After many years of operating and commercializing cruises in the Galapagos Islands, we’ve identified vital facts/questions that travel agents and travelers sometimes forget to consider when booking a cruise journey to the Enchanted Islands.
The most frequent (and the first tip) is which international airports offer direct flights to Ecuador, either Quito or Guayaquil. Fortunately, both flight frequency and routes to Ecuador have increased. For example, traveling directly from Dallas, Houston, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Madrid, Amsterdam, Panama City, Bogota, San Jose de Costa Rica, San Salvador, and Santiago de Chile is possible.
If you want to know more about it, don’t forget to check this article that we prepared to show how easy it is to travel to Ecuador from international airports.
As this first fact, there are many more but let’s discuss the more frequent than usually can cause travel agents a headache to explain to a traveler when are deciding about enjoying a Galapagos cruise.
So, let’s begin!
Isolated but easily connected with the mainland
The Galapagos Islands are accessible from mainland Ecuador only on commercial flights that depart from Quito or Guayaquil, early in the morning until around midday on a daily frequency.
The first point to consider is that there are no direct international flights to the Galapagos Islands. Also, travelers must avoid any international flight connection at the beginning or end of the Galapagos cruise. Even though many hours of layover in Ecuador mainland may sound enough for travelers, many have lost their incoming flight to the archipelago or the international flights back home.
We recommend staying one night before and after the cruise in Quito or Guayaquil. It’ll help you rest before/after long-haul flights and guarantees the smoothness of the trip.
Additionally, only two airports within the archipelago connect the islands with the mainland. The main one is the Baltra airport, which serves Santa Cruz Island, the most populated within the archipelago. The other airport is in San Cristobal Island, and even though it’s the capital of the insular province, it has fewer flight frequencies.
Not forget that either for entering Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, the passport must be valid for at least six months, counting from the day the passenger departs either from the islands or the country.
Galapagos checkpoint on the mainland and migration process
Due to its fragility and remoteness, there are several controls to avoid overtourism, illegal migration, including Ecuadorians, and the introduction of prohibited items.
Flying to Galapagos is like entering a new world, so travelers must pass several control checkpoints. Both from Quito and Guayaquil airports to get the INGALA card (migration control card).
The INGALA cost $20 per person. Travelers need to provide Galapagos authority with their travel and personal information, such as how long they will stay on the islands. The card is mandatory for getting the boarding pass to the archipelago flight.
Please beware that the INGALA card must be delivered when flying out from Galapagos at the security checkpoint at the airport or paying $20 as a fine.
The luggage will be checked to verify if the traveler is not bringing forbidden products like straws, disposable plastic containers, plastic bags, or even seeds. The bags will be sealed with a security seal.
Passengers can bring their surfboard or diving gear but must be aware that it may add additional costs for extra luggage or be overweight with the airline.
Avoid inconveniences by self-booking the flights to Galapagos
Avoid self-booking the flight to Galapagos through OTAs or the airlines’ websites. Most of the time, it ends in a headache for travelers and sometimes extra costs. The best option is to book the flights through the cruise operator.
Why? Because by doing so, travelers will be assisted by the cruise line. They can solve any issue with the airline, offering peace of mind to their guests.
Also, by booking the flight with the cruise operator, travelers will land and depart the islands with the whole group of the chosen itinerary. If tourists self-book the flight, the operator won’t be able to help travelers with any issue with the airline or with the logistics in the case of a delayed arrival, which may cause missing the departure of the travel group from the airport led by the cruising guide.
It’s important to know that Baltra airport is located on an isolated and uninhabited island that requires complex logistics, such as a private shuttle from the airport to the Itabaca harbor. From there, travelers will take the ferry that departs when it is full of passengers (no scheduled departures). Then, after crossing the Itabaca channel, the journey to Puerto Ayora by car is around 45 minutes. Moreover, there is no cellphone coverage unless the passenger is at the airport or Puerto Ayora. So, missing the group departure for a delay on a self-booking flight to Baltra may add a big headache and cost to start the cruise journey.
In the case of San Cristobal, the airport is close to town, a few minutes by car from the harbor, but the flight frequency is less in comparison to Baltra. If the passenger misses the group departure, it’ll also be stressful and costly.
Taxes and money in Galapagos are some facts to don’t forget
As soon as the passenger lands in Galapagos (Baltra or San Cristobal), they must pay the Galapagos National Park fee in cash ($100 per person older than 12 yo or $50 per child younger than 12 yo). In the case of citizens from Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay, the fees are 50% of the mentioned ones.
Don’t forget that the national park fee funds many conservation and research projects within the islands, so it’s a direct contribution from tourists to preserve the pristineness of the Enchanted Islands.
Download the PDF with all the tips here
It’s important to mention that the National Park Fee and the INGALA can be prepaid when booking the cruise, but if travelers prefer to pay them in person, it must be in cash, NOT credit cards.
We recommend bringing enough cash in small banknotes ($5, $10, $20). There are still some shops that don’t accept credit cards in addition to there are limited ATMs on the inhabited islands.
Onboard Galagents cruises, beverage consumption can be paid with credit cards, but it shall be in cash if you’re willing to tip the crew.
Even though some of these facts are predictable, they are easy to forget. It’s crucial to keep them in mind as travel agents and help travelers remember and understand them to avoid any discomfort during their Galapagos cruise.
Hopefully, this article will help you refresh the information or understand the conditions of traveling to the Galapagos and become a valuable tool for answering some of the travelers’ questions while offering them a high-quality assessment