Essential Galapagos and Ecuador Pre-Trip Information
We will go to great lengths to make sure your trip is a fun, memorable and safe one. We try to get to know our guests and their individual needs as much as possible before the trip begins to ensure it truly is the travel trip of a lifetime. The information below will help you plan for your trip and answer some questions you may have.
We have included as much detail as possible in the list below, however it is by no means exhaustive, so please do get in touch with us any time with any questions you may have and we are always delighted to help. Your final details on the trip will usually be sent around two weeks prior to travel, as we need to wait until then for the final details to be confirmed on the ground.
What You Need To Send Back To Us and When
- A copy of your air itinerary, if you are making your own flight arrangements, at least 90 days before departure
- A copy of your travel insurance policy
- Essential Travel Documents
- Medical Matters
- Money Matters
- Luggage Clothing and Travel
- A couple of practical hints for whilst travelling
- Arrival at the new Quito airport
- Whilst in Quito
- Whilst in Guayaquil
- Galapagos flights & controls
- Galapagos National Park Rules
- Recommended Reading
1. Essential Travel Documents
If you don’t have a passport, apply for one now because the process can be lengthy. If you do have a passport, find it and check the expiry date. The expiry date is important because many countries, including Ecuador, won’t let you enter unless your passport is valid for at least six months beyond the date you complete your trip.
IMPORTANT: If your passport changes between the time you book with us and when you travel, you need to let us know ASAP. The airlines that provide the flights to Galapagos do not permit any changes in the passport numbers/names etc. and require that we issue a completely new ticket and we only get a partial refund on the un-used ticket.
Citizens of the European Union, USA, Australia and Canada do not require a visa if the intended stay is less than 90 days. You will be given a Tourist-Visa Card on the airplane en route to Ecuador. In Immigration, it is imperative to verify that the time period entered by the official on the Tourist Card more than covers the time period you will be in Ecuador and that you keep the carbon copy with your return ticket to give to officials at the airport at the time of departure from Ecuador. You must have this form to leave the country. Nationals from other countries should check the situation with the Ecuadorean consulate.
The UK Embassy of Ecuador should you require it: Ecuador Embassy in London Flat 3, 3 Hans Crescent, London SW1X 0LS Tel: 020 7584 1367 -- Fax: 020 7823 9701
Whilst Think Galapagos has a corporate insurance policy and financial failure cover that ensures all our guests’ payments to us are protected, all passengers must take out their own separate travel insurance to cover any medical expenses or trip cancellation due to unexpected medical circumstances. Any insurance that you take out should include emergency evacuation cover of at least $50,000 (around £35,000) given the remote nature of some of the islands. You must bring verification of policy and terms with you on the trip and provide us with your policy number and emergency contact before travelling. You will be fully responsible for any medical expenses that you may incur. In the event of an emergency, the trip leader is responsible for making the final decision regarding evacuation.
2. Medical Matters
Please be aware that hospital facilities for serious medical problems may at times be a long way away, that a doctor may not always be available, and that evacuation can be prolonged, difficult, and expensive. Your guide does not carry prescription medications.
Insect repellent and bite remedies are always good to have with you. It is also good to have some over the counter remedies such as headache tablets, Imodium, rehydration sachets with you in case you need them – although they are available in Ecuador and the towns in Galapagos, it is always good to use those that you are used to taking.
Remember that Think Galapagos Ltd is not a medical authority and that we can give you only general information, which may not be accurate by the time you travel. You should confer with your GP at least eight weeks before travelling. The following is a ROUGH GUIDE for immunisation – you must seek and abide by the specific advice of your local doctor/medical professional. Regulations and recommendations change frequently, so we advise you to check with your local GP, or the Ecuadorean Embassy.
- Yellow Fever - there is a small risk of Yellow Fever in some areas of Ecuador – however if you are just staying in the Andes including visits to the cloud forest areas of Mindo or the eastern slopes you will be fine. In essence this is required only for people travelling to the Amazon region or the coastal lowlands (an overnight stop in Guayaquil is fine). Official advice is to consult your GP and they will conduct a risk assessment before deciding whether or not they recommend a vaccine.
- Malaria - like Yellow Fever, if your trip is in the Andes of Ecuador, including the cloud forest, you don’t need to worry about this. If you are travelling to the Amazon region, coastal locations and at places under 1,500m altitude the official recommendation is to take anti-malarial medication. The new varieties are much easier to take than older versions of anti-malarial tablets; however there are side effects in some guests like a bad tummy, mouth ulcers etc. Whilst we stress we aren’t medical authorities, local information is sometimes useful when making decisions on what medications you want to take. To our knowledge speaking to people in the lodges in the Amazon and the areas there have been no reported cases of malaria in the areas of the lodges we work with and we ourselves personally don’t take anti-malarials when travelling to the Napo Wildlife Centre, La Selva or Sani Lodge. For those guests stopping over in Guayaquil for a brief stay, similarly, it may be useful to know that we don’t personally take anti-malarials for this.
