Before you start your vacation in the Galapagos Islands, there are a few things you should know. First, the Galapagos Islands are part of Ecuador, a small country in South America. The country is famous for being on the equatorial line, as well as its three natural regions and the enchanting archipelago.
The Enchanted Islands are located 609 miles or 1.396 km away from the continent. Therefore, in order to begin your vacation in the Galapagos Islands, you need to get to Ecuador’s mainland first. Then, you’ll take a 2-hour Galapagos flight to the archipelago, either from Quito or Guayaquil city. Remember to choose wisely your landing airport in the Galapagos, because the islands have two airports.
Baltra airport (its IATA code is GPS), is closer to Santa Cruz Island. The airport works 100% with renewable energy, 35% comes from photovoltaic systems, and 65% from wind turbines. The second airport is located in San Cristóbal (its IATA code is SCY), it’s smaller but has modern facilities. The airport is 10 minutes away from the city. Also, take into account that some flights land on the islands before noon.
This blog is divided into 3 main topics and you’ll find tips to know before your Galapagos Islands holiday:
- Legal and travel concerns.
- Health matters to consider.
Legal concerns for your vacations in the Galapagos Islands
Visas to entry to Ecuador
Regarding the legal concerns, the countries that need a visa to come to Ecuador are the following:
|Cameroon||Democratic Republic of Congo||Republic of Congo|
Vaccinations and COVID-19 tests required
Regarding the vaccinations needed for a vacation in the Galapagos Islands, travelers 3 years old and older will need to provide:
- A completed health declaration form from the Ministry of Health.
- Proof of medical & evacuation insurance including COVID coverage.
- Proof of full vaccination completed at least 14 days prior to arrival to the country, or negative RT-PCR test taken within 72 hours before boarding your flight to Ecuador.
- Check your travel type. Some cruises require all participants to take a COVID Antigen test the day prior to boarding the cruise.
Special note: If you’re also visiting the Amazon region, please ask your doctor about other vaccines. These cases, like typhoid, hepatitis A, diphtheria, and yellow fever.
Also, note that kids younger than 3 years old are exempt to provide any requirements about COVID vaccination or PCR test.
Transit Control Card
Did you know that the Ecuadorian Government needs to know how long are you staying in the Galapagos Islands? This is a way to control that tourists don’t overstay. Therefore, you can’t stay over 60 days counted from the first time that you entered the islands.
Migratory controls to start your Galapagos Islands vacations
After having all the visa and vaccination prerequisites checked, you’ll have other migratory requirements to start your vacation in the Galapagos Islands. All these requirements need to be reviewed before embarking on your flight. Since the Galapagos Islands are a protected National Park, you’ll have other controls when entering.
The process starts with the Galapagos Transit Control Card. The card is needed as your immigration permission to travel to the islands. With it, the government can control the duration of your stay in the archipelago. It’s recommended that you pre-register so you don’t wait that long at the airport. Especially if you don’t have the patience to give all your information verbally to the agent. If you’re traveling with your family, you can pre-register the whole group at the same link.
You’ll need to queue up at the Galapagos National Institute or INGALA -by its acronym in Spanish- counter at the airport. You’ll be requested to present your passport and pay a USD 20 fee per person in cash only. This card is required again when you leave the islands and return home, so please don’t lose it.
Baggage control when arriving in the Islands
Once you have arrived on the islands, you’ll be requested a baggage control screening by the Biosafety Agency or SIGCAL. This process is very important. It’s the only way you keep any invasive species that may represent a threat to the ecosystem away. It’s prohibited to enter the Galapagos Islands with items such as fruits, vegetables, and organic matter. Please check the whole list.
After getting your baggage checked, you’ll have to queue to pay the Galapagos National Park Entry fee. This one costs USD 100 per adult and USD 50 per child. After this, your luggage will have another screening for more organic items. Once you pass that one, you’re officially in! And your Galapagos Islands vacations have officially started.
Side note: all the fees you pay go toward conservancy efforts for the park. The money goes to organizations such as Galapagos Marine Park, and municipalities, among others. It’s your way to support responsible travel in the Galapagos Islands.
Health concerns to check before your vacation in the Galapagos Islands
Prescriptions and other medical advice for your vacations in the Galapagos Islands
There aren’t any contraindications to travel to the Galapagos islands nor any vaccine needed. But, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from US or CDC, recommends packing a list of what you might need on your travel. Please talk to your doctor about which items are the most important for your vacation in the Galapagos Islands.
Remember that you should bring all prescription medicine you, or your family could need. Even though there are pharmacies on the islands, they don’t usually take foreign prescriptions. Therefore, bring extra medicine in case of emergency or delays on your trip.
Regarding altitude sickness
If you’re staying in Quito, please be aware that its height is 9.350,4 ft (2.850m) above sea level. Be aware that altitude sickness’ symptoms are dizziness, headaches, weakness, fatigue, feeling sick to your stomach, and breathing problems.
