Practical Tips for the Galapagos
While I read a number of blogs about the Galapagos and talked with other DIY travelers about their experiences, upon my arrival there were still things that surprised me. So, I’ve compiled a list of practical tips for the islands I visited, without all the fluff. I’ll go into detail on the islands and tours I did in subsequent blog posts, to help you plan your Galapagos adventure. But for now, let’s keep it simple!
Ecuador’s currency is the US dollar and the majority of places take cash only, including the Galapagos. There are ATMs on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal, only. So stock up on cash either prior to arrival or before you leave those two islands.
Some companies will accept credit card, but there is typically a hefty fee associated with this. Be sure to clarify before swiping.
A $20 visa is required to enter the Galapagos. I purchased this at the airport in Quito before entering security. It’s hard to miss this kiosk as it is the entrance for Galapagos visitors. Upon arrival to the islands, there is a $100 entrance fee. Isabela island requires a $10 entrance fee as well. Again, everything is cash only.
Inter island Ferries
Ferries run between Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristobal every day at 6:30am and 2:30pm. Ferry’s to Floreana from Santa Cruz do not run daily. Check with a local agent for specifics as I heard different information each time I inquired about schedules.
Each of the ferries cost $30 one way. No need to shop around for a cheaper price. It’s $30. You need to book them before departure. You can do this all at once, or as you go. I highly recommend booking as you go, unless you have a set schedule. You may want to stay longer one one island!
When you arrive to the pier for your ferry, you first check in with a kiosk outside of the pier. The person will confirm your ticket and give you a boarding pass to enter the ferry. I did not know this my first ferry trip as I got there extra early and the kiosks were not set up yet. Then you proceed to a security checkpoint where they may search your luggage and ask if you have any fruits. The pier is marked by numbers and signs indicating where the boats are headed. A police officer will call the name of your boat, you show them your pass and walk down the ramp to a water taxi, which costs 80 cents. They will load your luggage for you onto the water taxi and ferry.
The major airports are on Baltra (Santa Cruz) and San Cristobal. The Baltra airport requires a bit more travel time to reach Puerto Ayora compared to the airport on San Cristobal. If you arrive on Baltra, you will exit the airport to take a bus about 10 minutes to a ferry. These buses are crowded with all of the people on the same flight and their luggage. I waited two bus loads before hopping on one. Once at the ferry, your bags are placed on top of the boat and it costs $1 to cross the channel to Santa Cruz. You will disembark on the other side, grab your luggage and have two options for the 30-45 minute drive to Puerto Ayora. You can take a taxi for $20-25, or another bus which will let you off at the edge of town, so you walk the rest of the way. I opted for a taxi to take me straight to my hotel!
The San Cristobal airport is much easier to access as it’s right in town. I paid $2 for a 5 minute taxi ride to the airport. Although you could walk, I suppose! Isabela has a small airport as well and there is a company on Santa Cruz that sets up inter island flights if you don’t want to take a ferry.
There are buses on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal. Taxis are white pick up trucks and they have standard rates for common stops. Many will give you a daily or multiple hour price if you’d like to see multiple places on the island.
Taxis are also boats! You can take water taxis to various places. It generally costs 80 cents. But could cost $1 or $1.50.
If you get tired of walking and don’t want to pay for taxis, bicycles can be rented by the hour or day on Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, and Isabela.
The Galapagos was an experience I don’t quite have the words for just yet. I’ve called it fantastic, amazing, incredible, surreal…but none of them actually encompass how I feel about this special place. There are so many wonderful experiences I have to share with you, and they are coming down the pipeline. For now, I hope these tips help you realize that the Galapagos islands are not that far out of reach.