Only one option
Reaching Rapa Nui, one of the most isolated places on earth, is never going to be straightforward! You could play Thor Heyerdahl and make your own way there by sea - not exactly practicable - or opt for a cruise that calls at the island, but that would only give you a few hours there - nowhere near enough to really appreciate the place, and the ships don't send people ashore when the seas are high, as they often are! - which leaves you with the only alternative - flying.
Chile's national airline - LAN - is currently the only airline flying into Easter Island. They operate daily flights in the high season (Nov-Feb), and three or four times a week the rest of the year.
From Chile, flights leave from Santiago. Some are classed as domestic flights and leave from the domestic terminal in Santiago. Others are international flights that continue on to Tahiti - they leave from the International terminal at Santiago - make sure you check which terminal you're flying from!
You can also fly from Tahiti to Rapa Nui a couple of times a week.
There is no really cheap way to get there. High season return fares from Santiago are currently an whopping USD1300, low season fares come in at USD640 - both plus taxes! However, LAN do offer promotional specials at times so it's well worth checking their website frequently.
You can include Easter Island as a stopover on a round the world ticket - flying with one of LAN's oneworld alliance partners. The options for flying from your nearest airport to Easter Island (via either Santiago or Tahiti) or including it as part of another trip are best left to your local travel agent or your own time researching on the web.
We used Frequent Flyer miles to fly from Australia to South America and Easter Island but had to buy the Papeete- Auckland leg of our journey as Air Nui Tahiti (our only option for that leg) does not accept FF points. An excursion ticket proved to be the cheapest option by far for that leg. You do need to do your homework when it comes to these things!Related to:
- National/State Park
Once you're there
Hiring a 4x4 on Easter Island will give you the flexibility to go pretty well anywhere and everywhere you want. Many of the island's roads are little more than tracks, some very rough, making a 4x4 the best way to get to the more out of the way places - though even then you may have to leave the car and continue your exploration on foot at times - heavy rain can make the ground extremely boggy, and there are places that are accessible only by a walking track.
We rented our 4x4 from the owner of our B&B - an ideal arrangement as it was charged for a 24 hour period and we took the rental up from the evening of our first day after returning from a tour. This meant we had the fullest use of it - right up until we had to be at the airport for our late evening departure - Bicky was kind enough to come to the airport to collect it from us (and to farewell us with shell necklaces), leaving us free to check our luggage in and then go back into town for a last dinner.
At USD60 per day, it may not be the cheapest way of getting around - regular cars, scooters and mountain bikes are other options
- but it certainly is the one that allows you to explore the island to its best advantage. One word of warning - there is no insurance available. Provided you're sensible though and keep an eye out for hazards - the greatest of which are the wild horses that roam all over the island - and pedestrians, you shouldn't have any more problems than the dozens of other tourists who are taking the same chance at the same time.
There are several hire companies on the island, or ask at your accommodation. They'll certainly be able to help you. You'd be wise to book ahead at the height of the high season.
Make sure you have
a jack (gata)
a good spare tyre (neumatico)
and that you know how to use it.
You must have an International Driver's Licence.
Rent a scooter
Off course you are coming to Easter Island to explore the island and to visit the (main) sights of interest. Getting around on this rather small island is not difficult, although there is no public transportation at all. You need a guided tour, a taxi or a rental car/motor or scooter.
I would recommend to rent a scooter. It is not expensive as renting a car or motorcycle and especially when the weather is fine (as we had during our whole visit) it is great fun to drive through the impressive scenery of Rapa Nui, enjoying the moai, the landscape, the sun and the wind. Besides it is very easy to drive, because the scooters don't have a gear. Everybody is able to drive around and you don't need a license.
Some roads in the inland are very bumpy and dusty, so be careful and don't wear your best clothes.
You can rent your scooter for the day, but also for a couple of hours. It is ideal for a half day tour or just to visit a beach. We had a scooter for 4 hours from 'Paomotus' - it is on the main street - and it cost 12.000 pesos.
Paomotus was by far the cheapest we could find in Hanga Roa.
