Samoa Holiday Cycling Information Samoa Cycling holiday information Expectations Visas Shopping What to wear Insurance Internet Donations Food Sleeping Money Packing Photography Emergencies Weather Electricity Flights Safety Bathrooms Arriving Cycling Vaccinations Samoa The Granular Detail Expectations Visas Shopping What to wear Insurance Internet Donations Food Sleeping Money Packing Photography Emergencies Weather Electricity Flights Safety Bathrooms Cycling Arriving Vaccinations Your expectations.. From Brett Seychell Brett is the founder of Social Cycles When people think of Samoa, images of white sand beaches, crystal blue waters and towering palm trees come to mind. And for good reason. Samoa is an absolute paradise on earth. It must be one of the last few countries on the planet that, despite being so beautiful, has not been overtaken by tourism… yet.One of the many incredible aspects about Samoa is that people have kept so many of the indigenous traditions alive. This can be seen through the food, and style of cooking, as much as the types of accommodation in which we stay, and where people live. What you may not be aware of, is that Samoa is a very religious island. There are a vast amount of churches across the islands and many villages have more than one church in it. About 98% of the population are Christian. Of this, almost 90% of Christians are either Congregational Christian, Roman Catholic, Latter Day Saints, Methodists, Assemblies of God or Seventh Day Adventists. The remaining 10% of Christians on the island are made up of at least a further 11 Christian denominations.It’s fair to say, religion is a way of life in Samoa. Sunday, the country virtually closes down, and the churches come alive with amazing voices singing hymns from within the church. Almost everybody wears white and families almost always feast together. In 2017, the constitution was amended to include “Samoa is a Christian nation founded of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”. Homosexuality is illegal with potential punishments of up to seven years in prison, although it is rarely enforced.Being so geographically isolated from the rest of the world, Samoa has to be self sufficient in regards to fresh fruits and vegetables. The economy of Samoa has traditionally been dependent on agriculture and fishing at the local level. In modern times, development aid, private family remittances from overseas, and agricultural exports have become key factors in the nation’s economy. Agriculture employs two-thirds of the labour force and furnishes 90% of exports, featuring coconut cream, coconut oil, noni (juice of the nonu fruit, as it is known in Samoan), and copra (coconut flesh). Crops that are easily grown such as plantain, coconut and taro feature heavily in the Samoan diet. Goods that are imported with extended shelf life, such as soft drinks, chips and preserved snacks fill the shelves of small shops in local villages. It sometimes feels like Coke, Fanta and Sprite only come in 2L bottles. The volcanic islands ensure that, although we’ll cycle along the coastal roads, we’re usually either cycling up or down hill. There’s no rush and a support van with fresh water and fruit to follow us, but it can sometimes prove a little challenging for beginner based riders. Electric bikes are also available should you be concerned. For further cycling details, see the section below for elevations and daily distances.Not only is Samoa a beautiful country, it is also fascinating. It’s history has created an interesting blend of indigenous culture, mixed with Westminster based politics. Alongside the country’s Western styled political system is the fa’amatai chiefly system of socio-political governance and organisation. Throw in deeply religious values brought in by missionaries since the 1830’s, grave health concerns from diabetes influenced by globalization of products, significant climate change threats of natural disasters and patriarchal values leading to the under-representation of women in almost all levels of power and you soon realize there is much more to this country than beautiful white beaches, palm trees and crystal blue seas. Insurance Travel and medical insurance is mandatory for all Social Cycles clients. It is one of the most important criteria foranyone who travels and in the very unlikely event that an emergency occurs your insurance must deliver. What having an insurance policy actually means in practise if someone does get sick:• You can get 24-hour medical support from the insurance company doctors• If treatment or a hospital visit is required, the insurance company will ensure that this is at the best local facility• We would provide all necessary assistance (for example, sending someone with you to the hospital to help with any language difficulties). • You must be adequately insured for medical and health cover – in case of a sudden illness or injury. Your insurance policy should also cover 24-hour emergency service and assistance, hospital fees, lost, damaged or stolen property (we are not responsible for any loss or damage to personal belongings while on tour). Your insurance policy must cover any necessary extra travel (rejoining tour or repatriation) as well as curtailment and cancellation.