Budget Travel Guide | Visiting Galapagos Islands
Making a travel budget is an important part of planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands. So, once you decided where to go, only the daily expenses remain to be put on paper. These of course depend on everyone’s style for traveling, but once you arrive in the Archipelago it is a shame not to take advantage of everything it has to offer. Visit several islands on day trips, eat fresh-caught tuna from the ocean, and visit as much as possible. Plan your trip and keep in mind that is not very cheap to visit the most famous islands of the Pacific.
How to arrive
You can reach the Archipelago only from the mainland cities Quito or Guayaquil. There are two airports where you can land, on San Cristobal and Baltra, the last one being connected to Santa Cruz Island. Regardless of the chosen option, in both airports, you have to pay around 120$, Galapagos Entrance Fees.
Baltra is a small uninhabited island separated from Santa Cruz Island by Itabaca Channel. To get to Santa Cruz, at the airport you must pay with the taxes a 5$ bus ticket. The ride takes almost 20 minutes and the bus drops you off right to the ferry dock. Crossing the canal only takes a few minutes, and the boarding cost 10$.
Don’t worry if your hotel does not provide transportation. As soon as you disembark the ferry, you can take a bus or a taxi to Puerto Ayora. The price for a ticket is 5$ and there are enough seats for all the passengers who landed in Baltra. But if you still prefer a more convenient means of transportation, a taxi ride costs 70$. Keep in mind though, that some drivers are independent contractors. In order not to pay double what the ride is worth, agree on the price before getting in the car.
Accommodation on Santa Cruz Island
There are 18 main islands in Galapagos but only 4 are populated. So, in Galapagos, you will find accommodation on Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela, and Floreana. Of those, Santa Cruz Island is the most developed. Puerto Ayora is the largest city and the perfect destination to spend a few days in Galapagos. Here you can visit many beach areas, lagoons, research centers, and reserves. It is very popular with tourists, being the starting point for most trips in the Archipelago. The island accommodation options suit every budget. From hotels to hostels, apartments, or holiday homes, here you will find something that suits your style. Prices per night may vary depending on the facilities, from 25$ per night to over 200$.
If you are thinking of spending your vacation on a cruise, most likely Puerto Ayora will be the place to embark. Depending on the onboard facilities, prices start from 400$/day and can reach up to 1000$/day. Itineraries are usually set in advance, so you have many options to choose from. However, before you decide, make sure that this is the type of trip that suits you. Every morning you will be woken up early in the morning and regardless of the type of boat, you will share a small space with quite a few people.
Tips & Tricks
Knowing that the waves are unpredictable, we decided to stay at a hotel in Santa Cruz and visit our favorite islands through day trips. We chose to stay at El Descanso del Guia, a beautiful and clean hotel located 2 km from the ocean. We were happy that breakfast was included and the price for one night was 95$.
In Puerto Ayora, you will find a wide choice of culinary delights. Most restaurants on the island offer dishes cooked with locally sourced ingredients or freshly caught fish from the ocean. On the pier, you will find many great places where you can try both Ecuadorian and international cuisine (if you are a burger or pizza lover). As for prices, almost everything on the menu starts at 25$ and includes the tip.
Tips & Tricks
Because we had enough time to discover everything culinary the island has to offer, we were able to choose some favorites. Il Nuovo Giardino for the diversity of the menu and its fabulous positioning around a tree, and La Garrapate for the most delicious sesame tuna.
The simplest and most convenient way to explore Santa Cruz Island is by taxi. It can help you travel around Puerto Ayora and discover the island through various trips. Most of them are white 4×4 Toyotas and you can see them everywhere. However, keep in mind that some drivers work independently from the local taxi company. With them, the prices are slightly different, but they can be negotiated. Bicycles and electric scooters can also be a great alternative to cars. They can be rented from many places that attract tourists of all ages from beginners to families.
Tips & Tricks
After a few days on the island, we discovered that it is better to ask the hotel staff to book a taxi for you. Usually, the price per km is about 1$, but sometimes the drivers may overcharge passengers.
Visiting the Archipelago
If you are planning to visit more than one island in the Archipelago, propper organize your travel budget and keep in mind that is expensive to be a tourist in Galapagos.
After many weeks of following reviews on different travel blogs, we chose to visit North Seymour, Santa Fe, Bartolome, and Floreana Islands, maybe even taking a last-minute tour in Puerto Ayora. The first three islands are uninhabited, so we booked in advance our favorite day tours, but to Floreana, we decided to go on our own.
One day in the islands
The cost for a one day tour purchased a few months in advance start at 200$ plus tips. Although they are slightly different depending on each island, the services included in a 7-hour trip are quite the same. The tour operators offer transportation from the accommodation to the boat, a certified guide, and snorkeling equipment for swimming in the ocean. Lunch is prepared by a chef in the first part of the day and served on the boat while enjoying a spectacular view.
A self-guided tour from Santa Cruz Island to one of the other populated islands of the Archipelago costs around 60$ round-trip. It can be booked online even a few months in advance, which is recommended because places are limited. Between the islands Baltra, Isabela, and San Cristobal there is a simpler option for traveling by a private plane. You can make reservations online and approx. price for a ticket purchased in advance for the Baltra-San Cristobal route costs 250$ and for Baltra- Isabela costs 200$. For last-minute offers, there is also the possibility of granting a discount. The company that operates the tours is EMETEBE and you can find their website here.
For visiting the popular tourist attractions on Santa Cruz Island, in Puerto Ayora can be booked different types of tours from many operators. But, if you want to avoid a large group of tourists, there is also the option to go on your own. The price for a tour with a taxi starts from 30$ and depending on the places you visit, the driver can wait for you throughout the day or he can drop you off and come back at an arranged time.
For our trip to El Chato and Mirador de los Tuneles, the driver guided and accompanied us throughout the tour which lasted about 4 hours. When we went to El Garrapatero Beach, we agreed with the driver a time for pick-up, and the round trip was paid after returning to Puerto Ayora.
There is one supermarket by the pier in Puerto Ayora. You will find there everything you need, this being the fully stocked store on the island. You can buy fresh fruits and vegetables, delicious pastries, or Ecuadorian chocolate. If you are looking for authentic souvenirs or gifts to bring home, here you will find Galapagos coffee and Ecuadorian cocoa beans.