Important facts about Galapagos travel
The Galapagos Islands are located in the Pacific Ocean about 1000 kilometers (563 miles) from Ecuador, South America. The 19 Islands are distributed on both sides of the Equator surrounding the Western Hemisphere to the west of Continental Ecuador.
Although the Galapagos Islands are located in the Equator, but it has moderate, drier climate rather than typical tropical weather. This because of three confluent Ocean currents that determine the two yearly seasons in the Archipelago: cool/dry season from mid-June to early-December and the wet season from mid-December to early-June.
Average temperature range: 69°-84°F / 21°-30°C. Weather in Galapagos has variations on each season.
You can visit the Galapagos any time of the year as there is always something wonderful happening in the Islands, especially with wildlife’s behavior and natural events.
From mid-June to early-December you have a mixture of warm and rain (afternoon showers), and Ocean waters are warmer and calmer due to the “El Niño” current. From mid-December to early-June is the cool/dry season on land and Ocean, especially because of the passing of the “Humboldt” current through the Archipelago.
First, you must get to Ecuador Mainland. Make sure you arrive to Quito or Guayaquil at least one day before your departure to the Galapagos; there are no direct connections with international flights and flights to Galapagos Islands depart from mainland Ecuador early in the morning from Quito and/or Guayaquil.
Visitors arrive by plane from Mainland (flight takes about 2 ½ hours) with three main Airlines: AVIANCA, LAN and TAME and arrive to Galapagos to one of its two Airports: One in Baltra Island and one in San Cristobal.
If you are taking a Galapagos Cruise or package, it is best if you book your domestic flights to/from Galapagos from Quito, Guayaquil or mixed route along with your cruise. This because cruises/tours must follow a pre-approved itinerary by the National Park’s Authorities, and all start their itinerary with specific arriving flights to the Islands, and cannot wait for stragglers arriving on different flights other than the one used by the rest of the group.
Catching a cruise when arriving on different flights that are delayed or arrive on different timings can be very expensive and in some cases, impossible, causing distress and unwanted non-refundable trip cancelations.
For this reason, all operators recommend booking your domestic flights along with your cruise/tour in accordance with the operation in order to avoid unfortunate events. Please click here for more details on logistic and getting to the Galapagos.
Traveling to the Galapagos is considered more expensive than taking trips on Mainland; the cost of a trip depends of many factors like taking a cruise or a land-based program. A Cruise is more expensive but definitely a more complete experience in comparison with a land-based program.
Prices vary depending on cruise/tour category: Luxury, first, Midrange and Economy Class and the differences are mainly due to type of cabins (accommodations), level of service, social areas, amenities, cuisine and guide’s experience.
Also, take into consideration the additional expenses for your trip like: domestic flight tickets, Entrance Fees, personal expenses, tips, drinks, equipment rental, etc. Please contact us for guidance on how to choose the right type of trip to Galapagos based on your Budget.
Galapagos is a top-destination for travelers, therefore cruises and tours are on very high demand year-around. It is recommended to arrange your trip at least with 6 months in advance to secure and guarantee your spots on the preferred trip.
Now, if you find the opportunity to visit the Galapagos before 6 months in advance, there is also the possibility to find cruise deals that may fill your expectations. However, if you leave your decision for the last-minute, you may not find what you were looking for a tour that will fulfill your expectations.
In Ecuador Mainland and the Galapagos Archipelago, U.S. Dollar has been established and used as main and only currency since the year 2000. When making payments for your trip, you may do so in your local currency at up-to-date conversion.
For cruises and tours, we have flexible payment policies:
- Tours booked from 91 days or more, small 30% deposit is requested to pre-confirm, 70% balance is needed 90 days before tour dates.
- Tours booked 90 days or less, complete payment is needed to confirm your trip.
We accept payments for tours via bank transfer to our U.S. based Bank in Miami or via Paypal with your own account or your preferred Credit Card; corresponding fees will be applied.
In general, cruises include: accommodation in cabin with private facilities, guided excursions with professional Licensed bilingual guide, transfers within Galapagos (on cruise dates), Airport assistance, all meals on board while cruising, drinking water, tea, coffee.
Luxury and First class cruises also include usage of snorkeling equipment and most of them have sea-kayaks on board for guests. Some Luxury class cruises also include Wet suits and others and First class cruises have them available for rent on board.
On a general basis, unless included on the given price for the confirmed cruise, passenger needs to bring enough cash on board to cover costs like Galapagos entrance fee ($100 p.p. in cash on arrival to Islands), mandatory Transit Control Card ($20 p.p. paid before check-in in cash), snorkeling equipment & wet suit rental (in cash on board), personal expenses, extras, soft & alcoholic drinks, tips for guide& crew and other expenses not specified in the itinerary.
Some Luxury and First accept Credit Card payments on board for on board consumption but Midrange and Economy require payments in cash only. It is imperative that you bring enough cash (U.S. Dollars) in all cases to cover your expenses while cruising the Galapagos.
Voyagers Travel can help you arrange any additional services like hotel bookings, transfer services, land-tours in Ecuador as well as in Peru and also the best Tours and River Cruises in Ecuador, Peru and Brazil.
