTI) from Faleolo International Airport (IATA: APW) in (independent) Samoa. The airline has announced it will begin flights from American Samoa to Tonga and Fiji in 2011.

Faleolo International Airport (IATA: APW) also serves as an international gateway to the region. That airport is 40 km (25 mi) west of Apia, the capital of (independent) Samoa. Daily inter-island flights between the Samoas are operated by Inter Island Airways and Polynesian Airlines. Samoa is in the western part of the Samoan islands archipelago.

The Faleolo airport in nearby Samoa has wider international connections including Air New Zealand to Auckland in New Zealand, Fiji Airways to Honolulu USA and Nadi in Fiji, Inter Island Airways to OfuPago Pago, Tau in American Samoa, Polynesian Airlines to Maota in Samoa and Pago Pago in American Samoa, Tongatapu in Tonga, Polynesian Blue (operated by Pacific Blue) to Auckland in New Zealand, Brisbane and Sydney in Australia.

The 2 airlines operating international services between Pago Pago and Apia, Samoa provide scheduled daily flights.

  • Inter Island Airways, ☎ +1 684 699-7100, e-mail: travel@interislandvacations.com. Operate 19-seater Dornier 228 aircraft and 30-seater Dornier 328
  • Polynesian Airlines. Operate a 19-seater Twin Otter aircraft.

By boat

The island of Tutuila has the international seaport of Pago Pago. This port is served by a number of passenger carrying cruise ships and cargo ships.

Get around

By plane

Inter Island Airways is the only airline providing daily domestic air services between Pago Pago and the Manu'a Island of Tau.

  • Flight time between Pago Pago and the Manu'a Islands is approximately 30-40 min. Inter Island Airways will generally add additional flights as needed. Inter Island Vacations provides reservations and bookings on Inter Island Airways flights.

Fitiuta Airport (IATA: FTI), (FAA:FAQ), 975 x 23 m (3,200 x 75 ft) is a public use airport located in the village of Fiti‘uta on the northeast portion of Ta‘ū island.

  • Inter Island Airways operates flights between Fitiuta Airport on Ta‘ū island and Apia (Faleolo International Airport (IATA|APW) in (independent) Samoa. Upon arrival at Ta'u airport, locals with boats are available to take visitors to Ofu and Olosega islands.

Ofu Airport (IATA: OFU) has a public airport located one 2 km (1.2 mi) southeast of the village of Ofu on the island of Ofu which is not currently served by a commercial airline.

  • Inter Island Airways operates flights to Ta‘ū island

Tau Airport (IATA: TAV) 661 x 30 m (2,170 x 100 ft) is a privately owned, private-use airport 2 km (1 mi) southeast of the village of Ta‘ū in the northwest corner of Ta‘ū island. It is not normally utilised for scheduled services.

Rose Island (Rose Atoll) and Swains Island do not have an airport.

By car

Several car rental facilities are available at or near the Tutuila airport. On Tutuila taxis are available at the airport, and near the market in Fagatogo.

By bus

The island of Tutuila has good public transportation (frequent, but unscheduled) via "aiga" or "family" buses. For 50 cents to a dollar you can be taken around Pago Pago Harbor, and to the more remote parts of the island. Buses originate and terminate at the market in Fagatogo, the village next to Pago Pago. The roads are generally too narrow and the traffic too busy for bicycles.

Hail an aiga bus with a wave of your hand. Many Samoans carry a quarter or two in their ears for bus fare as the wraparound skirts (lavalava) don't have pockets. When you want off, tap the window a few times and the bus will stop and pay the driver by tossing your fare (a quarter up to a dollar depending on the route and distance traveled) onto the dashboard on your way out.

By boat

A weekly ferry service from Pago Pago to the Manu’a Islands is provided government operated excursion boat. This service travels around Tutuila, calling at the north coast villages of Afono, Vatia and Fagasa.

Talk

The native language is Samoan, a Polynesian language related to Hawaiian and other Pacific island languages. English is widely spoken, and most people can at least understand it. Most people are bilingual to some degree.

