The mysterious Easter Island lies 3,600 km off the coast of Chile. Covered in hundreds of Moai statues, it still holds the secrets of a lost civilisation. Many people dream of travelling there, but being so remote the cost of visiting is high.
Luckily we managed to include it on our trip backpacking through South America and with a few simple tricks it is definitely possible to enjoy the island without breaking the bank.
Flights: It’s all about timing
Not surprisingly, the biggest cost when travelling to one of the most remote islands in the world is the flight. Of course you have to get to Santiago, Chile first, but then return flights to Rapa Nui from there can be anywhere between £500 and £1200. Basically, the earlier you book, the better.
We booked our flights in March, with LATAM (the only airline that flies there) to leave in June and managed to get an amazing price of £267 each for a return ticket! We tried different dates until we got the cheapest price and just booked it up, knowing we’d have to be in Santiago by that date. It also helped that we were flying at the end of June, which leads us on to our next point.
Go in Winter
Low season on the island is between July and September when Chile is in its winter months. We went just on the edge of this at the end of June so flight and accommodation prices were lower. We had a mix of sunny days and some rain, but the island is still warm even in winter due to its location in the South Pacific.
Hotels on the island are extremely expensive so the cheapest option is to stay at one of the few camp sites. We stayed at Camping Mihinoa which is right by the sea and around a 15 minute walk to the only town, Hanga Roa. We stayed in a cabin with a big comfy bed and ensuite bathroom for around £30 per night.
If you want to camp it’s around £9 per person per night, including sleeping bag and mattress and you have access to a shared kitchen with your own set of cutlery. Camping is a great idea although if you’re staying in winter it may be a bit soggy.
We were happy to pay the extra for our cabin, which was in a smaller building and shared a kitchen with only one other room.
(Bonus Tip: Most campsites will offer you a free pick-up from the airport if you email in advance).
Take all of your own food
The part that worried us most budget-wise was the food. Being so remote, everything has to be imported so is heavily marked up in price. We had read online that a meal in a restaurant could start anywhere from £20 per head. The great thing about staying at one of the campsites is the access to a fully stocked kitchen.
We took all of our own food with us from Santiago. LATAM airlines allow an extra item of hold luggage per person for free, solely on the flight to Easter Island. You can even take a cooler box with fresh meats, vegetables and dairy – the only rule is that you cannot take anything fresh back to the mainland. You can take alcohol too, we managed to get 5 bottles of wine into our hand luggage!
There are a few mini-markets on the island and we actually found when we got there that basic staples such as bread and eggs weren’t overly marked up in price. Certain things like wine and meat were more expensive, but compared to western prices it wasn’t as bad as we’d feared.
Hire a car
This is one of the most expensive things we did, but hiring a jeep really is the only way to see the island. It costs around £45 per day, but the cars fit 4 people so you can always find somebody to share with. We recommend hiring a car for at least two days to be able to see all of the best moai sites, volcanoes and beaches.
So there you have it. If you can get the timing of the flight right, stay on a campsite and cook your own meals, Easter Island is certainly possible on a budget. It still may not be the cheapest for backpackers – we probably averaged at around £60 per day between us including accommodation, food and car hire – but it is totally worth it and a trip you’ll never forget.
Have you ever visited Easter Island? Do you have any other budget or travel tips?