Galapagos low cost: Complete Guide to Traveling by your own on a low Budget

Galapagos Travel 【2020】: A complete guide to traveling on your own, on your budget

Many people don’t think it’s possible to travel to the Galapagos Islands on a budget and end up buying expensive tour packages through tour agencies. As an Ecuadorian blogger, I traveled to the Galapagos and wrote this (regularly updated) travel guide to help you save time and money while exploring the Galapagos Islands.

I recommend you create a basic itinerary to see as many of the islands in Galapagos as possible, based on your budget and days.




What you’ll find in this Galapagos Low Cost guide:

  1. What are the requirements to enter the Galapagos?
  2. How do I get to the Galapagos Islands? Which island should I land on?
  3. How do I travel between the Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristobal Islands?
  4. How much money do I need? Can I use credit cards on the Islands?
  5. What to do on my own in Santa Cruz Island?
  6. Day trips departing from Santa Cruz Island
  7. Hotel recommendations on Santa Cruz Island
  8. What to do on my own on Isabela Island?
  9. Day trips departing from Isabela Island
  10. Hotel recommendations on Isabela Island
  11. What to do on my own on San Cristobal Island?
  12. Day trips departing from San Cristobal Island
  13. Hotel recommendations in San Cristobal Island
  14. What is the best time to travel to the Islands?
  15. What should I take in my backpack? What items can bring with me to the Galapagos?
  16. The Galapagos time zone
  17. Best Galapagos cruise
  18. A video that will make you fall in love with the Galapagos



What are the requirements to enter the Galapagos?

The requirements to travel to the Islands are: Show a return flight tickets to and from the islands with the traveler’s documentation, passport or identity card. A “transit control card” or “Tarjeta de Control de Tránsito” (TCT), which costs $20, and can be obtained at the airport immigration office at Galapagos, Quito and Guayaquil airports.


How do I get to the Galapagos Islands?

There are two airports in the Galapagos: one is on San Cristobal Island (SCY – Airport Code), and the other is on Baltra Island (GPS – Airport Code). For planning purposes, note that Baltra’s airport is near Santa Cruz Island. Both airports receive daily flights from Guayaquil and Quito.

If you’re planning to visit the Islands for 7 days or more, the best way approach to exploring the Galapagos is by landing at Baltra airport and departing from San Cristóbal airport.

If you’re planning to stay just a few days, it’s best to stay on the same island you land on, discover its surroundings and take day trips to see other islands, returning to your “base” island every night.

The airlines that offer flights to the Islands are: LATAM, AVIANCA and TAME. (Keep in mind that all airlines might have delays or flight cancellations at any time and your travel or cruise itinerary may thus be affected.)

If you have problems with your flight to the Galapagos in Ecuador, either by cancellation or flight delay, check your rights here: Problems with your Flight in Ecuador


How do I travel between the Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristobal Islands?

Transport between islands: Transfers in speedboats (Ferry or Cabotage) and flights between islands. The islands in Galapagos that are habitable where you can stay are: Santa Cruz, Isabela, San Cristóbal and Floreana. There is no way to do San Cristóbal to Isabela or viceversa.

Schedules and prices of the speedboats (Ferries or Cabotage):
USD 30 – One way / two hours of travel time. (Prepare to pay an extra USD 1.50 for crossing from the dock to the speedboat).

IMPORTANT: You’ll be spending a lot of time out on the water. Take motion sickness/seasickness pills and try to sit near the rear of the boat. The boats travel fast and the trip may be tiring. For this reason, many people end up cancelling tours that they have scheduled the same day they arrive to the Islands. While you want to make the most of your trip, it’ll be hard to enjoy if you’re sick!

These are the only times that speedboats (Ferry or Cabotage) leave from one island to another and you must be at each dock 30 minutes before departure: Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island), Puerto Villamil (Isla Isabela) and Puerto Baquerizo (San Cristóbal Island).

  • Santa Cruz – Isabela: 07h00 and 14h00
  • Santa Cruz – San Cristóbal: 07h00 and 14:00 PM
  • Isabela – Santa Cruz: 06h00 and 15h00
  • San Cristóbal – Santa Cruz: 07h00 and 15h00

    Book your speedboat from Santa Cruz to Isabela or San Cristóbal Island or a round trip.