Some common words/phrases:

Hello - Talofa (tah-low-fah)

Please - Fa'amolemole (fah-ah-moh-lay-moh-lay)

Thank you - Fa'afetai (fah-ah-feh-tie)

See

  • Fatu ma Futi or flower pot, located about 275 m (900 ft) out in the ocean stands a tall mini island. It is home to many exotic birds and fruit bats.
  • Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary (requires a steep, moderately difficult hike)
  • National Park of American Samoa

Do

  • To'aga Beach on the south side of Ofu. Bring your snorkel to explore the pristine coral reef that fringes its shore.
  • Tisa's Barefoot Bar & Grill on the northern end of the island. Beach access but no shower.

Buy

Money

American Samoa uses the U.S. dollar ("$, ISO code currency: USD). It is divided into 100 cents.

Shopping

American Samoa has a lot of locally run shops and kiosks with products ranging from handmade clothing to traditional wooden weapons.

Eat

Tutuila has a wide variety of places to eat—from familiar fast food stops to fine restaurants. The outer islands have far less variety. Restaurants offer a variety of cuisines, including American, Chinese, Japanese, Italian and Polynesian.

Signature/national dishes include Palusami, Lu'au and Supoesi.

Drink

Kava is often considered to be the national drink. The beverage is made from the roots of the pepper plant (Piper methysticum). Kava is known for its mellow and relaxing effects. Many people drink kava because it is a natural alternative to alcohol and anti-anxiety/anti-depressant medication.

Sleep

There is hotel-style lodging on the main islands, but not Olosega, Swains, or Rose (uninhabited).

Work

The tuna industry is very prominent, but about 30% of the population is unemployed.

Stay healthy

American Samoa has few health risks of concern for normally healthy persons visiting the islands. There are, however, a significant number of cases of dengue fever each year, and (since 2014) chikungunya, both spread by mosquitoes, so don't forget your insect repellent (containing DEET).

Another common danger, in or near residential areas, are packs of stray dogs. Most dogs, while they may nominally belong to someone, are left to fend and forage for themselves. They are territorial, and will often bite. The most common response by locals is to pretend to bend down and pick up a rock. This will often scare the dogs away because they are used to being abused and hit with thrown rocks.

Bring necessary medications with you, for supplies may not be available. Medical care is limited and there is none available on the Manu’a Islands. The LBJ Tropical Medical Center is on Tutuila island in the village of Faga'alu. It was once a highly regarded regional health center; however, it has fallen on hard times. It has staffing problems and only provides marginal (though inexpensive) service. A serious illness or injury will generally be evacuated to a hospital in Hawaii, Fiji, or New Zealand. When traveling in the region, carry some basic medications such as aspirin or paracetamol (acetaminophen/Tylenol), cold capsules, band-aids, sun screen, vitamins, anti-diarrhea pills, and a good insect repellant.

In many areas of Tutuila, the tap water is not safe for drinking or washing dishes due to E. coli contamination. Check with the American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency for details or drink bottled water.

Stay safe

American Samoa has low crime rates, though it's best to stay where the crowds are while on the beach. While swimming, don't go too far out, as rip tides are common.

Respect

Except for perhaps a few thousand individuals nearly all inhabitants of American Samoa are indigenous Samoans of Polynesian ancestry. More than any other U.S. or Polynesian peoples, Samoans are oriented toward traditional customs and lifestyles. They closely follow the social customs and hierarchies developed prior to the arrival of the first Europeans in the region. This Samoan way, or fa'asamoa is still deeply ingrained in American Samoa culture.

The most apparent character is the Samoan matai system of organization and philosophy. In general, each village is made up of a group of aiga, or extended families, which include as many relatives as can be claimed. Each aiga is headed by a chief, or matai, who represents the family on all matters including the village council, or fono. Matais hold title to all assets of the aigas, or families; they represent and are responsible for law enforcement and punishment of infractions occurring in their villages.

The fono consists of the matais of all the aiga associated with the village. The highest chief of the matais of all the village aigas is the highest chief, or the ali’i, and heads the fono. Also, each village has a pulenu’u (somewhat like a police chief or mayor), and one or more talking chiefs, tulafale.

