All around Latin America everyone you meet that’s been to the Galapagos tells you it was the best part of their trip. I never thought I’d be able to afford it as the cruises cost in excess of $1,000USD for 5 days. And that’s for last minute one! And unfortunately that just wasn’t in my budget. However after heaps of research I found a way to travel the Galapagos on a budget. And through scrimping and saving while I was there in three weeks I spent just under $550. Here’s how I did it…

Now before I get started I just wanted to outline these costs don’t include the price of flying in or the $120 park fees you need to pay to enter the Galapagos. Because even if you do a cruise you have to pay these costs anyway.

San Cristóbal | 2 weeks

Accommodation

My two weeks (well technically 15 days) on the San Cristóbal were spent volunteering at Hostal Galapagos which I found through workaway.com. So I got my accommodation for free! I only worked around 3 – 4 hours per day, early morning and late afternoon. Which left most of the day pretty free for me to explore the island. Volunteering is a great way to travel the Galapagos on a budget. Actually it’s a great way to travel anywhere on a budget!

If you like to plan ahead and have your accomodation booked. You can do it here through booking.com. However it works out to be much cheaper if you arrive on the island and walk around and ask for prices.

Things To Do

Things to do in San Cristobal Galapagos - Iguana
A sea Iguana sunning himself in La Loberia. One of the free snorkelling locations on the Galapagos

In order to keep my trip to The Galapagos cheap I mostly did free activities. However one of the most fantastic things about the Galapagos is, there are a tonne of free things to do. I snorkelled, hiked to remote beaches and explored the tiny town of San Cristobal. I’ve covered all of the possible activities to do in my article on DIY Adventures to Have In San Cristobal. Go check it out!

The only real activity costs I had here was hiring a snorkel four times at $3 a pop (total $12USD). And a day trip to the highlands which set me back $17.

Eat

I also managed to eat some pretty cheap Galapagos menus while I was on San Cristobal. Breakfast was included as part of the volunteer program so that was covered. Then for lunch I’d either have a smoothie from town for $5 a pop. Or after a while I realised I could make my own for $1 a pop. So I’m going to average my lunch costs out for the two weeks to $2.50 a day, so $37.50 for the 15 days.

Finally dinner was usually $4 menu from Lucky’s or occasionally a $6 menu elsewhere. A couple of evenings I even splurged and spent $20 at Midori Japanese on some delicious passionfruit Margaritas and tuna tartare. So therefore I’m going to put this at $8 per day for 15 days, so $120 for the two weeks. 

Transport

My flight to San Cristobal cost me $180USD. However I haven’t included this in my overall costs as you have to pay this amount if you take a paid tour. 

total cost for 2 weeks on San cristóbal = $186.50

Santa Cruz | 2 Days

Accommodation

I stayed at Hostal Sir Francis Drake during my time on Santa Cruz for $15USD per night. And while the hostal was pretty basic, I had my own room with a fan and there was a communal kitchen which was free to use. The staff were also lovely. If you like to plan ahead and have your accomodation booked. You can do it here through booking.com. However it works out to be much cheaper if you arrive on the island and walk around and ask for prices.

Activities

Galapagos on a budget - Tortuga Bay beach, Pelican standing on the beach
A lone pelican standing on the beautiful beach at Tortuga Bay.

Once again I kept my activities on Santa Cruz in The Galapagos cheap. Well free to be exact! I spent a day hiking to Tortuga Bay. A stunning white sand beach with amazing turqouise waters. And then a morning snorkelling and exploring Las Grietas. Therefore the only costs I had were $5USD to hire the snorkel for 24 hours. And the $1 boat taxi to and from the starting point for the Las Grietas hike. So I spent a total of $8 on activities

eat

When I first arrived I headed to the supermarket and bought eggs, bread, avocado and tomato for my daily breakfasts. I was traveling the Galapagos on a budget so I needed to make breakfast cheap. The three mornings I was there I used the hotel kitchen and cooked for myself. Which in total came to $6. As I’d have such a big late breakfast most days I’d never need a big lunch. Therefore lunch was usually a snack or a smoothie and cost me under $5 per day. For Dinner I’d usually head down to the kioskos on Charles Binford ave and would be able to find a big dinner for $7USD. 

