How to Travel to Easter Island on a Budget

One of the biggest limiting factors for people who want to go to Easter Island is the price.  And its true… Easter Island is really really expensive.  But, if you plan well and are feeling adventurous, there a number of ways to make the trip a little easier on the wallet.

Easter Island is so expensive for a very good reason: it’s one of the most isolated islands in the world.  The nearest inhabited island is Pitcairn Island (located over 2,500 kilometers away), and the nearest continent land is central Chile (over 3,500 kilometers away).  This has a dramatic influence on the price of a few key aspects of travel, which we’ll cover in detail.

Flights: As you might imagine, it’s not particularly easy to get to the island.  The only airline that flies there is Chile’s LAN airlines.  They fly once daily from Santiago and once weekly from Tahiti.  In all likelihood, you’ll be coming from Santiago.  A monopoly on a 5+ hour flight means it can be quite pricy – flights range from $400-1200 dollars.

This is one of the first key areas that travelers can save money.  During the busiest months (January – March), flight are going to be upwards of $1000 dollars.  Off peak months will be less.

However, one of the keys to getting a flight closer to $400 is having flexible departure dates and scouring the LAN website for a while before buying.  They often have deals on cheaper tickets a few times a year or offer cheap flights if you leave at a certain time.  The more advanced planning you do and the more flexibility you have, the better off you’ll be.

When my friend Will and I went, it was during a school break so we had no flexibility, and as a result the flight was around $700.  While not bad for the tail end of the busy season, it was definitely more than we wanted to spend, and as a result we endeavored to spend a little as possible while on the island itself.

Food: While some food is produced on the island (mainly vegetables and seafood), a huge percentage of the food comes on the daily flights from the mainland.  This means that anything you buy in a grocery store or restaurant is going to be marked up 300%.  This also applies to other products that come from Chile, such as toiletries or sunscreen.

So, the obvious solution is to bring all your own food!  You can check two bags for free on LAN flights to Easter Island, so that’s not an issue.  Do a big shopping run before going and you’ll save hundreds on food.  Will and I spent $40 dollars on food for a five day trip – the only food we bought on the island was empanadas at a fast food place (we highly recommend Empanadas Tia Berta).

Accommodation: Just like food, board is similarly marked up.  There are a few options to keep the price reasonable, the cheapest of which is couchsurfing.  This isn’t a very reliable method, as there are fewer than 10 hosts on the island, so it takes a bit of luck.  We were trying to couchsurf, but no one was available while we were there.  That being said, I still think it’s worth attempting.

The second option is camping.  For around $10-15/night, you can camp in designated areas.  If you’re up for roughing it and not showering for a few days, this is a solid choice.

The final, and most expensive, budget option is to stay in a hostel.  Just like with couchsurfing, there are very few hostels (around 10), so book in advance!  These are definitely more expensive than hostels on the mainland (the hostel we stayed at -the cheapest on the island- was $25/night, whereas hostels in Chile are $12-16), but infinitely cheaper than the hotels that cater to a much older, wealthier crowd.

Transportation on the Island:  Again there are three options.  The most expensive is to travel around the island on tours.  If you’re on a budget, this isn’t a realistic option.  While I don’t remember the exact numbers, I do know the tours were gratuitously expensive.

The second, and most common option for travelers, is to rent a car (or a motorcycle – which is cheaper).  Cars run at around $100-200/day, which especially if you’re in a big group, is substantially better than taking a tour.

The third, and definitely most adventurous option, is to rent bicycles.  The island is only 20 or so kilometers in diameter at its widest point, so if you’re in shape and up for some exercise, no place on the island is out of reach using this method.  Will and I rented bikes for $20/day, and still saw everything there was to see.  While its exhausting, in some ways the sights are more satisfying because you had to work to get there.  My only complaint about this method is that the bikes are of pretty poor quality, making the uphills seriously difficult.  I fully realize this isn’t for everyone, but if you want a unique way to experience the island, I can’t recommend this method enough.  Something about being the only people biking on a coastal road overlooking the ocean on one of the most isolated places on earth in perfect weather was just so incredible.


 

So, in conclusion, if you’re looking to go to Easter Island while in Chile, you can save hundreds of dollars on your plane ticket, accommodation, food, and transportation.  Excluding the plane ticket, I spent only $250 dollars for five unforgettable days.  It was by far the most money I’d ever spent traveling, but the trip would have cost twice as much had I not done these things.  While there’s no way to make Easter Island truly ‘budget’ friendly, it doesn’t have to break the bank.

(Also if you’re wondering, yes it was absolutely worth spending the money – it was a truly unforgettable trip)

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