Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

“It’s clearly the cool thing to do here…”

Sherri’s voice carried quickly in the early morning Galapagos air; a mother walking her son to school looked back at us over her shoulder. Along the road, cars filled with diving gear and men in board shorts passed by.

“Everyone sits on the kerb outside closed up shops at 7 in the morning!”

We were waiting for our tour guide to arrive – the one we’d never met, who was about to take us off to San Cristobal island for a day of snorkelling. Except we just so happened to be an hour ahead of schedule.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

6am is time for napping

Of course, if you’re cruising your way through the Galapagos then you probably don’t need to worry about missing the start of your tour. But for those of us on a budget, who choose to spend their visit day tripping to the islands, getting up on time is of the utmost importance.

You can even get up an hour ahead of schedule if you fancy. Or if you neglect to change your watches back an hour when your plane lands. After living in Ecuador for five months, I didn’t stop to think that the Galapagos could be in a different time zone to the mainland.

Back in time in the Galapagos…

But of course this isn’t mainland Ecuador – not at all. The hospital, dentists and at least twenty pharmacies are all clustered together on the main road; the sole purpose of the vast majority of shops is to sell boat tours; and there’s one long street with all the evening’s food options flanking either side, with tables jostling for space on the tarmac.

Most of all, there’s an overwhelming sense of safety and security. While Quito may be known as one of the most likely cities in South America to get pickpocketed, this small island couldn’t feel more different.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

Because Puerto Ayora is an Ecuadorian city that has a great deal of wealth, due to the sealions lazing on the pier, the iguanas scuttling along the pavements and the herons swooping overhead.

And Santa Cruz island, located in the middle of an infamous archipelago, welcomes pretty much every Galapagos-bound visitor onto its shores.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

There’s cheap, and then there’s budget

When I decided to volunteer in Ecuador I knew that the Galapagos islands were a must-see, but I didn’t want to spend a large part of my budget on an expensive cruise. So I decided to try out the cheaper, less practiced option: fly to the archipelago, stay on the main island of Santa Cruz and do day trips to the surrounding islands.

While this can start off as a good idea, it’s very easy for the money to start vanishing. We met people who were spending two weeks on Santa Cruz and taking day trips almost every day: when you add up the $70+ day trip price, plus nightly dinners and accommodation, it starts to look like an all-inclusive cruise would be more economical!

My friend Sherri and I were certain we could get the majority of the Galapagos experience without the huge price tag – but obviously that comes at a price of its own. We didn’t eat a huge amount and when we did it wasn’t fancy meals; we walked most of the time and we hungrily searched out every free activity we could. But it worked!

We managed to do it more than cheaply – each spending approximately $900 (or £600 of my own native currency) for a six day trip. Intrigued? Sceptical perhaps? Here’s how I did it…

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

The hard core Galapagos budget method: a breakdown

I don’t suggest this method for all and sundry; more for long-term backpackers happy to cut all possible corners, rather than families with only a few weeks holiday to travel Ecuador with. It’s also imperative to be relaxed about your trip, and to have enough free time to play with. We booked everything last minute, from flights to accommodation to day trips, as it’s the absolute best way to guarantee you’re getting a bargain.

Plus it’s pretty fun to barter in mediocre Spanish while remaining confident that you sound totally fluent.

Getting there/away: $430 flights (£274) plus $100 airport tax (£64)

There’s no doubt about it: getting to the Galapagos ain’t cheap. But the vast amount of visitors seem to come to Ecuador for these islands only – when it’s surely much more cost effective to combine a budget Galapagos trip with a few weeks in the rest of the country?

Because I’ve been living in Cuenca for the last five months it was no hassle to book the two hour internal flight to the Galapagos. And instead of flying from Quito, I flew from Guayaquil, my nearest airport, which cut my air fare pretty much in half. Finally, booking flights just two weeks before I wanted to be in the Galapagos meant I got a great deal: just $430 round trip (or £274 for us Brits).

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

The other major sting in transport prices is the requisite Galapagos entrance tax of $100 – unless you can prove you’re Ecuadorian national, when it’s $6. But I don’t recommend attempting the identity fraud method unless your passport looks suspiciously like an Ecuadorian one. The last thing you want is to be thrown back on the plane without having seen a single sea lion.

Local transport: $10 (£6.40)

Emerging from Baltra airport was a tad confusing. We weren’t met by a guide and whisked away, and there weren’t any visible directions for those not joining a cruise (presumably because not many people do it!) – but we worked it out soon enough.