LAN , Chile only way to come to Easter Island
LAN Chile is the only airline which is flying to Easter Island. They fly from Santiago (Chile), Papeete (Tahiti) and from Lima/Peru to Easter Island. Flights are not daily, so you will have to check carefully when you can fly in or/and out.
We were very satisfied with the service of LAN Chile on all the flights we had with them. The flghts to/from Easter Island - Santiago take about 5 hours (weather depending).
Tickets are rather expensive, so I recommend to check the website of LAN for special deals. Another possibilty is to add your visit to Easter Island in an around the world ticket with ONE World. LAN Chile is member of this alliance and you are allowed to fly to Easter Island (and further).
LAN also offers the South America Airpass to travellers reaching South America with LAN or another OneWorld airline. Check the conditions at: http://www.lan.com/en_ue/promociones/data/europa/todo_europa/saairpass.html
(There is also a One World South American Air Pass, sometimes with better deals than LAN:
Rent a car, or take a tour
You can take tours of different areas of the island, and this probably would be very interesting if you would like to be with someone (a local) to take you to the highlights and to explain all of the background about the Moai, etc. However, your time may be limited at each stop because it is a tour, so I still do recommend renting a car to get out and do some exploration o your own.
You can rent cars from any of the hotels, but this is a little more expensive. There are quite a few small places right in the village of Hanga Rpa where you can rent cars, mostly jeeps, and you can also rent motor scooters. Because of the terrain and sometimes sudden heavy downpours, I recommend a jeep.
Flying to Easter Island
Unless you come on a long cruise (Easter Island is miles and miles from anywhere), you are going to have to fly there. There is only one airline that flys to Easter Island and that is LAN Chile. They don't fly everyday, but do fly in or out (and sometimes in and out!) on most days. The flights are pricey however. You also only have two choices of airports that you can fly to/from Easter Island, and these are Santiago (de Chile) and Tahiti.
To find out about the most up to date fares and the current flight schedules, check out the LAN Chile website below. Every now and then, they do special offers when they have spare capacity, so its the sort of website to check frequently.Related to:
- National/State Park
- Adventure Travel
Lan Chile, the only airline serving the island
Getting to Easter Island is not easy by any means. There is only one airline, LanChile, that serves the island, and they only fly a couple of times a week. Generally the flights go Santiago-Easter Island-Tahiti, so you might consider doing what we did---combining a rip to the island with a trip to Polynesia. Flight prices are expensive as well, so you may wish to xonsdier looking into a package deal offered by Lan Chile or a travel agency in Santiago. They can set you up with a flight, hotel, and trasnportation for a better price than you would get if you arranged everything yourself.
Landing on Easter Island is quite an experience. We circled and circled and when we finally went to land, we descended very very rapidly and it looked like we were going to plunge into the ocean. The runway starts on one end of the island and ends on the other side, so you have corssed the whole island just doing your landing. However, that's because the runway is at the narrow end of the island.....
The airport is small....very very small!
Rent a 4-Wheel Drive
The only way to get around Easter Island properly is by 4 Wheel-drive. It isn't impossible to see some of the main sights by car, but really you are going to need a 4 wheel-drive to see everything you want to see. These are easy to rent, but on Easter Island, there is no insurance, so it is a bit daunting when you rent one and feel as if you are signing your life away. The good news is that as long as you are sensible, there is not much to go wrong!Related to:
- National/State Park
- Adventure Travel
Tourists from the USA entering Chile are required to pay $100 fee. This MUST be paid in US cash (no charge cards!). Even if you are only "passing through" the mainland airport, you must pay this fee in order to enter the airport. We saw a backpacker nearly breaking into tears as she gave up her last bit of currency to pay the fee. She was stuck with credit cards for the remainder of her trip. NOTE: Arnold didn't have to pay the fee because the European Union has a different pact with the Chilean government than the USA does (Arnold has Dutch citizenship).Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Adventure Travel
As most of the roads on Rapa Nui are not paved, the best way to get around is by a 4WD. You can rent "regular" small cars as well, but it is definiately worth to get one of these, as you don't have to worry about the roads where you go, and it's real fun as well!
