Planning a Trip to the Galapagos

Planning a Trip to the Galapagos

The Galapagos Islands are not only a World Heritage site but a MUST-SEE destination. The sheer amount of natural animal and fish habitats in their environments astounds you. But for all the beauty you will encounter, you need to 1st plan how to get there. Galapagos Island trips can be achieved 2 ways, a tour or no tour. Yes, you can go to the Galapagos w/o a tour (don’t listen to what they tell you). Logistically, a tour is easier, but can be very expensive. Everything is done for you all you need to do is show up and snap photos. A do-it-yourself tour, is not out of reach and can offer a Galapagos that many never get to see. If you opt for a solo mission, here are some easy planning tips.

Pre-departure
1.    All flights to the Galapagos depart from either Quito or Guayaquil, Ecuador.
2.    Book all flight* arrangements at least 4 weeks in advance.
*There are only a limited number of flights to the island and demand is high. If you do not book ahead you will have to be placed on a waiting list and will have to arrive at the airport in the dawn and wait for your name to be potentially called. Most tours and hotel have block reservations, so if they do not use up theirs, waiting list people are given passage.
3.    Galapagos is not cheap for foreigners, a RT ticket from Guayaquil alone is ~ $375 and costs $100 to enter the park. Locals of Ecuador pay ~ $250 and $6 respectively for the same trip.
4.  You will need to pay $10 per person for a transit control card at the Quito or Guayaquil airport,. This is like your Galapagos ID card.
5.    All baggage at the airport will be scanned before boarding and anyone with a fever or illness could be quarantined and prohibited entry.
6.    Give yourself at least 5 days to see the islands properly.
7.    Pack for all weather types:  closed toes shoes, durable pants, light waterproof jacket, breathable tops, hats, and plenty of sunscreen.

Airport on Baltra Island

Galapagos Flight Facts:
•    21 flights per week fly between Galapagos Islands and Ecuador
•    3,354 seats are available per week fly between Galapagos Islands and Ecuador
•    2 carriers operate between Galapagos Islands and Ecuador: Tame and Aero Gal

Arrival Help and Facts
1.    There are 2 arrival points in the Galapagos: Baltra and San Cristobal.
2.    Check-in is pretty quick, less than 30 minutes. After passport control, you will need $100 to enter the Galapagos.
3.    The airport on Baltra Island is on a former military base and is in a very remote part of the island. A shuttle bus will take you from the airport to a short ferry to go to Santa Cruz Island. Your hotel, a taxi, or bus can take you to final destination.
4.    Puerto Aroyo, is the largest city on Santa Cruz and is worthy of a few days stay to take in all the local sights and scenery (see below)
5.    Most of Puerto Aroyo’s main attractions are within walking distance of the main drag and pier. Plenty of internet cafes abound.
6.    Ferries run daily to most of the islands on Santa Cruz, one to Isabela Island is around $30 and 2.5 hours.
7.    There is no ATM machine on Isabela Island. Due to the low number of inhabitants, a bank is not warranted. Take caution with your cash.
8.    Always carry 1-2 plastic bags with you. Great for wet bathing suits and clothing and anything wet/dirty.

Sights

The islands are home to some amazing wildlife and sights. In my short time, I only visited 2 of the 15 plus islands, Santa Cruz and Isabela. In total, there are only 3 islands that are inhabited by the local population, Santa Cruz, Isabela, and San Cristobal.

•    Charles Darwin Research Center (Santa Cruz Island)

Lonesome George at Darwin Research Center

•    Rancho de Paraiso – Galapagos turtle reserve (Santa Cruz Island))
•    Los Gemelos (the twins) two large naturally occurring craters (Santa Cruz Island) *Found on road coming from airport
•    Little Volcano (Volcano Chico)- horseback ride to the crater and lava flow that occurred in 2005 (Isabela Island)
•    Las Grietas- amazing raven with crystal clear water great for snorkeling (Santa Cruz Island)
•    Turtle Bay (Bahia Tortuga)- wonderful white beaches with mangroves; wonderful for sea turtle watching and a day at the beach

Check out another post of Galapagos in pictures

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