The airline bus ride to the water is free, followed by a five minute $1 boat ride across to Santa Cruz island. After that you either wait patiently for a non-visible bus (timetable not strictly adhered to), or sight three other people in your eye-line and approach one of the many pick up truck drivers, waiting patiently in the parking lot, to be your taxi for the next 45 minutes. The journey cost us $12 split four ways, and making conversation resulted in good tips for what to do for free on the island.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

There’s little need for transport in Puerto Ayora, as it’s small enough to walk everywhere. That said, heading to the various beaches on the island’s coast require the use of a water taxi to cross the bay – but at 60 cents a ride, it’s not exactly steep!

Accommodation: $15 a night (£9.50)

After 45 minutes of rudimentary Spanish while driving through the bizarrely sparse but bird-filled Santa Cruz, we were firm friends with our taxi driver. So when we mentioned we had no accommodation sorted, he dropped us in the centre of town near a cluster of hotels, and threw his arms around vaguely to ensure us that everywhere here would be fine.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

The first place we walked into had decent enough private rooms with heavy duty fan and an ensuite for $15 each a night, and the smilingly rotund Miguel, the owner, rubbing his stomach in satisfaction that we wanted to stay there, sealed the deal for me.

Hostal Lirio del Mar was parallel to the main street of Avenida Baltra and only a few minutes walk to the harbour, which made it easy for us to come and go as we pleased. There are cheaper places to be found in town, but Lirio del Mar was more than suitable for what we needed.

Food: $90 for six days (£57)

This is where the budgeting really shows – and it’s much easier to do if you’ve only recently done the “I’m an impoverished student” lifestyle.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

Avoiding the $5 or $6 ‘American Breakfast’ options on the harbour, we headed further into town and had a typical breakfast of bollon de queso and aji plus a coffee for $3. On trip days, we breakfasted on yoghurt and fruit purchased from the tienda next door and kept overnight in the hostel fridge. Being in a hot climate tends to make me less hungry anyway, so we usually just had a snack for lunch; an empanada from a street stall, some cookies or a bag of crisps.

Occasionally a doughnut from the supermarket if we were feeling particularly rebellious.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

But dinner time on Santa Cruz is where a budgeter can really see the pay off. While there’s plenty of dining options for tourists, Puerto Ayora is fundamentally an Ecuadorian town – and Ecuadorians like to eat.

So every night, the main food street is littered with whiteboards advertising that evening’s ‘cena‘ offering; a soup, main dish of meat, rice and salad, and a glass of juice, all for the princely sum of $4. It also arrives on your table faster than any other order – perfect if you’re hungry.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

Our hostal also had a kitchen, and while we never fully utilised its cooking capabilities, there was clearly an option to eat even cheaper than we already were. For supplies we headed the supermarket on the waterfront, where there was more than enough available to cook with, if we’d so fancied.

As there’s no potable water on the island we also picked up bottled water in bulk (four litres for a couple of dollars), and refilled little bottles each day.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

Day trips: approx $70 – $100 per trip (£45 – £64)

Without a doubt, the bulk of your extra spending will be done on these trips: but the great thing is that you can chat, cajole and haggle with numerous tour agents in Puerto Ayora until you find a price and itinerary that suits you.

You’ve also got the freedom to decide when and where you want to go – so if you fancy a full day of snorkelling in the waters around San Cristobal, followed by a day off exploring Santa Cruz, and then a day on land at Isla Isabela, it’s perfectly doable.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

If you fancy a longer stint at one specific island (ie 2 days/1 night or 3 days/2 nights) that’s also an option – just make sure you’re getting a good deal. All day tours should include transport to and from the island, plus a guide (specify that your guide gives his tour in English too if you don’t feel your Spanish is up to scratch) and lunch either on board the boat or on the island. Bear in mind that Isabela island incurs a $20 tax on arrival which is never normally included in the tour price – so you’ll have to pay it as an extra.

After six days, we felt like we’d talked to pretty much every agent – including Stalin, an enterprising young guy who constantly alternated between smiling, winking, and asking us out for beers, which we turned into an opportunity to successfully bargain for a discount.

Even though the same tour will often be sold by multiple agents in different shops, it’s ultimately up to said agent to choose the end price of the tour; what’s specified by the tour operator, plus the cut the agent makes. So spend enough time bartering and you can easily save $20.

Activities: free

Everything on Santa Cruz island is free, from the otherworldly rock chasm of Las Grietas to the Charles Darwin tortoise breeding centre to the stunning white sand beaches of Tortuga Bay. All you need are a couple of willing legs and a large dollop of suncream. We explored the island thoroughly over three days, spending our other two days on trips to other islands.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

I’d also recommend heading to the Tourist Information office on Avenida Charles Darwin to pick up a free guide book with maps of all the main islands and highlights of each. This little book was indispensible for me and Sherri – not least because we both have a pretty terrible sense of direction!

