Visiting Easter Island is hideously expensive because it’s so remote, over 3,700 kilometers away from Santiago, Chile. Very few crops grow, there is very little industry, and nearly everything on the island is shipped from the mainland at great expense.Geography means that the costs of goods are high and it’s not the most budget friendly island in the world. However, it’s not impossible to plan a budget trip there if you do so in advance.
How to get there
One of the biggest costs of visiting Easter Island is transport. There is just one airline, LAN, that flies there, which means it can pretty much charge what it wants. And it only flies once per day, departing from and returning to Santiago. With the following tips you might be able to cut down the cost of the flight:
- Book ahead and go during off and shoulder seasons.
- Stay for a week or more. For some reason the flights get really expensive if it’s a shorter trip. That may seem like a really long time in a place that expensive, but don’t worry, because we’ll make sure you’re covered with the advice below.
- Check the price of business class. This may sound crazy if you’re trying to save money, but business class tickets can be found that are cheaper than economy class.
- Use Google Flights calendar function. You can see the cheapest dates all month by using the fare calendar, then book directly on LAN’s website for the best fares.
- Travel hack – LAN is a part of the Oneworld alliance and, though availability is rare, you can also get seats via points, so if you have miles on LAN, American Airlines, British Airways, or another partner, you can try to score a free flight.
There are occasional boats that sail to Easter Island from New Zealand or elsewhere in the South Pacific that take passengers, but they are priced incredibly high. At this time there is no public boat option from Chile’s mainland, mainly because Easter Island doesn’t have a harbor that can accommodate ships. If you want to sail there, some travelers successfully volunteer as crew as a cheap or free way to travel.
Where to stay
You have three affordable options when you’re traveling to Easter Island: book a hostel dorm bed way ahead of time, as there are few and they fill up quickly; camp in a tent; or rent an apartment on either Airbnb or Booking.com. If you want to stay for free, Couchsurfing is also an option but there are only 50-60 hosts on the island, so connect with them well in advance. If renting an apartment: Many places on Easter Island are cabana-style and can accommodate up to seven or eight people. When split among that many people, they end up costing each person less than $20 per night. If it’s low season, it is recommended to book only one or two nights on Booking.com and then workout a deal directly with the owner to stay for the remaining days. Since Booking.com takes a cut of profits, ask if they can pass on a discount to you if you cut out the middleman. It’s nice to have the place booked when you land, though, since they almost always include a free airport pickup in the price, but thereafter try to work out something cheaper. If you’re camping: There are a few camping grounds on Easter Island that also offer hostel-style accommodation for pretty cheap. If you already have camping gear, bring it along. If hosteling: There are a few hostel-style accommodation options for $25+ per night, which is among the cheapest you’ll find on Easter Island. You can also check out private rooms on Airbnb but most rooms there run closer to $50+ per night.
What to eat and drink
Eating meals out gets super expensive on Easter Island because it all has to be brought in from mainland Chile, so cut out the middleman and bring your food yourself. Put the food in a box or an extra backpack and check it with the rest of your luggage. Remember that since you can check two bags (25 kilos total), you’ll have room to bring both the food and your belongings. If you do buy food on the island, budget at least a dollar or two per fresh fruit or veggie item, at least $10 per meat item, and $15 or more per restaurant meal. You can also enjoy empanadas, which are only a few dollars and can be found at most small shops.
How to get around
Within the town of Hanga Roa, taxis are cheap at just $3.00; bicycles are great as well for the town and surroundings. A taxi doesn’t make sense for longer distances, as the price goes up significantly, and it takes about 90 minutes to make it from one side of the island to the other. To visit the moai and the beach, it is suggested you drive yourself. Tours are expensive, so to get around consider renting a motorbike. The motorbike costs $40 USD per day, and will give you freedom on the island. If renting a car, keep in mind that the price is negotiable and you can probably work out a discount.
The entrance to the national park is $60 for foreigners and is valid for the entire island. For most of the Moai, you don’t need any kind of entrance ticket and can visit as many times as you want, except for the quarry where the statues were carved and the museum at Rano Kau. You can visit each only once and they will demand to see your ticket. It would be a pity to travel all the way to Easter Island and miss these things, so it is recommended that you buy the ticket on arrival. Additionally, besides seeing the famous statues, you can go scuba diving to see the sunken Moai, go surfing, or just drive around to see where the day takes you. Easter Island is a trippy walk through the past. Few of the descendants of the original tribes are still left and nobody is exactly sure how or why the Moai were carved. That’s part of what makes Easter Island so alluring and interesting to visitors, it’s still partially an enigma.
By bringing your own food, scoring a cheap ticket, driving yourself around the island, and working out a deal with the owner of the accommodation, you could save yourself hundreds of dollars off of what most tourists usually pay when visiting Easter Island. Through very careful and smart planning, you can visit the island without blowing your budget.