Galapagos FAQ

We have answered the most common Galapagos FAQ below. However, if you have any other questions, please feel free to call us at 1-888-268-9753 or email us at [email protected].

When is the best time to travel to the Galapagos?

It is always a good time to travel to a destination as unique and fascinating as the Galapagos. There are two seasons, the rainy season and the dry season. The rainy season runs from December to June, with higher daytime temperatures (80’s F) and humidity, and occasional rain showers. The ocean temperature is also higher (77 degrees F), making swimming and snorkeling more appealing. This is also the breeding season for land birds and sea lions, and nesting season for sea turtles.

The dry season runs from June to December. During this season, the weather and ocean temperature are cooled by the Humboldt Current, which brings cold water, nutrients, and plankton from the southern part of the South America. Temperatures average in the 70’s (F) during the day and lower at night. It is also windier, and the ocean is rougher. The nutrient rich waters attract fish, seabirds, and penguins. This is also mating season of the Blue Footed Boobies.

What are the COVID-19 Restrictions in the Galapagos?

U.S. citizens are permitted to enter Ecuador and the Galapagos. As of March 22, 2021, all travelers (including minors) arriving in Ecuador must provide proof of either a negative COVID PCR (polymerase chain reaction, called a PCR test, performed by a nasal swab) or rapid antigen test taken no more than 72 hours (3 days) before entering the country, or present a vaccination card showing the traveler received a complete series of the COVID vaccine.

Airlines are now required to verify that travelers have a negative COVID test before boarding at the point of origin.

All persons present in Ecuador wishing to travel to the Galapagos Islands must present negative results from a PCR test taken no more than 96 hours (4 days) from the time of arrival in the Galapagos. This can be the same test as the test used to get into Ecuador, assuming it was taken within 96 hours of arrival in the Galapagos.

(Source: U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Ecuador)

What are the 14 Galapagos National Park rules?

  1. Visitors to any protected areas within the Galapagos National Park must be accompanied by a naturalist guide authorized by the GNPD.
  2. Travel only with tour operators and/or boats authorized to work in the protected areas of Galapagos.
  3. Remain on marked trails at visitor sites and respect signs at all times for the protection of wildlife, and for your safety.
  4. Maintain a distance of at least six feet (two meters) from wildlife to avoid disturbing them, even if they approach you.
  5. Never feed wildlife, as this can cause health problems.
  6. Flash photography is not permitted when taking photos of wildlife. Professional photography and videos recorded for commercial purposes must be authorized by the GNPD.
  7. Camping is only allowed in a few authorized areas in the Islands. Request authorization to camp at the Galapagos National Park’s offices at least 48 hours in advance.
  8. It is your responsibility not to introduce food, animals, or plants into the Archipelago. Cooperate fully with all environmental inspection and quarantine officials during your visit.
  9. Do not take or buy any products or souvenirs made from banned substances, including black coral, shells, lava rock, animal parts, or any native wood or vegetation prior to leaving Galapagos. This is illegal and must be reported.
  10. Practice “leave-no-trace” principles in order to maintain the beauty of the environment.
  11. Pack out all trash and dispose of or recycle it in the populated areas or on your tour boat.
  12. Smoking and/or campfires are strictly prohibited within the Galapagos National Park, as fires poses a serious risk to the flora and fauna of Galapagos.
  13. Fishing is only permitted on recreational tour boats authorized by the GNPD.
  14. Motorized aquatic sports, mini-subs, and aerial tourism activities are not permitted in the Galapagos National Park or Marine Reserve.

(Source: Galapagos Conservancy)

What are the best places to visit in the Galapagos?

There are 13 major islands, six smaller ones, and scores of islets. You can read our piece on the Main Galapagos Islands and Visitor Sites and determine the best places to visit.

Can I see a Map of the Galapagos Islands?

Yes. Click to enlarge.

Galapagos Islands Map
Galapagos Islands Map

Where are the Galapagos Islands located?

The Galapagos Islands are located 600 miles west of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean.

What time zone are the Galapagos in?