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

Unexpected bonuses to being on a budget

While I couldn’t help being overwhelmed by the amount of nature and wildlife in the Galapagos, I’m more of a people person at heart. One of my favourite things to do when travelling is seek out the hidden elements of a place, to really feel like I’ve discovered something special – and through choosing to stay on Santa Cruz rather than onboard a boat in the water, we were able to see parts of the island that many people probably never experience.

Having the time to stumble across a hidden mosaic garden, for instance, and delighting in the detail the creators had clearly worked hard to achieve;

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

discovering the local graffiti and gorgeous colours that make Puerto Ayora a wonderfully bright and exciting place to wander through;

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

and spending hours at the fish market, watching the birds flutter excitedly over the latest catch –

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

while the sealions slumped under the tables and snored in total relaxation.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

He’s not dead. Promise. He’s just trying his damnedest to get extra fish thrown to him.

Budget versus bank breaking: which is best?

We spent a large portion of our time postulating about how our trip compared to a cruise. Although the benefits of cruising are more than evident, I still whole-heartedly believe that I had just as good an experience of the Galapagos when doing it cheaply. We visited three different islands, snorkelled with giant turtles, sea lions and sharks, sunbathed as much as we were physically able and ate a great deal of fresh fish.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

Plus, by the end of six days spent on Santa Cruz, primarily in Puerto Ayora, we felt like we knew the place backwards. We’d discovered the best place for a local breakfast of bollon de queso and unholily delicious fresh homemade ahi; chatted with the friendliest tour operators; befriended the supermarket staff; rode with a variety of different water taxi drivers; and had sampled the majority of the evening cena plates on offer.

The Galapagos is an incredible place, but its not just about the animals, the weather and the landscapes. The people who live on these islands are incredibly warm and welcoming, and deserve equal recognition for why this destination is so favourably touted worldwide.

If you’re still considering opting for a Galapagos cruise instead of budgeting your time here, by all means do it – but perhaps tack a few more days onto the end of your trip, and take some time to explore Puerto Ayora too. Because for the ever-constant influx of tourists who experience Santa Cruz and the archipelago as their sole impression of Ecuador, there are few better places in which to form their opinion.

Have you ever budgeted like this on a ‘luxury’ destination? Do you think you could spend less in the Galapagos than I did? Let me know in the comments!

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

A bite sized budget guide

Round trip flights from Guayaquil: $430 | £274
Airport arrival tax: $100 | £64
Local transport: $10 | £6.40
Accommodation for six nights at $15 p/n: $90 | £57
Food: $90 | £57
Two day trips at approx $80 each: $160 | £102

Total: $880 | £560

About Flora

Flora Baker is the founder and editor of Flora the Explorer, where she writes about her travels around the world, her volunteering exploits and her ongoing attempt to become fluent in Spanish by talking to anyone who'll listen. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

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133 Responses to Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

  1. Bobbi Lee Hitchon June 21, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

    Every review of story I’ve heard of people visiting the Galapagos makes it sound so much harder to get to and much more expensive. This guide is so helpful and makes it seem a bit easier to visit than I thought. Thanks for sharing all the facts from your trip. I’m really keen to visit one day. Although would like to do a lot of diving here on top of touring the island.

    • Flora June 22, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

      Wonderful to hear Bobbi – I’m so glad you found it useful! You can easily do a range of day trips to different islands and practice your diving. The only reason I didn’t dive was because I’m a tad scared of the whole ear pressure thing (I’ve never dived before) – plus it was obviously a bit more expensive than snorkelling :)

  2. Tim Meredith June 21, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    Brilliant – as always. Thanks Flora.

    • Flora June 22, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

      Tim! Thanks so much for reading, I didn’t know you were a regular visitor here :)

  3. budget jan June 22, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    I love reading about how to achieve perceived “expensive” trips on a budget. I am sure this will be priceless information for budget travellers who previously thought the Galapagas unachievable. I love the way the seals own the place.

    • Flora June 22, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

      Same here – it’s a great challenge to try and experience these ‘pricy’ places for less money. Hopefully the tips I’ve provided will help out the more budget minded amongst us!

  4. Michael Hodson June 22, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    Comprehensive. Impressive. Glad you had a great time and this is a fantastic resource, Flora. Well done.