    Those that want to travel the 3-day journey to the Galapagos Islands by boat from Guayaquil should know that boats leaving from the commercial harbor in Guayaquil’s Pradera 3 area, beside the Store Ocean pier, are only allowed to take boat crew.

    Domestic flights in the Galapagos Islands
    There are currently two airlines offering flights between the islands. These airlines are: Fly Galápagos and Emetebe. You must keep in mind that your flight may get cancelled if the aircraft lacks gasoline (which happens regularly) and you should check the status of your flight with the airline before traveling.


    How much money do I need and can I use credit cards in the Galapagos?

    The travel budget to the Galapagos will depend on which island you stay on, which day trips you take, how much you’ll spend on food, accommodation, etc. I recommend that you bring 20, 10, 5, and 1 dollar bills. Most establishments do not accept 100 or 50 dollar bills. Ecuador’s official currency is the Dollar; all cashiers will give you your cash in dollars.

    Regarding credit cards, I suggest you take most of your money in cash because many touristic establishments don’t accept credit card payments. There are ATMs belonging to the banks Banco del Pacífico, Banco Bolivariano y Banco de Pichincha on Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal Islands. There are no ATMs on Isabela and Floreana islands.

    IMPORTANT: The Galapagos Islands is the safest destination in Ecuador, but if you take a lot of money and your credit cards, make sure your hotel provides a safe (or a safe place) where you can leave your items. There have been a few cases of theft and credit card fraud that are still being investigated

    Budget for flights, taxes and transfers in the Galapagos:
    How much does the ticket cost to go to the Galapagos?

    USD 250 to 350 Airplane ticket for Ecuadorians (roundtrip) Airlines: LATAM – Avianca – TAME
    USD 350 to 500 Airplane ticket for foreigners (non-Ecuadorian residents) (roundtrip) Airlines: LATAM – Avianca – TAME


    How much do I have to pay in taxes to enter the Galapagos?

    USD 20 Migration Card / This must be paid at the airport in Guayaquil or Quito before checking in at the airline desk.
    USD 6 Entrance fee to the Galapagos National Park for Ecuadorians (this payment is made upon arrival at the Baltra or San Cristobal airports)
    USD 50 Entrance fee to the Galapagos National Park for those of the Mercosur or the Andean Community (Also paid upon arrival)
    USD 100 Entrance fee to the Galapagos National Park for foreign tourists (Also paid upon arrival)
    *Minors from 0 to 2 years old do not pay, and those aged 2 to 12 pay half the entrance fee to Galapagos National Park.
    USD 5 Income tax if you travel to Isabela for Ecuadorians.
    USD 10 Income tax if you travel to Isabela for foreigners.


    How much does it cost to get from the airports to the hotel?

    USD 5 Bus from the airport in Baltra to the dock / The buses are located outside the airport and they take you from the airport to the border cross to Santa Cruz.
    USD 1 Barge / You cross from Baltra dock to Santa Cruz. Once on the boat, try to sit in the back rows since these exit first.
    USD 5 Bus from the dock in Santa Cruz to Puerto Ayora / This bus takes about 45 minutes. On the way back, you must take the bus at the bus terminal which is near the town of Puerto Ayora. The buses leave at 7am, 7:40am, 8am and 8:40am
    USD 25 Taxi from the Itabaca port in Santa Cruz to your hotel in Puerto Ayora. (You can share the taxi with other 4 additional people.)
    USD 2 Taxi from the airport in San Cristóbal to your hotel in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.




    Budget for food and hotels in the Galapagos

    USD 25 Food / Breakfast USD 5 – Lunch USD 5 – Dinner USD 15 (Most times, you won’t need to spend on lunch as it is included in most tour fees)
    USD 25 Lodging / You can find hotels and hostels in Galapagos for about $25 per night, if you ask for a standard room. Please note that although you may be offered a more pricey room with a/c, we recommend that you go for the standard one, as a/c is only necessary between December and May.


    What to do on your own and which day trips leave from Santa Cruz Island?

    We recommend that you stay on Santa Cruz Island for about 5 days. See this Santa Cruz Island travel guide.