Please contact us so we can tailor-made an incredible tour as per your wishes and preferences around your Galapagos trip for a complete and unforgettable experience!
We send your final trip voucher with reconfirmed services 1 month before the tour dates. Our voucher also contents flight information for the confirmed route of your trip: Airlines issue e-tickets and you do not require to present printed e-tickets as at Airline’s Counter you just need to present your original Passport for check-in.
Upon payment of your tour at time of booking, we will send you a tour non-VAT invoice for your records as proof of purchase and confirmation.
Upon arrival to Baltra or San Cristobal Islands as per your tour’s itinerary, you will be prompted to pay US$100 per person in Cash at the established booth to get your visitor pass to the Galapagos National Park.
With all cruises and tours you will always be accompanied by a professional Licensed Bilingual (English-Spanish) Guide for all excursions and visits as per National Park’s regulations. On Luxury and First class cruises your Guide will be level II-III while on Midrange and Economy class cruises your naturalist Guide will be Level II.
There are no established tipping guidelines for all cruises, you should decide the amount to tip your guide and crew based on your level of satisfaction with the services provided on board and while on excursions.
On Luxury and First class cruises it is recommended to tip $15-$20 p.p. for the guide per day and the same amount per day for the whole crew. On Midrange and Economy class cruises it is recommended to tip $10-$13 p.p. for the guide per day and the same amount per day for the whole crew.
During your cruise, you will have magnificent opportunities to enjoy snorkeling in the most fantastic underwater scenarios within the Galapagos National Park and Marine Reserve as well as other wonderful activities to complement your experience in the Archipelago.
On Luxury and First class cruises snorkeling equipment (snorkel, mask & fins) are included and on Midrange and Economy class cruises they are available for rent. Some Luxury class cruises also include Wet suits while on First, Midrange and Economy class, Wert suits are available for rent.
Different cruises offer different departures and itineraries in the Galapagos, you can choose from 4, 5, 8 up to 15 days itineraries on almost every category; the more days you spend on the islands, the more incredible sites you will be able to visit! No itinerary visits the same spot twice!
Depending on the time you have available for your Galapagos once in a life time adventure, and considering your budget, we recommend taking at least a 6 or 8-days cruise; of course, taking a longer cruise (12-15 days) will definitely give you a complete and very active adventure in the Galapagos paradise.
It depends especially on the level of comfort and facilities on board you are looking for:
- On board Luxury class yachts & vessels you can expect large cabin or suites with panoramic windows, suites with balconies, large lower beds, high-end amenities, exceptional cuisine, personalized services, VIP services, cruise director, spacious social areas, sun deck with Jacuzzi plus special treats to complement your trip.
- On board First class yachts services are also quite personalized, large cabins with lower beds and large windows (some yachts have cabins with balcony), excellent cuisine, ample social areas, ample sun deck (some with Jacuzzi) plus complete amenities.
- On board Midrange or Economy class yachts you can still expect good quality service from the crew and your guide, good meals (mostly small buffet), cabins regularly have bunk-beds and port-holes (upper decks offer cabins with windows), cozy and comfortable social areas and sun deck.
Taking a Galapagos cruise is considered the best way to explorer the Galapagos as it gives you the opportunity to reach the remotest islands as you sail at night from site to site, which means more time to enjoy the location and day’s activities.
However, if you are susceptible to sea sickness the feasible alternative is taking a nice land-based tour with hotel accommodation on the populated Islands of Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and/or Isabela; from here you can enjoy interesting day-tours to the nearby sites or Islands; you will also have the possibility to enjoy snorkeling and other activities while taking day-tours.
If you are planning to travel with your whole Family or with a group of adventurous Friends and you like to enjoy the privacy and comfort of a private cruise with personalized and dedicated service for your party, then chartering a nice yacht is a wonderful idea!
There are several options on different categories of cruises to choose from, especially for small yachts or catamarans with capacity for up to 16 passengers. Charter cruises are best if confirmed at least 9 months before your traveling period as all Galapagos cruises are always on very high demand and several are confirmed for charters with 12 and even 24 months in advance to guarantee the charter cruise. Please contact us if you are planning to charter a wonderful cruise for your party so we can guide you on how to choose the right cruise to enjoy a memorable experience.
Land visits are a recommended alternative if not taking a sailing cruise in the Galapagos; you spend the nights at a comfortable Hotel and every day you have day-trips whether on the same Island or take a yacht to a nearby Island where you will enjoy different activities like hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, swimming always surrounded by amazing and untamed Wildlife and breathtaking scenarios, accompanied by a certified Bilingual professional Guide to make your experience on each site more enjoyable each day.
Land visits are, just as cruises, subject to National Park regulations for all departures; this means that all the day-visits are subject to a pre-determined schedule for the day’s activities and visits to one or more sites in one Island and they cannot be modified in any way.
