Going to Easter Island is a dream for many, including myself. We wanted to understand more about this fascinating ancient civilization and look at the mystical Moai statues. Because my partner and I have both quit our jobs to go on a one-year extended trip, we had to work out how to travel to Easter Island on a budget when we are planning our South America trip. We ended up spending on average USD$26.50 per day per person during our 7D 6N there.
Before we went to Easter Island we learnt that it is an expensive place to go. Easter Island is one of the most remote place on earth. It is 3750km from mainland Chile and 4050km from Tahiti. Even the closest island is 2081km away. Almost every daily essential item and food had to be imported and that is why everything on Easter Island is so expensive, BUT we still want to travel to Easter Island on a budget.
There are some unavoidable fees/costs on Easter Island. These include the expensive National Park ticket fee and the plane ticket cost to Easter Island. In order to travel to Easter Island on a budget, we had to save on other places. The following is the breakdown of how we spent in a total of 250,000CLP ($370 USD) for seven days and six nights. This includes food, transport and National park entrance fees.
Flights to Easter Island:
The cheapest ticket to Easter Island typically is a return ticket from Santiago in Chile. The return ticket price is usually from $500 USD, but you have to wait for the occasional special fares for the cheapest ticket price. Also the earlier you buy the tickets the cheaper they usually are. These flights to Easter Island is quite popular, flights to and from Easter Island was full for us. There was a couple that couldn’t even sit next to each other on the way to Easter Island. Another way to buy tickets to Easter Island is to book RTW flights (further reading).
I first thought that the plane taking us to such a remote island would be a crappy one, but it ended up being one of the most modern planes we have been on. There were even scramble eggs for breakfast… as oppose to a couple of biscuits for lunch or tea on other Lan Airline flights. The screen in front of us was really high tech and have no lag at all. There were no window shades as well, you could dim out the window with a touch of a button. We booked this flight roughly 5 months in advance and we got a special rate of $500 USD.
Unavoidable Easter Island National Park Ticket
You may have read that for a period of time, the National Park Ticket may be avoidable due to some changes in authority on the Island. Unfortunately, that is all over now and park rangers did check our tickets regularly all over the Island and refuse entry to the best sites if you do not have a ticket. Immediately after you got off the plane there is a wooden booth to buy the Rapa Nui National Park ticket. Price on 2016/03 was 30,000 CLP or $60 USD. We paid with CLP as the conversion at that time was only equivalent to $45 USD. Besides accommodation, this cost was the highest on our Easter Island trip.
Easter Island is the first to be recognized as a world heritage site by UNESCO. Most of the world heritage site in the Pacific is non-tangible, only Easter Island has these beautiful complete Moai status worthy of care protection. One-third of this island belongs to the National Park now and once you are in the National Park, the park rangers will come and ask if you have a ticket when you walk past them.
According to our camp host, the park rangers only check tickets at the quarry site of Rano Raraku and the sacred Orongo. However, park rangers were checking tickets at other sites such as the famous Tongariki site. A Polish lady who was sharing a car with us was refused entry at Tongariki because she didn’t have a National Park ticket. I think it is a very wise idea to buy this National Park ticket now, otherwise, you’ll miss out on some very important Easter Island locations. If you didn’t buy the ticket at the airport you could still buy the ticket in the office that is located outside the airport, which is near the start of the trek to Orongo.
Easter Island Accommodation
Accommodation on Easter Island is definitely a huge expense. Typically a normal hotel room can cost up to $80 USD to $100 USD. The cheapest accommodations are to stay at a campsite. There are two campsites to choose from: Camping Tipanie Moana & Camping Mihinoa. Please check their official website for the most up to date pricing. 2016/03 price for both campsite was 7000 CLP ( 10 USD ) per person for one night. The campsite provides a tent, sleeping bag and kitchen, showering and toilet facilities. Most people found their camping experience to be quite pleasant.
We ended up choosing to stay at a private room at Tipanie Moana camp sit. We had a double bed, our own bathroom and toilet. We also have the option to use the shared kitchen. The cost for this room was 25000 CLP ($37 USD) for us, but I believed the prices for the room has already increased. Initially, I wanted to save on cost and stay in the tents but ended up choosing the more comfortable option. There are no fans or air-conditioning in the room though and it can get quite hot, but I think it’s more bearable than being in tents.
Truth is that during our research, many bloggers did say to book these camping rooms were your best option if you want to travel to Easter Island on a budget and don’t want to sleep in a tent. From our observation, there is only two private rooms in Tipanie Moana camp site, so you have to book early if you want these rooms.
The other camping site Camping Mihinoa is even more popular amongst backpackers. Reason is because it is right next to the beach. They also have their own private rooms and bunk rooms but you have to book extra early for those. The reason why we chose Camping Tipanie Moana is because Trip Advisor’s rating was excellent and every one said the cleanliness is great (which it was). Also the camp site is a lot less crowded.
