Do you want to move to Samoa but want to know the cost of living there? Get ready because it is not cheap.
There is two cost of living in Samoa actually.
There is one for the locals, the Samoans, and there is another for everyone else, the Palagis as they call us. That’s mean white people.
The local cost of living is crazy but they make due because they can get around rent because they living in villages. There is other cost like weddings and funerals, cultural expectations of giving but they know that when they live in the village. This is why some choose to distance themselves from the village they originate from.
The other cost of living is what matters to you. How much does it cost an American, New Zealander or Australian to live in Samoa? That’s what you want to know, right? Read on.
Renting a house
Your first option would be living like the poor in Samoa live: Open fales.
This would be used as a place to have a picnic in America but in Samoa, it is common to live in them. It protects them from the rain and they can put down a mat to change. It is not much of a dwelling but it has worked for them for generations.
The good part of these are if you live close to the ocean or on a hill, you might be able to get some nice wind coming in. That means free air-conditioning. This is more interesting to the people who want to live “in unity with nature” or want to be cheap skates on the cost of living in Samoa.
The bad part is lack of privacy and control over the flow of your personal property to the other homes in the village.
If you want a local version of a house, normally build of blocks or wood, you probably could find one for about $250 or so, it would be just blocks and a cement floor most times. It does have walls and could be secured if you need it to be.
I lived in one. They are not as bad as they look. It keeps you dry, your stuff secured, and you have access to services. It is similar to something a lower class family in the mainland would live in. It works and is probably your best bet for housing in Samoa. Be aware they are still inside villages most times. It normally is not much as issue but it could be a very big issue at times as well.
Now if you want a real and proper house like what you live in back in the United States or Australia, get ready to pay for it. A quick look online found most western style house being rented through the realtor to be around $1,500 and $2.500 (USD). I find this to be close to what I saw when I lived there.
The facilities of these homes could go through the roof. You could have a private pool, spa, or whatever you want. Many of these types homes are very, very nice. Of course, you pay for that as well.
Most of these type homes are up around the Moto’otua Hospital and in Vailima. More of them are over by Faleata Sports Complex. All these type home hug the city of Apia. However, you would want to be in Apia.
Most of Samoa has been converted to Cash Power. That means that you have to pre-pay for power just like you would for your cell phone. The current cost of electricity is 86 cents in Samoan currency and go up after 50 and 100 units. This means if you use 1,000 kwl of power (common usage) than you are looking at a bill of 1,020 in Samoan currently. That is roughly $400 a month. Yes, you will miss your $70 a month bills from Washington.
Internet and Mobile
I wrote about the Internet in Samoa in February 2012 and most of what I said then is true now. Very little has changed at all.
The cost of the internet is very, very high in Samoa. It has one of the highest cost for a user in the world. Oddly, American Samoa, a mere 50 miles away has unlimited internet for $50 and Fiji on the other side can do it for a little more than $50 too.
Current rates for internet in Samoa are about $188 Tala or $76 for 7GB of data. This is robbery.
If you are looking for a home phone, something that is always nice to have, you will be looking at around 30 Tala a month for local calling. That is actually pretty reasonable.
What about mobile phones? How much will a cell phone? The unit if you buy in Samoa, you will pay out the ass for it. Just get ready for that. Bring one with you!
As far as your monthly bill, it is like power, it is all pre-paid. I think I would spending about $100 Tala or $40 a month on what they call top up. The good thing is they do tend to run promotions often since there is now two international players in the market, BlueSky Samoa and Digicil. BlueSky currently charges .34 cents of a Tala for a minute with a text message costing 20 cents.
Something to factor into your cost of living in Samoa for sure.
Food and Drinks
If you are going to live in Samoa, you have to eat, right? The cost of food can become a major factor. The good news is you can eat very cheap in Samoa or you can eat well at a premium.
If you are shopping at the open market in Apia for food, you can get your fruit and stuff for a few dollars. On the back side of most of the markets is a place to get some cheap eating too. I use to eat there for a dollar or less.
You can get what they call Keke Pua’a real cheap. It is pork around bread and deep fried. I use to live on these things. For other cheap eating, you can normally get a plate of BBQ very cheap along Beach Rd in Apia every evening.