• Insurance provided by standard credit cards does not always provide adequate cover and I suggest that you check your policy. If you do travel with insurance provided through a credit card, we will need details of the participating insurer, the insurance policy number and emergency contact telephone number. The Bank’s name and the credit card number will not be enough information.• You must satisfy yourself that your policy covers medical emergencies resulting from any/all of the activities that you propose to undertake during the course of your trip and you should request a full policy document from your insurer if one is not automatically provided.• If you are from the US and do not usually travel with insurance, you may wish to look at either www.travelexinsurance.com or www.travelguard.com• There is a space for your insurance details on your online Social Cycles Booking Form. However, if you have yet to arrange your insurance it is essential that before you begin your SC adventure you email to me the details of your travel insurance documentation.This must include:• The name of your insurance company• The 24-hour emergency assistance number• The policy number Your NGO Donations Your money. Your decision. Based on your new learnings. Countries NGOs Riders $ your donations so far These numbers change lives. Not only the lives of the beneficiaries involved, but the lives of the riders who have witnessed and learned the complexity of community development in foreign countries. This is your chance to speak to local experts as part of your adventure, as you cycle across the country and gain a true understanding of life outside the tourist bubble.We ask for a A$200 minimum commitment from all riders. The money is given directly to the NGOs that are chosen by you. All of it. No bank fees, no commissions. The group from every tour engage in a ‘Donation Debate’ on our last night together. We’ll discuss what impressed us, confused us and inspired us. As a group, we’ll make a decision as to how we’ll divide the total money. It’s your money and your experience. It can, and will, go to whatever NGO touched you the most. Money, budgeting and tipping MoneyThere’s a couple of opportunities to get money out from an ATM in Samoa, but you’ll need to plan ahead in advance. The first and main one is at the airport on arrival. You can also find an ATM at the ferry port. These are the only places you will find ATMs in Upolu on the SC tour. In Savai’i, you can only find ATMs in Salelogo (ferry port) and in Manase. It’s pretty much a cash economy in all the places you’re likely to spend money. The only places that take card payments are bigger establishments, such as hotels and bigger restaurants (all of which are paid for as part of the SC tour).TippingTipping in hotels and restaurants in Samoa is not common, however, if you like, you can tip a dollar or two for great service. There is an opportunity to tip the tour guide, Uilau. The amount is completely up to you. It is accepted with humilty, as opposed to expected. The amount is always hard to suggest as it is always a personal gesture and different amounts mean different things to different people. Previous riders have tipped the team anywhere from US$50 to $100. The act of giving should be discreet as big gestures and a spotlight ceremony is not part of Samoan culture. CurrencySamoan currency is the Tala, often abbreviated to WST. A Tala costs 50-60 Australian cents (ignore the googled rates, these are “mid-market” positions and not available to travellers). Exchange rates vary hugely and the gap between buy and sell rates is larger than for most countries. On Savai’i in particular you will need to pay for most of your expenses in Tala cash. The economy end resorts often do not take Visa or AU$. The best rate for buying Tala is often at the airport on arrival with cash (even at 2am). ANZ banks in NZ and Australian cities have much better rates than those at Auckland and Sydney Airports. There are ATMs that accept NZ cards in Apia (day 1), Salelologa (day 4 & 8) and Manase (day 5). Rates are reasonable, but fees can be substantial.Changing MoneyYou can bring in all major currencies. this includes Australian & New Zealand dollars, Euros, British Pounds and of course, American dollars. There are money exchanges as you walk out of the airport on arrival. They are open for all flights and have the best rates you’ll