    • Flora June 22, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

      Thanks so much, Michael – really glad you enjoyed the piece!

  5. Jennifer June 22, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    So good to hear that it’s possible to do it on a budget. Thanks for this great guide!

  6. Coti June 26, 2013 at 2:56 am #

    You are one of my favorite travel bloggers and I love the advice you’ve given in this post. The Galapagos are now on my bucket list – and I’ll have to use your tips to do it on the cheap! Thanks for this one. It’s bookmarked, for sure.

    • Flora June 28, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

      Aww thanks so much Coti! They’re definitely a buck list destination, particularly when it’s not half as hard to see them cheaply as everyone seems to think! Looking forward to hearing about your Ecuadorian adventures :)

  7. Daynne@TravelnLass June 27, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

    huge THANK YOU, Flora!

    As a solo wanderlust “of a certain age” presently expatting in Vietnam (Mongolia! Laos! Cambodia, et al, oh my!) – I’d pretty much given up on the notion of ever setting my baby blues on those legendary Galapagos Isles. Far too spendy for this budget traveler, and worse, I figured it was all sewn up with touristy cruise boats.

    You make it sound so lovely, so easy and so very DOABLE!

    Shoot, I may have to change continents here shortly! 😉

    Seriously. Thanks for breaking it down so sweetly. Your report is truly an inspiration!

    • Flora June 28, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

      You are so very welcome Daynne! Your expat adventures sound absolutely amazing – Mongolia is high up there on my list of where to head to next. But I’ve got to admit, much as I love Asia, South America is definitely the place to be :p

      • Daynne@TravelnLass June 28, 2013 at 11:53 pm #

        “South America is definitely the place to be”.

        No doubt purely wondrous Flora, but I spent 20+ years as an int’l tour operator in Latin America (specializing in Belize and Costa Rica) so I’m now enjoying exploring this half of the globe.

        Do give a shout when you’re ready to head to Mongolia, I spent a month there in the Gobi and western Mongolia staying with local eagle hunters in the Altai Mountains, and would be happy to give you a few tips.

        • Flora July 4, 2013 at 1:15 am #

          Sounds like an incredible twenty years experience, Daynne! And of course I didn’t mean that South America is the only worthy place to spend time – it’s just proving incredible for me at the moment :) I’ll definitely take you up on your offer of Mongolia tips too!

  8. This Battered Suitcase June 28, 2013 at 2:34 am #

    This is SUCH a great guide to the Galapagos. I had an extremely similar experience to you – I spent 8 days there last year and about $1500. The difference was that I went scuba diving, which cost $350. I wish this post had been around last year because I seriously travelled there on a wing and a prayer, hoping that I could do it as cheaply as possible. I think I could have even cut down a little bit more, but I agree with you, I thought that my experience was just as great as those who choose to take an expensive boat tour. I also felt right at home in Puerto Ayora, and yes, I met Stalin, too!

    I will definitely be sending people to this guide in the future! Thank you for such a comprehensive piece.

    • Flora June 28, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

      Aha Stalin gets everywhere doesn’t he?! Really glad to hear you agree with my pricings though Brenna, and it wasn’t just a fluke that I spent so little – I’m still debating whether it would’ve been worth it to try my first attempt at diving while in the Galapagos. Thanks for reading!

    • jodie August 2, 2016 at 5:34 pm #

      Hi. Can you tell me how many dives was the $350 for? Thanks

  9. Jaime June 29, 2013 at 11:52 am #

    It’s always been a dream to visit these islands, but I’ve always brushed them off as being too expensive for me… This post was absolutely perfect in convincing me I can do it on my budget, so thank you so much!

    • Flora July 4, 2013 at 1:16 am #

      Wonderful Jaime! I’m so glad I’ve convinced you that the Galapagos are doable :)

  10. Melissa @ Suitcase and Heels June 29, 2013 at 10:29 pm #

    Thanks for this detailed post. I actually wasn’t really aware that the Galapagos could be experienced in any way *but* a cruise. Glad to know there are other options. :)

    • Flora July 4, 2013 at 1:20 am #

      It’s crazy how many people aren’t aware of the non-cruising option: myself included before I started researching!

      • Nathan October 29, 2014 at 7:05 pm #

        Exactly! Thanks to your blog!

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  12. Lew July 11, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    Great tips! I’m thinking of heading there as part of my RTW tour & it’s always good to know how to get a bit more bang for your travel buck.

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  15. liz January 2, 2014 at 10:26 pm #

    Hi, thanks for this post, we are busy planning our 3 month trip and we are super keen ontthe galapagas, but its so expensive! This gives us other inspiration! I’m curious though, do you think this would be possible with very little (almost no) Spanish?