Over the centuries, distinct cultural traits emerged that we now call fa'asamoa (fah-ah-SAH-mo-ah). Whether you are a guest or simply passing through a village, please observe these customs as a sign of respect.

Follow the Samoan Way:

  • Always ask villagers for permission before taking photographs, using the beach, or engaging in other activities, however unobtrusive your actions may seem. Permission will almost certainly be granted.
  • In a traditional home, called a fale (fah-LAY), sit down on the floor before talking, eating, or drinking. Cross your legs or pull a mat over them; it is impolite to stretch out your legs uncovered.
  • Sunday is the day for church, for rest, and especially for quiet around the villages. Activities that are acceptable on other days, such as swimming, may not be permitted on Sunday.
  • Each evening around dusk, villagers observe a time for prayers called Sa. If you are entering a village during Sa, stop and wait quietly until Sa ends. You may even be invited to join in a family prayer. It is not necessary to stop for Sa on the main roads.
  • It is considered an honor to be asked to share kava (a local drink made from the root of the pepper plant). To show respect, spill a few drops on the ground or mat in front of you, then raise your cup and say "manuia" (mahn-ooh-WE-ah) before drinking.
  • Do not eat or drink while walking through a village.
  • It is very disrespectful to walk in a village when a sacred ritual is in progress.

Connect

American Samoa uses the U.S. Postal Service with zip code 96799 and a state code of "AS". Postage between Hawaii, American Samoa, the mainland, and overseas military & diplomatic installations (APO, FPO, DPO addresses) is charged at the same domestic rates as it would be within a single island or between the islands of American Samoa.

American Samoa's area code is 684. When dialing any off-island telephone number, dial 1 + area code + phone number. Check with your phone/long distance company to regarding the rates.

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Exercise normal security precautions

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Crime

Petty and violent crime occurs on occasion. Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times.

Transportation

Traffic drives on the right. Roads are generally in poor condition. Buses and taxis are available.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

General safety information

You are encouraged to register with the High Commission of Australia in Apia, Samoa, in order to receive the latest information on situations and events that could affect your safety.

Stray dogs are a problem. Do not approach or feed them as they can become aggressive.

Tidal changes can cause powerful currents in the many coastal lagoons that surround the islands, and several fatal swimming accidents are recorded each year. Consult local residents and tour operators for information on possible hazards and on safe swimming areas.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in the Oceanic Pacific Islands, food and water can also carry diseases like hepatitis A. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in the Oceanic Pacific Islands. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in the Oceanic Pacific Islands, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, lymphatic filariasis and malaria.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.


Malaria

Malaria

There is no risk of malaria in this country.


Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Certain infections found in the Oceanic Pacific Islands, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

For the latest Travel Health Notices and information on vaccinations, outbreaks and diseases, consult the website of the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The Agency strongly recommends that you consult with a travel medicine clinic or health care provider preferably six weeks before departure.

The Agency publishes travel health advice for American Samoa.

Medical facilities

The LBJ Tropical Medical Center Authority (tel.: 684-633-1222) is located in the village of Faga'alu, near Pago Pago.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention FAQ for more information.

Laws

Sentences for the importation of narcotics and other illegal drugs are severe.

Culture

Homosexuality is not widely accepted.

Dress conservatively, behave discreetly, and respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities.

Money

The currency is the U.S. dollar (USD). Major credit cards are accepted at hotels, car-rental firms and airlines. Automated banking machines (ABMs) are available.

Climate

American Samoa is located in an active seismic zone.

The rainy (or monsoon) and typhoon seasons in the South Pacific extend from November to April. Severe rainstorms can cause flooding and landslides, resulting in significant loss of life and extensive damage to infrastructure, and hampering the provision of essential services. Disruptions to air services and to water and power supplies may also occur. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts, avoid disaster areas and follow the advice of local authorities.

During a typhoon or monsoon, hotel guests may be required to leave accommodations near the shore and move to safety centres inland. Travel to and from outer islands may be disrupted for some days.

Consult our Typhoons and Monsoons page for more information.