    $50 USD – Taxi to the Upper (high) part of the Island
    The tour to the upper part is offered by taxis (white trucks) and they know the route to get to Los Gemelos, Lava Tunnels and Rancho El Escoito or Chato where the giant tortoises live. You can complete this trip in about 2 or 3 hours and, if you are traveling with other people, you can share the total cost of the taxi trip. The entrance fee to the Chato costs USD 5.

    $40 USD – Taxi to Playa Garrapatero (round trip – half day)
    This is a beach where you can camp. You can take a taxi or rent a bicycle to get there. It’s about 25 KM from Puerto Ayora.

    This beautiful bay also has an area for BBQs as long as everything is left clean. Take repellent, as there might be biting insects here as well as at sea throughout your trip.

    $45 USD – Bay tour
    A trip by boat to the surroundings of Santa Cruz Island, visiting La Playa de los Perros and Las Grietas del Amor, where you can go snorkeling or diving at the end of the walk. The water here is not as cold as in other parts of the island.

    FOR FREE – Playa Tortuga Bay
    This is one of the best beaches in all the Galapagos. There is a path that will take you there; it’s a 45 minute stroll. When you arrive at a fine, white sand beach, you must turn to the right, walking along the beach for about 10 minutes. You’ll find a small path among the mangroves and that’s where Tortuga Bay is. The water is calm, transparent, and not too deep, so it’s ideal for families with children and just for relaxing. IMPORTANT: Tortuga Bay closes at 5pm.

    FREE – Playa de los Alemanes + Las Grietas
    Las Grietas are part of a volcanic fracture. To get there, you must take a water taxi from Puerto Ayora for $0.50 which will take you to the dock of Playa de los Alemanes. You can also enjoy this beach before or after visiting Las Grietas. Try to visit duringlow tide to make the most of your visit to this beach.

    The path to Las Grietas is between rocks, as the roads of the Galápagos used to be. The path passes through inhabited areas, where the first settlers of Santa Cruz live. It follows the salinas, a reminder of the traditional use of salt, and eventually ends at an impressive rift filled with crystalline waters you can enjoy.


    The best day trips from Santa Cruz Island:

    I can help you to find availability and book any of the following day trips that depart from Santa Cruz Island:

    Tour to Santa Fe Island

    Santa Fe Island Galapagos

    Tour to Bartolome Island

    Bartolome Island Galapagos

    Tour to North Seymour Island

    North Seymour Island Galapagos


    Tour to Pinzon Island

    Pinzon Island Galapagos

    Tour Floreana Island

    Floreana Island Galapagos

    Tour Chinese Hat Island

    Chinese Hat Galapagos


    Santa Fe Island Galapagos
    This is one of our favorite islands! If you’re lucky, you may have the chance to swim near the sea lions.

    Bartolome Island Galapagos
    If you are in the Galapagos, you shouldn’t miss a trip to Bartolomé Island. Here, amidst incredible landscapes, you’ll feel like you’re on another planet.

    Pinzon Island Galapagos
    The snorkeling here is incredible. You’ll swim among sea lions, reef sharks (also called blue sharks), manta rays and sometimes Galapagos Penguins!

    North Seymour Island Galapagos
    A wonderful walk along a trail teeming with blue-footed boobies, frigates, land iguanas and sea lions.

    South Plazas Island Galapagos
    As you walk here, you’ll get the chance to observe an outstanding diversity of birds, sea lions and iguanas. You can snorkel in Punta Carrión in turquoise waters and if you’re lucky, you’ll see sharks and many tropical fish species.

    Floreana Island Galapagos
    This is one of the first islands to be inhabited in the Galapagos and has a rich cultural history carried down by the first settlers (including stories about pirates!). It’s also one of two islands that has its own freshwater spring. It has a galapaguera where you can see giant tortoises up close and on Floreana you can go snorkeling, sometimes observing penguins, rays and sea lions as they swim nearby.

    Daphne Major Island Galapagos
    Combine the adrenaline of experiential fishing with many hours of snorkeling in various locations. The tour includes a visit to Borrero Bay, where you can snorkel or just relax on the beach.

    Chinese Hat Island Galapagos
    It’s an islet that has the shape of a Chinese hat, hence the name. Its geological formation gives it a unique landscape, displaying the stark contrast between black lava, white sand beaches and a deep blue sea. Here, you’ll observe marine iguanas and sea lions and while snorkeling in Sullivan Bay you will have the opportunity to see penguins, sharks and a variety of tropical fish.