find (better than NZ and AUS). There are usually a couple of different stands, so it’s worth comparing to find the best rate. Emergencies In case there is an emergency in Samoa – it depends on the severity of the situation but this is a brief guide to our emergency plan that we put into action when an event requires it:• Deal with the on the ground situationIn case of an accident that requires administering of first aid at the scene, our staff are trained in basic emergency response techniques, and all trips carry basic first aid kits checked. We check, replenish and/or replace our kits on a regular basis.For relatively minor injuries including cuts, sprains, dehydration, fractures etc., local hospitals (if needed) will usually be able to provide adequate medical provision. In most instances you will be within 0-2 hours’ drive of a local hospital. • If the incident requires it, we contact the travel insurance company of those affected and also the relevant embassy. Contact the emergency contact listed on the booking form. This is why it is imperative that you have travel insurance. In case of an emergency, it is YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY that puts into action your evacuation plan. We contact your insurance company on your behalf and they take over the situation. Flights The main international airport for Samoa is Apia (APW). However, the airport is some 33km away from the actual city of Apia. You can get direct flights from Sydney, Brisbane, Auckland, Fiji and Honolulu. If you’re arriving early, there’s no essential reason to visit Apia and there are other, closer, accommodation resorts nearby our starting point. Please contact me for more information.AUSTRALIA: Direct flights are available from Sydney and Brisbane, but they’re not daily, so you’ll need to check and make sure you’ve arrived for the start of the tour. Flight times from Sydney and Brisbane are around 5 hours. Price range varies from A$600 to $1100 return, depending on the time of year and how far advance you book.NEW ZEALAND: Direct flights from Auckland take about 4 hours and can cost anywhere from NZ$400 to $700.EUROPE: Coming from Europe and UK, there’s a range of options and prices. It’s a bit of an epic journey and probably best combined as part of a larger travel experience. You’ll fly via either Hong Kong, LA or Doha, depending on who you fly with. When you’re coming that far, you can almost fly via anywhere. Australia could be a good option too.USA/CAN: Easiest to fly via Honolulu, but the 5 hour direct flights are only once a week. Other than Honolulu, you’d fly via Auckland or Fiji. Arrivals and Departures On ArrivalListen out for the sound of the ukuleles as you collect your bags and go through customs. There is no need for a visa for stays less than 60 days. Once you depart immigration and have your bags collected, the best way to continue your onward journey is via a taxi. Before you leave the airport, it was worth changing some money and getting a sim card from one of the sellers.The tour starts at 9am on day 1, so you’ll need to arrive at least a day earlier. If you’d like some recommendations on where to stay, please get in touch. It’s better to be on Upolu the night before the first day of the tour.On DepartureWe finish the tour on the south coast of Upolu, in a small village called Matareva. As most people often stay an extra few days or are catching different flights at different times, we do not offer a departure transfer to the airport within the tour. However, we can help you arrange transport at a time that works for you to get to the airport with enough time to spare. The journey from Matareva to the airport is 28km but you’ll need to allow 45 mins to 1 hour for transport. Do I need a visa? For stays less than 60 days, you will not need a visa for Samoa. However, you may be asked to present an onward ticket and you should have more than six months validity on your passport. Internet and local sim cards Sim CardsYou can get one of two sim cards at the airport from small kiosks. Choose from either BlueSky or DigiCell. It might be worth checking out the different packages they offer. You only really need a data package, as you can make calls via Whatsapp. Just make sure the validity of the package covers your entire stay, as packages can last from one day, seven days, 14 days or 30 days. Ensure your phone is not locked (into your home carrier), otherwise the sim will not work. InternetWifi is pretty hit and miss at the accommodation. Even though they may have wifi, it often drops out. I’d still recommend a sim card. It really helps if you need to contact anybody in the group, especially in the case of emergencies. We will be communicating via a Whatsapp group (and you can also call home for free). Food What’s the food like in Samoa?Think brilliant barbecued