The Galapagos Islands are incredible, but getting there can be complicated. Flights are limited, delays happen, and there are cash fees to pay upon arrival. I learned these lessons the hard way, so you don’t have to.
How to Book your Flight to the Galapagos Islands
I’m a die hard fan of Google flights, but thanks to The Points Guy I avoided making a very costly booking mistake. Flying within Ecuador can appear cheap on Google flights, but often the rates shown are for Ecuadorian residents. The price for nonresidents is much higher, and if you book the wrong rate, you may get fined. To book our flight we saw that there was a great saver mile promotion with United Airlines (codeshare partners with Avianca) since we were visiting in the offseason. Instead of spending $500+ on flights to the Galapagos we booked with United miles.
How to get to the Galapagos Islands
To get to the Galapagos, you will fly from Guayaquil or Quito. We learned the hard way that these flights often get delayed. Luckily the airline gave us advance notice, and we were able to spend more time exploring the grounds of our hotel, The Quito Polo Club. There are two airports in the Galapagos: on Baltra (Seymour Airport) and San Cristobal Islands. We decided to start our adventure in Puerto Ayora, so we flew into Seymour Airport.
When you arrive in the Galapagos you will need to have $120 USD in cash per person to enter the Islands. You will pay $20 for an Immigration Transit Control Card and $100 for the park entrance fee. When we were entering Baltra, I did not see any ATMs so make sure you have enough currency to cover the entrance cost just in case.
How to reach Puerto Ayora from Seymour Airport
Entrance to the Galapagos is easy, but getting to Puerto Ayora from Seymour Airport is quite the journey. I consider myself to be a fairly seasoned traveler and good at figuring things out on the fly, but the logistics for getting to Puerto Ayora were very challenging because I didn’t do my research in advance. Directions are unclear, everyone speaks Spanish, and you have to continually be on your guard.
1. Once you exit the airport you will first need a bus ticket to get to the canal you have to cross to get to Puerto Ayora. We paid $5 per person (cash) for the bus ticket.
2. After you reach the canal, your luggage will get loaded onto the top of a boat, and you will have to cross the canal. Because of my poor Spanish, I was very confused when I saw someone take my luggage and toss it on the top of a boat. Eventually, when I figured out what the dockworker was saying with my high school level Spanish, I realized that the only way to cross the canal is by the small ferry boats.
You will need $1 per person (cash only) to cross the canal. Make sure you watch your bag get loaded onto the top of the boat before boarding. When you board the boat you will give the captain your $1. The boat will get crowded (mostly with tourists), but keep a close eye on your belongings.
3. After you reach the other side of the canal, you will disembark from the boat. There are a lot of people that hang out by the ferry dock so keep a close eye on your belongings and make sure you get your luggage right away after it's unloaded.
You will have two options to take a bus to Puerto Ayora or take a cab. It’s about a 45-minute drive. Many of the cab drivers will negotiate their rates, and you can often hire a cab for the same prices as a bus ticket. I believe the cab cost us $10 (cash).
4. Once you reach Puerto Ayora, there are two ways to reach hotels - by land or water. Double check with your hotel on how to reach them before arriving in the Galapagos since you may not have good cell phone reception. Some of the hotels are only accessible by water so you will have to take a water taxi ($1 per person). The water taxis are easy to use and are available on the main dock in Puerto Ayora. To use the taxi you will tell the captain the name of the hotel you are going to and pay them $1.
Getting to the Galapagos may be a bit of an odyssey, but once you are there you'll see that the journey was more than worth it.