Getting to the Galápagos Islands
Here, you’ll find information about how to get to the Galápagos Islands from mainland Ecuador and then how to travel between the main Islands: Baltra, Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristóbal.
The only way you can fly to the Galápagos is to catch a flight from the cities of Quito or Guayaquil in Ecuador. Most people say that it is cheaper to fly from Guayaquil, but it can vary depending on the season and time. The flights can cost anywhere between £150-250 return. You will either fly into San Cristobal or Baltra, an island half an hour north of Santa Cruz. There are three airlines that fly there: LAN, TAME and Avianca.
It is important to know that there is a $100 entry fee for all foreign tourists travelling to the Galápagos Islands. This is payable in cash only when you arrive at the airport and go through customs. Here, they will also do more luggage checks and there is a list of items that you cannot bring on the islands, such as foreign fresh food products or anything that could be a threat to the wildlife on the islands. They are not excessively strict, but it’s something to be aware of.
I would suggest that you fly into one airport and return from another, so that you can make more of a circular route without having to go back to the same island. Having said that, there are ferries between each of the islands, always via Santa Cruz. In other words, you cannot go straight from Isabella to San Cristobal. We flew into Baltra and left from San Cristobal.
From Baltra airport, you get on a free shuttle bus, which takes you to the waterfront. Then you pay about 50 cents to get on a water taxi, which takes you on a 20 minute or so journey to Santa Cruz Island. Just on this taxi ride, we saw a shark, pelicans and lots of blue-footed boobies. Already, it’s easy to get excited about what it’s in store for you on your trip!
You arrive by taxi on Santa Cruz at the northern end of the island. The main town is in the south, so you can either get a taxi for about 5 dollars, or a bus which will cost you a few cents, to cross the island. It takes about 30-45mins. You will be dropped off at the main seafront, Puerto Ayora, with all the hotels, restaurants and tour agencies nearby.
In San Cristobal, it’s a lot simpler to get from the airport to the central town. It’s only about a 20 walk, although probably best to take a 5 minute taxi to help with your luggage. There is also a bus, which I’m sure you could find more about once you get there. The main area of the Island is called Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, where you’ll find all the shops, restaurants and hotels.
Isabela is the least developed of the three islands we stayed on. It’s a much quieter and peaceful place and much more ‘natural’. There are few paved roads and only a handful of restaurants and shops. The port where you arrive is called Puerto Villamil, which is about a 10-15 minute walk to the centre of town. The taxis will charge you about $5-7 for the short journey – if you’ve got little luggage, it’s worth walking it. When you arrive at the port, head up the road, pass the taxis or ‘parking’ area and turn left. Follow this road, recently paved, all the way and you’ll get to the town.
Travelling between the Galápagos Islands
The ferries between Isabella, Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Floreana are $30 each way. There are two crossings per day, usually at 7am and then 2pm.
You can buy the tickets from any of the tour operators, and from our experience, they all charged the same standard rate of $30. We had no problem getting our tickets, but many people advise buying the day in advance, especially during peak season. The tour operator will either tell you to meet at their office half an hour before departure time, or at the waterfront. You must also make sure you know the name of your ferry, and listen out for the operators calling it out. It can seem a bit manic with so many people queuing with all their luggage, but it works out somehow in the end!
Before boarding, your luggage is always checked by officials and will be tied with a cable tie for the journey. They are quite strict about taking certain food items, but more importantly, you shouldn’t take any shells or anything off the islands. There is a story of a couple of German tourists who apparently got thrown in jail for trying to smuggle out some iguanas in their luggage!
You will board a taxi boat, and have to pay the 50 or 75 cents, to take you to your ferry. Once on the ferry, I would strongly recommend you get a seat at the back of the boat. Sea sickness is very common as the journeys can get very bumpy. It can be a very uncomfortable 2-2.5 hours. The journey we took between Santa Cruz and Isabella was awful and many people were sea sick. I bought some seasickness tablets for my next ferry journey. I’m not sure if it was the pills, but I felt a lot better on that ferry ride.
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