- Dengue Fever - Travellers should take mosquito bite avoidance measures.
- Hepatitis A - A vaccine is available and travellers should practise strict food, water and personal hygiene precautions.
- Hepatitis B - A vaccine is available. Travellers should avoid contact with blood or bodily fluids.
- Tetanus - A vaccine is available. This is caused by a toxin released from Clostridium bacteria. Travellers should thoroughly clean all wounds and seek medical attention.
- Rabies – In the last year or so we have had guests say that they have been recommended to have anti-rabies medication. If your GP advises you to have this done, we would ask that you give us a call to discuss this to see if it really is necessary.
For those of you flying to Quito from sea level, you might feel the effects of altitude on the first day or so given that Quito is at 2,800 metres (9,500 feet) above sea level. The best advice we can give is that you take it easy, avoid alcohol, heavy food, and cigarettes, and drink plenty of water to keep hydrated. Some people may have a light headache from the altitude for the first few days until they have acclimatised so be sure to bring your favourite headache remedy with you just in case you need it.
At hotels sealed, bottled water (“agua linda”) will be provided in most cases. Use bottled water for brushing your teeth, do not open your mouth in the shower, and never drink tap water except on the boat where you can brush your teeth with tap water. Also ask for your drinks without ice on the mainland (“sin hielo”), because you can’t be sure it was made from purified water.
This is a concern for some of our Galapagos guests as you are at sea for much of your trip. Speaking as a terrible motion sickness sufferer myself (Rachel!) – who even gets sick on trains and planes, I completely understand the concern. The nice thing about Galapagos is most of the navigations are done at night so it isn’t a problem for the vast majority of guests as for navigations done during the day you are out on deck in search of dolphins, rays and whales. However for those who do suffer from motion sickness I recently discovered a fantastic medication; a small patch that you put behind your ear that is slow release and lasts for up to 3 days. It worked like a miracle and for the first time in my life whilst travelling I had absolutely no symptoms at all. For most people it is a good precaution to take some normal motion sickness tablets just in case; they sell a variety in all pharmacies and they are all pretty much the same – but for those who have a regular problem with motion sickness it may be worth seeing your GP about getting a prescription for the patches – they are called transdermal scopolamine patches.
3. Money Matters
Ecuador’s own currency the Sucre was suspended in 1999 following rampant inflation. Today US dollars are the only accepted currency in the country. Whilst you will need to have US$ in cash with you on arrival, you can draw money from ATM’s at any major bank in Quito or Guayaquil (BUT please ask your guide to accompany you to do this for security).
Credit cards can be used in many shops and restaurants in Quito and Guayaquil and are particularly useful for more expensive items.
How much do I need to take?
If most meals are included in your trip with us, for approximately a 2 week trip including an 8-day cruise, we recommend taking approximately $600 per person for items not covered in your land/cruise cost, and for additional items you may want to purchase. Costs per person not covered on your trip include: alcoholic drinks, $100 Galapagos National Park entrance fee, airport tax and tips for your crew and guides, and possibly some meals. Some payments in the Amazon Lodges and the Galapagos can be made in traveller’s cheques.
Travel Tip: It’s good to have some single dollars handy on arrival if you would like a luggage cart at the airport to get your suitcases or bags through customs control. According to our latest information they cost $2. Once you pass through customs control, your guide will be there waiting for you so you don’t need to worry about carrying your bags further than this.
This is always at our guest’s discretion and by no means is obligatory and should always reflect the quality of service you received. But as our guests frequently request a guideline on tipping, we recommend the following per person so you have a rough idea:
- Quito guide/driver $20 per person (assuming approx three days with you)
- Amazon lodge team $ 30-40
- Amazon (or depending on trip Cloud forest/Andes) guide $30-40
- Galapagos Cruise - between US$100 and US$150 per person divided approximately 70% for the crew
(as it usually is divided equally between them all) and 30% for the guide.
Should I take Traveller’s Cheques?
No. We don’t advise it. We used to recommend them as an emergency back-up – but they don’t really work even for that now. Due to tightening up of banking laws in Ecuador they are now so strict that signatures match and that everything is 100% correct, that shops, hotels and restaurants are reluctant to take them and you cannot cash them in banks.
