Ways to Travel / Planning
Ideas certainly differ regarding the perfect holiday. Because of this, we specialise in customising tours to fit individual preferences and interests.
Start with a draft itinerary or just tell us how much time you have and what type of holiday you want. We can provide bikes, kayaks, gear transport, support vehicles, accommodation and of course comprehensive itineraries.
Just pick one of the itineraries on these pages. But don't hesitate to tweak it with extra nights, accommodation upgrades, fishing trips, helicopter rides, lava tube caving etc. Or just add on a few resort days.
Supported or Guided?
These trips are lead by an experienced guide who is cultural interpreter, snorkelling coach, rider and general enthusiast on all things Samoan.
We visit special places and gain insights to the culture that are more difficult to achieve as independent travellers.
Trips are all inclusive with all meals, entrance fees and customary fees covered in the trip price.
The guide is responsible for any bike maintenance, removing any need for bike mechanic skills.
These trips work well for individuals and couples wanting to join a larger group as well as for a larger group wanting an external and experienced leader with extensive local knowledge.
A support van carries your gear and accompanies the trip ensuring you can catch the van for hills or even for the whole day if required. This is a great option if you are uncertain about your fitness, have younger kids or have non-riders in the group.
The driver will usually assist with introductions to local activities and where able, will assist with any bike mechanical issues, but is not a trained bike mechanic. Note that a supported trip does not have a guide riding with the group and does not include water (a water filter can be hired) or customary fees.
Gear Transport Only
We transport your gear each morning and provide your accommodation, most meals , bike hire and airport transfers etc. This option works well for some fitter riders with confidence in their abilities or those wanting to make sure they have earned the beer at the end of the day.
Hire a touring bike, buy our Bike Samoa booklet and just strike out round the islands with your gear on the panniers. Note: This works really well for seasoned travellers used to travelling without bookings and confident of their resourcefulness and mechanical skills.
Accommodation bookings only
We do not offer this service as the support van is part of our process of ensuring that accommodation providers are expecting you.
Samoa is a developing nation and things don't always work the same way as they do in the developed world. In addition to this Savaii is a relatively remote island with only one small town. Simple things like Internet, email, credit card processing and Internet Banking are often unreliable or poorly understood. Some of the resorts are good at answering emails and reliable in processing bookings but for many there is no daily discipline of processing emails and only a loose management of bookings and payments.
Every time we ride around Samoa we meet people who are quite stressed about lost bookings and lost payments. It usually gets sorted and the mistakes are not deliberate, but the stress isn't the reason for holidays. That's why we say freedom hire works really well for experienced travellers who are happy to travel without bookings. We spent a lot of time developing systems to remove this stress from our clients.
Understand your bike maintenance skills
There is only one bike shop in Samoa (it's in Apia) and it carries a very limited range of spares. If you are travelling independently you need to be competent in bike repairs and carry a toolkit suitable for a remote area trip (we provide the toolkit as part of the bike hire). We use quality bikes and fully service them between trips. In the rare event of a serious bike failure we will get you a replacement bike quickly (minor repairs and punctures are the responsibility of unsupported riders). If no one in your group can change a puncture on a rear tyre then the minimum level you should choose is Supported.
Understand your fitness
40 kms a day doesn't sound very far, but Samoa is warm (average daily max about 31 degrees in the shade) and the route contains a moderate amount of climbing (the toughest day has 400m of climb). Carrying panniers makes everything much harder. Having a bag carry service makes a huge difference to enjoyment. Having a support van takes all the stress away as you can ride in the van whenever the going gets too tough to be fun. Every year we meet independent riders who are either stressed out and defeated or upset at how expensive the taxis they hired were.
Understand the inclusions
Our tour prices generally include: airport transfers, bike hire, accommodation, most meals and whatever level of vehicle support you have selected. While there are some customary fees (entrance fees of a few tala) there is seldom a need to add extra transport, activity or tour costs. By comparison a "cheap" holiday at a single resort will often involve expensive tours and if it's a motel/hotel, meal costs.
On fully guided trips we also include virtually all meals and all customary fees and we provide drinking water. The only costs we don't cover are alcoholic drinks and personal items like souvenirs.
Value your time
We aim to make trip planning as simple as possible for you and to ensure you use your holiday time doing the things you want to, not having to sort hassles or wasting days due to poor itineraries. A classic issue we see almost every month is not realising the airport is near the ferry and a long way from Apia. Staying the first night in Apia on the way to Savaii nearly always results in a lost day. We work hard to ensure you get the type of accommodation you expect, an itinerary that matches your interests and a travel experience that is far more than just a bike tour.
There are several other ways to reduce direct costs:
- The biggest is to book flights early (see Planning below).
- The second is to understand currency conversion costs. Essentially the effective exchange rate you can buy Tala is at least 6% and often more than 10% below the mid-rate that shown on a simple Google. This means that tour prices in NZD or AUD are often a lot sharper than they seem. To compare use the rate from your prefered bank to buy WST cash. Using Visa often ends up even more expensive.
To get the best rates:
- Change cash on arrival at the airport (one of the few countries where this is a good idea)
- Shop around for exchange rates and include fees in calculating rates
- Do the minimum number of transactions to minimise fees
- Remember that Visa payments in Samoa are usually subject to a 4% premium and TTs (Telegraphic Transfers) often cost $20 each to both to both buyer and seller.
- You can pay us in NZD to our NZ account or AUD to an Australian account - avoiding nearly all transaction fees. We do on-charge the cost of Visa transactions if you want to pay by Visa.
Contact us early
We like to help you plan a trip that will fit your interests, comfort expectations, fitness and budget. If you contact us early in your planning we can recommend options and ideas. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact us button. We can advise you on trip options and indicative prices.
If you are travelling on a budget, the biggest variable cost will be the airfares. Generally speaking the sooner you book flights the better the price. For the July school holidays you will need to book 9 months ahead for a good price. The Easter and October breaks fill up a bit slower and are often a better alternative if school holidays are important to you. See Airlines below for more details.
The most frequent comment we get from one week visitors is "wish we had booked a longer trip". Extra nights along the way at Fale type accommodation add very little to the cost. Another common comment is that most of the beach resorts deserved a second night and the usual adventure pace of bike/kayak every day was less appropriate in Samoa. A few extra days will also give you better access to pleasanter flight times.
With confirmed flights we can finalise your itinerary and invoice you (see FAQs for billing and cancellation details).
Once your tour is confirmed (by payment of deposit) you will receive a booklet on touring Samoa, vouchers for accommodation and comprehensive itinerary notes. These include more notes on what to bring (generally less than you expect) and how to prepare.
Cycle Samoa Booklet
We wrote a small book on Cycling Samoa. It covers more on where to go and what to bring. You can order it here.
Air New Zealand has the most flights (all from Auckland, but with good connections from Australia and NZ). Samoa Airways flies from Auckland and Sydney, Virgin flies from Sydney and Melbourne (with good Australia connections). Fiji Airways flies from various Australia and NZ locations via Nadi and direct from Hawaii. Booking flights directly using the airlines booking sites tend to provide the best value deals. For travel originating outside New Zealand and Australia your travel agent or specialised flight aggregator site may provide a better deal.
When planning flights consider the total flight duration and timing. There are flights from almost every city in NZ that will get you to or from Samoa in a day at reasonably civilised hours and without the extra cost of a night in Auckland. The direct flights from Sydney and Melbourne with Virgin tend to run at odd hours meaning that you will arrive very sleep deprived so its worth considering the options via Auckland. Samoa Airways afternoon flights to Sydney are well timed, the other way is not so civilised.