    Thanks agaifor the post.

    • Flora January 18, 2014 at 11:20 pm #

      Yeah probably – I don’t think my Spanish was an integral part of making this trip so cheap. But I’d recommend asking around for cheaper hostels, as that’s usually where a lack of Spanish catches you out. Shoot me an email if you’ve got more questions about the Galapagos as I’d be more than happy to answer!

  16. Stevo February 9, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

    Hey Flora,

    Thanks for the info. I am a science teacher looking to go there with my wife and two daughters (10 and 11), and had only been looking at the tours. I think I might try a hybrid trip – 3-4 day tour mixed with a couple days on our own… Will let you know what happens, assuming the trip happens this summer.

    • Flora February 22, 2014 at 4:16 pm #

      Sounds like a great idea Steve – I think doing a mix of both styles of Galapagos trips is a really good way to get a cohesive experience of the islands. Plus you normally have to spend at least the day you arrive and day you depart on Santa Cruz anyway, so you may as well do some day trips too! I hope you and your family have a wonderful time. Definitely keep me updated on how it goes!

  17. Patrick February 15, 2014 at 8:29 pm #

    Flora,

    Thanks for the great information. I am planning to go in late April with my daughter for 4-5 days. We also plan to be very budget conscious with day trips etc. She is already in Equador for a semester abroad. I was planning to meet up with her in Guayaquil and leave from there. My thoughts were to wait until I get to Guayaquil to book a flight. (I will be a couple days ahead of her) Do you think late April is slow enough that I could expect to get two seats on a flight with only a day or two notice?

    • Flora February 22, 2014 at 4:33 pm #

      Glad you found the article useful, Patrick! Because I’ve only booked flights to the Galapagos once I’m afraid I don’t have knowledgable info about whether that time of year will be safe enough to book flights a few days before, but I think there’s probably a good likelihood that you’ll be fine. Just keep tabs on how many flights there are available for a week or two before you plan to go and then make a decision from there :)

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  21. Nikita March 20, 2014 at 4:51 pm #

    Wow, 900$! Everyone I spoke to spent at least twice that amount, and I’m sure they weren’t stumbling upon any mosaic gardens. Makes me regret not going to the Galapagos when I was in Ecuador… But I’ll definitely be heading back, and then I’ll do the islands broke backpacker style!

    • Flora March 27, 2014 at 3:58 am #

      Great to hear it Nikita – the backpacker experience of the islands is absolutely worth it, and you’re really not missing a huge amount doing it that way either.

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  24. Elise April 2, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

    Really usefull ! Thanks a lot.
    May I ask you, where did you sleep? Because when I’m surfing the internet, I can only find very expensive hotels…

    • Flora April 3, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

      Hey Elise, I stayed at the Hostel Lirio del Mar which was $15 a night. There are a few other options in Santa Cruz that are similar in price: Hostel Elizabeth, on the sea front, is pretty good value, and Los Amigos is the cheapest around at $10 a bed but it’s usually overbooked because of that fact. The latter can be booked online/over the phone though!

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    Thank you!!!

    • Flora April 15, 2014 at 10:46 pm #

      I’m so glad this helped you out, Talia! If you need any more help don’t hesitate to let me know :)

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  32. Martin May 14, 2014 at 11:38 am #

    Great stuff, Flora. Thanks for writing this up, very helpful for my upcoming trip!

    • Flora May 18, 2014 at 10:19 pm #

      You’re welcome, Martin! Let me know if you need any more help with planning your Galapagos trip :)

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  37. Nils June 29, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

    Dear Flora,
    Thanks for the info.
    I’m planning to go in July but we are concerned that we won’t find a hotel/great hostel/apartment for 2 couples (4people)
    I’ve been doing searches in the web but find the prices high .

    Do you suggest to book a place once we get there?
    What do you recommend that has a good view/clean and it can even be a house rental?

    Please help

    • Flora July 11, 2014 at 1:33 am #

      Are you looking for a place to stay in Santa Cruz? There are a lot of different options but it completely depends what you’re after. I specifically spent as little as I possibly could both times I visited the islands, so the places I stayed really weren’t that great! There aren’t really any hostels on Santa Cruz though so you’ll probably be staying in two double rooms. I’d say just wander around when you arrive as then you’re more able to negotiate for a lower price, and you can see what the place is like before you agree to stay there.

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    Do you have to bring your own snorkel gear?

