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Packing Guidance for Samoa

This guidance is designed to describe appropriate clothing, the cultural context where you will be living and working, and the professional expectations of your workplace.

As you decide what to bring, keep in mind there is a 100-pound weight limit on checked baggage.

In general, most items you will need are available in country and locally acquired items are often the best at helping you integrate into your community. However, locally available items may not be the brands, quality, prices, or sizes you are used to. Bringing some key items from home might make your transition to service more comfortable.

This guidance has been compiled by Peace Corps staff and Volunteers and is based on their experience. Use this information as an informal guide as you make your own packing list, bearing in mind that each experience is individual. There is no perfect packing list!

This packing guidance is designed to help you think through different categories of items and consider what you might want to bring, considering work expectations, cultural considerations, and your own personal preferences.

The Independent State of Samoa lies just east of the international date line and south of the equator latitude -13 deg S, longitude -171 deg W. Due to its geographical location, our climate is characterized by uniform temperature, pressure, abundant rainfall, and high humidity.

Seasons

Samoa has two distinct seasons. The hot and wet season is from November to April. The cool and dry season is from May to October.

Rainfall

Samoa's annual mean rainfall ranges from 3000 to 6000 millimeters. About 70 percent of the annual mean rainfall occurs during the hot and wet season.

Topography plays a vital role in the rainfall distribution, the windward side (south to southeast) of the main islands receive more rainfall than the rain-shadowed side, mainly in the north to northwest regions.

El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is the main driver of Samoa's rainfall. El Nino tends to bring about lower than normal rainfall for Samoa, associated with droughts and forest fires. La Nina, on the other hand, are generally associated with above normal rainfall, associated with flooding of low-lying areas (in and around Apia).

Temperature

There is little seasonal variation of temperature in Samoa. The mean annual temperature ranges from 26 to 31 degrees Celsius. Night temperatures are pleasantly cooler in the dry season, when southeast trade winds dominate. Apia mean minimum temperatures drop to 22 degrees Celsius around July or August. The trade winds are traditionally called "Tuaoloa" or "The Season of Plenty has passed," and believed to cause illness in the local population.

Wind

Southeast trade winds dominate right throughout the island all year round. Warm westerly winds are associated with bad weather conditions.

Samoans are well-known navigators and have traditional names for the winds. Winds from the north are called Toelau. Winds from the south are called Toga. Winds from the west are called La'i. Winds from the east are called Mataupolu. Winds from the northwest are called La'i Toelau. Winds from the northeast called Vaitoelau. Winds from the southwest called La'i Toga. Winds from the southeast are called Tuaoloa.

Humidity

Relative humidity is usually high in Samoa, around 80 percent or above.

Peace Corps/Samoa provides the following items:

  • Mobile phone (basic)
  • Electric jug OR water filter
  • Life vest
  • Bike helmet (if requested)
  • Bike (if approved)
  • Radio
  • Personal alarm
  • Smoke detector, for Volunteer use only
  • Mosquito net
  • Satellite phone (wardens)
  • Sunscreen/insect repellant in medical kit

Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take:

  • Pets
  • Weapons
  • Explosives
  • Radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted)
  • Drones
  • Automobiles or motorcycles
  • Flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers
  • Valuables such as precious jewelry or family heirlooms

Drugs

Do not bring any drug that has not been authorized by the Peace Corps for medical purposes without prior consultation with Office of Health Services Pre-Service. This includes prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Illicit drugs, including marijuana and related products such as CBD and herbal substances such as kratom, are prohibited during Peace Corps service, even if they are legal in your home of residence. If you use, possess, or distribute illicit drugs, you will be administratively separated from service.

Additional guidance for Peace Corps Samoa:

  • Do not bring hunting knives, pepper spray, brass knuckles, batons, or tasers

Below is guidance on clothing expectations and cultural norms for work as well as leisure and recreation.

Work clothing

  • Volunteers are assigned to work in school classrooms. Samoan teachers of all genders wear a “puletasi” (a long tunic over an ankle-length skirt) or an “ie faitaga” (a calf-length sarong/skirt in a solid color). These items can be purchased locally.
  • Three or four short-sleeved collared shirts (polo or button-down)
  • One short-sleeved, white dress shirt
  • Nicer T-shirts or collared blouses, that cover the shoulders, for casual work situations and running errands, are also useful to mix and match with skirts and lava lavas (sarongs).
  • One or two canvas, webbed belts
  • Five to six pairs of modest shorts (knee-length preferable. Board shorts are highly recommended by male Volunteers because they dry quickly but their length is considered too short for females in villages. Some Volunteers use bicycle or spandex shorts under their lava lavas, especially when exercising)

