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Easter Island car rental

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Can anyone who has rented a car on Easter Island report on the daily rate paid, the agency (or private supplier) used, and the kind of vehicle provided? Booked in advance, or simply organised on arrival? And how much was petrol (gas) per litre?

With thanks,

Peter N-H

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    Can anyone answer this for Peter--the man with all the answers for China travel :)

    When we were there several years ago, we just got the hotel to arrange a car and driver for us because we preferred not to drive ourselves.

    Jane

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    Peter:
    I too am going to Easter Island. I've rented a car through an agency in Santiago. 4wd which I understand is necessary to go over the rough roads. The island is very small, so I don't think the cost of gasoline will be a problem.
    Let me know if you need the agency name.
    Gloria

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    You can hire a car when you get there but book ahead if going between January and March. Next year, because of the eclipse, they will also be in short supply around that time. There are a limited number of vehicles on the island. The main roads to the sites are fine and others are large gravel. A lot of people hire scooters, so it is up to you if you think you need a 4X4.Everyone goes slow. Car hire starts at about 60 dollars per day.
    Everyone now needs to fill out a TEV, Tarjeta Especial de Visitante - basically a tourist card. Previously, since this was a domestic flight from Santiago, this was not required but there are discussions going on about controlling the numbers of visitors and the length of their stay.

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    I rented a scooter, but saw several car rental operations. I don't think you'd need a 4WD, except to get to a few inland sites, but the main sites are on the island's perimeter and reachable in a 2WD car. Its impossible to get lost and I would much prefer my own rental to a car/driver. I only found one gas station, which was in town near the airport (its marked on the map in Lonely Planet).

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    To answer my own question after the event:

    According to the author of one respected Chile guide who is resident in Chile and who I happened to meet, he never pays more than US$50 and sometimes less, simply dealing with people he meets in the street.

    However, I don't think he's been to Easter Island for nearly two years, and I noted every single other price quoted in his guide, and others, to be significantly higher in reality. It seems to me that there's constant upward pressure on prices on the island, which will continue until visitors finally baulk at the costs. Even now, the question often asked by other travellers is, 'Is it worth it,' and even on the island itself visitors were asking the same question, and sub-divisions of it (such as, 'Is the US$60 park entrance fee really worth the money?'), so perhaps a price ceiling may not be far away.

    However, the idea that if you simply rent from someone privately, as is reportedly commonplace, things should be cheaper and can be bargained for, seems to make perfect sense. We didn't try, since our guesthouse was willing to call one of the agencies and have the vehicle delivered straight to the hotel and picked up from there, and we could pay with a credit card. So US$60 for a beaten up two-door silver cube of an off-road vehicle it was. There was no need at any point to use 4WD, however. I'd jib at renting an ordinary car, however, as some of the roads to some of the sites are in poor condition, and would need to be taken very slowly indeed to avoid grounding.

    Two days is plenty to see all the sites that can be reached by road. And indeed we visited some of them twice, quite unhurriedly.

    The tank was refilled from the petrol station near the airport, which practically in the main town, and while I don't remember the price per litre, given the low mileage that is all you can achieve on such a small island, the cost was not significant.

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    Your feedback is very interesting and there are a couple of points which you bring up which I would like to comment on. I am not really directing my comments at you or your visit, but there are some things which I feel need to be added to information about Easter Island for everyone.

    Prices for food and services on Easter Island are not two tier - they are expensive for locals just as much as for visitors. The fact that everything must be brought from outside greatly increases the price of everything. The value of a car on EI is much greater than on the mainland as is food and every other item.

    Until last year the entry fee for the national park was 5000 Chilean pesos (slightly less than 10 dollars US) for everyone. This fee had remained unchanged for about 14 years. The fee was raised and divided into categories, with foreign visitors paying more than mainland Chileans. This is common in a lot of national parks as locals are already supporting parks with their taxes. Whether you agree with the policy or not, it was certainly time to raise the entry fee.

    Rather than hoping to make a killing off tourists, the people of Rapa Nui have been pressuring the Chilean government to somehow reduce the numbers of visitors as the impact on the local culture is high. This is especially true of cruise passengers who can consume most of the bottled water on the island in their brief one day visit while the locals need to wait for more from the mainland. This would require some sort of legislation as the constitution grants 'free access' to all parts of the country. In a way, the raising of the park fee may have been a partial answer to the problem within the bounds of the constitution. It is also a reflection of the money needed to cope with the impact of visitors to the island.

