For complementary information see Galapagos FAQ.
Best time to visit
You can, in fact, visit any time of the year. You can always see the birds' courtship, chicks hatching, and the rearing of chicks. So any time is good although there are some differences with respect to birdwatching and diving. See the Galapagos calendar for variations during the year.
Galapagos visitor numbers
There are up to 60,000 people visiting each year, of different nationality and age.
Although shorter reservations are increasingly possible, to ensure your preferred choice of yacht we recommend you make your reservation at least 3-6 months prior to your intended date of departure and 6-12 months prior to book during the holiday seasons.
To enter Ecuador only a valid passport is required. No visas are required for U.S., Canadian, and most European citizens unless you plan to stay more than ninety days. Check with local immigration offices or the Ecuadorian consulate prior to sailing to determine if a visa is necessary.
Most of the islands are part of the Ecuador National Park system and there is a one-time entrance fee of $100 to access the islands. This funds the maintenance of the parks and other national projects.
U.S. dollars and travellers checks are accepted on the islands. Mastercard is the most commonly accepted credit cards while Visa and American Express are not usually used.
Sucre and US dollar (sucres are still around but the economy is largely dollarized).
With each purchase you must pay a tax of 12%. For hotel and restaurants services you have to add another tax of 10%. A $30 per person tax is collected upon arrival to San Cristobal airport and $12 upon arrival to Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz) for usage of the port and public facilities. A $25 departure tax is paid on flying out of Ecuador.
There is no clear rule on this, and you will always be told that it depends on you and the service you received. The following is just an indication for yachts and cruise ships: tip the guide around $6-9 per person per day, and give the captain $5-10 per person per day for the crew. Often these are put in envelopes, and in smaller yachts the passengers sometimes combine all the tips together.
Most of the yachts and cruises advise you to dress informally, so it is probably a good idea to bring casual and comfortable cloths. The lists of necessary attire includes shorts, bathing suits, shirts preferably cotton, rubber-soled walking shoes, a jacket, and a backpack to carry other items such as film, cameras, sunglasses and sunscreen. See what to bring
From the mainland to the Galapagos, airlines only allow one checked suitcase weighing up to 44 lbs and one carry-on bag.
GMT minus 5 hours for the mainland and GMT minus 6 hours for the islands. Daylight Savings Time is not observed in Ecuador.
We recommend that you drink bottled water to prevent illness. No immunizations required at the time this was written, for the mainland and the Galapagos islands, excluding some deeply forested areas. Check with a local health official at least two week prior to departure. To avoid getting sick the US Center for Disease Control recommends:
* Don't eat food purchased from street vendors
* Don't drink beverages with ice.
* Don't eat dairy products unless you know they have been pasteurised.
* Don't share needles with anyone.
* Don't handle animals (especially monkeys, dogs, and cats), to avoid bites and serious diseases don't swim in fresh water. Salt water is usually safer.
For more information see the Center for Disease Control`s recommendations
Health care is not the best of quality in Ecuador. Your cruise ship probably will have a doctor and an infirmary on board. If not they have first-aid kits and the guides are trained in first-aid procedures. Almost all vessels have radio contact with the mainland in case of emergencies. For complicated injuries go to the Red Cross hospital.
If you have allergies or are vegetarian it is recommended that you inform airlines 72 hours in advance and cruises 30 days in advance. You may have to inquire if such services are available.
It is park regulations that you do not disturb or remove anything (not even a rock or shell), do not touch or feed the animals, do not leave any litter and to stay on the marked trails.
The best times to dive are October to July when water temperatures are warmer and visibility is best. Galapagos is recommended for intermediate to advanced divers due to strong currents, cold water, thermoclines and large marine life. The closest decompression chamber is in Guayaquil, something that divers should be aware of.
It is highly recommended that you confirm your return flight 72 hours before your departure. Although not essential, it is better to arrive at least 2 hours before the departure time.
The Galapagos Islands are all volcanic islands, formed by under water volcanic activity. They are thought to have formed about 3-5 million years ago. The islands also have one of the most active volcanic chains. All of the volcanoes are still active (with the exception of the Ecuador Volcano on Isabela Island), but most of the eruptions have been small.
Flora & fauna
There are 58 resident birds of which 28 are endemic, six native mammals, 22 species of reptile, 307 species of fish, and a various number of crabs and other invertebrates. There are also between 700 and 800 plants.
The Galapagos Islands have two seasons, the wet season and the dry season otherwise known as the garuha season. The wet season lasts from December and June with sunny weather with occasional heavy rains. The dry season is best known for the garuha, a damp mist, which descends from the highlands. Despite its name, the dry season often provides more moisture to the highlands than the wet season did.
El Banco de Pacifico in Puerto Ayora cashes dollars, the rates are a bit lower than on the mainland. The bank is open Monday to Friday 8:00 - 3:30 and Saturday 9:30 -12:30. Personal checks are not accepted. The ATM operates between 7 am-11: 30 pm and accepts only Cirrus and Mastercard. The ATM is not totally reliable but if it is not working you can ask the bank teller to make a cash-withdrawal with your Mastercard (not with a Cirrus card).