Planning a Galapagos vacation can seem like a daunting task when you are just starting out, but answering the following (basic) questions will make it easier for us to help you plan your trip.
- What is your budget per person not including international airfare? This is perhaps the most important question to answer. The minimum cost for Quito and a Four Day Cruise (7 Days/6 Nights) is $2,000 per person (including the Quito-Galapagos-Quito-Airfare). Quito with a five or Eight Day cruise will cost a minimum of $2,400 and $3,600 respectively. Special promotions and child discounts are offered throughout the year, which will reduce the above costs. Other fixed costs to consider are the Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee ($100 adult/$50 child), Transit Control Card ($10), and tipping of the crew ($15/day) and naturalist guide ($8/day).
- How many days do you have for your Galapagos vacation? Most Galapagos Cruises are a minimum of 4 Days/3 Nights. Since it is suggested that you arrive in Quito or Guayaquil two nights prior to departing to the Galapagos, and most flights to North America out of Quito or Guayaquil after the cruise are in the morning, you will need a minimum of seven days for most Galapagos Tours.
- When do you want to visit? This is an important consideration since we will need to confirm the availability of a cabin before sending you a proposal. While the Galapagos Islands are a year-round destination, certain times of the year are more popular, and booking further in advance will be required to ensure space on a ship or at a hotel during those times. Popular dates include Holy Week, Summer Vacation for North Americans and Europeans (June-August), and Christmas Week.
- Do you want a Galapagos Cruise or Galapagos Land Based Tour? If you want a Galapagos Cruise, you will need to decide between a small (16-36 passengers), medium (36-48), or large ship (90-100 passengers). The smaller ships offer a more intimate experience, and the medium and larger ships offer more stability and on board amenities. A Galapagos Cruise also provides access to the more remote islands of the archipelago. If you want a Galapagos Land Based Tour, the choice is between staying on one island and visiting other islands via daily yacht excursions, or staying on two or more islands, which is referred to as “Island Hopping”. Galapagos Island Hopping tours explore parts of the Islands that are seldom seen by cruise passengers.
- What activities do you want to participate in? Many of our Galapagos ships offer snorkeling and sea kayaking, but if you want to SCUBA dive, you will either need to book a dive live-aboard cruise or add time before or after the cruise for a diving excursion. For our land based tours, available activities include snorkeling, sea kayaking, SCUBA diving, mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, and bird watching.
- What type of wildlife do you want to see? One of the best aspects of visiting the Galapagos Islands is that you can see a wide variety of plants and animals throughout the year. If there is one particular animal species that you are intent on seeing, such as Red Footed Boobies, which can only be seen on Genovesa Island (Tower) or at Punta Pitt (on San Cristobal Island), it is best to consult with us first so that we can advise you which ship itineraries include those visitor sites.
- What other destinations do you want to combine with the Galapagos Islands? The Galapagos Islands can be combined with the Highlands of Ecuador, the Ecuadorian Amazon, the Peruvian Amazon, Machu Picchu and Easter Island, and any other destination in Central and South America.
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Alan R. Cohen is the Co-Founder of South American Vacations and a frequent contributor to the blog.