    • Flora July 11, 2014 at 1:46 am #

      No, not at all – every day tour company will normally provide snorkel equipment, and you can rent sets from a lot of places on the islands for a few hours or a day etc if you’re just wandering to a beach without a tour.

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  58. Sophie October 20, 2014 at 3:52 pm #

    Flora- Thanks for your guide- it’s awesome!

    So here’s my dilema; I am travelling to the galapagos islands, but alone.

    I am debating a hostel based tour, but I know that everything on offer is totally doable alone!

    My question is- did you meet fellow travellers doing the trip alone too? Ideally, i’d like to make some hostel friends and tag team together for day trips (at least the ones that don’t involve paid for day tours). I’ve been reading a lot about people taking similar trips to yours, but am yet to find someone who went without a friend!

    Thanks!
    x

    • Flora October 26, 2014 at 6:07 pm #

      Hi Sophie, glad you enjoyed the article! I travelled to the Galapagos twice, but for both visits I was with someone I already knew before. I did meet other travellers on the islands who were travelling solo but didn’t spend that much time with them. I think there’s definitely a chance you’ll meet other people in hostels who want to go – particularly if you stay in hostels in Guayaquil, as most people go there solely to hit the Galapagos :)

    • Nathan October 29, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

      Hi Sophie,

      When are you going to Galapagos? If you would like – we can connect. I just purchased my ticket from Canada from Calgary. I am going to fly into Quito Dec 16th 2014 and will leave from Quito back on Jan 1st. And yes, all alone as well! Not a whole lot of time but if you are going there this upcoming holiday, hit me up at iamnathanchan@gmail.com.

      Nathan, 29

      • Kristen November 26, 2014 at 5:49 pm #

        Nathan or Sophie- I too will be traveling to the Galapagos solo from December 24th to Jan 2nd- maybe we could all connect. I’m actually trying to figure out where to stay. I’m a little nervous about staying in hostels by myself since I’m not familiar with the area and do not know if it is safe. Any recommendations?

      • Ken January 5, 2015 at 6:40 pm #

        Hi Nathan,

        How was your experience to the Galapagos?! Was it easy to meet up with fellow solo travelers?

        I am going Feb 1, 2015 – Feb 10. Just curious how your experience was and if you had any advice.

        Thanks!

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  60. Nathan October 29, 2014 at 6:45 pm #

    This was really helpful Flora! Thank you so much! I just bought my flight – round trip to and and from Quito. And I am going to take your post into serious consideration.

    • Flora November 16, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

      Great to hear Nathan – hope you have an amazing time in the Galapagos islands!

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  62. Kristen November 26, 2014 at 5:48 pm #

    Nathan or Sophie- I too will be traveling to the Galapagos solo from December 24th to Jan 2nd- maybe we could all connect. I’m actually trying to figure out where to stay. I’m a little nervous about staying in hostels by myself since I’m not familiar with the area and do not know if it is safe. Any recommendations?

  63. Steve December 23, 2014 at 3:15 am #

    Thanks Flora, this was very helpful in deciding on how many days to spend in Galapagos, I have decided on spending 5 days (Mar 1 / 15 – Mar 7 / 15) including travel days from / to Quito. You are quite the traveler!!

    • Flora January 6, 2015 at 3:45 pm #

      Hope you have a great trip, Steve!

  64. Ken January 5, 2015 at 6:36 pm #

    Hi!

    Thanks for this enlightening post Flora!

    However, I’m still relatively unclear as to how the boat tours work? i.e. do we sleep on the boats, or is it a day tour to a specific island, also price-wise, would it be cheaper to go on a boat tour or just hop on boats yourself and visit various islands and places?

    I’m planning on making a trip in Feb. 1 – Feb. 10. Any feedback would be appreciated!

    Thanks,
    Ken

    • Flora January 6, 2015 at 3:57 pm #

      Hi Ken, thanks for your comment!

      The boat tours I’ve mentioned in this article are day tours only, so tourists would already be staying in accommodation on Santa Cruz island, getting a tour boat at 8 or 9am and returning to Santa Cruz in the evening. The issue with doing this is that a lot of the most popular islands to visit aren’t that close to each other, so it’s only possible to see a few via the day tour method – hence why so many people do the cruise option (from anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks on board a boat).

      If you check out my other article about booking a last minute Galapagos cruise that might help you out further. Doing a few day tours is undoubtedly cheaper than a two week cruise but it totally depends on what you’re wanting from the experience. Hope that helps a bit!

      • Ken January 6, 2015 at 5:41 pm #

        Hey flora,

        Thanks, just checked out your last minute Galapagos post–extremely informative!!

