From wildlife-spotting cruises to climbing an active volcano, or snorkeling amid a rainbow of tropical fish—a visit to the Galapagos is always an adventure. But with its unique climate, remote location, and abundance of land and sea activities, it can be hard to know what to pack.
Don’t worry; our Galapagos packing list will ensure you are fully prepared for all the adventures that lie ahead.
Table of Contents
Before you go
Ecuador and the Galapagos are open for travel and tourism in 2021, but you will need to either be fully vaccinated or tested before boarding your flight. Keep an eye on the US Embassy in Ecuador website for the latest Galapagos travel regulations or check the government guidelines in your country of residence.
- For entry into Ecuador, proof of a negative COVID (PCR or rapid antigen) test taken no more than 72 hours (3 days) before entering the country or a vaccination card showing the traveler received a complete series of the COVID vaccine.
- For entry into the Galapagos, proof of a negative 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.
- Travel insurance—in COVID times, it’s highly recommended to take out comprehensive travel insurance that covers you in the event that you or a travel companion gets sick either before or during your trip. Be sure that it covers any last-minute flight cancellations, delays, or tour cancellations too.
Whether you opt for a live-aboard cruise or to stay on one of the four inhabited islands (Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela, and Floreana), you will likely find yourself taking a range of transportation in the Galapagos.
Flights to the islands are often followed by bus or ferry transports to your hotel or cruise ship, and you might take ferries, small-plane flights, and boats to travel between the many islands and islets. Cabin space is often limited on cruises too, so it’s best to avoid large suitcases or oversized luggage.
With this in mind, we recommend packing as light as possible and bringing a bag that you are comfortable carrying (assistance might not be available on ferries and public transport).
What to bring
- A small suitcase, duffel bag, or backpack
Be sure to check weight restrictions in advance, as excess luggage fees can be pricey. Flights to the Galapagos typically allow 50 pounds (23Kg) for checked luggage, but inter-island flights sometimes only allow small bags of 20 pounds (10kg).
- A day pack and optional fanny pack
A backpack is ideal, especially if you plan to hike and enjoy outdoor activities. You’ll need plenty of space to store your camera, water, sunscreen, and other daily essentials. Ideally, choose one made from waterproof material or bring a waterproof cover—the sea spray on boat rides and ferries can quickly soak through.
- A dry bag
A wise choice to keep electronics and other valuables dry when traveling on small boats or taking part in water-based activities.
- Travel cubes or similar (optional, but handy when you need to pack light)
Travel documents and personal items
- Your passport
The most important item for your Galapagos packing list! Visas are not required for citizens of most countries, including the United States, and you can stay in Ecuador for up to three months. However, your passport should be valid for at least six months from your date of departure.
- Your travel documents
Flight tickets and itinerary, travel insurance, personal medical and dental insurance cards, names and phone numbers of emergency contacts, and tour details. WiFi and cell phone service is patchy on the Galapagos, so it’s a good idea to save e-tickets or print out all your necessary documents, before you travel, rather than relying on last-minute downloads.
- Credit cards and cash
Cash is king in the Galapagos, and the US$100 Galapagos National Park entrance fee is only payable in cash. There are ATMs on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal islands, but withdrawal limits are low, so it’s best to draw out some US$ before you arrive. Plus, you’ll save on international transaction fees and charges if you pay in cash.
If you’re taking a cruise or land-based tour, plan for tips of between US$20-30 per day, plus any extra money you need for shopping, dining, or other expenses. If possible, bring some smaller bills as you might find shops and restaurants are unable to change larger bills.
- PADI or SSI diving certification
Scuba diving tours are for certified divers only, and you will need to show your certificate if you plan to dive, so don’t forget!
- Personal hygiene items
Toothbrush/toothpaste, shower gel/soap, deodorant, shampoo, shaving items, cosmetics, etc. To save space, it’s worth checking which items are provided by your cruise ship or hotel. If you do bring your own, try to choose biodegradable versions to ensure you’re not damaging the islands’ ecosystems.
- Glasses and contact lens solution (if needed)
- Insect repellent
Mosquitos and biting insects aren’t common on the islands, but it’s best to be prepared.
