From the lava landscapes and cactus forests to the abundant sea lions, iguanas, tortoises and boobies that call the Galapagos home, these islands are an iconic destination. The cost of visiting the Galapagos Islands depends on a range of factors such as the time of year and whether you choose to stay in hotels or embark on a cruise. With this in mind, we’ve created a list of FAQs to facilitate your Galapagos holiday research and help you to decide which option suits your budget and needs.
Where is my money going?
The fact that the Galapagos Islands are so remote are one of the reasons why they’re more expensive than a lot of South America. Their position 600 miles from the Ecuadorian coast means that everything costs around 2.5 times more than on the mainland as it has to be brought in on container ships which take 2-3 days to reach the archipelago. A lot of money is spent on the protection of the national park and keeping it as well conserved as possible. For this reason all tourists who enter the park are charged $100. This money goes towards the conservation of biodiversity of flora and fauna as well as benefitting the local community and facilities on the islands. There is also a limit to the number of total visitors to the islands at one time, which means the overall costs are spread over fewer people.
What extra expenses should I bear in mind?
Tips are not included in the holiday prices and you should reward the crew based on their effort and performance. We suggest the following guidelines on our cruises (per passenger per day): Galapagos Beagle $15-19, La Pinta $25, Odyssey/Treasure/Solaris $18-23, Archipel $15-19.
The Galapagos National Park entrance fee of US$100 and the transit tax of US$20 are included in all our holidays.
Hiring wetsuits and snorkelling equipment
Snorkelling is one of the islands’ biggest draws, as you get the opportunity to swim with playful sea lions, graceful turtles, penguins, rays, sharks and a plethora of fish less than a metre away from you. Snorkels and flippers are included on the cruises but if you require a wetsuit, there is a small additional cost. If you stay in hotels, the excursions include the snorkelling equipment.
If you opt for a cruise, breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks are included but extra drinks such as alcoholic beverages come at an additional charge which can be paid on-board in cash (or by credit card on the larger boats) at the end of the cruise. If you stay on the islands, all hotels include breakfast and other meals are included on some tours and excursions. You will generally need to arrange your own lunches and dinners. As the food is shipped over from mainland Ecuador, it tends to be more expensive in restaurants on the islands. The production of fresh food is also limited due to the harsh conditions in the islands and National Park restrictions. We recommend budgeting around US$15 – 20 for a meal in a restaurant.
Souvenirs can be found for a cheaper price on the mainland so it is generally best to buy anything before visiting the islands. It is a good idea to take advantage of the craft markets in and around Quito and Otavalo. That being said, there is a small boutique shop on-board the larger boats and a selection of souvenir shops at some of the ports on the Galapagos Islands.
As this is an expensive product to purchase on the islands, it is worth stocking up at home or on the mainland before you arrive. High factor sun cream is essential for any trip to the Galapagos. Due to the islands’ proximity to the equator, the UV levels are incredibly high, and even locals wear factor 80 or higher. Whilst on-board a boat it is very easy to not realise how strong the sun is, particularly with the wind blowing. The water’s reflection also makes people more susceptible to burning.
How much will a Galapagos cruise cost?
Though more expensive than an island stay, there are a huge variety of cruise options to choose from, each with different prices and itineraries available. Our cruises to the Galapagos Islands all include flights from the UK, internal flights and some time on the mainland.
Which cruise is best?
There is no ‘best boat’ as each one offers something different. It is worth looking at the ‘unique selling points’ of each boat before choosing the cruise. For example, the Treasure of Galapagos is spacious with private balconies and a jacuzzi whilst the Beagle is a romantic sailing yacht with just seven cabins, compared to La Pinta which has 24 cabins and a range of facilities such as a library, observation lounge, bar and kayaks. You can view all five of our Galapagos boats here.
Should I pick the cheapest option?
Not necessarily. Although it is tempting to go for the cheapest, it is worth bearing in mind that this might be the one and only time you visit the islands. To narrow down your decision you should consider which islands you want to visit, how many people you want to share the boat with and inevitably how much you can afford to spend on it.
Galapagos Cruise vs Island Stay
The two most popular ways to see the islands are by sailing on a Galapagos cruise or by staying in hotels ‘hopping’ from island to island on daily excursions and tours.
As with most things, there are pros and cons to each option. One of the main advantages of a cruise is that you can reach more far-flung islands which you cannot take a day trip to, such as the west coast of Isabela. If you are affected by the motions of the waves you might prefer to stay on dry land. That being said, many of our boats are stable and wide so sea-sickness is often not an issue. The cruises include all meals and excursions, so there are less additional costs to think about.
Hotel-based stays are an increasingly popular option due to their lower cost and comfort. You get to spend more time on land, wandering around the ports and sampling local cuisine in the restaurants.
For a more detailed comparison of Galapagos cruises vs hotels, read this blog.
Is it worth it?
In short, yes! The islands are without a doubt Ecuador’s crown jewel, and you barely need to walk a few metres before crossing paths with sea lions, iguanas and pelicans. Many people who have been to the Galapagos say that no other trip will ever beat it. A holiday here becomes more than just enjoying the islands – visitors are also contributing to the preservation of this one-of-a-kind destination.
Visit the Llama Travel website to browse all of our Galapagos holidays, or call us on 020 7263 3000 to speak to someone who's been.