Leisure and recreational clothing

  • One long-sleeved shirt for breezy evenings
  • One or two pairs of lightweight pants (khakis or jeans) for informal occasions or travel (both women and men wear lava lavas almost all of the time)
  • Rash guards are recommended for surfers and frequent snorkelers, scuba divers, and swimmers.
  • Two quick-dry towels
  • Wide-brimmed hats
  • Rain jacket and/or umbrella.
  • A few pairs of socks
  • Tank tops for exercise inside or sleeping
  • A white top and modest white bottoms (skirt, pants, etc.) for White Sunday. Note: skirts worn in church are usually ankle-length.
  • Board shorts and a rash guard T-shirt, as the normal swimwear is T-shirts, shorts, and lava lavas. More revealing swimwear isn’t culturally appropriate in a village. One or two-piece bathing suits are acceptable in tourist areas, away from villages and Apia.
  • One or two outfits for travel to restaurants or nightclubs in Apia or while on vacation (something you like and will feel good in).
  • Two-year supply of underwear, including cotton or wicking sports bras, if applicable. Cotton boxers are recommended and bring plenty as they are hard to find here.
  • Two to four pairs of board shorts (quick-drying and lightweight), which also are recommended as swimwear. Note: these are also readily available at low cost in local second-hand stores.
  • One pair of good flip-flops or sports sandals (the latter will provide more support, stability, and security, and can be worn for some athletic/sports activities, light hiking, etc.). Inexpensive rubber and plastic flip-flops can be purchased in-country, but are less durable.
  • One or two pairs of running/walking shoes
  • One pair of reef shoes
  • Non-leather hiking shoes, if you are planning to trek in New Zealand on a holiday (or plan to buy an inexpensive pair when you get there)

You should bring a three-month supply of any prescription and/or over the counter medications you use that are authorized/approved by the Peace Corps.

Note: Prior to service, Peace Corps supplies all volunteers with a medical kit containing basic, over-the-counter medications, as well as multivitamins.

See a detailed list of items included in the medical kit.

The medical unit will replenish prescriptions after the initial three-month training.

If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs (of the current prescription) with you. Contact lens use will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

See additional guidance from the Office of Medical Services.

Additional guidance for Peace Corps/Samoa:

  • You can find most toiletries and necessities in Samoa, but if you prefer certain brands, bring them with you. Deodorant is widely available in-country, but the quality varies, so you may want to bring some extras with you or have some mailed later.
  • Shaving cream is available in-country but if you are particular about what you shave with, consider bringing an ample supply with you, as what you like might not be available here.
  • Three-month supply of any medications, to last through pre-service training; copy of prescriptions
  • If you wear glasses, bring two pairs (contact are not recommended due to elevated rates of eye infections, and contact solution is hard to find)
  • Contact lens solution
  • Individually wrapped antiseptic/antibacterial wipes
  • Quality hair ties and clips
  • A plastic container or dish to store bar soap while traveling

  • Rechargeable batteries (AA and AAA)
  • Laptop computer
  • Waterproof camera
  • Audio player and speakers
  • USB key/flash drive
  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • External hard drive
  • Favorite spice mix
  • Can opener
  • Zip-close bags
  • Favorite recipes and/or a cookbook
  • A small coffee plunger

Based on your interests and personal preferences there may be additional items you will want to consider bringing with you. Below is a description of the common activities Volunteers engage in and what different Volunteers have said they enjoy having that might be more difficult to find in-country. Note: these items are not required or even recommended, but they might be nice to have.

  • If you plan to travel to other countries for vacation, you may want to bring extra money to suit your travel plans; credit cards or traveler's checks are preferable to cash. There are ATMs in larger cities and most towns, so you may want to bring an ATM card to access a bank in the U.S.
  • Small gifts for host family and friends (not required); knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; photos to give away
  • A book about your state or hometown area with lots of pictures
  • Small bag for weekend or overnight trips. A sealable dry bag also is useful for storing a computer, camera, etc., while traveling.
  • Multi-tool pocketknife
  • Wristwatch (water-resistant)
  • Locks for luggage
  • Posters
  • Sunglasses with strong UV protection
  • Sturdy, durable plastic water bottles
  • Games, cards, frisbee, hobby equipment, etc.
  • Address book
  • Paperback English dictionary and thesaurus
  • Basic tools
  • Dryer sheets (keeps stored clothes from smelling of mildew)
  • Bed sheets (double size; available in-country, but expensive and different quality than in the U.S.)
  • Snorkeling gear
  • Goggles if you like to swim
  • Travel sewing kit
  • Safety pins
  • Pictures of your family, friends, and home