If you drive one of these, you will be able to discover the most remote areas of the most remote island of the Earth! Go for it, it's a great experience!
Typical types: Suzuki Jimny (on my pictures), Suzuki Vitara, Daihatsu Terios
Typical price: around USD 50/day (24 hours)
Typical rental place: ask at your accomodation, they will know!
Update in 2008: some of those most remote areas are now closed from regular visitors or at least protected by "do not enter" signs, so the weight of having a 4×4 has decreased, but it's still a lot of fun and is needed for Rano Kao and Ahu Akave among other destinations!
Renting a scooter is a great way to cover and explore the island independently. For between $15 and $20 dollars a day, you can have the freedom to explore the island at your own pace and avoid the mini bus tours which generally cover the sites at the same times every day. You can have the sites largely to yourself if you avoid the sites at peak times, generally between 10.00 and 15.00 plus the light for photography is much better outside these times.
Some agencies rent out scooters and quad bike although your accommodation may also offer a rental service. We rented from one of the many rental shops along the main street and bargained hard for a $15 a day rental over 3 days with a couple of free hours on the actual day of rental thrown in to sweeten the deal. Renting at the end of a day can give you the option of pointing out to the renter that they are unlikely to get another customer for the day and that if they let you take the scooter now you will take the scooter for a few days. We agreed 3 days rental and so the renter was willing to give us the scooter early for no extra charge.
You do need a valid driver’s license to rent a scooter on Easter Island so make sure you bring one from home.
You can also rent small 4X4s, generally suzukis, but the costs were high (between $60 and $90 a day depending on who you ask) and as the island is small renting a 4X4 didn’t really make sense for us.
Getting to Easter Island can be an expensive and time consuming experience with very few flight options to the remote south pacific island. Currently LAN Chile are the only airline offering regular commercial flights to Easter Island and only fly from Santigao in Chile and Papeete in Tahiti although I hear that there is now a twice weekly direct flight from Lima, Peru to Easter Island with LAN.
The Santiago to Easter Island flight continues on to Papeete in Tahiti with passengers for Easter Island disembarking before the plane continues on to Papeete. The return flight originates in Papeete before picking up returning Easter Island passengers. This makes it relatively easy to arrange a stopover in Easter Island on the way to Tahiti.
Mataveri International Airport
Mataveri is THE real PORT of Easter Island. Here I realized, why "airport" has the word "port" in it. This facility is basically the only connection to the world, and every plane is awaited like the ships were awaited in previous centuries: half of the town is there!! It is really an experience to arrive there, but also to go there when you are not traveling only to see the life surrounding the arrival of a plane.
The Airstrip is the biggest in the Pacific Ocean, as it is a back-up landing strip for the Space Shuttle! But the airport itself is probably one of the smallest international airport buildings in the world, really cute and unique!
They take away the checked-in luggage by hands from the check-in desks! :)
At the Arrival area you can find kiosks of basically all the accomodations on the island!
Like the church, the airport, the port and the bank, the Shell gas station is also a one-of-its-kind facility on Easter Island. It is located on the road passing the airport, can be easily found as everybody goes there to get gas (scooters, quads, cars, 4×4s, cranes, everything that needs fuel).
Price is cheap (compared to Europe) and as the island is very small, you will never experience how much a full tank of fuel costs! :)
Update in 2008: still fully valid.
The roads on Easter Island are typically dirt roads. There are a few paved roads on the Southern side and across to Anakena, as well as in and around Hanga Roa, but the majority is dirt road. If you want to see more than the most famous Moai groups you will be forced to go to dirt-roads...
If you prefer to go off the beaten path, then you will definiately end up on "roadless" roads, which if you have a 4×4 are only fun-fun-fun! And you may access the most remote spots, which I liked the most.
Some of the roads, though are paved or made of brick (mostly in town), even some of the sidewalks on the main streets of Hanga Roa (where they exist) are of brick.
Update in 2008: This is all still valid, even though some of the most remote areas and roads are now closed from tourists to protect the natural habitat.
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