There is one time zone in the Galapagos (Galapagos time UTC-6). There are no daylight savings time changes. Eastern Standard Time in the US, for example, is either UTC-5 or UTC-4, depending upon daylight savings time.

How do I get to the Galapagos Islands from the mainland?

The only way to get to the Galapagos Islands from the mainland is by plane. Most flights depart from Quito or Guayaquil in the morning. All flights from Quito stop in Guayaquil. The flight from Quito to Guayaquil is 50 minutes and the flight time from Guayaquil to the Galapagos is 1 hour and 50 minutes.

What travel documents should I bring to the Galapagos?

A valid passport, flight itinerary, travel insurance, personal medical and dental insurance cards, credit cards, names and phone numbers of emergency contacts, and pre-departure materials provided by South American Vacations.

Are there any luggage restrictions for the flights to/from the Galapagos?

Passengers are allowed one or two checked bags with a combined weight of 20 kg/44 lbs. per person and one carry-on bag weighing 7 kg/15 lbs., which must fit into the carry-on bag control unit at the airport. The overweight charge is based on the price of your ticket and usually has a maximum of $1.96/lb. each way to/from Quito/Guayaquil.

How do I plan a trip to the Galapagos?

The best way to plan a trip to the Galapagos is to tell us whether you want a large (90-100 passengers), medium (20-48), or small ship (16-20), how long of a cruise you want, which islands and/or animals you want to see, when you want to travel, the number of passengers in total and number of children under 12, and where you want to depart from. For an existing trip, you can either call us or complete the “Get Pricing Now” form on the itinerary page. If you want a personalized tour, you can either call us, email us, or complete the “Request A Quote” form on our website.

Do you have flexible departure dates?

Yes. Depending upon the ship and cruise length, there will be a specific departure date. However, we can add days before/after the cruise and combine the tour with the Amazon, Machu Picchu, and/or Easter Island.

Are meals included?

Yes, all meals are included during the cruise. For land-based tours, breakfast is included daily. The other meals are either included or not, depending upon the itinerary. Meals are listed on each itinerary as (B,L,D Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner).

Is airfare included?

We do not include the cost of international airfare in our tours. We do, however, quote this cost for you, and most people purchase it from us since our cost is usually the same or lower than what you can purchase yourself. We do quote the cost of domestic airfare for you (from either Quito or Guayaquil to the Galapagos) and recommend that you purchase it to take advantage of the logistics of the local companies.

What are the passport/visa requirements for American and other citizens traveling to the Galapagos?

U.S., Australian, Canadian, and EU citizens require a passport valid for at least six months from date of entry and return ticket for stays of up to 90 days. Citizens of other countries are advised to contact the Ecuadorian embassy in their country before traveling.

What vaccinations are required for travel to the Galapagos?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website provides recommended and/or required vaccinations for each country. For Ecuador, it recommends that you should be up-to-date with routine vaccines such as measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and that you get your yearly flu shot. It also recommends that you get vaccinated for Hepatitis A and Typhoid, and Hepatitis B, depending upon your travel plans. Since rabies can be found in bats and other mammals in Ecuador, rabies vaccine is recommended if you will be involved in outdoor and other activities in remote areas that put you at risk for animal bites, such as adventure travel and caving. The government of Ecuador requires proof of yellow fever vaccination if you are traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever transmission. The CDC recommends yellow fever vaccination if you are traveling to the following provinces east of the Andes Mountains: Morona-Santiago, Napo, Orellana, Pastaza, Sucumbios, and Zamora-Chinchipe. It is not recommended for travelers visiting Guayaquil, Quito, and the Galapagos Islands. You should see a health-care provider at least 4-6 weeks before your trip to allow time for your vaccines to take effect.

There is a relatively low risk of malaria for travel to Ecuador. Talk to your doctor about how you can prevent malaria while traveling.

What activities are available during a cruise or on a land-based tour?

Wildlife viewing, hiking, scuba diving and snorkeling, beachgoing, mountain biking, panga rides, bird watching, visiting a spa, glass-bottomed boating, and sea kayaking.