If you want more proper eating, there is a great pizza joint along Beach Rd named Giordanos Pizzeria and next to it is a few other mid range restaurants. Also, walking to down across the corner from Aggie Grey’s is a strip of cheap eateries for $10 Tala or less.
Speaking of Aggie Grey, you can eat there every morning for a buffet line for around $25. In fact, most of the hotels have restaurants and the prices all vary too. You can blow as much as you want at them.
This is about the Cost of Living in Samoa, not eating but you can find out more about places with my Eating Guide to Apia, Samoa.
How much are taxis, bus transportation and driving a car? Taxi to and from the Airport is about 50 Tala. I have got them for 20 before but that is some mastery at bullshitting with the drivers. Around Apia, most rides would be $2-3 Tala. They have a guide from the government so ask to see it to make sure you are getting the right fare.
Bus in Samoa are very cheap. They take alot of time but they are not expensive to use. Any bus that goes very far will come to Apia in the morning and leave to go home in the afternoon. They do not have scheduled regular trips. They pretty much go when and if they want to. The exception would the bus going to Mulifanua wharf (to Savaii).
Last time I was there, some second hand buses were making their way from Sydney and Tokyo. That is positive. Goodbye, wooden buses.
If you are living on a low cost of living in Samoa, you will be at the mercy of the bus companies.
Postal Service and Shopping
Everything has to shipped into Samoa. That means you will need the use of SamoaPost and maybe DHL too.
The cost of buying things in the local stores is out of this world. A $200 camera at Wal-Mart is closer to $1,200 Tala ($500) in Samoa. Everything and I do mean everything is expensive.
To balance this, you have to ship whatever you need from America, New Zealand or Australia. That means you need to know about SamoaPost. Yes, DHL is in Samoa but they are not cheap at all. SamoaPost is not really cheap, either but they are the postal service.
If I remember right, Samoa is about double the cost of other regional postal services. They also have no delivery. They are like PhilPost in the Philippines too…. they “lose” anything of value.
The option you will find is to mail everything to American Samoa that has domestic service and just go over once a month to get it. You can also get a contact there to ship your stuff to Samoa for a tala a pound. That is not bad.
Otherwise, this is something that you will need to factor into your cost of living in Samoa without question.
Speaking of American Samoa, you might want to know about flying there and around the Pacific from Samoa. A round trip airfare on a small plane will cost you around $300. Holidays cost even more. It might be a short 30 minute flight but it is not cheap at all. If you are thinking of cheap airfare like you saw in Southeast Asia, you can forget it. There is no AirAsia here. Inter Island is owned by a family in American Samoa and it is the nicer aircraft. Polynesia is the other option, crappy planes but they do fly to the old airport that is almost walking distance to Apia.
The other option you have is taking the old Samoa Shipping ferry to American Samoa. It cost about $120 Tala. It is slow and dirty but much cheaper to use. If I remember right, it is about a 5 hour trip across.
If you are flying from Apia to New Zealand, Australia, or Hawaii, the flights are freaking expensive. A trip to Hawaii on Fiji Airways is well over $400. The same is pretty close for anywhere in Australia. My suggestion would be get a $180 flight to Nadi, Fiji and you have alot more options from there.
The least important factor in cost of living in Samoa but a very important one for some is how much is the cost to party. There is a few clubs in town and I do not know the prices of drinks there as I am not a party animal. If I remember right, a beer in Samoa is about $3.50 Tala. If I am wrong on that, please comment before to tell me.
It seems the best place to party when I was there was called X Club that is down by the pier. There is a few other places to party in the same strip. Older expats tend to go to a restaurant bar on Beach Rd.
If partying is a critical thing for you, check out this guide to partying in Fiji. Partying seems to be more a Fijian thing than a Samoan thing.
Anything I missed on the cost of living in Samoa?
If I missed something, please leave a comment and let me know. I will do some looking into it and if I am wrong, I will update the website to be more factual in nature. The purpose of this article to give people thinking of moving in Samoa a more accurate idea of what things cost in Samoa and if living there is for them.