- High SPF sunscreen
Sunscreen is a must for your Galapagos trip. The sun’s rays are at their strongest near the equator, and you can get burnt even on a seemingly overcast day. A minimum of SPF30 is recommended.
Items like bug spray and sunscreen are often very expensive to buy on the islands, so pack enough to cover your whole trip. Be sure to choose a reef-safe and biodegradable sunscreen to avoid damage to coral reefs and marine life.
- Lip balm (ideally with SPF)
- After-sun or aloe vera
- Basic first aid kit
Include essentials such as band-aids, ibuprofen/aspirin, antihistamine, calamine lotion, and Imodium, along with any prescription medicines.
- Motion sickness medication
Whether taking an island-hopping cruise or catching the ferry between islands, you’ll probably be spending a lot of time on the water in the Galapagos. If you suffer from seasickness, this is essential.
- Travel laundry detergent and laundry line (optional)
Check if your cruise ship has laundry services, or considering packing some travel laundry detergent. Being able to wash quick-drying clothing and underwear is a plus in humid climates, and you can save space in your bag by packing the minimum.
- Travel towel and/or sarong
Opt for a quick-dry travel towel to save space in your suitcase. There’s no need to bring a heavy towel or beach towel as most hotels and cruise ships will provide these. If not, opt for a light sarong to sit on the beach.
Clothing, shoes, & accessories
The weather in the Galapagos is hot and humid year-round, with average daytime temperatures in the 80s°F (26°-30°C) during the wet season (December to May) and in the 70s°F (20°-24°C) during the dry season (June to November).
When it comes to your Galapagos packing list, the same recommendations apply whenever you visit. Pack for hot and humid weather, be prepared for occasional showers, and make sure you have sunglasses, a hat, and plenty of sunscreen (yes, this warrants saying twice!).
However, don’t worry about it being too hot. Even in the hottest months, the Pacific Ocean breezes provide relief for hikers and wildlife watchers. As long as you’re prepared, outdoor activities are enjoyable year-round.
Choose light, breathable clothes. Cotton, merino wool, and materials with moisture-wicking properties are all smart choices.
- 1-2 pairs lightweight slacks/trekking pants or similar
- 2-3 pairs of shorts
- 3-4 short-sleeved shirts or t-shirts
It’s recommended to have at least 1 shirt or t-shirt for each day of your trip, but you could save space by choosing light, easy-to-wash fabrics and doing laundry mid-trip.
- 1-2 long-sleeved shirts or t-shirts
The sun is strong in the Galapagos, so packing some long-sleeved shirts will ensure you don’t get burnt while hiking or wildlife watching.
- Light sweater
Bring at least one warm item—winds can pick up out at sea, and nights can be cool onboard the cruise ships.
- 1-2 swimsuits
If you plan to do a lot of water activities, it’s a good idea to bring 2 swimsuits. You can wear one while the other one dries.
- Underwear and socks
- Light raincoat or rain poncho and/or umbrella
Showers are possible even in the dry season, and boat rides will often shower you with sea spray too.
- 1 x pair hiking boots or sturdy sneakers suitable for hiking
- Trekking sandals or closed water shoes
You are likely to get wet on your Galapagos trip, so it can be a good idea to double up on items such as walking shoes. Consider bringing one ‘dry’ pair for hiking and land activities, and one ‘wet’ pair that you can wear on beaches, boats, and during water activities.
- Flip flops or wet shoes
Handy for beaches, small boat landings (where you might have to get your feet wet), or for use onboard the cruise ships.
- Sun hat
Choose a wide-brim hat to protect you from the sun, and consider one with a neck strap as it can be windy on the boats.
- Reusable water bottle
Water isn’t safe to drink on the islands, but hotels and cruise ships will have bottled or filtered water available. You’ll need plenty of water to counteract the heat, so make sure you fill it up each you leave your cruise ship or hotel.
- Smartphone and charger
It’s best not to rely on the cell phone service and WiFi in the Galapagos, at least while you are out and about. WiFi connections are available at some hotels and onboard some cruise ships, but you will likely pay a daily or weekly charge, and the connection can be slow. It might be best to wait until later to upload your vacation photos—you’ll be far too busy exploring to want to spend too much time online anyway!