meats, the freshest fish and coconut everything! There’s also a lot of taro, breadfruit and fresh fruit. We’ll have the chance to eat from a local Umu (traditional stone based barbecue), palusami is a coconut with taro leaves, we’ll watch cocoa beans turn into pure cocoa and coconut flesh turn into pure coconut oil. The hosts of the fales we stay in will provide a full breakfast and dinner everyday. Vegetarians and Vegans?That’s no problem. There’s a huge variety of vegetarian local specialties available and there will always be vegetarian dishes on the table at every meal. If the majority of the group are vegetarian, it will be reflected in the food on the table. Dietary requirements?If you have any dietary requirements or allergies, please indicate on the online form you will fill out once you have paid a deposit and booked your place. We’ll cater to all dietary requirements as best as possible. Please get in touch with us if you have life threatening allergies.What’s the deal with alcohol?There’s plenty of beers around Samoa. And a cold beer after a hard day on the bike is pretty inviting! They’re quite cheap too, with some places selling beers from as little as $4. Wine is a little harder to find (good wine anyway) and is closer to Western prices. Just be wary that the weather can be a little warm and a couple too many beers will knock you about a bit more than usual the next day. Dehydration will have a huge effect and it doesn’t take much to have a hangover. To be honest, most of the time, we’re in bed by 9pm! Packing suggestions Everyone’s packing style is different and we all have our own travel needs so these are only ideas and there will be gaps! These are merely suggestions and not ‘compulsory’ items. See the ‘weather’ section for details about the time of your trip.Clothing and washing opportunities:You will generally live in shorts, t-shirt & flip-flops. We will have a chance to get washing done nightly, but it’s a hand wash in a basin scenario. Having quick dry clothing helps. CYCLEFull sleeve sports top for sun protection (high breathability)Comfortable (padded) shorts to cycle inVisor/Caps for under your helmetClosed shoes (bikes do not have clip in pedals)GlovesHelmetSports water bottleLightweight backpack (optional)Removable padded seat for your bike (optional)Light scarf to protect your neck from the sunSunscreen EXTRASCash (see notes on money)Passport & passport photoLightweight full length top and pants (for mosquito protection)Insurance copyCamera, SD cards & chargersSmart phone & chargersTropical strength insect repellantHand sanitizerGels & hydrolytes to stay hydratedAdequate prescription medicationWomens sanitary needsHat for sun protection Weather TemperatureIt’s fair to say the temperature does not change too much throughout the year. It’s a consistent 29-31 degrees (C) as a maximum with lows of about 24 degrees. Being a tropical country, there is a reasonable amount of humidity in the air. Don’t underestimate the effect that the temperature can have, as it can take a bit of getting used to. It’s worth coming a couple of days early to acclimatize, especially if you are coming from a cold climate.SeasonsThe ‘wet season’ is generally from May to October. Late and heavy rainfall can thunder in the late afternoon. followed by a couple of days of complete blue skies.The ‘dry season’ is from November through to April. Although the temperature doesn’t change thoughout this time, the number of rainy days can drop from up to 22 per month to as low as 8 per month. Safety & First Aid SafetyWe take your safety extremely seriously and ensure that all the activities we host have been assessed in regards to health and safety aspects, from cycling routes to where we eat. Saying that, we’re not there to hold your hand the entire time and you will have to assume general common sense in Samoa. We’d recommend exercising a little more caution than if you were back home. What should I be cautious of?You should be as cautious of things in Samoa as you would be back home. As with most countries, the crime rate is higher in the cities than it is in the country areas. We’ll spend all of our time outside of Apia (which is still considered quite safe, but more common sense may be required!). The fales cannot be locked, so if you have valuables that you are concerned about, you are more than welcome to leave them in the van overnight.How can I find out more?Due to the amount of positive experiences we have had in Samoa, we can sometimes see it through rose coloured glasses. To keep us in check, we refer to the safety guide produced by the Australian government. It is based on fact, not hysteria. Samoa is currently rated as green. Which means exercise general safety precautions. Other countries with the same level are New Zealand, Canada, UK etc. Check out the latest about