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Do I have to go on a tour or can I explore on my own?

It’s not just you!  Many travelers would love to explore the Galapagos Islands without being in a packaged tour on a yacht.  After all, visiting Cotopaxi, hiking the Quilotoa loop, or sun bathing in Puerto Lopez can be done independently, so why do the Galapagos seem to be reserved only for group tours?

When travelers hear about the Galapagos, they tend to think about tortoises, scuba diving, and a lot of tips and fees being dropped along the way.

It may surprise you that’s only one way to see the Galapagos.  While it may take some more effort, you can have the Galapagos in a do-it-yourself fashion.

Planning and traveling independently provides the freedom to discover the islands at your own pace and within a smaller budget.

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Book in advance or wait and see?

There are several options to book your trip in advance, which include lodging, meals and transfer from island to island. However, they tend to be expensive, and most of them have very strict cancellation policies. So, a growing number of people are preferring to wait until they get to the islands before they book anything.

Some things, however, you absolutely should make sure and reserve in advance.

Around 2 million people visit the Islands every year, so accommodation and transportation are the two services that usually are overbooked even months in advance. If you have no reservation, it is very likely that you will find no options of places to stay at your arrival to the islands. Day-tours are, however, are abundant, so just walk around the Island to get a last minute deal.

Transportation is the other tricky thing.  If you go in low season, avoiding weekends, and are not wanting a tour and just the ferries, you will have luck just waiting until you get there.  However, transportation infrastructure gets overwhelmed quickly because the government limits many people can even live there to operate businesses, so you might want to play it safe and reserve your transportation early.

Tip: As of November 2020, you are required to have a salvoconducto (special permit), so book a simple tour in advance to get this document.

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Special Entry Requirements

The Ecuadorian government is in the process of restoring tourism to the Galapagos Islands, helping operators create incentives to attract local and foreign visitors. Operators follow strict sanitation protocols while also ensuring they provide the best natural experience. In addition, authorities require travelers (over the age of 18) to present a negative PCR test taken no more than 96 hours prior to arrival in the Galapagos. No rapid tests or IGG/IMM are accepted.

Ecuador requires any international traveler over 18 trying to enter Ecuador through Guayaquil or Quito airports, to present a PCR test with negative results, taken in the last 10 days prior to arrival. This test can be used to travel to the Galapagos as long as the test was taken 96 hours prior to boarding the flight to the Islands.

Travelers are also required to have a “salvoconducto” (special permit to enter to the Islands). Salvoconductos can be requested from a local operator.

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Budget expectations

The Galapagos Islands are easily the most expensive destination in Ecuador, so even if you are avoiding high-priced expeditions, be ready to spend much more on the Islands than you do on the mainland.

Everything is imported from the mainland: fruits and vegetables, meat, processed food, paper products, electronics, and  more.  So products can be double the price you would pay in Guayaquil or Quito.

We would recommend that you be prepared to spend around USD $50-$120 per night for accommodation, USD $15-$40 for food, USD $20-$35 for transportation if you are sticking to taking ferries to visit other islands.

Budget tip: Book accommodation in advance through any digital platform to get good discounts during low season (April-May and October-November) and book private transportation that adapts to your itinerary.

Transportation options in the Galapagos

The Galapagos Islands have earned the reputation as the best destination and most expensive destination in Ecuador. AndesTransit provides you assistance with your planning and mantains a network of transportation providers that will give you the best experience at the best price. Below are the options currently available.

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Transportation for Excursions

Transportation fees include a 3-passenger vehicle on-island, but do not include entrance fees to the parks and reserves themselves.

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Inter-Islands Ferry

This is the most convenient way to connect by water between islands.  The first link below is for getting from the Baltra Airport (on one island) to cross the Itabaca Channel to Santa Cruz Island, where most hotels and businesses are located. Most of the other trips take around an hour and you’ll share the boat with 10-12 other people. Plan ahead so you get your return tickets in advance without getting stranded.

If you are going to book your return trip, use the code: GALAPAGOSFUN and get a $5 discount applied to your full order.

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Vehicle per day

If you are needing a customized transportation itinerary in the Galapagos, and would like to have arranged a combination of private boats and cars to take you around, just click the button below to fill out the Custom Itinerary form.

 

Use the map below to plan your trip and routes:

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