    Hotels on Santa Cruz Island

    Here’s list of accommodations that I recommend, based on data collected from travelers who we’ve helped in booking tours.

    Hostel Seymour

    Hostel Seymour

    Hotel Fiesta

    Hotel Fiesta

    Hostel Vista al Mar

    Hostel Vista al Mar

    More hotels in Santa Cruz: Here


    What to do on your own and which day trips leave from Isabela Island?

    I recommend staying at Isabela Island for about 3 days. See this Isabela Island travel guide

    USD 20 – Bicycle (full day)
    Get ready to explore Isabela Island on your own. You can rent a bicycle for the whole day and take a ride through the Wetlands: La Playita, Playa del Amor, El Estero, Mirador and Muro de las Lágrimas. Later, you can chill a bit on the beach and grab a bite in the center. Also you can see the turtle breeding center, which is open until 5pm and, a few meters away, is La laguna de los Flamingos.

    USD 60 – Tour to the Tintoreras
    This is a short tour (2 hours). Start the tour to an islet where you’ll see marine iguanas, sea lions and sharks and you can even dive with them.

    FOR FREE – Concha de Perla
    A place in Isabela where you can snorkel among schools of fish as well as sea lions. The water here is very clear and you can bring your own snorkel or rent one.


    The best day trips from Isabela Island:

    We checking availability and provide booking in advance for any of the following day trips that leave from Isabela Island:

    Tour to Cabo Rosa Tunnels

    Tunnels Cabo Rosa Galapagos

    Tour to Sierra Negra Volcano

    Sierra Negra Volcano Galapagos


    Cabo Rosa Tunnels Galapagos
    This is an excellent tour that first takes you to a rock called ‘El Cruce’ where you can see blue-footed birds, then you walk into to the tunnels for a few minutes and finish by snorkeling through the tunnels. If you’re lucky, you might see a few sharks.

    Sierra Negra Volcano Galapagos
    This is one of the few treks you can do in the Galapagos, and is totally worth it. It involves a 5-hour hike to the second largest volcano on the islands, and part of the route will take you to a small volcano where you will feel like you’re on another planet. Click the link above to know more about this Tour to Sierra Negra Volcano.


    Hotels on Isabela Island

    Here’s list of accommodations that I recommend, based on data collected from travelers who we’ve helped in booking tours.

    Hostel Cerro Azul

    Hostel Cerro Azul

    Hostel Insular

    Hostel Insular

    Iguana Crossing Boutique Hotel

    Iguana Crossing Boutique Hotel

    More hotels in Isabela Island:here


    What to do on your own and which day trips leave from San Cristobal Island?

    We recommend staying at San Cristobal Island for about 4 days. See this San Cristobal Island travel guide

    FREE – Interpretation Center, Cerro Tijeretas, Playa Mann and Playa Punta Carola
    The route along the path starts when you cross the Interpretation Center (a place to learn about the history of the formation of the islands). On the same path you will also visit the Cerro Tijeretas, Mann Beach and Punta Carola beach.

    FREE – Playa de la Loberia
    You’ll have to take a taxi that costs USD 3. It’s recommended that you reach an agreement with the taxi driver to pick you up and pay at the end (that agreement should set you at USD 10). You can also get back on foot, but it will take you around 45 minutes walking in the sun.

    USD 60 – Taxi (half day)
    It’s a half-day tour to go to the upper part of the island on your own. On this tour you can also visit: La Casa del Ceibo, El Lago Junco, La Galapaguera and Playa Puerto Chino.
    *It’s recommended to hire a naturalist guide for the whole day to do this tour. They’ll take you to several places around the area.


    The best day trips that depart from San Cristobal Island:

    We checking availability and provide booking in advance for any of the following day trips that leave from San Cristobal:

    Tour to Kicker Rock

    Kicker Rock Galapagos

    Tour to Española Island

    Española Island Galapagos


    360 Tour Galapagos

    360 Tour Galapagos

    Click here - Tour to Isla Lobos

    Isla Lobos Galapagos


    Española Island Galapagos
    This is one of the only locations worldwide that is visited annually by the world’s 12,000 pairs of albatrosses during their mating season. Due to its arid climate, Española Island is paradise for seabirds.