What should I pack for the cruise?

We suggest that you bring the following items: Passport (and photocopy of passport), money belt (bring dollars, traveler’s checks, credit cards), small daypack (waterproof), fanny pack, hat, sunscreen +30spf, lip balm, sun glasses, two pairs of walking shoes or sneakers (one to keep dry, one for wet landings), 1-2 pairs of slacks (cotton), 2-3 pairs of shorts, 3-4 short-sleeved shirts, 1-2 long-sleeved shirts, sweater (cotton), socks, underwear, light rain jacket, umbrella, 1-2 swimsuits, personal medicinal items (soap and dish, biodegradable shampoo, toothbrush and paste, shaving gear, deodorant, towel), contact lens fluids/glasses, basic first aid kit (aspirin or acetaminophen, Dramamine for motion sickness, Lomotil or Imodium for diarrhea, bandages and Band-Aids, Benadryl or other antihistamine, Calamine lotion, sunburn cream), insect repellent, camera (spare film, batteries, memory cards, other camera-related equipment), binoculars, flashlight (extra batteries). Optional items: Video camera, personal snorkeling gear, shorty wetsuit, Galapagos Islands guidebooks.

Do you recommend Travel Insurance?

Yes, we recommend travel insurance and strongly believe that you should be protected in the event that something unforeseen happens either before or during your trip. We work with Allianz Travel Insurance, AIG (Travel Guard Travel Insurance), and Travelex Insurance Services. **A Travelex plan can provide coverage for trip cancellation if you or a traveling companion test positive for coronavirus and must physically quarantine as a result, as certified by a physician.

Can I use my cell phone?

You will need to check with your cell phone carrier prior to traveling, since every carrier is different.

What is the main language?

The main language in the Galapagos is Spanish.

How much should I tip the crew and naturalist guides?

The crew and naturalist guides expect to be tipped at the end of the cruise. The rules of thumb are as follows: Crew: $15/day to be divided among all members; Naturalist Guides: $10/day; Barman: 10% of your bill.

What are the standard wall currents and electrical socket shapes in the Galapagos Islands?

Voltage: 120/127 V; Frequency: 60 HZ; Plugs: Type A (Flat blade attachment plug) and Type B (Flat blades with round grounding pin). Travelers will require a voltage converter for 110-volt devices and plug adapters.

Galapagos Travel Guide

Galapagos Tours & Cruises / Galapagos & Machu Picchu Tours / Galapagos & Amazon Tours / Galapagos Weather / Galapagos Accommodations / Top Galapagos Activities by Land or by Sea / Galapagos Wildlife Calendar / Galapagos Blog Posts

Galapagos Cruise Ships

Galapagos Legend / Santa Cruz II / La Pinta / Isabela II / Coral I & II / Galapagos Sea Star Journey / Galapagos Odyssey / Camila / Treasure of Galapagos / Galapagos Seaman Journey

The Main Galapagos Islands and Visitor Sites

Baltra Island / Bartolomé Island / Chinese Hat Islet / Eden Islet / Española Island / Fernandina Island / Floreana Island / Genovesa Island / Isabela Island / Mosquera Islet / North Seymour Island / Rábida Island / San Cristóbal Island / Santa Cruz Island / Santa Fe Island / Santiago Island / South Plaza Island

Galapagos Wildlife: 15 Iconic Species

American Flamingo / Blue-Footed Booby / Flightless Cormorant / Frigatebirds: Great and Magnificent / Galapagos Fur Seal / Galapagos Giant Tortoise / Galapagos Hawk / Galapagos Penguin / Galapagos Sea Lion / Land Iguana / Marine Iguana / Nazca Booby / Red-Footed Booby / Santa Fe Land Iguana / Waved Albatross

FAQ for Other South American Countries

Amazon FAQ / Argentina FAQ / Brazil FAQ / Chile FAQ / Colombia FAQ / Ecuador FAQ / Peru FAQ / Inca Trail FAQ

Have Questions? Call 1-888-268-9753 to Speak to An Expert.