Cajeros automáticos (ATMs) are found in nearly every city and town in Ecuador, as well as at major airports and bus terminals. ATMs are linked to the international Plus (Visa), Cirrus (Maestro/MasterCard) systems, American Express and other networks. They will accept your bank or credit card as long as you have a four-digit PIN.
Visa and MasterCard are most widely accepted in Ecuador’s major hotels, restaurants, and shops and also in many shops and restaurants in Galapagos.
If you plan to use your credit card, be sure to notify your credit card carrier that you will be using it in Ecuador; otherwise, a hold may be put on your account, which will require an international call back to the UK to clear it.
You may be able to use your credit/debit card to withdraw funds from participating banks in Ecuador. Please ask your guide for more advice and to assist you with this.
ATMs are normally open 24 hours. For safety reasons, use ATMs inside banks with security guards, preferably during daylight hours – and we recommend you always to ask your guide to accompany you to the ATM for security and to help you if you have any issues with the machine.
Security tip! In recent years the number of credit cards which are ‘cloned’ in Ecuador has increased dramatically. In order to avoid this don’t hand over your card to staff in shops or restaurants when paying. They should have a terminal that they can bring to the table in restaurants, or in shops on the counter, and failing this you could go with them with your card to pay, but avoid giving your card to them and it going out of your sight as they could have a cloning machine in their pocket.
Pre-paid currency cards….
Even better than your credit cards are pre-paid currency cards which are more secure than cash and more flexible than travellers cheques. They look just like a credit or debit card. They tend to be issued by specialist money changing companies, such as:
They allow you to preload money from your bank account on to the card, fixed at that day's exchange rate. Getting hold of a card is easy for anyone with a UK bank account. You can they use it like a normal card, withdrawing cash from an ATM or paying for things. You can normally apply online, choose the currency in which you would like your card denominated, load it with funds from your current account and wait for it to arrive in the post: typically five to seven days later. You can top up and check your balance online, by phone or, in some cases, by text (or if you would rather do it in person, larger Tesco stores offer them).
4. Luggage Clothing and Travel
Checked baggage on international flights with KLM is generally restricted to 20 kg, other airlines can be more generous, but bear in mind that for your internal flights your baggage is limited to a checked bag weighing no more than 20 kg and a daypack that will fit under your seat or in the overhead bin.
In the Galapagos it is worth bearing in mind that most cabins are fairly small and you wouldn’t want any more luggage than that anyway. Also, we recommend using soft-sided luggage as it is easier to transport and pack away in a cupboard or draw than hard suitcases.
The luggage restriction for the internal flight from Guayaquil or Quito to Galapagos and from Quito to the Amazon is the same, both are 20 kg + day pack.
While you are in the jungle, cloud forest or anywhere outside of Quito or Guayaquil, your city clothes or excess baggage can be safely stored in a luggage storage area at the hotel. This means you can pack sets of clothing etc, one for the Andes, Amazon or coastal portion and one for the Galapagos and leave the things you don’t need at the hotel. You don’t have to do this, but it can be useful. If you do wish to do this, remember to bring along a spare bag with a lock. You can also do some laundry at the Hotel Quito or Casa Aliso (ask your guide if you are staying in another hotel to help with this) and the Grand Hotel in Guayaquil; for longer trips and those taking extensions at the end or the beginning of their trip this may be useful.
TOP TIP! For those of you going to the Amazon Rainforest - plastic bags are great for keeping your clean clothes really dry whilst in the humidity of the rainforest region.
Ecuador is divided into 3 distinct regions, Andes, Amazon and Coast (including Galapagos) each of which has its own climate, and so requires slightly different clothing. Below is a guide to each of them.
- For all 3 regions a sunhat and sun cream of at least SPF 30 are recommended as the equatorial sun can be very strong.
- A protective sun hat/ cap is also good to have for all regions, in particular in Galapagos as the equatorial sun can be very strong. Also for Galapagos it is good to have a hat with straps as guests have been known to lose them with the hats blowing off whilst on the motorised dingy rides that take you from the yacht to the island!
- Towels will be provided in all the hotels, lodges and on the yacht so you don’t need to bring any.
Climate: Quito is at an altitude of 2,800 metres (9,500 feet) and most places you visit in the Andes will be around that altitude. Daytime temperatures range between 10°C and 22°C and evening temperatures between 4° and 10°c. A lightweight wind/rain jacket and fleece will come in handy year-round.
Clothing: In the Andes layers work well, with a warm layer for morning and evening. Although warm in the daytime the temperature at night in Quito and Andes can get as cool as fresh spring or autumn day in the UK. In general for your time in Quito and the Andes we recommend wearing long trousers and layers on top so you can respond to changing temperatures! T-shirts, a long sleeved jumper and light fleece jacket is usually enough. Attire is very informal, though some people do like to bring a smarter change of clothes for the occasions when you eat meals in restaurants, though it is still casual.