So total food costs for the 2 days was $30

Transport

I caught the morning ferry from San Cristobal for $30USD. Which was an extremely bumpy two hour ride.

total cost for 2 days on Santa cruz = $68

isla Isabela | 4 days

accomodation

My accomodation on Isla Isabela was the most expensive in my time backpacking the Galapagos. However I had a palatial room at Hostal La Isla Descanso with a big double bed, private bathroom and air conditioning  for $20USD per night. If you like to plan ahead and have your accomodation booked. You can do it here through booking.com. However it works out to be much cheaper if you arrive on the island and walk around and ask for prices.

activities

Galapagos on a budget - lost tuneles day tour in Isla Isabella Galapagos
My Galapagos pal Kendal and I sitting on one of the tuneles.

On Isla Isabela I decided to splurge and treat myself to a paid tour of Los Tuneles . Which cost me $110USD. I also rode to the Wall of Tears. A lovely ride which took 3 – 4 hours. Bike hire was $3 per hour. However as my friend’s bike got a flat tire we got it for $10 each. And I took a lovely 2 hour stroll through the Flamingo Estuary and the tortoise breeding centre, which was free.

So total cost for activities came to $120.

Eat

Unfortunately Hostal La Isla Descanso didn’t have a communal kitchen so I ate all meals out everyday. Luckily there were a few relatively cheap spots for breakfast. I ate at a local spot near the hostel for $6. Another breakfast on the main street set me back $8. And on my final day I had a simple bakery breakfast for $3. Lunch again was just a snack or a smoothie so we’ll put this at $4 a day. And dinners were usually a Menu Del Dia for $6.

So total cost for food over the 4 days was $47

Transport

Getting the ferry to and from Santa Cruz should cost $30 each way however there is one travel agent Santa Cruz that sells tickets for $25. unfortunately I can’t remember the name. I know I suck! But just ask around and book your return from Santa Cruz to Isabela with them. You also have to pay a $10 entry fee for the island when you arrive.

total cost for 4 days on isla isabela = $277

so what did it all cost?

Adding all the costs of my three weeks in the Galapagos on a budget comes to $541.50. Averaged out over 21 days. My total cost per day was $25.70. Which is insanely cheap for The Galapagos.


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8 Comments

  1. My Ecuadorian friend has been raving about the Galapagos Island and your post just made it official that I’ll be adding it to my bucket list! Thanks

  2. I SO want to go to the Galapagos. This is incredibly helpful because I never wanted to pay thousands of dollars for a week tour.

    • Emma Reply

      And it’s so easy to do it yourself which no one seems to know about 🙂

  3. Wow this is incredible!! Thank you for this post…you’ve got me deciding whether to head over there. 🙂 I have a question though – did you head there solo or with someone else? I’m wanting to go solo and do all the free activities (rather than primarily tours) but am wondering whether or not it’s generally safe to head out exploring the walks and beaches alone. Any ideas? Sorry if that’s an obvious question! Thanks!

    • Emma Reply

      Hey Louise,

      Thank you for reading!

      You defs have to go. It’s incredible. And yep I did it completely solo.

      I found all of the islands really safe. Like I hiked to deserted beaches by myself and felt fine the whole time.

      If you are feeling nervous about doing activities on your own. Join the Backpacking South America Facebook group and post on there to see if anyone is in the Galapagos around the same time as you. You should be able to find some buddies.

      Enjoy xx

  4. We’re doing a land based tour, too! Mostly because I can’t do boats! We will be on Santa Cruz. Did you go up into the mountains at all while on the Island?

    • Emma Reply

      The land based option is still fantastic. Plus while I was there one of the boats sank 🙁
      So I didn’t go up into the mountains in Santa Cruz but I did in San Cristobal to the tortoise sanctuary and to see a crater lake. They were both lovely. The mountains can be just as good as the beach. However I’m more of a beach fan myself :).

      Enjoy!

      xx

      Em

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