- Voltage converter and plug adapter (if needed)
Galapagos plug sockets are Type A or B, 110V. Travelers from the United States won’t need to worry about bringing a converter, but if you’re arriving from Europe or another international country, be sure to pack the relevant adaptor.
Opt for a wind-up one or pack spare batteries.
- Camera, lens/filters/batteries/memory cards
Wildlife viewing tours in the Galapagos provide once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunities, and you won’t regret bringing your best camera gear (even if we’ve previously told you to pack light!). Experienced photographers might also want to bring a polarizing filter, camera cleaning kit, and tripod. Whatever kind of camera you’re using, make sure you turn off the flash when shooting wildlife.
- Underwater camera or GoPro with waterproof casing and body-mount
You could spot everything from sea turtles to marine iguanas when snorkeling in the Galapagos, and you won’t regret bringing a waterproof camera if you have one.
- Galapagos guidebooks
Tour guides will be able to answer all your questions, but having your own guidebooks means you’ll be able to learn even more about the fascinating wildlife and ecosystems in the Galapagos. Download them to a waterproof Kindle or another e-reader to save on space.
Whether you’re exploring the Galapagos by land or sea, you will be spending the majority of your time outdoors. As the world’s second-largest marine reserve, snorkeling in the Galapagos is an unmissable experience, but there are also opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and scuba diving.
These items are optional but worth considering if you’re going to be taking part in lots of activities.
- Personal snorkeling gear
Snorkeling gear is included on cruises and island-hopping tours, but if you’re renting snorkels daily, the costs can add up. More importantly, bringing your own snorkel mask can be more comfortable—there’s nothing worse than an ill-fitting mask that keeps filling up with water or clouding up and spoiling the view. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, you can also get a snorkel mask with a prescription lens.
- Shorty wetsuit or rash guard
Wetsuits will be able to rent, but packing your own short wetsuit could be more comfortable if you have space in your luggage. Water temperatures can be cool during the dry season (between 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C), so scuba divers might want to pack a rash guard.
Many tours will have binoculars available, but there sometimes aren’t enough for all participants. Bring a small pair that can easily slip into your pocket or fanny pack on hikes, and admire the Galapagos wildlife from a safe distance.
- Waterproof watch
If yours isn’t waterproof, it might be best to leave it at home!
What not to pack for your Galapagos trip
Now you know what you should pack for your Galapagos trip, here are a few items you should leave off your Galapagos packing list.
- Cold-weather clothing
Even on a cool night, temperatures are never going to fall too low, so leave the jeans, woolly sweaters, and coat at home.
- Scuba diving gear
Bulky items like full-body wetsuits or dive gear aren’t worth the weight in your suitcase. All equipment will be included with your tour.
- Evening wear, heels, or fancy clothing
A Galapagos vacation is all about getting outdoors, so you’ll want to prioritize staying cool and being comfortable over being stylish (although there’s plenty of stylish outdoor gear if you want to do both). Either way, you won’t need to dress up for a night out, and high heels will be impractical onboard a cruise ship.
- Makeup, hair products, and jewelry
This one is down to personal choice, but most female travelers visiting the Galapagos find it’s best to leave makeup and hair products at home. You’ll be getting in and out of the water multiple times, and be outdoors in a humid climate, so it’s far easier to embrace the natural look!
If you don’t want to go completely makeup-free, opt for a few choice items, choose waterproof and biodegradable (eco-friendly) options where possible, and pack simple jewelry that won’t get caught up in snorkel equipment and isn’t irreplaceable if you were to lose it.
One thing you can definitely leave behind is a hairdryer. Hotels and cruise ships will have these available, so there’s no need to use up valuable space in your bag.
- Fresh foods, nuts, seeds, or plants
Strict bans are placed on these products to protect the islands’ pristine ecosystems and prevent bugs, pests, or diseases from entering the islands. The Galapagos Islands are one of the most biodiverse landscapes on the planet, and it’s important that all travelers do their bit to keep them that way.
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Zoë Smith is a freelance travel writer who has lived, worked, and traveled over six continents—including six months backpacking across South America and living in Argentina for more than a year. She has written for the Rough Guides, TripAdvisor, CNN, and Culture Trip.
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