TRAVEL Q&A

Happy Easter Island

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By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 25, 2007

Q. How can I arrange a trip to Easter Island and get a good price for a week's excursion? When is the best time to go?

Meralis Plaza-Toledo, Rockville

A. The remote and mysterious Easter Island is one of those once-in-a-lifetime destinations, on par with Antarctica, Bhutan and the moon. "Easter Island caters more to the sophisticated traveler, the one who wants to see the most important destinations in the world," says Jose Irauzqui, a founder of Kontiki Tours and Travel (877-566-8454, http://www.kontiki.com/), which specializes in South America travel.

Known for its giant Moai sculptures, the Chilean island is far removed from civilization, 2,300 miles from the South American coast. Most travelers pair an Easter Island visit with a trip to Patagonia or the Atacama Desert in Chile. Irauzqui recommends spending at least four nights on the island, or more if you want to scuba dive or go exploring by Jeep or horse. For a combined trip with the mainland, it's best to go during its summer, November to March. However, Easter Island is typically temperate year-round.

Because of its location in the South Pacific, traveling to Easter Island is expensive. Flights from Santiago, Chile, take 4 1/2 hours and cost about $1,000 round trip; add in international air to Chile and you may drop close to $2,000. However, once on the island, you can keep costs down. "The flight is so expensive," Irauzqui says, "but you can save a couple hundred dollars by staying in cheaper hotels."

Most tour companies book their guests at three- to five-star hotels, where rates are $125 to $170. However, independent travelers can find budget properties, such as the backpacker hostel Kona Tau ( http://www.hostelworld.com/), which runs $30 a night, including breakfast. The majority of the restaurants are low-key and inexpensive, with meals running $5 to $10. The only other costs will be for admission fees to attractions and for tour guides, whom you can hire in town.

For an organized trip, expect to pay at least a grand, if not more. Kontiki's five-day trip starts at $2,086 per person double. The price includes the flight from Santiago, lodging, tours and breakfast.

VisitChile.com (800-560-2340, http://www.visitchile.com/) has a four-night deal including air for $1,274 per person double; its land-only deals start at $144. For more info: Rapa Nui Tourism, http://www.visitrapanui.cl/.

I am looking for information on boat tours from Moscow to St. Petersburg. Is July a good time?

Herb Schaffer, Arlington

Moscow and St. Petersburg are less than 400 miles apart (as the car drives), but by boat the trip can take up to two weeks. The Volga River meanders through the western part of Russia, a leisurely journey for cruisers who want to take in the towns and sights along the banks. The ships' itineraries usually follow the same course: daily stops in Yaroslavl, Uglich, Kizhi, etc., with longer visits in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Guests use the boat as a floating hotel, even during multiday stays in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Many travel operators, such as the Russia National Group and Scantours, put passengers on recently renovated German vessels, which fit hundreds and have the same amenities as cruise ships, such as dining rooms and entertainment. RNG (877-221-7120, http://www.russia-travel.com/) charges $1,849 per person double for the 13-day Moscow-to-St. Petersburg trip; the opposite direction takes 12 days and costs $100 less. The 11-day trip through Scantours (800-223-7226, http://www.scantours.com/) goes for $1,699.

The best time to cruise the Volga is mid-May through September, when the temperatures are warm. Even better, from May to July, the country experiences White Nights, when the skies never quite darken. During this period, St. Petersburg hosts the Stars of the White Nights Festival, an annual event featuring symphonies, ballets and other performing arts.

Can a convicted felon obtain a passport?

Shane Abner, Washington

Felons can obtain a passport and travel abroad; those with federal felony warrants cannot. In addition, if you are on parole or probation, your travel could be restricted. Foreign countries may also ban passport holders who have a criminal record.

"Having a felony conviction will not disqualify you from getting a passport," Steven B. Royster, a State Department spokesman, said by e-mail, "though travelers should be aware that a criminal conviction can be a bar to getting visas to enter a country." Contact the country's consulate or embassy before you go.

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost.com) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and town.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company


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