    It is always a great shame when economic barriers are the only way to reduce the impact on the beautiful places of the world, but I can see a day in the not too distant future when visiting Easter Island is a good deal more difficult than it is now and a good deal more expensive. Unfortunately, both the potable water supply and the disposal of waste on the island are becoming serious problems. To deal with these effectively is going to be very expensive, but even if they are dealt with I can see some form of limitation of access to EI more along the lines of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu or visits to the Galapagos.

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    > Prices for food and services on Easter Island are not two tier - they are expensive for locals just as much as for visitors.

    This is true for shopping for basics, for sure, but prices for basics seemed reasonable given the transport costs involved. However services specifically targeting tourists are not two-tier: there is no competition with the locals for occupation of hotel room space, for instance. Some services clearly are two-tier: there is no question of paying the same price as a local does for a ride in a taxi, for instance, or for park entrance fees.

    > The fact that everything must be brought from outside greatly increases the price of everything. The value of a car on EI is much greater than on the mainland as is food and every other item.

    But there seemed to be an across-the-board increase on expected prices for services of 20%–30%, and sometimes more. For this argument to work you'd need to be able to demonstrate that the transportation costs of goods to the island had similarly increased, and to find reasons why the mitigating factors of existing infrastructure (cars, hotels, in situ) ought to be ignored. Exchange rate fluctuations would be a more credible argument (if true).

    > This is common in a lot of national parks as locals are already supporting parks with their taxes.

    So are populations all over the world, but while Easter Island is far from unique in having a policy of charging outsiders more, this is not considered an argument for charging outsiders several multiples of the local cost in the countries of origin of most tourists. The idea that this is the true basis for the high price of entry falls down when a) its recent introduction is considered (unless taxes have only recently been diverted to support of the national parks) and b) the fact that there are intermediate prices for Mercosur residents whose taxes are presumably not supporting the park is also considered. Overall it looks like a 'fleece the gringos' policy.

    > it was certainly time to raise the entry fee

    This may be true, but isn't an argument in itself for raising it to these heights. That was the view of many visitors I spoke to, who were quite shocked at the price. When considered against the cost of entering ancient monument sites elsewhere (which is a comparison that global travellers make), some vastly more extensive and complex, the park fee represents poor value for money. I advised people who asked me about it that having come all the way to Easter Island, probably never to return, they should pay the fee. To some degree it looks as though Easter Island recognises and exploits this thinking.

    > Rather than hoping to make a killing off tourists, the people of Rapa Nui have been pressuring the Chilean government to somehow reduce the numbers of visitors as the impact on the local culture is high.

    This simply cannot be taken at face value. There is plenty of evidence of expansion in the number of hotel rooms available, and there are plans significantly to enlarge the airport and its facilities. Clearly very many make a fat living off tourists, and indeed there's little else obviously available as a source of income. There may well be individuals not making money off tourism who for sound cultural and environmental reasons (although also possibly from envy) wish to reduce the numbers of tourists, but amongst those making profit from tourists and finding ever-increasing competition with their neighbours, views are likely to be, to put it generously, rather more mixed.

    > Rather than hoping to make a killing off tourists, the people of Rapa Nui have been pressuring the Chilean government to somehow reduce the numbers of visitors as the impact on the local culture is high.

    Again, while this is pious, matters cannot possibly be so straightforward. The answer is also in their own hands, namely to stop running tour companies, to close down hotel rooms and reduce tourist facilities, not to expand the airport, and not to re-erect further moai. And then to find alternative sources of employment, and of tax revenue.

    > This is especially true of cruise passengers who can consume most of the bottled water on the island in their brief one day visit while the locals need to wait for more from the mainland.

    So one cruise ship arrives and the bottled water all disappears (presumably until some arrives on the next day's flight?) While the impact of mass tourism on archaeological sites on cultures and on limited natural resources is a matter with which many cultures are struggling, isn't this example simply a case of bad planning? Cruise ship schedules are hardly a well-kept secret, and there are profits to be made from selling water. Cruise ship companies can be directed to ensure each passenger has enough water. Cruise ships can be told that they must land a quantity of bottled water to the island in proportion to the number of passengers carried. Restrictions of this general nature can be found in connection with Antarctic, Galapagos, and other destinations.

    > It is always a great shame when economic barriers are the only way to reduce the impact on the beautiful places of the world, but I can see a day in the not too distant future when visiting Easter Island is a good deal more difficult than it is now and a good deal more expensive.

