Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Eight Days In The Galápagos Islands
The Galápagos Islands was always this mystical legend that I thought I would never see. It seemed too far, too expensive, and too difficult to plan a trip there, much less afford one. But, after making an impulse buy, I ended up making my way to Ecuador on a new adventure.
I was already in South America when I decided to visit the Galápagos Islands, so my airfare was considerably cheaper to get into the country as I was only flying from neighboring Peru. I decided to fly out of Guayaquil as it had cheaper fares than Quito.
I stayed in the Galápagos Islands for eight days and my round-trip ticket cost me somewhere around $325. I later learned that there are cheaper fares out there for closer to $250, so keep an eye out!
Every person traveling to the Galápagos Islands must pay a national park entrance fee (US$120). I searched for a place to pay for this fee online, but even the government websites were unhelpful or had broken links. The fee is payable at the airport in mainland Ecuador and immediately after you pay, they search your bags and place zip ties on your items. This same process of searching through luggage happens when tourists island hop as well, so don’t forget your water bottle inside your bag!
I wasn’t sure what to expect and wanted to maximize my time in the Galápagos, so I ended up purchasing a 5 day island hopping tour for $1,000. I was able to see Baltra, Santa Cruz, Isabela, and Seymour Island during my stay. This made my trip more expensive, but my lodging, food, and transport was all included in that price. I quickly learned that the cheapest way to experience the Galápagos Islands is to island hop.
I flew into Baltra Island, which is a five minute ferry ride away from Santa Cruz Island, the most populated island in the group. You can also fly into San Cristóbal, but it is further away than all the others and would take a long boat ride to make it to the major tourist destinations.
After going through customs on Baltra Island, you might be required to purchase a bus ticket dependent upon which airline you fly with. LAN did not require a bus ticket, but the cheaper airlines did require one. This bus will take you from the airport to the ferry that will take you to Santa Cruz Island. The bus ticket is US$10 and includes your return trip.
Once on Santa Cruz Island, a taxi in the city cost US$1 to go anywhere within the city limits. A boat taxi can take you to other parts of the island for US$0.60, the price goes slightly up during hours of darkness. This island is home to the largest population. Isabela Island, while the biggest, has a very small population of only a few hundred people.
Exploring The Islands
If you did not want to book a tour and just see where the island life takes you, it is very easy as every hostel and hotel offers a wide variety of day trips to the various islands. I will say, as someone who suffers from motion sickness, make sure to always have fresh water and sit in the back of the boat when transporting long distances between islands (Santa Cruz and Isabela are two hours apart).
The wildlife is everywhere, and the animals are used to tourist so getting up close for a great photo is nothing new to the critters. If you would like to see a Blue-Footed Booby I would recommend a trip to Seymour Island, I was able to stand within two feet of a baby Booby. However, I made my trip during mating season and there were less Booby sightings because of this.
Most items are priced similarly to what you would expect at home, causing the Galápagos to run up quite a tab. However, the magic of the Galápagos Islands is definitely worth the price as it is truly one of a kind.