All flights to the islands go via Guayaquil, though some start in Quito. They land at Baltra, a tiny island just across from Santa Cruz or at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on the island of San Cristobal. The two airports are 96km apart but there are local flights and boats which connect them. So it is possible to arrive in one location and leave from the other. Flights cost about $370 in the low season (May 1 – June 14 / September 15 – October 31) and $425 in the high season (November 1 –April 30 / June 15 – September 14).
All foreigners have to pay an entry tax of $100 when they arrive.
From July to December it is usually dry but overcast. The cold Humboldt current travels north so the ocean is cooler. From January to June it is generally warm and sunny but with more showers. The ocean is warmed by currents from the north. Temperatures are between 25 and 30 degrees throughout the year.
When to go
It is possible to visit the Galapagos throughout the year. Prices are generally lower in the two low seasons (May 1 – June 14 / September 15 – October 31). It may also be easier to find a last minute deal for a tour.
From July to December you can see sea birds courting and you are more likely to see sea mammals, including whales. From January to June it is warmer for swimming and snorkeling and you can see lots of land birds.
Should I take a tour?
It is possible to visit the islands independently and base yourself in Puerto Ayora or Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. You can travel around either island by public transport and have a pleasant time. You can also catch boats or flights to the other inhabited islands. However to do this you need to have lots of time.
If you take a tour you will be able to do more activities, visit more islands and see more wildlife. I think that if you are thinking that this is probably a once in a lifetime trip you should try and find the money to pay for a tour.
What type of tour?
Most visitors to the islands organise an all inclusive cruise. You sleep on the boat every night and generally travel while you are sleeping (or not!) to arrive at a new site every day, so you get more time ashore.
You can pay a lot or a lot less per day for a cruise. What changes is the quality and facilities on the boat and the extent of the tour (cheaper, smaller boats can’t get out to all the islands). Multilingual guides tend to be limited to the upper classes. However you basically see the same things on each island that you visit.
You can base yourself in Puerto Ayora or Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and organize different day trips which can take you to visit the interior of the islands, different beaches and bays and other islands.
3. Dive Tours
Some normal cruises offer the chance to scuba-dive (as opposed to just snorkelling) but there are also a few dedicated dive cruises. Finally it is possible to take day trips from Puerto Ayora.
What to bring
• Hat with a brim
• Shorts, T-shirts, short-sleeved shirts
• Trousers, long-sleeved shirts
• Swimming trunks/ costume
• Sunblock and sunglasses
• Walking shoes
• Deck shoes for cruises
• Flip flops
• Medication (the medical facilities are very limited)
• There is only one bank and ATM so bring all the money you will need in US dollars.
• The weather may be cooler or warmer depending on the time of year you travel. However there is always the chance of a shower so bring a light raincoat.
• Snorkelling equipment and wetsuits are usually provided on cruises.