    I believe this is true of tourism in general, and Easter Island may well within the foreseeable future find itself with far fewer tourists than it would like, due to general economic contraction, and increasing cost of transportation as non-renewables become more expensive and charges for environmental damage are added to the costs of travel. Nor is it in any way being argued that tourism shouldn't be controlled so as to reduce its impact if the receiving culture deems this necessary for the protection of the monuments, to reduce environmental damage, or for self-protection (there is very unlikely to be unity on the last point, however).

    But the arguments that such a highly moral position is being universally taken don't ring true, and there seems to be plenty of evidence that at least a portion of the tourism industry is indeed intent on 'making a killing'. Stories of indifference amounting to contempt by island hoteliers and other tourism services are rife on the Internet, while prices seem to soar ever higher. Admittedly there are few less reliable sources than Internet anecdote, but the complaints seem consistent and match those I heard directly from friends. Indeed, charging as much as you can get is only sensible business policy, and Easter Island's circumstances provide it with the sort of captive audience and market control that will end to lead to abuse anywhere: visitors are likely to come to the island only once so repeat business is not an issue, and unlike when arriving at any other Chilean city people unhappy with the way they are treated cannot simply leave the next day. It seems that at least some locals know this very well and exploit it.

    I personally saw some hints of this, but having declined to book accommodation in advance, was able to negotiate on accommodation prices at the airport (where there was a clamour of people doing everything to bed tourists to come--can't see them demanding that numbers be reduced), and to go around and see rooms and meet the hotel staff before committing to one of them, which worked out well and avoided the bait-and-switch situations reported by some others. My own experience (except for the price of the room) was very good, with excellent service and a generous breakfast. I had one grasping experience with a taxi (but name a country that would want itself represented to the world by its taxi drivers).

    In short, the arguments presented don't help Easter Island's case, but rather the opposite. And the value of a service or travel experience is what the receiver of that service perceives it to be; the real price of that service is what the visitor is prepared to pay. How people feel about a price for some good is not related to the cost of producing that good even when the costs arguments are stronger than those presented here. Being left in a situation with little choice but to pay a price higher than he perceives what he is buying to be worth makes at least some visitors resentful.

    My observation that Easter Island is very expensive and poor value for money in terms of tourism services isn't affected by the arguments presented, and while I'm glad I've been there, I wouldn't particularly urge anyone to visit the island under current circumstances, unless en route between Chile and Tahiti (or points beyond, such as New Zealand, when tickets via Easter Island can be cheaper than flying directly), and then to keep their visits to three nights.

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    In 2009 I spent two fantastic weeks on the island. I hiked, biked and drove to every imaginable point repeatedly and enjoyed every minute immensely. The prices were indeed high (which I understood) but aside from a $5 entrance fee, nobody wanted to charge me anything. I could return to the sites in rain and sunshine and at different times of the day.
    Given that amazing experience, this year I found time (and money) to return with my wife, hoping to share a similarly pleasant travel experience with her. What a huge disappointment!!! Now not only do they charge the exorbitant $60 for the entrance, it is only good for one visit and even then many of the trails that I walked previously are now fenced off. I fully agree with Peter that there is a general "rip off the visitor" action on the island.
    Not that I can't afford $60 but when I compare this fee to what visitors pay to visit the Grand Canyon (or any other amazing US national park), Machu Picchu, Pompei, the Potala, Vatican or the Salar de Uyuni, then it just doesn't feel right. I think the Island and/or the Chilean government made a big mistake by setting the entrance fee and the conditions as they are now. I do believe that the news will spread and the visitors will decide to take their money to some other place. I sure won't come back. On our way back home we had another two days scheduled for the Island but we have changed our flights to skip those days. The money will be better spent on Tahiti.

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    hi nue,

    you cannot compare ei to new zealand. go to new zealand and stop at ei for 2 nites if you'd like. you could go from santiago to ei to tahiti to new zealand. one can only reach ei from chili or tahiti when flying. better still go to new zealand and go to both the north and south islands as they are very different and there is much to see. ei is an interesting and exotic small island, new zealand is a large country that happens to be 2 islands.

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    Okay I've seen the comments about both EI & my request for where to go. I have been to remote exotic, the Cooks & I have been to Australia but never to EI or NZ. I only have a week so can't do both north & south so just looking at better option for one week. Da_n job keeps getting in the way of things! ��

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