what Australian Govt thinks about travelling in this region by following this link. First AidMedical facilities in Samoa are basic, outside of major cities. There are international standard hospitals in Apia, but only medical services in Savai’i. We assume you are in good health and have a sufficient level of fitness to complete your chosen tour. It is very important that any illness, disability or medical condition that you suffer or are recovering from, have been brought to our attention at the time of booking. Please make sure you have informed your insurance company of any existing conditions to provide adequate cover.If you are taking medication, please bring your own adequate supply, as you will probably not be able to obtain suitable medication en-route.Each vehicle has a basic first aid kit but you may also like to bring your own small medical supply for minor wounds etc. We are not permitted to administer medicine or drugs so if you suffer from a bad back, travel sickness, hay fever or headaches etc please bring your own supply of medicine. You may also want to consider including a generic antibiotic such Amoxicillin.Is the cycling dangerous?The volume of traffic in Samoa is low and the cycling is considered to be quite safe. Drivers are respectful of cyclists and risk of collision is minimal. The undulation of the roads though, means that often cars cannot be seen coming over crests. You can usually hear a vehicle before you can see it. One of the minor hazards that could cause an accident is the last minute sprint of a piglet screaming out in front of you as you’re hurling down a hill! Sometimes, local dogs will give chase too, which can be a little unsettling. The best thing to do when being chased by a dog is to stop asap and get off your bike. This works all over the world. Dogs don’t chase pedestrians, only cyclists. So in order to stop being chased, stop being a cyclist and turn into a pedestrian. Cycling details Below are the details of each cycling day. Each Social Cycles tour is fully supported so there is an opportunity for riders to take a rest in the van. Our goal is to exhibit the beauty of travelling by bicycle. It is not to rack up thousands of kilometers. Therefore, our style is recreational and casual. We aim to cater for beginner to intermediate recreational cyclists, not professionals or Strava enthusiasts. See our FAQ on Social Cycles tours for more info on whether this is the right tour for you in regards to cycling. Day One: Fitting, ferry and a flat road We’ll start the adventure at our meeting point on the west coast of Upolu, about 3km south of the ferry port. It’s at the office of our partner, Outdoor Samoa. After our intital bike fitting and briefing, we’ll head over to the ferry, get ourselves to Savai’i for lunch and ride out to Lano. It’s the flattest ride of the trip! A great introduction to Samoa! It’s about a 20km ride. The map on the right also include the ferry crossing. Day two: Lano to Manase Also a reasonably flat ride. This road stops by a couple of pools and most interestingly, an old church ruin that’s been covered by lava. The ride is all on bitument surface. Day three: Manase to Falealupo This is potentially the toughest ride of the week. It’s 58km which may or may not seem like a lot (depending on your background), but the day is not to be underestimated. There is a hill, which rises 200m that can be a slow ride. Along the way there are plenty of attractions, including a swim in a rock pool, a cave to explore and a great lunch restaurant by the sea! Day four: Falealupo to Satuiatua After we leave the fale, we cycle a short beautiful stretch along the flat coast under the canopy of towering trees. The first few kilometers are a little sandy and argualbly the most scenic riding on the trip. A reasonable hill will get the heart pumping, followed by a bit more downhill and some undulation. Day five: Satuiatua to Florence's homestay A little more undulation for the first half of the ride before the south coast flattens out. We’ll spend the afternoon and evening at Florence’s homestay for some home cooked food and home style comforts. A truly fantastic experience and a common favourite! There is an opportunity to take a bit of a swim at an incredible waterfall either along the way, or even after you’ve arrived at Florence’s (it’s just a couple of km away). Day six: Florence's homestay back to Upolu The last riding day will take us back to Salealogo port town. We’ll get there for lunch before the ferry, then ride back to our starting point before returning the bikes to the office. Then we’ll jump in the van to take us to the south coast of Upolu in Matareva for a two night stay. What to wear The most important thing here is to be comfortable. Cambodia is still relatively conservative country and you should dress accordingly. You