WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU COME
Vacationing in the Galapagos Islands is adventurous travel. There is a reasonable amount of daily activity from diving, swimming, snorkeling, hiking etc. Most activities are experienced in tropical heat or Quito’s high altitude. Therefore, the destination requires travelers to be in good physical condition.
Travel Documentation: A valid passport is required for travel to mainland Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. Most tourists are allowed to stay up to 60 or 90 days. Please check with your Ecuadorian consulate or embassy to see if you will need a visa to enter Ecuador. Upon arrival in Ecuador or on your flight to Ecuador, you will fill out a T3 Tourist Information Card. This will be turned into immigration upon arrival and a copy of it will be returned to you along with your passport. Keep this in a safe place – you will be required to turn it in when you leave the country.
Safety and Security: Make two photocopies of your passport ID page, airline ticket, tour documents, traveler’s check ID numbers and airline itinerary. Keep one at home with friends or relatives and take the other copy with you, keeping the copies separate from the originals. Always carry your passport with you while you travel in Ecuador. It is a legal requirement. An official could ask you for it at any time. You will also need it when changing money or paying with traveler’s checks. Always be careful in mainland Ecuador – never set your camera down and be wary of pickpockets.
Money: The local currency is US dollars. MasterCard is the card to carry in Galapagos, but VISA is widely accepted in Quito. Please note that there is a 10% service charge on all credit card payments within Ecuador. In Quito, bank hours are Monday to Friday 9h00am – 16h00pm. There are several money exchange businesses in Quito. In Galapagos there is only one bank and you can only get cash with MasterCard. There are no official money exchange businesses in the Galapagos. The islands are a cash and traveler’s check oriented destination.
Phone Service: There is full phone and cellular phone communication in the Galapagos. To make a call once you have arrived on the Ecuadorian mainland, it is recommended to use calling cards, since they are less expensive than charging the call to your hotel. In Quito there are many Internet cafes with cheap email and net-phone service. And in Puerto Ayora, there are at least 3 Internet cafes.
Spanish: Communication on the mainland is difficult if you do not know Spanish. In Galapagos, on the other hand, it is easier to communicate because many people who live there can speak English.
Reconfirmation of International Flights: It is extremely important to re-confirm your international flights. If you will be staying in Quito after your Galapagos tour, make sure to reconfirm. If you will catch your international flight immediately after returning from the Galapagos, leave your tickets with the Galapagos Sub-Aqua Management Office in Puerto Ayora so they can reconfirm for you. Please note that you can only reconfirm flights Monday through Friday. Please also note that you have to pay a US$ 25 departure tax when leaving on international flights from Guayaquil or Quito. The tax can only be paid in cash.
Arrival in Ecuador: Upon arrival in Quito or Guayaquil, you will first have to go through an area called Passport Control. Present your passport, T3 Tourist Information Card and have your flight tickets ready if they ask for them. If asked about the purpose of the trip tell the officials that you are on vacation and are going to the Galapagos Islands. You will then proceed to the baggage claim area to claim your checked luggage and clear customs. Your bags will usually be inspected. After leaving customs, you will be met by a tour representative for an airport transfer to your hotel. If you do not have an arranged transfer to your hotel, take an official yellow taxi to your hotel.
Food / Water: Do not eat any uncooked food, including vegetables and peeled fruit. Do not have drinks with ice. Drink bottled water and use bottled water to brush your teeth. In Galapagos many of the restaurants are careful about using bottled water and recognizing good sanitation but continue to be careful on the islands.
Flights from Quito/Guayaquil to Galapagos: Galapagos Sub-Aqua will co-ordinate your airline reservation from either Quito or Guayaquil to Baltra Airport. There are 2 daily planes to and from the Galapagos; we will advise you of the flight schedule with the tour confirmation.
Luggage: The flights to and from Galapagos limit your luggage to 20 kilos and 2 small carry-ons.
Arrival in Galapagos – Park Entrance Fee: Upon arrival to Baltra Airport in Galapagos, all passengers have to pay a US$ 100 per person for National Park entrance fee. This is payable only in US dollars cash. At the airport, it can take up to one hour before you get your luggage – in the meantime you can enjoy a drink at the airport snack bar or pass the time at the souvenir booths. If you have transfer service, you will meet up with a representative from Galapagos Sub-Aqua at Baltra Airport who will assist you with your transfer to Puerto Ayora and your hotel.
Arrival in Puerto Ayora: The trip from the airport to Puerto Ayora takes approximately 2 hours. From Baltra Island passengers have to take public transportation to the Itabaca Channel between Baltra and Santa Cruz Islands (no private transportation is available on Baltra Island). Afterwards, passengers cross the Channel on a small guest ferry. Public transportation awaits passengers on the other side to transport them directly to Puerto Ayora. Private transportation from the Itabaca Channel to Puerto Ayora is also available upon request.
Santa Cruz Island and Puerto Ayora: Galapagos Sub-Aqua is headquartered in the town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. Santa Cruz is the center of the Galapagos Island’s tourist industry. Some of the sites to visit on Santa Cruz Island are the Charles Darwin Research Station, the beach at Tortuga Bay, the lava tunnels, the highlands and the tortoise reserves.
Climate: The islands are isolated so the climate is determined almost entirely by the ocean currents, which in turn are influenced by trade winds that push the currents. The dry and cold season is from July to December. The warm season is from January to June.
What to wear: The dress code is very casual. There is really no need to wear anything other than shorts and T-shirts once you arrive in the Galapagos. Quito, on the other hand, is at a higher elevation and you will need long pants and a sweater in the evening.
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