The Galapagos Islands have always been near the top of my bucket list, this passion to visit the islands has only been strengthened by the recent 3 part series ‘Galapagos’ by Sir David Attenborough, which I thoroughly recommend watching by the way. When I finally made the decision to visit Ecuador, the first thing I started researching was the best way to visit the Galapagos. Being a budget backpacker my options are severely limited, the islands are more traditionally visited by wealthy tourists rather than penny-counting travellers.
That said however, through my research I have found a way to visit these magnificent islands without breaking the bank as well as a number of other tips and tricks on how to make the most out of your time on the Galapagos Islands.
- If You’re On A Budget – Go Last Minute: Cruises are the best way to see the wildlife and give access to the more remote islands – these do come at a price though. The best way to reduce the hit on your wallet will revolve around getting on a Last Minute Galapagos Cruise; all operators would rather fill the last remaining cabins at a cut rate rather than send the boat out empty. This method requires thorough research before arriving in Quito, you need to have a list of your favourite boats and the operators address. Visiting the operators directly to assess availability and to haggle, cuts out the middle man (travel agency) and ensures the best possible price. Flexibility is key here, only attempt to do this in either the low or shoulder seasons and if you have limited time constraints. Savings typically range from 30-50% from the advertised prices on-line.
- Take an 8 day Cruise: 4/5 days is okay but the longer the better. Typically the first day is mostly taken up with travelling, whilst drop off on the last day is around 12-1pm, leaving only 3 full days for exploring.
- Avoid Double Itineraries: If there is an option to do so – take a designated 8 day itinerary rather than, what is known as a double itinerary. These are typically two shorter trips stitched together and involve the 4th or 5th day being based in Santa Cruz. On this day there will be a passenger change over and can waste significant time as well as restricting the route to the less exotic central islands. The 8 day itinerary allows you more time to get to the far flung western or northern islands, where less boats travel and a greater diversity of wildlife can be seen.
- Do Not Miss: Snorkelling is one of the best activities and a fantastic chance to get up close and personal with the likes of Sea Lions, Turtles, Hammerhead Sharks and of course a huge array of fish. Some of the best sites include; Devil’s Crown (Floreana Island) and Kicker Rock (San Cristobal).
- Take Enough Cash: Cash is King! In order to get a last minute cruise at the best possible price you need to pay in cash. As well as this lump sum, you will also need cash for the following:
- $100 – Park Entry fee
- $100-$150 – Tips (Tipping is custom over there and should definitely be included, the amount stated is a guideline and more should be left if you had an exceptional time.)
- $30 – Snorkel Rental
- $30 – Wetsuit Rental
- $20 – Bar Tab (cold drinks etc.)
- $10 – Migratory Control Card
By following the above tips I hope you have a truly memorable experience on the Galapagos Islands, without having to completely empty the wallet. Don’t get me wrong – it will still be one of the most expensive parts of any person’s trip; however you simply cannot afford to miss the opportunity to visit the greatest and most diverse ecosystem on the planet…
- Travel To-Do List: Galapagos Islands (smilingsightseer.com)
- The Galapagos Islands- The Photographers Viewpoint (llamatravelblog.com)