Galapagos Independent Travel Tips
The Galapagos islands aren’t just for cruises and tours. There are so many wonderful activities that can be done completely independently, and for free! Here’s a list of Galapagos Independent Travel Tips.
For a comprehensive overview of Galapagos independent travel, click here.
Galapagos Independent Travel Tips
The Galapagos islands are reached via a flight from mainland Ecuador. Flights typically cost between $300 and $500. Flights are usually cheaper from Guayaquil than from Quito, and it’s usually cheapest to fly in and out of Baltra island (which connects via bus and boat taxi to Santa Cruz island). Check comparison websites such as Skyscanner, Orbitz, and CheapOAir for the best deals.
Another inescapable expense is the fees to enter the island. This is a one time fee of US$20 when you depart from mainland Ecuador, and another fee of US$100 on arrival in the islands. Check before you go, though, as there are rumours that this cost will soon rise, or even double.
Flights are available between the islands but are pretty pricey. It’s far cheaper to get the $30 ferry. Tickets can be purchased from most tour operators on each island, and they can sell out so it’s best to get them a day in advance.
In the Galapagos independent travel doesn’t mean your options are limited. There are many free things to do on Santa Cruz and Isla Isabela. Click each item for a list of free and independent activities.
Before you pay for a day tour on the islands, check to see if you can travel there independently. There are many places you can visit by yourself, and avoid the pricey tour fees. For example, a day trip to Las Grietas on Santa Cruz costs around $40, or you can just get a water taxi for $0.80!
If you are planning to snorkel, be sure to rent your gear before you leave the town, as it is not available on the beaches. Snorkels and masks usually cost just $3-5 to hire for the day.
Accommodation costs around twice the price that it does on mainland Ecuador, but that’s still a fairly reasonable figure! We found double rooms on each island for $30, which we usually bargained down to $25. There are some dorm rooms available, for around $15 per night.
Self-catering is the cheapest option for food, and most hostels and guesthouses have a kitchen. Supermarkets are far more expensive than on mainland Ecuador, so bring food if you can (though nothing fresh- see below).
There is a strict ban on bringing fresh fruit or vegetables in or out of the Galapagos. It is also prohibited to take items such as shells or coral from the islands. All luggage is thoroughly searched at the airports and when boarding ferries, and if you are caught with contraband items, you face a heavy fine.
Items such as toiletries and medicine are extortionately priced on the islands. And that’s if you can find them at all. So be sure to bring what you need (one group we met had just spent $28 on a bottle of sun cream!).
Many attractions on the islands are walking distance, though if you want to visit places such as Los Gemelos, the Tortoise Ranch, and the Lava Tunnels, it’s best to hire a taxi for a few hours. Taxis are pretty pricey, but can be bargained down slightly. Be sure that the price you agree on is for a return trip- some drivers will offer a low price, only to tell you on arrival that it will cost you double if you want them to bring you back.
The Galapagos can be unbearably hot, so wear strong sunscreen, stay in the shade during peak heat times, and stay hydrated. Be sure to bring enough water and sun protection with you on hikes, as drinks are unavailable outside of the towns (and shade is often unavailable too!).
While most tour operators and guides speak English, many people who work in guest houses, restaurants, and shops don’t. So try to learn at least some basic Spanish phrases.
The animals on the Galapagos are completely unafraid of humans, and you can swim with sea lions, have your photograph taken with a giant tortoise, and lie on the beach next to marine iguanas. But please, please respect the “no touching” rule that applies to all of the animals, and don’t use flash when taking their photos.
For a guide to Galapagos independent travel, including our budget for a week, click here. Or, for free and independent activities on Santa Cruz, click here, and for activities on Isla Isabela, click here.