Galapagos – First Timer’s Guide

So getting to the Galapagos is a bit of a challenge in itself. Because of the importance placed on the preservation of the islands, getting to the Galapagos isn’t as easy as just buying a ticket to the islands.   Here are the steps to guide you through the process.

HAVE CASH – I can’t stress this enough. Ecuador uses the USD but doesn’t seem to have fully embraced credit cards yet. ATMs are plentiful but lines to use them could be long and the machine may not always have cash. Also, you might be limited to the amount of money you can withdraw (regardless of the limit set by your bank). Small bills are particularly useful but of course ATMs dispense $20s so be mindful those 1s and 5s. This mostly likely won’t apply to anyone doing a cruise where CCs are widely accepted.

Give yourself a lot of time at the airport. Before you can check in to your flight, you need to go to government kiosk where they will scan your passport and you have to buy a ticket to the islands for $20 (cash only). I don’t know what causes the line to move faster for some but I seemed to be in and out in less than 5 mins. Others, however seemed to have problems.   Needless to say, with only 2 staff at the kiosk, the line moves very slowly. It looked like there was only 1 flight to the Galapagos near my departure time but if there are other flights, it could be fairly stressful if you don’t give yourself time.

Don’t bring foods like fruit and nuts expecting to spend less on the islands. You’ll have to have all your bags scanned before boarding and it’ll be taken from you. Some lady had a bag full of different nuts and fruit she had clearly just bought and was heartbroken about having it taken from her.

After you land (in my case Baltra), you’ll go through security where you’ll pay your $100 park entrance fee. Again, CASH ONLY. By now, if you arrived at the airport with just the cash in your pocket, you need to make sure you have $120 per person (with children being cheaper).

Gather your things and walk out side. The bus (with a sign in front of the airline you just took) will take you free to the dock. From there, it’s about a 10 min ferry ride to cross. The ferry costs a dollar and they’ll make sure they drive it slowly enough to ensure a comfortable ride ( and to make sure they have a chance to collect).

Once on the other side, you’ll have your option of a bus or taxi. The taxi is $25 and will be for the entire car, NOT per person. Or, you can take the bus for $2. Your choice really depends on your price point and patience. Anyone taking a cruise or having arranged private transportation prior will obviously take their own transport. The remaining passengers (who choose the shuttle) will basically wait until the buss is full or until the shuttle driver believes the next flight in will take too long to arrive. Basically, if you’re unlucky, you could be sitting there for quite some time. The bus driver will tell you that he’ll leave in 15 mins and a taxi driver will tell you it’ll be close to an hour. For me, it was about an hour but considering I really didn’t have dollars to spare, I had no choice but to wait. My advice would be if the bus already has people in it, then take the bus. But if you’re one of the first to board, you may want to consider a taxi if you hate waiting.

So, that’s it. It’s relatively painless if you don’t mind the whole cash only part. As someone who rarely carries cash, it’s awkward for me to constantly be aware of how much cash I have in my wallet.

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