Our accommodation also includes airport pickup and upon pick up, the host gave each of us a fresh flower necklace. This lady spoke fluent English. When we arrived at the camp site, she also explained to us carefully on what to see on the island and how long it takes for driving and hiking at each site. It’s rare to see such good service, especially at a campsite accommodation place. We were very pleased with the service!
Easter Island transport
The total area of Easter Island is very small. The total length of the Island is only 24.6km and 12.3km wide. Driving from one end of the Island to the other will take you less than 1 hr. Choices to tour the island includes car, motorbike, bicycle or simply walk/hitch hike. You could also Taxi around but that maybe costly.
- Bicycle rental: rental for 24hrs starts from 12000 CLP
- Motorbike rental: rental for 24hrs starts from 22000 CLP. For two people, this maybe the cheapest option
- Taxi: We never really took a taxi, but according to our guide book, they cost around $4USD to go anywhere around town. If you want to go from one side of the island to the other it may cost around $30US. Remember to always negotiate the price before boarding any Taxi as they don’t go by meter.
- Car rental: Hiring a car is worthwhile if you have got up to three or four people wanting to travel around the island. Driving a car to tour the island is the most comfortable choice because the heat and the humidity is relentless. From a reputable company, a manual car starts from 45000CLP for 24hrs hire and an automatic car starts from 70000CLP for 24hrs hire. So if you want to travel to Easter Island on a budget and want to hire a car, you probably should learn how to drive a manual car or know someone who does.For us we found two other people in the camp site willing to share the car hire and both of them knows how to drive manual. More surprisingly we found a dodgy looking car hire place that is willing to hire a very old and crappy car for 35000CLP for 24hrs hire which splits to be 8750CLP per person. The car was close to trash like, really dirty inside, seat belts don’t work and dents/rust all over the outside. On the hind sight, it was a relief that the car didn’t break down half way.
- Once you are out of the city area, the roads are very badly maintained. There are pot holes everywhere and there were many dirt tracks. The suspension on our crappy car was not the best either to handle these roads. Luckily the speed limit on these roads is only 60km/h so it’s not too dangerous. There are also many free roaming horses and cows so you have to be careful when driving.
- Another point you need to be careful of is that there are no insurance company on Easter Island so you would have to pay the full cost if you damaged the car. Don’t be too concerned though as it is quite difficult to get into any forms of accident on Easter Island as there are not a lot of cars driving around. But adversities do not proclaim their reckoning, and so, it always helps keeping the number of an accident attorney like Chad Stavley. Although it may seem unnecessary, you should consider having the best international health insurance before heading out on your trip so you are covered just in case of any medical emergency.
Food on Easter Island
Considering Easter Island is so isolated and most of the food product is imported from Chile, the food is very expensive. Saying that, the food cost is comparable to Australian prices, hence for short term travelers, you wouldn’t have to worry too much. For people like us who want to travel to Easter Island on a budget we have to be more careful. Fresh fruits and vegetables are typically 2-5 times the cost from mainland Chile. Canned and pre-packaged food is around 2-3 times the cost. The following are some examples of the cost of grocery when we were there 2016/03.
- Banana 2200 CLP/kg (Roughly $3.20 USD/Kg), Chile banana is typically 1000 CLP/kg. We usually have a banana a day
- Tomatoes 2500 CLP/kg, Chile tomatoes are 600-800 CLP and the ones in Chile are extremely beautiful.
- 6 Pre-packaged Sausages are 950 CLP (very processed looking ones). We have these every night with our spaghetti or cous cous we brought from Chile
- A packet of spaghetti is 800 CLP-2000 CLP. We could have two meals per packet of spaghetti so it’s quite relatively cheap item.
- Six eggs for 1200 CLP, very cheap and they were very fresh but I believe it’s one of the few things they produce on the island. There are so many free roaming chicken around the island..
- We even saw Taiwanese instant noodles for 1400CLP. We were quite impressed that it exists on an island so far away.
- If you eat out daily, typically each meal costs 10000 CLP – 15000 CLP per person (20-25 USD). Cost will really add up quickly.
Another worthy point to note is that the whole island is covered with wild guava trees. If you walk 4-5km away from town and typically on the coast, there are many guava trees there. Many people in our camp site used these guava to make salads. One day, when we walked 20km round trip to see two lava caves, we saw many of these trees. It’s hard to find the fruits at first, but once we know what we were looking for, we took back two bag full of these Guavas (they had to be big and yellow). That’s our fruits sorted for the next three days.
Water is treated within the town of Hanga Roa so you can drink the water directly from the tap. However, the water really stinks of chlorine so it really takes time to get used to. Boiling it can make the taste more bearable sometimes.
There were many signs that said we could not bring fresh food into Easter Island and we also read this in our travel book. BUT… there was absolutely no one checking at all in the airport. The American guy we shared the car with even brought a whole bag full of fresh oranges into Easter Island. Knowing this I would have tried bringing in as much fresh produce as I can.
Easter Island Itinerary
The Following is a guide on what to do on Easter Island based on our experiences. After exploring this place, I think 5 days is very sufficient to explore the island thoroughly. Although We spent in total of 7 days 6 night on Easter Island, we did some relaxing and have down time.
