Surface area : 2944.0 km2
Population : 176908 inhabitants
Things to take home: local handicraft (sarongs, embroidery, wickerwork, pottery, carved wood objects), mother-of-pearl jewels, sea shells, spices, folk music recordings. People don't usually haggle. Shops are usually open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, from Monday to Friday and from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM on Saturdays.
The only real restaurants are in the hotels, with Western-style food, Chinese and local cuisine on their menus. The local cuisine is based on taro, coconut, exotic fruit, chicken, pork and grilled fish. The national drink is kava, a liquor made with the roots of pepper plants, with a slight painkilling effect and a bland taste.
Independent Samoa are steeped in tradition and their inhabitants are very respectful of duties and rules - the ones regulating their life as a community. Samoan culture is based on fa'amatai, a government system with a chief, or matai, at its head, ruling over the aigai, or family, in the broader sense of the term. Food and other goods are shared out according to everyone's needs, and each member of the aigai must obey the chief and respect a particular code of honour. The matai represents the family within the village council, in charge of arbitrating conflicts, and makes sure that taboos and religious interdicts are not infringed, particularly as far as the memory of the ancestors is concerned. Samoans are nonetheless devout Christians today, and Sunday mass is the main weekly event in villages. As far as singing and dancing is concerned, the fiafia, originally a sacred ceremony, has now become a folk's show for tourists. Finally, tattooing is current practise among Samoans whose body, as early as in teenage years, is sometimes covered in drawings, from head to toe.
Samoa, for a long time, had the reputation of being an expensive holiday destination, reserved to a handful of well-off tourists. Things have changed nowadays, especially thanks to cheaper flights. It all depends, as well, on your living standards once there. If you choose to follow the local way of life, by staying in small boarding houses, eating in cheap eating houses and from market stands, using public buses and boats, your daily budget should not exceed 15.5 pounds sterling. However, if you opt for the "Hollywoodian" big style exotic way of life under coconut trees, for the azure cocktails by the side of the swimming pool of a luxurious hotel drowned in tropical greenery and bordered by a private lagoon, for lobsters and champagne served by a white-gloved waiter, and for the chartered yacht to go diving on an atoll, your budget will quickly explode...