The mysterious and remote Easter Island is a destination that demands our attention and curiosity, thanks to the enigmatically carved volcanic rock faces known as moai statues. Being such a remote island, Easter Island has gained a reputation for being an expensive destination most people can't afford. And yes, it can be expensive, but also, it can be very cheap if you know how to plan the trip as a budget traveler.
Here are a few tips that will help you enjoy the mysteries of Easter Island with a small budget that can range from $50 to $100 a day depending on your travel style.
Flying In Cheaply
The only airline that flies to Easter Island is LAN Airlines, flying out of Santiago, Chile (one flight a day) or from Tahiti (one flight a week). Airfares range from $300 to $1,200, but the average price is around $700. Should you keep an eye on airfares, you might be able to find it for $500 or less, even in last minute occasions.
How Long Should You Stay?
The island is very small and can be traveled in one day, but I still highly recommend staying there for 4 or 5 full days, at least. There is a lot to do and see on the island that goes beyond the moai statues, including visiting caves, hiking, biking, diving and more.
Accommodations in Easter Island range from budget hostels to a luxury hotel. Compared to mainland Chile, hostels here are a bit more expensive than the norm, costing $25+ per person per night for a dorm bed and $40+ per person per night for a private room. Hotels, naturally, are much more expensive. Some hostels also offer camping grounds, some with tents provided and some with a "bring your own tent" policy.
Surprisingly, Couchsurfing is also found on Easter Island, so if you're open to the idea of sleeping on someone's couch or spare room, this is a free option you shouldn't pass up.
If you're traveling with several friends or family members, consider renting a room or guesthouse with AirBnb as it might prove to be the cheapest option. During my recent visit, I used AirBnb to rent a house along with five other friends, and we paid just $13 a night per person.
Moving Around The Island
The town of Hanga Roa is small enough to walk, but to visit the archeological sites and national parks, you must either rent a car, motorbike, or bicycle. If you rent a car through a hotel or guesthouse, it could cost anything from $35 to $50 per day. If you go to the car rental center on the main street they start at $60+. Motorbikes are in the $25-$35 range, and bikes go for $13-$18 for a day. The island is small enough for you to bike all around it in a single day.
You can take a taxi for about $3 to most points in town, but should you want to go far in a taxi, you'll need to arrange the price beforehand.
If your accommodation has a kitchen, then you have the opportunity to cook and eat cheaply. Food in Easter Island is expensive, so it is recommended to buy groceries in Santiago, box it, and send it along with your checked luggage. There are practically no limitations on what you can bring to Easter Island.
Buy only fragile items in the local supermarkets on Easter Island, like eggs, so they don't break along the way, or any other items you might be missing.
Should you not be able to cook, there are still budget options to eat. Go to the "panaderias" to eat their delicious empanadas and other pastries. These empanadas go for about $5, and they are pretty big.
What You Should See
Obviously, the biggest draw to Easter Island is the moai statues, so you can start by visiting some of the most important sites like Rano Raraku National Park the former main moai quarry. Here you'll see the statues in all stages of production from finished ones to the ones barely carved out of the rock.
The other national park is Orongo, which is the place where you'll see a beautiful volcanic crater and the remnants of some of the dwellings of the original Rapa Nui inhabitants. Both parks used to have a collective entrance fee of $60, but recently, local people removed the fee in exchange for hiring a local guide to take you through the sites. Depending on whom you hire, this might work in your favor, economically. All the other sites on the island are free, but some might require a guide depending on how complicated it is to get there or around it.
Another site not to miss is Tongariki; one of the most iconic sites on the island with its 15 moai standing next to each other on an Ahu (ceremonial platform). Don't miss the sunrise from there!
While Easter Island is not a beach destination, don't miss going to Anakena Beach, not too far from Tongariki by car. It has beautiful white sand and crystal clear waters, and it is adorned with a few moais too.
These are just a few major tips on doing Easter Island on a budget, but there are many more ways to travel the island cheaply, especially if you know where to look and how to prepare for such a trip. But if you follow these steps, I guarantee you that visiting the island is far more affordable than you might think.
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