If you are thinking about a Samoa holiday, you will have to fly into Faleolo International Airport. It is the only international airport and only one of two in the whole country. The other one is Fagalii Airport. However, if you are going anywhere but American Samoa, this is the only one that matters.
The days of the US military using the airfield for fight are long gone and as a result, the airport has been used by the Samoans since the end of World War II. It was only able to handle smaller jets until a major upgrade in 1984 that made it the main airport for the Samoan chain. Until that point, people flew into Pago Pago International Airport and took a smaller plane across.
A few years ago, the Japanese government help remodel the terminal and expand it and now it is a pretty large terminal for no more than travel than they see from international locations. Samoa is still lacking the numbers of visitors that New Zealand and Fiji are able to put up.
As Samoa has recently launched Samoa Airways, it will be hubbed at the airport. They have plans to serve Auckland, Sydney and Brisbane.
Using the Terminal at Faleolo International Airport
As mentioned, with the help of the Japanese, the terminal has been built out in recent years and it is quite big considering the traffic that the airport gets. It is an open concept so there is no air conditioning and there is no way for them to close the terminal.
The ground floor has the check in counters, the waiting area for people flying out of Samoa and the arrivals with immigration on the other side.
There is a second floor to the terminal that is for people watching planes arrive, some little shops to buy things to take home and a little restaurant with Samoan comfort food.
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One thing about the arrivals is that they are mostly in the middle of the night. This is because of aircraft scheduling and I understand the government is working with the airlines to fix this problem. I am not sure where the process is currently.
This means that you will probably be stuck at the airport most of the night when you leave. You need to be there at least an hour before and the flight tend to be delayed as a norm. It sucks but it is part of the Samoa holiday experience.
If you was planning on free wifi in the terminals like there is in many airports around the world, you can forget it. There is no such thing as free wifi anywhere in Samoa, airport or otherwise. The best you can do is charge up your laptop to play some Call of Duty to pass the time.
This will not be as issue if you are flying to American Samoa using Talofa Airways. They only operate during the day and there is not normal major delays from what I am told from readers who have made the trip. (I have not been back to Samoa since they started operations)
Check in and Immigration at Faleolo International Airport
This is pretty straight forward, just like anywhere in the world. You just walk up to the corner, check in, check your baggage and walk over to the Immigration counter to get stamped out of the country. Nothing out of the ordinary.
What you might find a little outlandish (I personally do) is the terminal tax to leave the country. It is not tourism friendly to expect people to pay to leave the country. However, the government of Samoa does it anyways. The fee is currently 60 Tala or $25 US Dollars at Faleolo International Airport.
Otherwise, you just go into the waiting area and the long wait for the plane to arrives begins. As I said, it will probably be delayed. Most, if not all, planes do come late in Samoa but that is just part of visiting the country. Late is on time in the Samoan Islands.
When arriving, make sure you have some type of onward travel though.
Food and Drinks at the airport
As normally, the best option is getting something before you come. In Apia, the options are even limited but a quick stop at McDonalds can be a smart move for leaving out of Faleolo International Airport. It is not just the food is more expensive there, the food is even there to buy in some cases.
If you didn’t eat before you came, there is really three options: a small restaurants off the airport grounds, a snack shop on the second floor and a small coffee shop in the waiting area.
I do not remember the prices but I am sure they are not cheap. Nothing is cheap in Samoa and the airport is even more pricy.
Getting to the Airport
This is where travelers have to be careful. The taxi drivers at the airport are some of the most dishonest I have seen in the world. This is not even a joke. They will rob you blind. They will tell you that the fare is $50 which should about $20. It is over 40 kilometres to the city so this is fair. However, when you get to Apia, they will make you pay $50 US Dollars instead. If you use a taxi, consider yourself warned.
The other options are wait until the first bus start running and wait for it on the main road. It is normally $3 or less to make the trip. It can be crowded but that is part of the Samoan culture. This is the option that I normally use when traveling.
The other option is that Aggie Grey’s Hotel does have a shuttle bus that go to the airport to meet most flights for $25. It is well worth looking into if you are arriving when they are at the airport. I just personally can’t comment on their service.
This is the one thing that the government of Samoa and Faleolo International Airport really needs to focus on, not trying to bankrupt the country with a new airline.