Visiting the Galápagos Islands is on the bucket list of many travelers. And rightly so: where in the world would you find giant turtles, blue footed boobies, penguins, sharks and sea lions all in one place…? And how about 180 year old tortoises peacefully munching on their fill of grass. These islands are surely one of the highlights of a visit to South America. Although at first we had our doubts as to whether we really wanted to visit the islands, we absolutely do not regret our decision to go. The islands are truly a paradise and for us it felt like a holiday within a holiday…
Still doubting? Below we share some thoughts which might be helpful in making the decision to do “Galápagos on a budget.”
1. The islands are super expensive
Honestly, whichever way you choose to visit the Galápagos Islands, it will be expensive, indubitably. We absolutely loved it and it was without a doubt worth every penny. However, needless to say, it did leave a hole in our budget! The prices on the Galápagos are incomparable with the rest of Ecuador. Supermarkets, hostels, tour operators: everything on the Galápagos is at least three times as expensive. Additionally, you have to fly over – departing from either Quito or Guayaquil. The tickets vary from $300 to $550, depending on the time of year.
2. There are plenty of DIY options on the islands
Although most tourists on the Galápagos choose a cruise, tour packages or day tours, there are plenty of DIY options. They are much cheaper and it is certainly worth your while to shop for that last-minute daytour. In company of a guide you discover the absolute best places to spot wildlife, both on land and in the water.
3. Entrance fee
That´s right, and it´s not low. The basic entrance fee is $100 per person, payable on arrival at the Islands. Add to that $20 p.p. immigration and customs fee, payable in cash at the airport (Quito or Guayaquil). We read on other blogs that you receive discount when paying with an ISIC card, but this only applies when studying at an Ecuadorian University.
4. The inter-island ferry
From Santa Cruz you can travel to 3 islands, namely Isabela, San Cristobal and Floreana. These islands can be visited without a tour. The ferry to the islands departs daily from Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz), early in the morning and afternoon. A one-way ticket costs $30. Tickets are available at every tour operator and it´s wise to buy these 2 days in advance. Ferries for these 3 islands all depart from Santa Cruz, in other words there are no ferries in between the 3 islands. To reach the ferry you need to take a water taxi, departing from the harbor ($0.8-$1). Upon arrival at Isabela harbor, a fee of $10 p.p. is to be paid.
5. Price per person
Particularly on the Galápagos, everything is calculated in price per person: hostels, tour operators and taxi chauffeurs all do this. Being aware of this will prevent nasty surprises! A hostel charging $15 p.p.p.n for example is definitely a bargain. When traveling in a group or staying for a longer period of time, bargaining for discount is possible.
6. Amazing weather
The Galápagos is a great year-round destination. Whichever month you plan your vacation on the Galápagos, the weather is perfect. The temperature barely varies throughout the year. However, bear in mind that the Galápagos Islands are situated on the equator: the UV rays are fierce. It is therefore advisable to bring along enough sunscreen. The dry season is from June to November and the rainy season from December to May. This doesn´t mean that it rains all day, but a downpour in the evening is a possibility. We made our trip in late November and, apart from the occasional cloud cover, we had perfect weather!
7. Avoid the high season
June to September and December to January are the peak seasons. When traveling on a budget, it is wise to avoid these months. Hostels, travel agencies and tour operators increase their prices during this time of the year.
8. Charles Darwin invented the theory of evolution while staying on the Galápagos Islands
This is a well-known fact, and nice to know before you go. The work of Charles Darwin took place largely on the Galápagos Islands, where he devised his theory of evolution by means of the finches that live on the island (and yes, those cute finches are still there!). According to the residents on the Islands, Charles Darwin is a VIP. An interpretation and breeding center is named after Darwin and a statueof him marks the original site where he first disembarked on the Galápagos Islands.