Easter Island, Rapa Nui, Isla de Pascua. It’s an island that seems to capture the imagination of every traveller out there – an island in the middle of the South Pacific where there are huge stone heads, weird ancestral traditions and not a lot of knowledge on just why these things happened.
It’s also not cheap. I mean, nothing grows there and everything, and I mean everything, has to be imported from the mainland, which is a five hour flight away.
So, the question is,
Is it possible to travel to Easter Island on a budget?
In a word, kind of.
I’m not going to lie, the flights out there don’t come cheap. We felt we were lucky to get a return flight, each, for under £500. Prices for flights to the world’s remotest inhabited island are cheapest when booked well in advance, not on a last minute whim, so even the most spontaneous of travellers will benefit from some serious forward planning.
It’s not really surprising that accommodation in the middle of the South Pacific isn’t the cheapest, but all things considered, it could be much worse. We stayed at a campsite called Mihinoa that was recommended to us by a guy we met at a hostel in Santiago. This came in at about £7 per person per night, including full use of the kitchen (everything provided), hot showers and a pitch as close to the sea as you can get. Mihinoa also offers some extremely affordable dorm accom, but you will need to book well in advance.
During the low-season, booking a camping spot ahead of time is quite unnecessary on Easter Island, once you arrive at the airport there are loads of locals waiting in trucks and 4WDs to take you to a bed. Wild camping is, unfortunately, illegal on Rapa Nui.
Hotels however, come in at way over the standard backpackers budget, starting at around £70 per night and escalating quickly into the triple figures. Locals also offer out their rooms at no fixed price and costs can and will change depending on their mood; be prepared to haggle.
Eating on Easter Island
The rumours have it that eating and drinking out here is crazy expensive, however, if careful, eating out and cooking for yourself seemed to be around the same cost. Albeit, we never ate out, but mostly because cooking fish on a BBQ as the sun went down over the endless horizon was just the experience we were after.
Beer is cheap in bars and in mini markets, box wine is both cheap and surprisingly good from the markets and packaged food have about a 10% markup from mainland prices. Fish, which is caught off the shore, is crazy cheap and wonderfully fresh. Bread is the same, although baked not caught.
Your expense comes in when buying perishable goods, which are flown in daily and then snapped up quickly before they go off or someone else buys them. Vegetables are crazy expensive, but a necessary purchase if you’re anything like us and need your vits.
If eating out is more your jam, there are loads of places who offer out cheap empenadas, loads of ceviche and cheap(ish) fresh seafood everywhere. Lots of bars also have cheap beer and reasonable cocktails.
Rentals, Admissions and Excursions
As you land at Hanga Roa airport, you will need to buy a £30 ticket to two sites of the national park; the quarry used to mine the Moai out of, and the Orongo Village. Both worth the money. The rest of the island is considered national park, but it is free to roam.
Believe me when I say that the island is far too big to walk around – we tried, and failed. However, the volcano at the west end of the island where the Orongo Village is, is easily accessed on foot for a seasoned hiker well equipped with water, food and sun cream. We also trekked a considerable way along the north coast, where bikes, scooters and cars are strongly recommended not to venture due to the terrible state of the road.
The best way to see the island and the Moai sites is to hire a scooter, bike or car for a day or two. We hired scooters from two places, once from the Mihinoa where we were staying, which cost us £20 for the day, and once from a rental company on the main drag, which cost us £25.
A full day guided tour will set you back about £40, but will make you feel as though you are stuck on a tourist-site conveyor belt and forgo you the luxury of drinking in the views.
Why you should go
Although spending a week here does make you dig deep into your pockets, it’s a place on earth that must be visited if you find yourself umming and awwing about booking a ticket. Easter Island is a truly unreal, once in a lifetime kind of place and is aplace that makes you stop and sink into relaxation.
If you’re heading out soon, do check out Mihinoa camping and hostel, their location is almost unrivalled and service friendly.