won’t see Samoan people wearing revealing clothing and our clothing should be the same. Shorts, t-shirts and singlets are all fine to wear for everyday use, but please be aware of sun protection. There is no significant difference between what should be worn for men and women. Many people prefer padded shorts to make the ride more comfortable. I’d recommend a scarf for sun protection. We’re providing Social Cycles jerseys that have pockets in the back to help you carry your possessions (money, phone etc). Men Women Shopping There’s not an enormous amount of shopping opportunities in Samoa like there can sometimes be in other countries. However, some good gift ideas are coconut based products, 100% cocoa and sarongs.You’ll visit and learn about cocoa production and coconut oil production. As a result, you’ll have a chance to purchase some 100% cocoa blocks. It’s fantastic for grating onto and into smoothies, over ice cream and of course, as a pure hot chocolate. It has a unique smokey flavour as a result of the way that it’s roasted.Coconut oil, soaps and other coconut products are also common in Samoa. We’ll see a coconut producing family and learn how they make a living from their production and how Women in Business supports them to do so. Sleeping The beach hutsWe make the most of traditional Samoa by staying in local ‘fales’ (pronounced Far-Lay). A fale is a traditional beach hut with a thatched roof, matted sides and a wooden floor, usually nestled on stilts, right on top of the white sand beaches. Equipped with only a mattress and a mosquito net, the pure simplicity allows you to truly enjoy the sound of the waves and the breeze of the sea air. A local breakfast and dinner is prepared by the host every day and it’s always more than enough to energize your cycling! If you’d prefer a little more luxury at times, other arrangements can be made for additional costs.Accommodation is based on twin share. If you are a solo traveller, we will try and connect you with a similar traveller (gender and age). In Samoa, it is not possible to guarantee single accommodation in the fales. Bathrooms and showers are available at all places in a separate shower block. Photography Samoa is an incredible places to photograph. And like anywhere else in the world, it should be carried out with respect to local culture. In essence, if you are going to take a photograph of a person, it is always polite to ask for their permission. They will tell you straight out if they do not want their photograph taken and it is important that you respect their decision. You may well find though that many locals will approach you and ask to have their photograph taken with you. Photographing children without the consent of the parents is against the Social Cycles Child Safety policy. As cute as local kids can be, don’t take photos of children without their parents around. It’s just creepy. Electricity & Charging ElectricityIn Samoa the power plugs and sockets are of type I. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. Mainly used in Australia, New Zealand, China, the South Pacific and Argentina. This socket only works with plug I.Recharging BatteriesIf you can’t live without your devices (like me), it’s a good idea to bring a battery pack that you can re-charge when we’re out on the road. Fale’s usually have power in them (at least a light), but not alway a power point. You will be able to charge your phone and cameras each night though, whether it is in the fale or in the office/kitchen with the local family. Bathrooms Toilets are shared block facilities, similar to that of a caravan park. They’re always divided by gender and have shower and toilet facilities. It is usually a cold shower, that isn’t quite cold but very refreshing!!Toilets On The RoadIf we’re on the road and you suddenly near to use a toilet, just let our local guide know and we’ll find a family home that can host you for a few moments. The community lifestyle in rural villages makes this incredibly easy, but the local assistance from the SC team is essential. LaundryThere isn’t really anywhere along the way to get your clothes laundered, however, we’d recommend that you just make a nightly habit of washing by hand each night. There is always a washing line you can use to hang your clothes on. Getting dry in time is not an issue. Vaccinations Please consult your doctor or local travel clinic for any required vaccinations – although there are no compulsory vaccinations. However, it is your responsibility to ensure that you obtain proper and detailed medical advice prior to travel.Details of recommended health requirements are available on www.traveldoctor.info andwww.mdtravelhealth.com, as together they highlight vaccinations recommended according to length and type of trip. 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