        However, I just had a few more follow up questions.

        1. How long did it take for you to get such a good bargain deal for a cruise? Is it common to fly to the Galapagos and book cruises at a discount?

        2. Would it be more difficult for a solo traveller to get the same deal as what you had gotten?

        Thanks!

        • Flora January 14, 2015 at 1:52 pm #

          Usually the closer to the departure date of the cruise, the cheaper it will be – boats often have a few spaces left over and it’s in the organiser’s best interest to sell it for cheap rather than not sell it at all. Obviously the timing can be a tricky task though, as you’d almost certainly book your flights to/from the islands ahead of time so you’re somewhat stuck to a rigid window of how many spare days you have to play with for cruising.. Ultimately you just have to chance it, I think! If you’re more concerned with saving a substantial amount of cash then it’s worth it.

          I don’t know about the solo traveller thing. Because I speak good Spanish and was booking for two of us I was able to bargain with the price, so obviously there’s less leverage with just one traveller. Shouldn’t make too much of a difference though!

  65. TanMarieK March 14, 2015 at 9:05 am #

    Hi! Just wondering what months you were in Galapagos? We are going in late June to mid-July and wondering whether we need to book in advance day trips to islands/snorkelling trips/guided half-day trips etc, considering it is peak season. Or would it be safe to barter and look around when we get there? Cheers :)

    • Flora March 9, 2017 at 12:37 pm #

      Hi, so sorry I missed your comment! I visited the islands first in May and again in March the following year. I’m afraid I can’t remember what counts as peak season but I think it’s safe to say that day trips should always be cheaper/more reasonable when you’re booking on the ground & have a chance to barter and ask around :)

  66. Sherman March 14, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

    Hi Flora!

    Such a great post and love your constant feedbacks to your reader’s comments! We’re planning a trip to Galapagos in mid-April and we’re planning to do the same thing as you did and stay in Puerto Ayora and take day trips throughout our trip. However, the more tour companies I contacted, it seems they don’t offer day trips to San Cristobal and Isabela. Is that true?

    We’d love to visit San Cristobal (Punta Pitt and Cerro Brujo) and Isabela (Volcano Sierra Negra) but these companies are saying we have to stay 1-2 nights to work. Consequently, from your experience, are we able to actually find tours once we arrive there that do 1 day trips to those places?

    Thanks so much for your help!!

    • Flora March 9, 2017 at 12:38 pm #

      Hi Sherman, sorry I didn’t respond to your comment earlier (especially after you mentioned my level of feedback!). I hope you had a fantastic trip to the islands though :)

  67. Tatiana April 18, 2015 at 11:21 am #

    This is great insight about the islands. If I don’t want to do the cruise, is there another way to get to the galaapagos other than an airplane that you can purchase from Quito or Guayaquil? And you mentioned there are hostels in Santa Cruz that we can find once we land? I didn’t realize you can grab daily tours once we arrive at santa cruz. I thought everything had to be booked ahead of time. Good to know.

    • Flora April 23, 2015 at 2:00 pm #

      I’m pretty sure the only way to arrive in the Galapagos archipelago is via plane from Guayaquil – but maybe there’s some kind of boat option!?

  68. pavotpoppy December 7, 2015 at 10:56 am #

    Planning a trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos for next year and this has been so helpful, but also reassuring. Very worried that costs will skyrocket, I’m glad it seems achievable. Any tips for Quito and surrounding area as we would have to fly into there?

    • Flora March 9, 2017 at 12:39 pm #

      I haven’t actually spent a huge amount of time in Quito, sadly — you’re probably better off researching some other bloggers :)

  69. Jack January 11, 2016 at 1:38 am #

    Great article! Any additional thoughts for a pair of septuagenarians who are heading there this February of 2016?

    • Flora May 23, 2016 at 2:50 pm #

      Hi Jack, sorry for not getting back to you sooner – I must have missed your comment! Hope you had a fantastic trip to the Galapagos though :)

      • Jack May 23, 2016 at 5:37 pm #

        Thanx for responding

  70. theswindian March 4, 2016 at 1:49 pm #

    Amazing and useful post! Would love to hear more. I’ll be going through your blog in minute detail in the next few weeks :)

    • Flora March 9, 2017 at 12:40 pm #

      Aww that’s lovely to hear! Hope you enjoy more of my writing :)

  71. Jan Culton July 23, 2016 at 1:32 pm #

    Thanks for the excellent info. I will be heading there on September 2 and already have my flight and lodging paid for so that takes care of a big chunk. I am planning to do lots of day trips and hope to get to know Puerto Arroyo well. Thank you.