During your free time in one of the populated Islands, you can stroll within the Town and enjoy many local attractions, good restaurants and bars, visit Darwin Research Center (Santa Cruz) or Interpretation Center (San Cristobal) and, of course, feel surrounded by many birds and playful Sea lions, especially at the Town’s Docks
During a Naturalist cruise on board a Luxury or First Class cruise (yacht or vessel), besides hiking, snorkeling and swimming you will have single and/or double sea-kayaks on board to enjoy this wonderful sport in the Pacific Ocean while enjoying the breathtaking volcanic landscapes of the Islands, the pristine Ocean waters, and of course, the company of playful Sea lions, Sea Turtles and Birdlife and much more! Truly an experience that you don’t want to miss when available during your cruise.
If by any case, force major or personal calamity you are unable to travel, each cruise or tour has specific cancellation policies that vary depending on the time that the cancelation takes place before your traveling dates. We strongly recommend our valued Customers to purchase a complete insurance package that includes cancelation coverage in case you need to cancel your trip; this way, if we need to pay cancelation fees to your cruise, you will be covered by your trusted Insurance Carrier and we will provide the necessary documentation for your claim.
Some cruises do not allow small children on board, mainly for safety reasons as small yachts/catamarans have many open spaces and steep stairs that are not suitable for children to run around. Other cruises, especially the large vessels do accept small children on board and even have qualified guides and staff on board to make a magical experience for small children.
Most yachts/catamarans accept children over 8 years-old on board and offer special rates to children up to 11 years-old for cruises and flights as per availability and feasibility to accommodate a Family on board; with all cruises, it is required as pre-requisite to have parents sign a release form if travelling with children.
Senior travelers are welcome to board a cruise! In fact, many senior travelers find the Galapagos a must-visit destination as the Islands are a true natural treasure that attracts people of all ages!
Perhaps it is important to know that Galapagos cruises do not have complete facilities for passengers with limited mobility or that require a wheelchair. Also some excursions can be considered as strenuous as they’re on uneven terrains and lava formations, which requires a good physical state to perform.
Still, many Luxury and First class cruises are the preferred for senior travelers as they offer the kind of comfort and facilities required making their journey an enjoyable one and being able to meet other fellow travelers of similar age and interests with specialized and friendly guides.
Choosing the right cruise is critical if you are susceptible to seasickness; large vessels are the best choice as they’re very stable when sailing. If you do not like large vessels, then we recommend choosing a nice catamaran (twin-haul), which also offer smooth sailing for passengers’ comfort.
You can also ask your doctor to prescribe you medicine to help you contrast the effect of the motion when sailing; it is also important to be properly hydrated during your cruise as this also helps prevent the effects.
Large luxury vessels have a Medic on board for passengers’ aid while on board. Small yachts/catamarans cannot offer this service due to the space on board. Note that your guide is properly trained to face emergencies and have first-aid training to assist passengers while cruising. Also all boats are equipped with satellite phones and have contact with Island authorities and emergency services, should they be required during a cruise. All cruises take passenger’s safety and well-being very seriously.
Visitors entering Ecuador and the Galapagos are not required to present any proof of vaccination, but you will need to present your Travel Insurance document when entering the Galapagos. However, if your doctor recommend taking a vaccination, you can follow the advice at your own discretion.
On some luxury class cruises you can buy wonderful souvenirs and pay with your preferred Credit Card as major ones are accepted: MasterCard, Visa, Amex, among others; also you can pay for souvenirs at local shops in Puerto Ayora or San Cristobal with your Credit Card, but some of them will only accept cash payments. On board other category of cruises, payments must be done in cash (U.S. Dollars) for souvenirs and consumption.
There are a couple of ATM’s in Puerto Ayora and San Cristobal, but sometimes they ran out of cash to withdraw, therefore is recommended to bring enough cash (U.S. Dollars) from the Mainland for peace of mind and be able to pay for additional matters during your trip. You will find ATM’s at Quito and Guayaquil’s Airports and on main tourism districts on both cities.
For domestic flights to/from Galapagos, each passenger is allowed to bring one piece of luggage of no more than 20 kilos plus one hand luggage or backpack of no more than 10 kilos. Each passenger can also brink on plane’s cabin 1 small purse, handbag or camera-bag.
If excess on luggage occurs, the fee will be charged and paid directly at airline’s counter at the moment of check-in after checking space on cargo area on the plane to Galapagos.
All visitors entering Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands are prompted to present original Passport when entering, with at least 6 months of validity; citizens from most Countries do not require a Visa to enter Ecuador and the Galapagos, but do confirm this with your local International Affairs Office to confirm if you require to get a Visa to travel to Ecuador.
Cruises have strict policy on smoking on board: is prohibited in almost all social areas, dining rooms and cabins in cruises, but most of them do allow to smoke on designated areas in the sundeck prior request from passengers to the guide or cruise director. Smoking is strictly prohibited on inhabited islands and visitor sites during a cruise.
Cruises manage a casual dress-code on board, including at the dinning-room: ladies can wear a summer dress, sandals (not heels) and gentleman can wear short-sleeve shirt or button-down, short/pants and shoes.
In Ecuador and the Galapagos you will find 110v. outlets to charge/connect your devices. Some cruises have 220v. at Administration Office; you can also bring your converter if required for your devices.