Advice to Group 85

Advice to Peace Corps Samoa Group 85 and beyond:

A compilation of advice beyond what the Peace Corps sends.

·         Shorts, lots of shorts.  The athletic ones are especially good.  You’ll be wearing them under lavalavas, guys as well.  You’ll almost never wear shorts just by themselves unless you’re in Apia, so bring for comfort, not style.  You’re using them to stop the chaffing from the heat.
·         For women, pack a palagi (foreigner) skirt for going out.  It feels good to get dressed up once in awhile!
·         A pair of jeans for travels out of Samoa.  It’s way too hot to wear them here though.
·         Snorkle gear is highly useful but if you don’t have that, at least bring goggles.
·         Backpack.  Great for during training and also when you become a teacher.
·         Don’t bother with a fan (hand held or otherwise).  They have fans here for cheap.
·         A camera!!!  Seems self evident, but there’s 2 from my group who didn’t and regret it.
·         1-2 converters.  Also seems self evident, but the power outlets here are differently shaped than the ones in America.  Look for ones that say Australia/South Pacific.
·         Lots of underwear and bras.  The weather and washing here is hard on them.  After just two months, I already had holes in mine.  So bring extra! 
·         Family pictures in an album.  They’re great for you and also your family wants to see your family and friends in America.
·         Trinkets.  I have a charm I hang in my window from my mom.  My friend Madi brought a tapestry from home.  It’s nice to personalize your room and make it feel like home.  You’ll be here for two years after all!
·         Don’t bother with mosquito spray or sunscreen.  The Peace Corps provides you with it from day 1 and will continue to do so throughout the next 2 years.
·         The best gifts are functional ones.  You can bring gifts from home but be prepared that it won’t be enough.  I gave my host parents a calendar from NC and then bought 5 yards of fabric and some food.  Another Peace Corps bought his a toaster.

General Advice:
·         Be with your family!!  This can’t be emphasized enough, especially in the first 2-3 weeks.  You’re going to have plenty of time to hang out with your Peace Corps friends, but at least in the beginning make an effort to hang out with your family.  Relax with them, go on walks, talk small talk, watch tv with your siblings, something!  This is your connection to the community and you’ll also learn a lot from them.
·         Don’t be afraid to spend money.  The Peace Corps is giving you money for a reason, so don’t be afraid to spend it.  Samoa is a culture of gift giving, so if you’re too stingy, it might reflect badly.  Be nice, buy an extra load of groceries, buy a coke for your sister, it’s always better to be giving.
·         Buses are NOT scary.  For some reason my group received horror stories of guys being creepy on buses and overcrowding.  Don’t worry, it’s not true!  Here’s how they work.  You first off figure out what bus is heading your way.  You can stick your head in and ask.  Men sit in the back and women in the front.  There’s usually a guy up front who will tell you where to sit if it’s crowded.  People will usually sit on each others laps if it gets crowded.  If you don’t want a stranger sitting on you, grab someone kid who gets on and put them on your lap.  It’s done all the time.  When you want to get off, either hit the window or ring the bell.  You pay as you get off of the bus.
·         Set boundaries at the beginning.  Establish if you want them in your room, use your computer, etc.  Easier to ease out of rules later on than to do a reversal the other way.
·         Smile!  The kids love you.  It makes you more included and costs you nothing.
·         Write your name on your shoes.  Most people’s shoes look the same so there’s not much effort to put the right ones on.  If your name is on your shoe it’s less likely to be taken.
·         Don’t wear a watch after training.  Samoans go on island time which means things happen when they happen.  A watch only makes you frustrated.  Instead, watch those around you.  If your family starts showering and putting on white, it means it’s time for church!
·         Try all the foods, don’t assume right away.  I’ve had octopus, sea snail, taro, and bat, all of which (except for the snail), I liked!  You don’t know until you try.
·         Don’t touch the centipedes.  They’re awfully fast, and they bite (not sting).  The full sized ones make you feel like your leg’s on fire.  It takes a lot to kill them so call a family member.  Or if you really want to, try this combo:  Mortein (bug spray) to slow them down, then a shoe or rock to throw at them.  You know it’s a centipede not a millipede in that you can see it’s legs and it’s moving in an S pattern.  Millipedes don’t bite, but if you squash them, their innards are acidic.  So don’t step on them.
·         While you’re in Apia, go to the Baha’i temple one Sunday.  There’s only 7 of them in the world and it’s quite the experience.

