On the second Wednesday of the month, Kristin Addis from Be My Travel Muse writes a guest column featuring tips and advice on solo female travel. It’s an important topic I can’t adequately cover, so I brought in an expert to share her advice for other solo female travelers! This article is applicable to everyone though!
In the movie 180° South, a guy from California sets sail to Patagonia, has ship trouble along the way, and gets marooned on Easter Island. Oddly, it was that movie that inspired me to want to visit Easter Island. After watching it, I needed to visit Easter Island and see it with my own eyes.
My week there was a mix of exploring the gorgeous coastline and walking around the mysterious Moai statues, marveling at their size and wondering how in the world people who only had access to stone tools could create something so massive. I sometimes wondered if there were as many horses as there were people, running all along the green grasses of the island and on the rugged coastline, full of volcanic rock and powerful waves.
I spent most of my days motor biking around the island, getting to know the locals and admiring the skills of the original settlers. The first people came to Easter Island around 300-400 A.D. The island is most famous for the 900 giant stone statues dotted around the island. Legend tells that the island used to be full of trees, and when climate change hit the island, locals built the Moai as a way of appeasing the gods, and eventually toppling each other’s statues over and warring as conditions worsened. However, much of this is just speculation.
But visiting this out of the way destination and seeing these statues has been a life long dream of mine.
Unfortunately, Easter Island is hideously expensive to visit because it’s so remote – over 3,700 kilometers away from Santiago, Chile. Very few crops grow here, there is very little “industry”, and nearly everything on the island is shipped from the mainland at great expense.
Geography means that the costs of good are high and it’s not the most budget friendly island in the world.
However, it’s not impossible to plan a budget trip there if you do so in advance:
How to get there
One of the biggest costs of visiting Easter Island is transport. There is just one airline that flies there — LAN — and it only flies once per day, departing from and returning to Santiago. That also means it can pretty much charge what it wants, which is usually $500-600 return, but with the following tips you might be able to cut it down:
- Book ahead and go during off and shoulder seasons: You might get lucky and score something closer to $400 or even the coveted $300 if you go during a season that isn’t popular and book way ahead of time.
- Stay for a while: It also really helps to stay for longer, like a week or more. For some reason the flights get really expensive if it’s a shorter trip. I realize that seems like a really long time in a place that expensive, but don’t worry, because we’ll make sure you’re covered with the advice below.
- Check the price of business class: This may sound crazy if you’re trying to save money, but I personally scored biz class tickets for two pesos cheaper than economy class for my return flight. This seems to be somewhat common on these flights, as I saw it more than once while searching.
- Use Google Flights’ calendar function: You can see the cheapest dates all month by using the fare calendar, then book directly on LAN’s website for the best fares.
- Travel hack: LAN is a part of the Oneworld alliance and, though availability is rare, you can also get seats via points, so if you have miles on LAN, American Airlines, British Airways, or another partner, you can try to score a free flight.
There are occasional boats that sail to Easter Island from New Zealand or elsewhere in the South Pacific that take passengers, but they are priced incredibly high. At this time there is no public boat option from Chile’s mainland, mainly because Easter Island doesn’t have a harbor that can accommodate ships. Therefore, those who do sail there normally do so on private boats and drop anchor close to land.
If you want to sail there, some travelers successfully volunteer as crew as a cheap or free way to travel.
Where to stay
You have three affordable options if you’re traveling to Easter Island: book a hostel dorm bed way ahead of time, as there are few and they fill up quickly; camp in a tent; or rent an apartment on either Airbnb (if you’re new to Airbnb, get $35 off your first stay) or Booking.com.
If you want to stay for free there, Couchsurfing is also an option but there are only 50-60 hosts on the island, so connect them well in advance.
If renting an apartment: Many places on Easter Island are cabana-style and can accommodate up to seven or eight people. When split among that many people, they end up costing each person less than $20 per night.
If it’s low season, I recommend only booking one or two nights on Booking.com and then working out a deal directly with the owner to stay for the remaining days. Since booking.com takes a cut of profits, ask if they can pass on a discount to you if you cut out the middleman. It’s nice to have the place booked when you land, though, since they almost always include a free airport pickup in the price, but thereafter try to work out something cheaper.
If you’re camping: There are a few camping grounds on Easter Island that also offer hostel-style accommodation for pretty cheap. I personally recommend Tipie Moana (but book ahead of time, as they fill up!).
If you already have camping gear, bring it along! You’re allowed to check two bags for free on flights to Easter Island as long as they total 25kg or less.
