Galapagos Islands on a Budget

Galapagos Islands

 

Always dreamed of going to the Galapagos, but never have because it is too expensive? Well, there is a way of going and not depleting your bank account completely: travel independently. There are things that you will have to pay for, but everything else can be done on the cheap. I was there in April 2015 for 10 days and it was well worth it! Here is an overview and tips to help you plan your trip.

Compulsory expenses
  • Flights approx. $400 return (Tame, LAN and Avianca fly to the Galapagos. The cheapest route is usually Guayaquil-San Cristobal)
  • Entrance to the National Park: $100
  • Entrance to Isabela: $5
  • Ferry between island: $30 each trip (San Cristobal- Santa Cruz; Santa Cruz- Isabela)

Galapagos Turtle

 

Free activities on Santa Cruz
  • Tortuga Bay (a good 30-minute walk from town)
  • The Charles Darwin Research Institute
  • Ceramic Garden

Eat on the cheap at El Rincon del Alma: lunch and dinner for $5. You can easily save on breakfast by buying bread or chocolate bread at a bakery for 50¢ and a little bag of instant coffee for 35¢ instead of paying $5-$7 in restaurants.

Accomodation: $17 per person with fan at Hostal Darwin.

Ceramic Garden Galapagos

The Ceramic Garden

 

Free activities on San Cristobal
  • Las Tijeteras (nice snorkelling spot and view point)
  • Playa Punta Cocha
  • The Interpretation Centre Playa La Loberia
  • Watch and listen to the sea lions in Puerto Moreno in the late afternoon

Las Tijeteras Galapagos

Las Tijeteras snorkeling spot from the view point

Land tour: hire a taxi (the white pick-up trucks) for $30 per person to see the volcano/laguna, turtle Reserve and Punto Chino.

Accomodation: Las Fregatas for $15 with fan and a kitchen. We had many lunches and dinners at Lucky’s restaurant for $3.50 (includes a soup, main and a juice).

2 dives for $120. There are loads of agencies all over town so ask around to get the best deal.

Sea lions Galapagos

Sea lions gathering every afternoon in Puerto Moreno

 

Free activities on Isla Isabela

By far my favourite island! Beautiful and laid back!

The complex of Humedales (including little playas, Playa del Amor, Tunnel del Entro, the mirador Concha y Perla on the way to the Wall of Tears). It’s 5km one-way though so we rented bikes for $10 a day per person and did the whole trip on our own. It’s better to go early as it gets really hot. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

A popular snorkelling spot is Concha de Perla near the pier. It’s often packed though. You can rent snorkelling gear for $5-$8 for the day. Several places and hostels rent them so ask around.

Bar Beto and the Casa Rosada bar are lovely places to have a drink and enjoy the sunset. We also treated ourselves to very nice $10 burgers at The Booby Trap, a really good restaurant.

On our last day, we did the Tintoreras tour for $40 per person. It was worth the money as we saw penguins, blue-footed boobies, baby iguanas and we snorkelled with sea lions, hundreds of colourful fish and a marine turtle! That was pretty amazing.

Marine iguana Galapagos

Sunbathing

Tips
  • There was a water shortage on Isabela when we were there so it might be a good idea to have water purifier pills with you, just in case…
  • When you fly into San Cristobal, walk from the airport into town to avoid paying for a taxi.
  • Stock up on sunscreen and all necessities before you go as everything is expensive on the islands.
  • There are ATMs on San Cristobal and Santa Cruz but not on Isabela.
  • If you have an early flight, it is better to be on the island where you fly from the night before as the ferries are meant to leave at 6 or 7 am but they are always late, the ride takes 2-2.5 hours and the engines often break down… If you are in a hurry to get back and have some money left, you can fly from Isabela to San Cristobal for $150 per person, $135 if you show up just before the flight and if there is a spot left.
  • If you really want to do a cruise or a liveaboard on a limited budget, your best bet is to come to Santa Cruz and ask around directly at the boat companies, or to the captain. I have seen many offer a last-minute cruise for 4, 5 or 8 days for $800 (not sure about the quality of the boat though…)

If you decide to stay longer, you can change your return flight with TAME for free!

Galapagos

The Galapagos are truly  a wonderful place to visit, so don’t let the money hold you back!

 

Have you been? If you would like to share your tips, please do so in the comments.

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