Basically, just be like this sea lion. Being chilled out will serve you well on the Galapagos islands.
1. Due to the fact everything is imported, many everyday items are double or triple their original mainland price. For example, a tin of tuna from the supermarket in Quito would cost $1.50, whereas on Santa Cruz island I bought it for around $3. With this is mind, if you are looking for ways to save money during your trip, it is a good idea to bring these items from your original destination. Although, don’t bring oranges! I innocently brought some fruit (apples and oranges) with me to eat on the plane, but, they were seized (only the oranges for some reason!) and a form was filled out – it was very serious. Fresh fruit, vegetables and dairy products are forbidden from entering the Galapagos islands. I didn’t know this. Now I know 🙂
2. The sun is strong. Very strong. As the Galapagos islands are located on the equator the sun rays are very intense and because you are exposed to the sun whilst at the beach or doing activities, it is in your best interest to protect your skin with high SPF sunscreen and clothing. This sounds very obvious, however, I learnt this the hard way, unfortunately. I had my shoulders out, directly exposed to the sun and even with all my melanin, my shoulders and back were burnt and are now peeling. Just use sunscreen please!
3. You can haggle (or as us Brits say ‘barter’). As the Galapagos is a famous, unique, holiday destination, prices are inflated to match the influx of keen tourists. So, I would recommend haggling, if you can and where possible, especially, when buying non-tangible products. I wouldn’t recommend settling for the first price, unless of course, you’re in a supermarket or establishment. For example, there are daily ferries from Santa Cruz to Isabela, San Cristobal and Floreana islands. They cost $30 one way, but I was able to help a friend get a return ticket for $50. Lol, I could only get mine down to $55 as it was with a different vendor and different departure times. Also last-minute deals are very common and offer huge discounts. A friend of a friend got bought a cruise, that was originally $4000, for $1800 (crazy, right? It’s worth negotiating). Whilst it is good to plan and book in advance, the Galapagos is the type of destination where being laidback and relaxed about your itinerary works in your favour. Keep in mind, these discounts are offered on expensive trips as well as cheaper ones. There are so many tour companies organizing the same day trips and activities that they are, and must be, willing to negotiate.
4. There is a $100 National Park Entrance Fee, which everyone must pay, well, every tourist over the age of 12 years old. Children pay $50 and international students such as myself, studying at an Ecuadorian university (USFQ) pay $25. This is paid once you arrive at either Seymour airport on Baltra island (when I was browsing flights it was cheaper to fly into this one) or San Cristobal airport.
5. Everyone must get a Transit Control Card (Tourist card) before boarding a plane to the Galapagos islands. You must go to ‘Galapagos’ booth in Quito or Guayaquil airport, in Quito airport it is right by the departures entrance. It costs $20 and essentially is a way to track who enters the island whilst making money from eager tourists. Anyway, it’s a small price to pay to experience the beauty that is the Galapagos islands.
6. Avianca, TAME and LATAM are the three main airlines that service cheap, frequent flights to the Galapagos islands. Although, with these airlines, it is best to be flexible and chilled out as delays are normal. My flight, from Quito to Baltra island, was going to be delayed so I was able to get it changed (it originally included an 8 hour layover in Guayaquil – bought it because it was the cheapest one!) to another flight which was also delayed. I think I was chilling in the airport for around 7 hours before I stepped on a plane. The best thing to do in this situation is relax and chill out because you won’t be going anywhere for a while, which I did – I listened to music, had a delicious, overpriced lunch, did some journalling and it was all good.
7. The islands are known to be safe in comparison to cities such as Quito and Guayaquil on mainland Ecuador. Crime rates are very low, but, with this said, common sense and caution are still very much necessary; however, it is nice to know you can stroll into town at 8 or 9pm for dinner with your camera hanging around your neck and you’re completely ok.
8. Be open. Open to new experiences, meeting people, learning about yourself, and most importantly, expanding your mind. I’m so grateful that I had this opportunity and would urge you to visit the Galapagos or take a trip to somewhere you have always wanted to visit, because, experiences are worth so much more than money.