Day 1: Taking our hired car for a tour of the Island
- Vaihu: fallen Maoi Heads
- Rano Raraku: The most important site on the island. It’s the quarry site for all the Moai heads across the island. There is also a volcanic lake at the same location.
- Ahu Tongariki: It is the very famous row of huge Moai heads where many magazines uses as representation of Easter Island. It also is the best location to see the sun rise.
- Anakena Beach: From Ahu Tongariki to Anakena Beach, there are still many中places to visit but we were dying from the heat so we all rushed to the very beautiful Anakena beach. This beach is like Hawaii and you could easily spent a whole afternoon there.
- Ahu Ature: Anakena Beach, the rare few Maoi heads still wearing their red stone hats.
- Ahu Akivi: The only Moai heads facing the sea. It’s also a great location to see the sun set. It’s located in the hill side
- from here you could walk half an hour to the Lava caves or come here on another day.
Day 2: See the sun rise and the day for town.
- Because hiring a car is based on 24hrs, we hired the car at 10am on the previous day and drove the car to Ahu Tongariki to see the sun rise at 8:20am. We returned the car after that.
- For Easter Island to have minimal time difference to Chile, Easter Island has a time that is a bit messed up. The sun rises very late at around 8:20am and sets really late after 9:00pm.
- At the post office, there is stamp they have made for your passport. Another kind of souvenir you can remember Easter Island with.
Day 3: Hiking to Orongo
- Rano Kau: total climb of this inactive volcano is 300meters. Total hike distance is 6km (takes around 5hrs for a round trip). I think the view point here is the most special out of the whole island. The volcano mouth is around 200 meters deep and is filled with fresh water. The algae growing on the water looks like a map. It’s extremely beautiful.
- Orongo: The “Birdman” cult are hosted at this very sacred site. You could learn all about this culture and explore the village built here at this location. There is also a very beautiful island not far off the coast where these brave village representatives of the past had to swim to and retrieve the first bird egg laid there. It’s a very beautiful area to explore and a very fascinating history to learn about. (We learnt that a very beautiful and only Moai head was taken from this site a long time ago to be presented to the queen of England. Now placed in the British museum.)
- I suggest that if have spare budget, it’s wise to just drive up. It’s quite a long hike for us to climb all the way here.
Day 4: Walking to the lava caves
- Lava Caves: if you walk North West side of the island you will see some lava cave sites. Park Rangers did check our National Park tickets on the way. At two of these caves are near the sea, you would need a torch. One of the entrance to these holes are very small and after a wiggle through the area expands and you could see very beautiful window that leads to the sea. One of the other famous lava caves is further inland.
- We walked 20km in total this day. It was an extremely hot and humid hike. Would be a lot more comfortable to drive to these caves. Park rangers will be cars close to the entrance but from there, it’ll only be around a 2 km walk to the lava cave.
Day 5: Diving
- There are many great Diving spots around Easter Island. One of these sites you could see a perfectly place Maoi heads sitting on the bottom. Many of the reviews we saw said this experience was very worthwhile. However we are on a budget so we chose to skip this experience.
How to Travel to Easter Island on a budget? Total Expenditure of our Easter Island trip:
- Rapa Nui National Park entrance fee: 30000 CLP X 2 ($88 USD)
- Camping Tipanie Moana accomodation 25000 CLP X 6 = 150,000 CLP ($220USD)
- Car hire amongst four people 35000 CLP/ 24HRS = We paid for two people worth 17500 CLP ($26 USD)
- Petrol 700 CLP/L ($1.02USD/L,). We contributed 1000 CLP per person, so we paid 2000 CLP ($2.93 USD)
- Food cost: We brought two bags of cous cous and two packets of pasta fromSa ntiago. We bought fresh fruits, bread and meat locally. Total cost for 6 nights is 18500 CLP ($27 USD,)
- Post cards were 300 CLP each, and postage were 600CLP each. So for 4 post cards we spent 3600 CLP ($5.30 USD)
In total for seven days and six nights, our total expenditure is only $370 USD The way we controlled our budge on Easter island is:
- We split our car rental cost with two other people and we only hired it for one day. We walked for the rest.
- We didn’t eat out at all
- From Santiago we brought some food at a lower cost and we avoided to buy too many fresh produce. (York really missed Vegetables in these few days).
- We booked a very good value accommodation.
- We did not participate in any tours or activities such as diving or rabbit hunting. Athough, Easter Island is not really great for hunting, but you can go to the shooting range to practice your aim with ar-15 rifles.
Short clip of our adventure on Easter Island
So this is our itinerary and spendings over our seven day stay in Easter Island. We did not feel that we missed out on anything and we definitely did travel to Easter Island on a budget. Hopefully this article is helpful for your planning to Easter Island in the near future. I may type up another article to describe Easter Island in more detail.
Hope you enjoy reading!
Our next stop is Galapagos Island! 😀