Getting to the Galapagos Islands – planning your Galapagos Island Trip

May 5, 2010 § 1 Comment

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked from people wanting to go to the Galapagos is how do I get there?

You will begin your trip by flying to Ecuador – either Quito (UIO) or Guayaquil (GYE). Quito is located in the Andes Mountains at 9,600 feet elevation. The capital of Ecuador, Quito is a beautiful city surrounded by high peaks and was named a UNESCO world heritage site due to the historic old city – the best-preserved Colonial City in all of Latin America. Guayaquil is located right about sea level, it is a busy coastal city located along the Guayas River.

If you are arriving from North America, most of the flights arrive at night. No matter where you are arriving from chances are you will need to spend at least one night in either city prior to boarding your cruise or flying to the islands to start your tour or hotel stay.

The first day of your cruise, you will fly out to the islands where you will board your boat. If you are starting a tour or a hotel stay you will also fly to the Galapagos to begin your trip.

There are two airports in Galapagos one in Baltra – which services cruises starting in Baltra or in Puerto Ayora as well as people staying in either Santa Cruz or Isabela. The other airport is on San Cristobal servicing cruises beginning in San Cristobal or people staying on San Cristobal. You will want to arrange your flights out to the islands either as part of your cruise or with someone who knows your itinerary to insure you are flying into the correct island. (If you wind up on the wrong island, there are speedboats once a day that can take you to the other island; the trip is about 2 hours each way.)

If you are boarding a cruise in Baltra, your guide will be waiting at the airport for you. You will board a bus to the main dock and a small boat will take you over to board your boat and begin your cruise.

If you are staying in Puerto Ayora, traveling to Isabela or boarding a boat in Isabela you will take a different bus to the Canal where you will board a boat that will take you across to Santa Cruz. Once on Santa Cruz you will board either another bus or take a taxi to your Puerto Ayora it’s approximately a 45-minute drive from one side of the island to the other.

If you are boarding a boat in San Cristobal, again your guide will be waiting for you at the airport. You’ll take a bus down to the main dock and a small boat will take you to your boat to begin your cruise. If you are staying on San Cristobal or taking a tour beginning in San Cristobal, you’ll either take a taxi to your hotel or you can walk to some hotels as the airport is just on the outskirts of town.

Returning from the Galapagos is somewhat the same thing – you’ll need to get back to the airport by the same means of transportation that people leave the airport and fly back to the mainland. The flights depart the islands in the late morning arriving on the continent mid to late afternoon meaning that most people will have an overnight on the way out just like they did on the way to the islands.

Our top 10 tips for Getting to the Galapagos Islands

1. You’ll need to fly to the Galapagos – Unless you are traveling on your own personal boat, the only way to get to the Galapagos is to fly. There are no boats offering service between the continent and the islands.
2. There are set airfares to the Galapagos – The government sets all the airfares, foreigners pay a specified rate and there are no advanced purchase discounts.
3. Make a reservation in advance – The flights are frequently full so you will need to make a reservation in advance.
4. Most people need to stay in either Quito or Guayaquil 1 night before and 1 night after their trip to the Galapagos
5. You need a Permit to enter Galapagos – you do need to get permits to enter the park, most cruises and tour operators will arrange these permits for you, but it is possible to do them at the airport.
6. Double check your itinerary – make sure your reservations are flying to the island where you need to go.
7. Pack Smart – there are 20km weight limits on the flight for check-in luggage. If you are over this weight the airline may allow you to take extra luggage the same day you fly or may make you ship it and it will arrive in the future either way you will have to pay the extra cost.
8. The airlines assign seats at the airport
9. All of the flights are coach – there is no first class
10. Make sure to arrive at the airport early – if you miss your flight you, you may not be able to get another flight until the next day or several days later.

Learn more about Flights to the Galapagos and getting to the Galapagos Islands


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