    • Flora July 24, 2016 at 3:41 pm #

      So glad I could help out, Jan! Hope you have a fantastic trip to the Galapagos :)

  72. ralf August 17, 2016 at 7:20 pm #

    Hey realy like your blog about Galapagos, but I booked a tour on the Astrea Yacht and the service was very very good. I think that you also get to know very much if you travel like zou did , but you can not compare it with a tour on the yacht because you get to see other islands and diving places. But still I hope you keep writing your amazong blogs.

    • Flora March 9, 2017 at 12:41 pm #

      Cheers for the recommendation, Ralf!

  73. Ann Block November 1, 2016 at 8:14 pm #

    Hi Flora, loved reading about your experience and the tips. Am thinking of heading to the Galapagos in late December or early January. One daughter is already living somewhat near Cuenca, and the other would fly down with me to visit her. The boat tours sounded amazing b/c they go to so many islands — but way beyond our budgets. However, a good friend of mine who went there a few years ago and is VERY athletic (swam a 5K while there), says that the day trips on the boats are just exhausting physically and she wouldn’t do it that way again. What can you tell me about that? I have one 22 year old who gets seasick (but took Dramamine and managed well on a couple rough Atlantic one hour excursions). My friend was highly recommending we NOT do day trips. How did you find the trips? Which islands did you go to? And what wildlife did you see and what did you miss? So many questions!! Thank you!!!

    • Flora November 27, 2016 at 9:28 pm #

      Hi Anne, thanks so much! I’m not sure which of these questions I’ve already answered in our emails, but I really enjoyed taking day trips (I don’t usually get seasick unless it’s really rough/bumpy though) and I didn’t have prior expectations/desires about seeing specific wildlife so was really happy with everything we saw. Not totally sure about every species I saw, but we went snorkelling with turtles, baby seals and above groups of sharks on the day trip to San Cristobal (my other day trip was more island than animal focused)

  74. Eric B February 18, 2017 at 4:01 am #

    Just found a round trip flight from Quitos for $200! & hoping I can be just as lucky for a few days on a boat.

  75. Hayley March 8, 2017 at 3:07 am #

    This…is a bloody brilliant blog post. Thank you so much! It’s been ridiculously helpful in our planning of a Galaps-on-the-cheap trip as part of our Americas trip. :)

    • Flora March 9, 2017 at 12:11 pm #

      That’s fantastic to hear Hayley! I’m so glad you’ve found this article useful – have a fantastic trip to the Galapagos!

  76. Ann Block March 12, 2017 at 2:18 am #

    Had a great time with my two daughters (18 and 22) — LOVED Nemo III — they treated us so well and gave us a great last minute cruise deal for 3 nights, 4 days — 3 of us in 2 bunk room — one Q size, 1 almost double size upper bunk.. Stayed at Estrella del Mar — $70 a night for 3 of us and was right on the bay, quiet, 2 rooms, one with windows with a great view. Be careful at agencies — arranged a 1 day trip to Isabel, and almost got ripped off — make SURE you get an invoice that says exactly everything that is included. Young man met us at our hotel, took us to the dock, and we were put in the “lesser” group without all we had been told was included. Called him from Isabel and with much pushing and assistance from others, rearranged on the fly. Speaking Spanish helped, but I trusted the young man too much at the start. Thank you for all your tips, Flora.

    • Flora March 19, 2017 at 11:32 pm #

      Fantastic news, Ann! I’m so glad you had a fantastic time with your daughters – and that you managed to negotiate for both a last-min cruise AND for the elements you actually paid for! Well done 😀

  77. DFly March 13, 2017 at 8:43 am #

    Hi Flora, Thank you for the great info!! What time of year did you visit ? We are planning to go there in late Oct to early Nov. We are interested in doing land based tours and visiting a few islands. I know Oct. is not the peak season, but would you recommend we book a land based tour a few months ahead or do you think we will be able find tours easily once there for a better price too? Also, If we do risk it by booking there will we have difficulty communicating with the tour agencies as I speak little to no spanish? Thank You for any information you have.

    • Flora March 19, 2017 at 11:39 pm #

      Hi! I visited the islands first in May and again in March the following year :) As I’ve said in earlier comments, I never booked anything before arriving at the islands so I can’t honestly compare prices, but I found booking on the ground to work well for me. My Spanish certainly helped when discussing prices, but tour operators usually speak some English too!

      • DFly March 20, 2017 at 3:08 am #

        Ahh!! Thank You Flora!!! Again, great information and much appreciated!

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