First Timer: Easter Island

even though i was only on Easter Island for three days, here are some things i learned that might help you out on your first visit.


Ahu Tongariki

getting around


A little orientation map: 1 = ATM that didn’t work for me, 2 = bank with ATMs that worked, 3 = church, 4 = post office, 5 = soccer field

Hanga Roa (the main town where your hotel or hostel is likely located) is very small, small enough to be easily navigated by foot. the main street is Atanu Tekena. number 5 on the map is “The Soccer Field” (used mostly as a landmark) and is located by the main harbor. number 3 is the church, which you can reach by turning right from Atanu Tekena where the small public square is.

to see the sights on the island, you can rent a car (usually a small SUV), an ATV, or a bike, or take part in one or more tours. i would not recommend a bike unless you are truly a biker. the distances can be quite long, the hills can be quite steep, and the roads are not in the best of conditions. that said, if it’s your thing, go for it. otherwise, go with another option.

oh, also, it’s such a small town that everybody knows everybody and people will often stop traffic just to chat to someone in the car on the opposite side of the road. if you’re stuck in “traffic”, just sit back and relax. you should be relaxing anyways!

bring shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty. you don’t need hiking shoes, but you probably don’t want to be going around the island in flip-flops, especially Orongo/Rano Kau and Rano Raraku since you have to do some trail walking.


outside of town, there are toilets at Orongo, Rano Raraku and Anakena. only those at Orongo are free. for the others, expect to pay $1 or 500 pesos.


i’ve read in places that Easter Island operates on two currencies, US Dollars and Chilean Pesos. the only place i ever saw prices listed in dollars was when you pay your National Park admission fee at the airport — either $60 or 30,000 pesos (a little less than $54) — and the toilets. otherwise, from gas to food to souvenirs to clothes — all in pesos. i’m sure you could pay in dollars if you needed to, but you’d likely get a shitty exchange rate.

there are two banking centers: #1 on the map is a standalone ATM in an orange kiosk that didn’t work for me. #2, however, is a full Santander Bank branch — with a couple ATMs that did (phew — i was worried for a while!).

as in the rest of Chile, be sure to get your denominations right. i once almost left 10,500 pesos for a bill of 15,000 pesos, and tip 10% in restaurants.


in town (and some places around the island) you will be followed by dogs. just ignore them as best you can.

outside of town, you will run into horses and cows. for the most part, you can ignore them as well. just be careful driving around them, especially horses, as they can get spooked and run into the road. be extra careful if you see a bull, though!


Animals don’t know they’re not allowed in certain places!


your hotel or hostel should have wifi, but don’t expect it to be fast. unless you’re like me and can remember the days of 2400 baud modems, you likely have never experienced internet so slow. you know the slowest mode on your phone, circle or G or GPRS? it’s like that.

that said, there is “3G” available for your smartphone, operated by two networks, Entel and Movistar (which i hear actually piggybacks off Entel). note, though, that at least for Entel having a prepaid Chilean SIM is not enough — you will likely have to purchase a roaming pack. i used my T-Mobile SIM card and was able to use Movistar. data only worked when i had a 3G connection (EDGE was too slow to be useful at all; like 3G was that much better…). the problem is that 3G kept going in and out (either 3G or nothing). if it went to nothing, i had to switch airplane mode on and off several times until 3G came back. there is an Entel building located across the street from the ATM at #1 on the map, but i don’t know if this is an office or a store.

note that you will likely not get cell reception anywhere other than in town. maybe up by Orongo, but don’t count on it.

getting your passport stamped

#4 on the map above is the post office, where you can get your passport stamped with an Isla de Pascua stamp. you have the option to tip the postal worker for their services.


national park ticket

the bottom sheet is the National Park ticket — you will need it for admission to both Orongo and Rano Raraku. again, buy this at the airport after you get off the plane before heading into the terminal.


there are a couple of planes that come in per day, and if you time it right, you can watch it land overhead and take off from a hill (or, i guess watch both from a hill). my guide told me that in good weather, they should land from the west and take off to the east, as is the case in the videos i shot. the first one was taken from the road that passes by the start of the runway. just pull over and look up!

in most cases, planes from Santiago will pass overhead (you will hear it if you’re listening for it) and then make a turn and come back to land. once you hear the plane the first time, you have a couple minutes (not many) to get in position.


i cannot recommend this book enough (which was recommended to me): A Companion to Easter Island — the Kindle version is only $10. even though it’s a couple years old, it’s still a great resource for all the history of the sites and everything Rapa Nui.

if you have any further questions, feel free to ask in the comments. i can’t guarantee i’ll have an answer, but i’ll try!


2 Comments on "First Timer: Easter Island"

  1. I’ll be heading there later on this year. I enjoy the trip report so far! Who did you do the private tours through and about how much were they?

    Many Thanks!

    • Thanks Marc! I did my tours through Easter Island Spirit, run by the guy who wrote the book I mentioned. It was definitely a splurge and not one I took lightly, but I’m glad I did it. For 2.5 days of tours including a sunrise excursion it was $650, including about a 10% discount for low season/multiple bookings. If there are multiple people it’s definitely a lot cheaper.

      Have fun there!!!! (I’m sure you will!)

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