If hosteling: There are a few hostel-style accommodation options for $25+ per night, which is among the cheapest you’ll find on Easter Island. Some of the best are Vaianny Guest House, Hostel Petero Atamu, Kona Tau, and Casa de Fatima Hotu. (You can also check out private rooms on Airbnb but most rooms there run closer to $50+ per night.)
What to eat and drink
Eating meals out gets super expensive on Easter Island because it all has to be brought in from mainland Chile, so cut out the middleman and bring your food yourself! I went to the island with one other person and between us, with some clever cooking, I was able to feed us all with just the food brought from the mainland. Here was my list:
- 1 bag of small onions
- 1 head of cauliflower
- 2 red peppers
- 2 handfuls of button-top mushrooms
- 2 tomatoes
- 2 potatoes
- 5 carrots
- 1 eggplant
- 2 beetroots
- nuts and fruits for snacks
- 1 packet of turmeric for curry
- 1 garlic clove
- 8 packets of dried beef broth
- 1 loaf of rye bread
- 1 small packet of mayonnaise
- 2 packets of salami and ham (the sandwiches only lasted for two days)
- 1 kilo of brown rice
- 1/2 kilo of lentils
- 1 bag of oatmeal
- 1 kilo of milk powder
- 1 packet of milo (chocolate powder)
- 1 small bottle of sunflower oil
- 1 small can of coconut cream
- 2 bottles of wine
The total cost for all of that was about $130, meaning we spent an average of $4.65 per meal per person, plus wine! I alternated the meals between a vegetarian Thai yellow curry, fried rice, lentil soup, beetroot salad, and potato salad. I had to substitute ingredients for all of the recipes, but it all turned out delicious!
Put the food in a box or an extra backpack and check it with the rest of your luggage. Remember that since you can check two bags (25 kilos total), you’ll have room to bring both the food and your belongings.
When I ran out of supplies, I supplemented by eating empanadas for lunch, which are only a few dollars and can be found at most small shops, and by buying a fish from a local fisherman for the equivalent of $8 and cooking it myself (it would have cost $20 in a restaurant). You can find fish for sale every morning except for Sunday at Hanga Roa’s cultural center.
If you do buy food on the island, budget at least a dollar or two per fresh fruit or veggie item, at least $10 per meat item, and $15 or more per restaurant meal.
How to get around
Within the town of Hanga Roa, taxis are cheap at just $3.00; bicycles are great as well for the town and surroundings. A taxi doesn’t make sense for longer distances, as the price goes up significantly, and it takes about 90 minutes to make it from one side of the island to the other.
To visit the moai and the beach, I suggest driving yourself. Tours are expensive, so to get around I rented a motorbike and shared it with one other person. The motorbike cost $40 USD per day ($20 each), which afforded us freedom on the island. If renting a car, keep in mind that the price is negotiable and you can probably work out a discount.
The entrance to the national park is $60 for foreigners and is valid for the entire island. For most of the Moai, you don’t need any kind of entrance ticket and can visit as many times as you want, except for the quarry where the statues were carved and the museum at Rano Kau. You can visit each only once and they will demand to see your ticket. It would be a pity to travel all the way to Easter Island and miss these things, so I recommend coughing it up at the airport and just buying the ticket on arrival.
Additionally, besides seeing the famous statues, you can go scuba diving to see the sunken moai (spoiler alert: it’s actually just an old movie prop, but still cool!), go surfing, or just drive around to just see where the day takes you.
Easter Island was a trippy walk through the past. Few of the descendants of the original tribes are still left and nobody is exactly sure how or why the Moai were carved. That’s part of what makes Easter Island so alluring and interesting to visitors – it’s still partially an enigma.
By bringing my own food, scoring a cheap business-class ticket, driving myself around the island, and working out a deal with the owner of my accommodation, I saved myself hundreds of dollars off of what most tourists usually pay when visiting Easter Island. Easter Island was one of the most unique places I’ve ever visited. There was no way I would visit Chile without going. Through very careful and smart planning, you can visit the island without blowing your budget.
Kristin Addis is a solo female travel expert who inspires women to travel the world in an authentic and adventurous way. A former investment banker who sold all of her belongings and left California in 2012, Kristin has solo traveled the world for over four years, covering every continent (except for Antarctica, but it’s on her list). There’s almost nothing she won’t try and almost nowhere she won’t explore. You can find more of her musings at Be My Travel Muse or on Instagram and Facebook.