The Galapagos Islands are an insanely magical place, with crystal clear blue waters, sea lions roaming around everywhere and some of the most stunning scenery I’ve ever seen. But unless you’ve done a tonne of research into Galapagos travel tips or know someone who’s been there, it can be really tough to know what to expect.
I recently spent three weeks chilling out on three of the islands. Exploring everything they have to offer. And realised there were a huge amount of things I wish I had known before I’d boarded my flight out of Ecuador. So in order to help YOU maximise your Galapagos experience, here’s 11 things I wish I had known before visiting the Galapagos. You ultimate Galapagos Islands travel guide.
1. It’s not as expensive as everyone says
While a return trip to the Galapagos Islands does cost about $300+ USD. If you travel the Galapagos land based rather than taking a cruise you can save a tonne of money. I have a whole article that covers exactly how you do this – How I Travelled The Galapagos for $26 a day. But in short; you can find accommodation for as little as $15 per night; You can eat menu del día for as little as $4; and most activities are free – you can check out my guide to DIY adventures in San Cristobal here. Where you will need to invest a bit of money is on the tours that leave from each of the islands. They usually start at around $100 and Kicker Rock on San Cristobal and Los Tunneles from Isabella are the only two I’d take if you’re trying to stick to a budget.
2. However, It will cost you $120 USD before you set foot out of the airport
In order to maintain the national park and surrounds you need to pay two fees before visiting the Galápagos Islands. $20 USD at the airport before you leave mainland Ecuador. And then $100 USD at the airport once you arrive on the Galapagos.
3. Bring a snorkel
I would have saved a big chunk of money had my bought my own snorkel from the main land. As snorkeling is one of the main activities on the Galapagos Islands you really want to have one on you most days. Hiring a snorkel costs between $3 – $5 USD a day. So it will add up and constantly walking to the hire shop morning and night can get annoying and expensive… Galapagos travel tips level Expert!
4. Bring hiking stuff
One of the main things I didn’t get from reading Galapagos islands travel guides was that there are a tonne of awesome walks to do. I thought it was all about snorkeling and lying on the beach. However many of the awesome things to do in the Galapagos can only be reached by a short hike. So make sure you bring your runners and exercise gear.
5. It’s not just about the beaches
If you thought my Galapagos travel tips would be all about the beaches. Think again. And yes, while the beaches are some of the most stunning I’ve ever seen. There are actually plenty of activities to do in the highlands of the islands as well. From tortoise breeding centers to incredible volcanos. So don’t don’t count the highlands out.
6. Bring repellant and sunscreen from the mainland
While you can find affordable food and accommodation on the islands, sunscreen and insect repellant are super expensive. And there are a tonne of bugs. So make sure you pack plenty.
7. Check Expedia for cheaper flights
I spent about a week searching for my flights to the Galapagos. And I don’t usually use Expedia. But for some reason checked it on a whim and the flights were half the price. The cheapest flights also leave from Guayaquil so check that route as well as Quito.
8. If you’re low on cash there are plenty of volunteer positions
One of my biggest Galapagos travel tips would be to look at volunteering there. The only way I was able to afford a visit to the Galapagos was by volunteering at one of the many hotels. My accommodation and breakfast were both covered in exchange for about 3 hours of work a day. That same accommodation would have cost me $50 USD a night. So, winning!
9. Bring some motion sickness tablets
The water between the islands is some of the roughest I’ve ever been in. And I love boats and have never suffered from seasickness. But on those 2 – 3 hour ferries between the islands I felt really sick the entire time. So I can’t imagine what I would have felt like if I suffered seasickness. To avoid feeling horrible for two hours, just take the tablets, you won’t regret it. It’s nuggets like this that you’re reading a Galapagos Islands travel guide. So take the advice!
10. If you can get your hands on an under water camera. Bring it!
The snorkeling when traveling the Galapagos Islands is some of the most incredible in the entire world. Sea lions will swim up to play with you. Turtles are feeding a mere metre away from you. And the sea iguanas don’t even look twice when you get close. I really regret not having some sort of camera to capture all that underwater magic with.
11. the water can be really cold
Depending on the season. The water can be really cold. So you might want to look at packing a small wet suit or rashie vest. Just to keep you a bit warmer. And allow you to stay in the water snorkeling for longer.