From what I’ve experienced, I find the atmosphere of American Samoa to blend the capitalistic American ambition, with the island time work ethic of many small islands. From this I found that locals will be enterprising in trying to offer amenities to tourists and make money form them, but the services provided don’t necessarily actually work or function as they should or in a timely manner. Therefore, go out in port here with expectations not of a US quality of product in the tropics, but of island time quality with US prices. People are mostly friendly, but sadly some businesses sully this friendly welcome feeling by being overly grabby and greedy with what they charge for little return, which you can read details of in the Pago Pago port guide under My Experiences.
American Samoa has two main languages; English, and Samoan. The other Samoan islands have more local tribal dialects as well, but here is it the two.
The local currency is the US dollar, this being a confederate of the United States since World War Two. You may be able to use AUD or NZD in the tourist market, due to the high number of Australian and New Zealand tourists that holiday here, but USD is the easiest. Exchange currency and take it out if you need to before arriving here if possible, as the town is small and I didn’t find a bank of money exchange place.
The weather is sunny and rainy every day, hence the proliferation of rainforest around the island. Temperatures range from about 25-35 degrees Celsius, and expect humidity and possibly rain on every outing. Bring sun lotion, an umbrella, and bug spray for every trip out and you’ll be covered for everything, which you probably will experience in each of those trips.
American Samoa is not the most technologically advanced country I have been to. “Free” Wi-Fi with a purchase doesn’t exist, except in the one McDonalds in town, in which the Wi-Fi quality is almost as bad as the food, hindered greatly by the volume of people from the ship that will flock there to try to use it. Even in higher quality establishments, like Sadie’s on the Beach (about a ten minute walk to the left on leaving the port), Wi-Fi is not reliable. I purchased a 30-minute Wi-Fi voucher in their reception (for $2 USD, you can also buy a 2-hour voucher for $5 USD) and it wouldn’t open any webpages or websites or anything. After trying for over 20 minutes to get it to work (and there were not many people in the place, so no over-use of the system could be blamed here), I gave up, got a refund and left. After returning to the ship, a guest told me they had managed to get decent Wi-Fi in the Museum right by the ship, which actually was free, and actually did work. Next time I will try there. When I went to the beach with friends, our initial plan was to go to ‘Tissa’s Barefoot Bar’, located right next door to ‘Two Dollar Beach’, they were closed except for those willing to pay $75 for a set menu brunch but I had heard from a friend that she went there last trip and had fast reliable Wi-Fi there (and there wasn’t the obligatory special brunch entry fee then).
The tourist market, marked by the green and white striped awnings above the stalls in the green open area just to the right of the port, is a good place to start shopping for souvenirs. This is a market, so bartering is expected. There’s also the local fruit and vegetable market further down the road on the right, where as well as produce, they sell some local hand made sarongs, shirts and skirts, as well as trinkets. There are a few small boutique style shops scattered about the town too for some handmade crafts, jewelry and souvenirs. I would recommend starting at either of the markets for their good choice and usually better price points (if you barter).
As far as I know, no visas are needed for any nationality to enter American Samoa.
Food and drink
Being a small fishing place, seafood is common. Plantains and chicken are other mainstays. Fresh fish is available in almost every food outlet, and chickens from the hills are cooked and available in all small eateries. There is more international fare at Sadie’s by the Sea, and you can get some sushi in town at the small sushi joint, .
I haven’t seen much in the way of places to stay around Pago Pago, but I guess the most popular place would be the former Intercontinental Pago Pago complex, which is now Sadie’s by the Sea.
American Samoa is a very Christian country, and the amount of churches for the size of the island’s population is impressive. Sundays are a big thing, with everyone attending church at a late morning or late afternoon sermon, where a meal always follows with everyone together. After the service, the whole congregation will eat together in tents put up outside the church if there isn’t enough space inside and everyone brings some food towards the feast of lunch of dinner. In this manner, all Christian festivals and celebrations like Easter and Christmas are celebrated vigorously.
My Favourite & Least Favourite Thing About American Samoa
The beaches are very white and pretty. The churches are very welcoming for strangers to come in and watch on a Sunday service.
Some local businesses have let the reputation of the place down by being quite sneaky and greedy with how they do business and trying to squeeze tourists a but too much with prices ridiculously high above the regular cost to locals for the same thing. There isn’t that much to do for tourists in American Samoa at the moment, so being crafty and overcharging in this way is a real put off. I know many crewmembers who, after their first venture out here and experience of this, didn’t bother going out again in port there.
Local Customs/Etiquette to be aware of
The island is very Christian so don’t be blasphemous in public here, or wear overly revealing clothes, especially on a Sunday, as it will offend locals. Ask for the price of everything before committing to anything. If it is for transport, check what the cost will get you, if it includes the return fare, or if you have to pay extra entrance fees to where you’re going. If it is for Wi-Fi, check that it works in front of the person you buy it from before ordering food/drinks in a place if your main intention is for the Internet.