Carrying a lot of cash is not usually my way of traveling. Why bring cash when we can use credit cards or a hit an ATM and get local currency when we land? That method has failed me only once and it was in Chile. None of the ATMs at the airport were working when we landed at six o’clock on a Sunday morning.
So when I keep reading about potential problems with getting money on Easter Island – which, by the way, just happens to be a territory of Chile, where we are landing at six o’clock on a Sunday morning – I decide not to take any chances and load up on cash.
It’s a really short trip and I don’t want to spend most of it worrying how we are going to pay for things. Worse yet, I don’t want to spend an afternoon waiting in a long line at the island’s only bank or trying to get cash from a broken or empty ATM. This is, after all, the most remote, inhabited island on the planet.
It’s taken a lot of research to decide how much to bring. That, and a big dartboard. In my head, I keep screaming at bloggers and reviewers who write that it’s really expensive on Easter Island but don’t give specifics! Aaaarrrrgh!
I vow that I won’t be like them. I will give my readers real information. One person’s expensive is someone else’s pocket change so I need real numbers. Lack of information has caused me to make giant assumptions.
Locals will generally accept Chilean pesos (CLP) or U.S. dollars and it looks like credit cards are becoming more widely accepted, but for this trip, I think it will be good to have a wad of cash as back-up. And, we’ll get a better rate if we pay in pesos.
The hotel is $75,000 CLP per night so we definitely need $225,000 for 3 nights. If we run out of cash we can always put this on a credit card but it would be nice to pay in cash.
I’m guessing that we will spend $100 US on food per day. Breakfast is included in the cost of the hotel but restaurant meals appear to average around $20 US per entrée. Add the cost of a couple of pisco sours to the tab, we’ll easily hit $100 for lunch and dinner for the two of us. Add drinks, snacks and water and oh yeah, we are definitely there. Three full days and lunch on the last day brings my crap-shoot budget to $350 for food.
We need $100 to buy tickets to enter the Moai quarry and Orongo, the ceremonial village where the Birdman Competition took place. The cost is $50 each if we buy at the airport, $60 each at the park entrance, so we will save $20 by buying the tickets when we land. They will be good for the length of our stay.
A tour for the two of us will be around $120. We plan on taking at least one and then renting a car for one or two days. It looks like we can find rentals for around $50 for 8 hours plus gas so I’m putting touring costs at around $270 – $300.
Finally, there are souvenirs. I won’t know what I want until I get there but I want something. Usually we will buy something small like bookmarks or a refrigerator magnet, something that will travel easily. Other times it’s something useful like a sweatshirt. One thing that’s certain, whatever we buy will be pricey. In my fantasy world, I’m thinking $100 should be plenty.
That comes to a rough total of $1300. I don’t want to be stuck with a bunch of Chilean pesos that I will have to pay another service fee to change back to dollars, so I opt for about $800 in pesos and $600 in US dollars.
I go to Bank of America to buy the Chilean cash but the exchange rate is horrible. The last time I needed foreign currency, I found that Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) was in the same ballpark as B of A. I’m not happy. But shhhh, the teller whispers that she has heard Mann Travels, a local travel agency (yes, they still exist) has better rates and I should try there.
Jackpot! I get about $30 more from the travel agency than I would have if I had gone through one of the big banks. In the end, I pay $787 US for $335,000 CLP. I ordered $346,000 but their source did not have that much on hand. Close enough. I also have $600 in US currency with $200 of it in smaller bills.
Of course I will report back when I return about how close or far I am from the real cost of things on Easter Island. My goal is to make it easier for those who follow in my footsteps. I promise real costs in Chilean pesos so anyone in the world can have a small bit of guidance.
Hasta la vista baby!