Places in Apia:
·         The Edge: bar and live music.  My favorite place to go.  They also have nachos!
·         On the Rocks/Hole in the Wall: cheap bar.  Ladies get 5 tala mixed drinks!
·         Cappuccino Vineyard: great sandwiches and coffee.  Wide variety of food.
·         Giordannos: pizza.  Slightly expensive but great if you split.
·         Italianos: pizza, not quite as good but cheaper.  Next to On the Rocks.
·         Tiemainuana Indian
·         Hennie’s Sports Bar: bar where they play American football and basketball on TV
·         Skippy’s: GREAT burgers
·         Seafood Gourmet: Near The Edge, has fish and sandwhiches.
·         CCK: cheap clothes
·         Niu Pharmacy: like a Rite Aid from the States.
·         Farmer Joes: Some palagi food, also has cat/dog food.
·         Mina’s: cheap cat/dog food
·         Image Lab: photos.  3x4 for 2 tala.
·         CWL: internet


Lavaspot:  This is the best way to do internet.  It’s mostly in places in Apia right now but is spreading to resorts so check if there’s one near your site.  Lavaspots are purchased by time, not megabyte which is why it’s so good.  It runs around 14 tala per hour, decreasing in price if you buy a bundle of hours.  If you buy 1 hour, it’s good for 24 hours.  If you buy 10 hours, it’s good for 6 months.  So it’s definitely better and cheaper in the long run to buy more hours.  You can buy the hours online (it takes you there automatically when you try to connect) with a credit card, or you can purchase at a hotel or at CWL with cash.  Once you move out to your site and if there’s no Lavaspot near you, you can get internet through a cellphone company.  This is per megabyte though, and not by time.

Cellphones:  There are two companies, Digicell and Bluesky.  Digicell has a deal where if you text 3 times to other Digicell phones, you get 30 texts free.  You can also call for 5 minutes to the States and receive the next 20 minutes free.  Digicell however has pretty bad service over on Sava’i.  So if that’s where your site is, you’ll want to go with Bluesky. 

Things You Won’t Eat in Samoa:
·         Berries
·         Good pasta (lasagna)
·         Fresh out of the oven cookies
·         Mexican food
·         Sushi
Aaaah this is making me drool now.  They’re all the things I wish I’d eaten more of before I left.


  1. Wow! Thanks for the great list of advice! Looking forward to meeting you in October. :-)

    1. Hi Jennifer! Oh man, you're the first person from group 85 I've heard from! If you're interested/on Facebook, you can find me at I'd love to talk to you. See you soon, you're in for a treat here.

    2. I'm so excited I can barely handle it... :-)
      It's so nice that you and Brad have made good advice posts. I friended ya on Facebook today and sent a message for a school project I have going... If you can help, great! If not, no worries.
      Hope your having an awesome day,

  2. Michelle just found your blog and this advice is really helpful, I also just recently found out I will be in Group 85 in Samoa! I would love to talk to both you and Jennifer before October, and anyone else from 84/85 if possible. Here is my facebook page can't wait to meet you all!

  3. Hey Michelle! Thanks for the awesome advice on packing it has really helped with trying to figure out what to buy. I'm going to be in Group 85 as well! I would also love to get in contact with Group 84/85 and here is my facebook page:

  4. I taught on Upolu as a Peace Corps science teacher waaaaaaay before Internet and TV, but continue to have an interest in Samoa. I would like to learn more about your work, your location and to learn how much things have changed. Roger (Faiaoga) at

  5. Hi, Michelle. I am a mom of someone in group 87 who is in training to be a teacher there. It looks like you are probably home now. I am looking for advice on what to place in our first care package to him and if there is a preferred mode of transportation. I am looking for one that is most likely going to arrive with little trouble... ie: theft and such. I LOVED the details and photos you have shared. All this helps so much! Any help would be appreciated! Thank you. Julie in Oregon