    Punta Pitt Galapagos
    Punta Pitt located on the eastern edge of San Cristobal Island as a set of eroded volcanic cones and sparsely populated by endemic vegetation of the Islands. It’s the ideal place to see a variety of marine birds’ nests, such as blue-footed boobies, masked, red-footed boobies, and frigate birds.

    Kicker Rock Galapagos + One Optional Beach: Manglecito, Tortuga, Cerro Brujo o Puerto Grande
    Roca León Dormido, or «Kicker Rock», is an uninhabited island located 30 minutes away from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and is as a refuge for many seabirds like the blue-footed booby, and a refuge for sea lions as well. See more information about this tour to the León Dormido – Kicker Rock by clicking the link above.

    360 Tour San Cristobal Galapagos
    This tour takes you on a complete loop around San Cristobal Island to all of its top sites. Disembark from the Laguna de Rosa Blanca, then go fishing in Punta Pitt. After lunch, you will disembark in Sardina Bay where you can photograph the impressive Cerro Brujo and finish the tour snorkeling in the canal by León Dormido (Kicker Rock). See more trip information on the 360 ° Tour by clicking the link above.


    Hotels on San Cristobal Island

    Here’s list of accommodations that I recommend, based on data collected from travelers who we’ve helped in booking tours.

    Casa Opuntia

    Casa Opuntia

    Dolphin House

    Dolphin House

    La Zayapa

    La Zayapa

    More hotels in San Cristobal:Here


    What is the best time to travel to the Galapagos Islands?

    The Galapagos are accessible all year round, though the weather varies depending on the months. From November to June it’s very sunny and from February to May it’s the rainy season, although the sun almost always comes out. July to October are the coldest months. September is the worst month of all, as the weather is cold – lots of drizzle – and it’s considered low season in the Galapagos. In spite of the weather, life always goes on in the islands though!





    What should I bring in my backpack and what items can I take into Galapagos?

    Consider the possibility of going on long walks, swimming, wet / dry areas and other physical activities. We recommend that you bring the following luggage list:

  • comfortable walking shoes
  • sandals
  • light short pants
  • t-shirts and long-sleeved shirts
  • jacket or lightweight waterproof
  • evening sweater
  • small bag or backpack for hiking or walking around (waterproof)
  • swimsuit
  • socks
  • repellent
  • sun protection – hat, sunscreen, sunglasses
  • binoculars
  • camera and video equipment
  • medication for dizziness/motion sickness (optional)
    Most of the operators take pictures with their own cameras on the day trips and you’ll need a pen drive/USB to keep those photos or videos. The internet is terrible on the Islands, so it will be difficult to receive the photos or videos in your email, WeTransfer, Google Drive, etc.

    I made a list of some important things that you can buy on Amazon for your trip in Galapagos:

  • Snorkel Mask – Buy traditional masks, because the fashionable ones fall off easily and lose visibility.
  • Quick drying towels – Super convenient and packs small. These towels dry extremely fast!
  • Waterproof back pack and camera case – You won’t ever worry about your stuff getting wet, and the camera case is incredible for underwater pictures and video.
  • Thermal bottle, which will help you keep the water fresh for 24 hours and that you can refill since most hotels offer you free bottled water.

    It’s forbidden to bring animals, seeds or drones. To see the complete lists download these images 12


    Time zone in the Galapagos Islands

    It’s helpful to know the time difference between where you live and the Galapagos Islands GMT-6, so you can program your watch and cell phone while you’re traveling (and not miss your tour!).

    Current time in Galapagos





    A video that will make you fall in love with Galapagos


    Where do you want to travel ?

    Galapagos Travel Guide: Cruise, Tours, Last minute deals



    My name is Christian but you came call me Choko. Together with my wife we have created this blog to help all travelers going to Galapagos 🐢🦀🐧🐬 🐦🦎 I am from Ecuador, born in Guayaquil. Passionate about traveling and everything related to social media. In my free time I travel the americas. I have given conferences and workshops revolving around my work and tourism 2.0 // WRITE ME USING WHATSAPP: +593978990910 - 🇪🇨 BLOG IN SPANISH chokotrip.info


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