Easter Island is one of those places that tops many travellers’ bucket lists, but its remote position and its appeal as an exotic tourist destination really drive up the prices of accommodations, meals, and tours. The big question for anyone travelling this way is:
Can you do Easter Island on a budget?
The answer to that is YES!
There are ways to plan a trip to Easter Island so that it won’t cost you a fortune, but at the same time you shouldn’t come here expecting the dirt cheap prices you might find in Southeast Asia or Central America.
Travel in Easter Island comes with a certain price tag, but here are some ways you can keep costs within a reasonable budget:
Book flights in advance
The main reason we ended up in Easter Island is because we found cheap airfare. Regular priced tickets can cost upwards of $1250 USD, however, if you book up to 6 months in advance you can find deals for $550 USD.
I randomly came across these prices when I was daydreaming about Easter Island last year, and since we already had plans to travel in Chile, we just booked those flights the same day. We weren’t going to pass ’em up!
When it comes to flying to Easter Island, LAN has a monopoly since they are the only airline that travels here, but you can save money by planning your trip well in advance. You can read some more tips on how to book cheap flights in this article.
Keep your stay short (if you must!)
I don’t like to tell you to keep your stay short (this is a place that gets under your skin and is really hard to leave!), but the easiest way to keep your budget within check is by having a shorter stay on Easter Island.
I spent a full week there, but if I’m being honest, you don’t need that long to see everything. A full week is great if you want to relax and enjoy some chill island time, however, most visitors come for 3-4 days and you can easily cover the entire island in that amount of time.
FYI – Easter Island is only twice the size of Manhattan and there is only one town centre.
Choose your accommodations wisely
Aside from flights, accommodations are likely to be your biggest expense. Since we were travelling as a group of 4, what made the most sense for us was to rent a cottage. This was cheaper than getting 2 hotel rooms and it also meant we had a kitchen to cook in. We paid $830 USD for 7 nights in a 2-bedroom cottage (this one here), and though those rates may seem high, they’re pretty standard across the island.
Now, if you’re travelling solo or as a couple, an entire cottage may not be the most budget-friendly option. In that case, you may want to look at guesthouses or hostels (some do have shared kitchens), or for the hardcore backpacker, there are camp sites available in the outskirts of town and near Anakena Beach.
Another thing I’ll mention is that you’ll want to get your accommodations sorted well in advance . We booked our cottage months ahead on Booking.com and I was surprised by how many of the properties were already booked solid. This is one destination where you don’t want to just ‘show up and wing it’.
Cut down your meal costs
Restaurant meals in Easter Island are pricey since the majority of their food products have to be brought in by ship or by plane, so we tried to eat out only once a day. We usually had breakfast at the cottage, lunch at a restaurant or little bakery, and then we prepared our dinners at the cottage.
Restaurant meals can cost anywhere between $8,000 – 20,000 CLP ($12-30 USD) per person depending on the restaurant, however, snack-type meals and baked goods can be more affordable. As an example, we had lunch a little bakery one day and paid $1,500 CLP ($2.25 USD) for a cheese and ham empanada and $2,000 CLP ($3 USD) for a beef empanada. Then for desert we got an alfajor for $1,000 CLP ($1.50 USD).
While doing some research about Easter Island, I came across a Lonely Planet forum where someone recommended bringing dry goods in their luggage since it’s cheaper than buying them on the island, so we did just that. The night before flying to Easter Island, we hit up a supermarket in Santiago and bought things like noodle cups, pasta, granola bars, cereal, and little snacks. Once on the island we still went to the market and bought things like fruits, vegetables, and other snacks, so this helped supplement the food we had brought over.
Rent a car to see the island
Another way to save money if you’re travelling as a group is by renting a car to get around the island. Car rentals start out at $40,000 CLP ($60 USD) for a 2-door hatchback with manual transmission, which is the same price as many of the full-day tours around the island.
Automatic transmission costs a bit more, however, most rental companies offer a discount if you rent a car for more than a day. We ended up renting a 4-door automatic Suzuki Jimny with automatic transmission for $50,000 CLP ($75 USD).
I should also mention that there is no such thing as car insurance on Easter Island. The roads do have quite a few potholes and there are lots of wild horses, so you’ll want to take it easy.
Another way to explore the island is by bike. Bicycles rentals start at $12,000 ($18 USD) for 24 hours. I came across bikers who made it to the top of the Rano Kau Crater (you’d need some solid leg muscles for that) and I also saw bikers going to Anakena which is 18 kilometers from Hanga Roa. If you’re a strong biker and you can tackle a few hills, this may be a good option for you.
Do you have any other suggestions for visiting Easter Island on a budget?