The best way to adapt to high altitude is to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water. It can be a good idea to ask your doctor back home to prescribe medication that can help prevent altitude sickness.
If you’re sensitive to it please be aware that you’ll have to take boats to visit other islands. You can choose from an island hopping tour or a cruise tour for your vacation in the Galapagos Islands.
For the people who wear glasses, pack a spare in case you lose them. On these incredible islands, there are tons of activities to do like hikes, snorkeling, kayaking, diving and so much more. Also, you’ll want to see all the incredible landscapes and wildlife.
If you have any type of diabetes, remember to pack your diabetes testing supplies and insulin. You don’t want to be concerned all the time about the food and your sugar levels. Thus, it’s better to be prepared and just enjoy your vacation in the Galapagos Islands.
Also, if any member of your family group has any respiratory condition, make sure you have enough inhalers. In addition, take it to your trips, and excursions, and keep it dry and safe.
As you may imagine seafood is going to be the main course on most of your menus. Thus, if you’re allergic, bring Epinephrine auto-injectors (EpiPens), or any other medicine for allergies. However, you shouldn’t worry, because most restaurants and other places have other options for you to choose from.
Finally, it’s very important to have your medical alert bracelet or necklace. You don’t know what might happen during your vacation in the Galapagos Islands. Hopefully, you’ll have lots of fun and incredible experiences but one can never be too careful. Especially if you have a medical condition or if you’re allergic to any kind of medicine.
Common medical supplies
In local pharmacies in the Galapagos Islands, you can find other common medical supplies. However, if you prefer to bring your own, here’s a list of what you may need for your vacation in the Galapagos Islands:
- Diarrhea medicine.
- Cough drops, suppression, or expectorants.
- Medicine for pain or fever.
- Mild laxative.
- Mild sedative or other sleep aid. If you suffer from sleeping apnea you can bring your machine with you. The AC in the rooms will prevent the humidity from damaging the machine.
- Water purification tablets or any portable filters. There is treated water on most of the inhabited islands but is not drinkable. Some hotels and most ships have a desalination process. Even so, some ships and hotels will give you refillable water bottles to use and reduce the environmental impact.
- Insect repellent.
- Sunscreen, lots of it. Also, make sure your sunscreen is waterproof. You don’t want to have severe sunburn on your vacations in the Galapagos Islands. Remember that they’re on the equatorial line and the sun is stronger here.
- Regarding the first-aid kit, your guides have it, just in case please ask them once you go on a trip.
Please don’t forget about your insurance information or any other specificity of your medical requirements.
Medical facilities on the islands
In the islands, there are two hospitals: one in Santa Cruz (the Republica del Ecuador Hospital) and the new Oskar Jandl hospital in San Cristóbal. On Isabela, there is a small medical Health Center. For more complex procedures patients will need to be transferred to the main cities. There are medical air ambulances available from Quito and Guayaquil. Also, you can find pharmacies on the main islands.
Level of physical activity
Vacations in the Galapagos Islands are definitely synonyms for adventure and active holidays. Prepare yourself to do some extra physical activities. Especially if the main point of your vacation is to spot the wildlife, and do all the fun activities that these islands have to offer. There’s simply too much to do and see! Hiking up volcanoes, mountain biking around the islands, observing wildlife, kayaking, snorkeling, swimming and so much more!
Of course, there are tours for every type of traveler. But, it’s much recommended to take into account that at least you’ll have one excursion per day, maybe an hour or two. The level of physical activity on average in the tours to the Galapagos Islands is from easy to moderate. You won’t need physical preparation in advance, but some days you’ll have moderate physical activity meaning that the excursion will raise your heartbeat. Nevertheless, don’t worry, all the guides are prepared to arrange the excursion so you can enjoy it. Please if there’s any concern or restraint about this point make sure to talk to the guide so they can be prepared and help you with the trail.
Logistics for your Vacation in Galapagos Islands
How to get to the Galapagos and other recommendations
The Galapagos Islands are located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. Some of you will have to take 3 flights to get there. So, you’ll land in Quito or Guayaquil. Depending on your schedule, you’ll probably have to stay one night on the mainland, so why not take advantage and get to know a little bit more of these cities? You can check out some day tours in Quito, and Guayaquil, or explore other Andes’s incredible locations like the Cotopaxi.
Usually, flights to the Galapagos leave early in the morning. So you’ll arrive at the Enchanted Islands in the mid-late morning. This will allow you to connect straight to your cruise or check in right away. If you’re not sure whether to choose a land-based tour or a cruise, please check this post. Also, keep in mind that if you suffer from seasickness then a cruise might not be the best option for you.
Most flights arrive at Baltra Island. It’s very convenient because it’s close to Santa Cruz Island. The other alternative is to land on Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristóbal Island. Please keep in mind your tour logistics and where you’re staying, or where your cruise begins.
Useful tips for your vacation in the Galapagos Islands
- The official language in Ecuador is Spanish. English is spoken too, but mostly in tourist areas. But please request a bilingual guide so you can fully understand and enjoy your Galapagos vacations.
- The time zone on Ecuador’s mainland is GMT -5 and in the Galapagos is GMT -6. So when arriving adjust your watches.
- The currency in Ecuador is U.S Dollars.
- ATMs on the island are very few. For example, in Santa Cruz, there are 2 ATMs and in San Cristóbal there’s one. But, it’s better if you get your money in Quito or Guayaquil. There are ATMs at the airports. Also, bring enough cash.
- Not all businesses accept credit cards, so make sure to have enough cash.
- Tipping is not mandatory in Ecuador. However, if you felt that your services were good enough the usual tip is 10%.
- Electricity in Ecuador is the same as in the United States, meaning 120v. Thus, there’s a chance that you won’t need a converter. Nevertheless, check your devices to confirm if they’re dual voltage (100v-2240v) then it’s fine. Usually, this information is printed on a tag attached to the wire of your device or printed in the charger. Maybe you’ll need an adapter that allows the plug of your device to fit in the electrical outlet. In Ecuador the electrical outlet is like in the US, with two flat parallel prongs, so make sure to have your adapter of the electrical outlet in your country is different.
- Wifi and connection can be tricky. Probably because of your itinerary you’ll be wandering around the islands. So you won’t have a connection or cell reception. You can buy an Ecuadorian SIM card at the airport in Quito or Guayaquil. Some cruises can offer Wifi but it’s intermittent.
- Make sure you have travel insurance. It’s better if you’re covered just in case something happens. Remember that your vacations on the Galapagos Islands have lots of fun physical activities to do.
- You’ll need to have a certified guide to visit some places around the islands. And fully profit from your vacations in the Galapagos Islands.
- People with disabilities might come to the Galapagos Islands. Nonetheless, since it’s a very physical destination there’s a chance that they won’t be able to do all the activities.
- Children will definitely enjoy the Galapagos Islands’ animals! So you can take your whole family group to the Galapagos.
What to bring to your Galapagos Islands vacations
- Sunscreen, please don’t forget that it has to be waterproof.
- Electrical adapter, so you can plug your devices.
- Hiking boots, remember the Islands have a variety of cool hikes for you.
- Trekking poles.
- Underwater camera, you don’t want to lose the chance to photograph all the animals underwater.
- Swim shirt with UV protection, it’ll take a worry off your mind. You’ll be able to snorkel a long time without worrying about reapplying sunscreen.
- With sandals or water shoes, you’ll walk through lava stones and other rocks. So it’s better if you don’t do it in your flip-flops.
- Windbreaker, depending on the time of the year that you visit the Galapagos Islands there might be some cool winds.
- Camera with the zoom lens, especially if you want to spot all the wildlife of the islands!
- With a waterproof bag, you won’t have to worry about the things you don’t want to get wet. That applies to nonwaterproof cameras, maybe your phone or documents!
- Reusable water bottle, so you can keep your Galapagos vacations as green as possible. You can refill it on your cruise or hotel.
- Motion sickness pills, you never know when you or your travel partners will be needing them.
- Padlock especially if you’re sharing a cabin on a cruise.
- With binoculars, you’ll want to spot all the Galapagos islands’ animals!
- Travel insurance once again you’ll never know what could happen during your vacations.
Galapagos National Park rules
- Visitors to any protected areas within the islands must be accompanied by a certified guide.
- Travel only with tour operators and boats authorized to work in the protected areas of the Galapagos.
- Remain on marked trails only. Remember the islands are a National Park to protect yourself and the wildlife.
- Keep a distance of at least six feet between you and the wildlife. They might seem super friendly but they’re definitely not pets.
- Never feed wildlife you can cause health issues to them.
- Flash photography is not permitted when taking photos of wildlife. Also, all the videos and photos for commercial purposes need special permission from the Galapagos National Park.
- Camping is only authorized in certain areas on certain islands. You need authorization from the Galapagos National Park and 48 hours in advance of your camping plans.
- You can’t introduce food, animals, or plants to the Archipelago. Your luggage will be scanned. Please cooperate with the environmental inspection. Keep in mind that the archipelago is a protected area.
- Don’t buy or take any products made from banned substances such as black coral, shells, lava rock, and animal parts. This is illegal.
- Practice leave-no-trace principles in order to help the preservation of the islands.
- Pack all your trash. Try to minimize the use of plastic during your vacations in the Galapagos Islands.
- Smoking and/or campfires are prohibited within the Galapagos National Park. Fires pose a serious risk to the flora and fauna
- Fishing is only permitted on recreational tour boats authorized by the Galapagos National Park
- Motorized aquatic sports and aerial tourism activities are not permitted in the Galapagos National Park or the Marine Reserve.
Build Your Own Trip
You can also contact us to create your own customized trip. If you have special requests like a complete private tour with services and hotels chartered, a honeymoon, a family trip, or a very short tour, just contact our destination experts and we will help.