Climate: The temperature will be approximately 27°C during the day, falling to around 10° C at night. It will be quite humid and not surprisingly you may experience some heavy rain downpours during your stay.
Clothing: We recommend long trousers and long sleeved cotton shirts for the Amazon – though in the Amazon a short sleeved shirt can also be worn as well with a light dousing of insect repellent. Those who wish to swim in the lakes at the Amazon Lodges are also recommended to bring along some swimming gear. Full waterproof clothing isn’t needed for the Amazon – you will probably get wetter with sweat than with rain! Rain Ponchos along with rubber boots are provided at the lodges we work with so you don’t need to bring them along.
Coast & Galapagos
Climate: For those starting the trip in Guayaquil you will be at sea level. Daytime temperatures here are similar to those in the Galapagos ranging between 27° and 22°C. Rain during your stay is very unlikely though there is often light wind in the evenings.
Guayaquil and the Coast: Ecuador’s coast is wonderfully steamy and tropical, so shorts or light trousers, or sundresses/skirts with t-shirts will be fine. As is the case with Galapagos, It’s useful to have long sleeved shirts too as the sun can be strong. Also worth mentioning is that the hotels in Guayaquil all have air conditioning and can feel quite ‘cool’ so have something warmer to wear when inside!
Galapagos: T-shirts and shorts or light trousers are the best clothing for the Galapagos. For those with very fair skin, it is probably best to wear long-sleeved shirts in Galapagos as the sun can be very strong. It’s nice to have something to get changed into for an evening, but everything is very casual in Galapagos. We would also recommend a lightweight wind break jacket and a sweater as it can often be cool and breezy in the evenings. It’s also useful to bring along a couple of swim suits so you can alternate whilst one is drying.
For those who will be snorkelling we DEFINITELY recommend a ‘shorty’ wetsuit particularly during the months from June to December. They can in many cases be hired for the week on the yacht (ask us for details as this changes from yacht to yacht ranges from US$25 to US$45 per week). Santiago always wears a shorty wetsuit year round as he feels the cold! It is also quite good as it gives you protection from the sun and some buoyancy. If you don’t use a wet suit you would need to use one of your t-shirts whilst snorkelling to protect your back from the sun as you will usually be snorkelling in the middle of the day when the sun is at its most powerful. We also recommend that people have their own personal snorkel mask and tube – though these will be provided either free or for a $10 rental cost on board the yacht, we think it is better to have your own that you are used to and it is comfortable for you.
Sturdy, properly fitting footwear can make your trip much more pleasurable and this is the area we get asked most questions on. If you’re buying new boots for this trip, please break them in by wearing them as often as possible before the trip. A combination of the two kinds of footwear recommended below is sufficient for any of the trips we organise.
Comfortable rubber-soled walking shoes with good traction or lightweight hiking boots with good ankle support are the best for the trip. These are suitable for Andes, Galapagos and Amazon.
The best footwear for the Galapagos and for in and around the lodge in the Amazon are sports type sandals (with a trainer like base) that can be purchased in most outdoor shops, good brands are Merrell, Teva (shown above), though most shops have a good selection. These sandals are very comfortable, have a very good grip and you can get them wet without any problems. We prefer those with open toes, but some guests say they prefer those with a toecap to avoid stubbing their toes on lava.
For Galapagos it’s good to have a comfortable pair of shoes to wear whilst in the yacht as you can’t wear any of your shoes that you use for visiting the islands inside (or barefoot is a good option too!)
Photography and Video
Ensure you bring enough digital memory for your cameras. You invariably will take more photographs than you expect. For video, bring extra batteries just in case. It is useful to have a waterproof bag that you keep your equipment just in case. These are available in all outdoor shops.
Electricity for recharging batteries available on the yacht, at the rainforest and the Andes is 110V (American style – adaptors are the same as those you need for the US). For keen photographers, our advice on lenses is that a range of a wide-angle zoom (16-70 mm) and an 80-200mm zoom lens will be enough. (Some 70-300mm are now available in the market which would completely cover any needs you have in terms of a zoom lens).
We strongly recommend that you bring along binoculars if you are visiting the rainforest or cloud forest as you will get much more out of your trip there. For Galapagos they aren’t so essential, though always good to have. We recommend you bring high quality binoculars with specifications of 7x35 up to 10x40. If you’re travelling as a couple, you should each have your own pair because it doesn’t work well for two people to share one pair—one of you is certain to miss a good sighting!
5. A couple of practical hints for whilst travelling
Toilets: Toilet roll in Ecuador and Galapagos must be placed in the separate basket next to the toilet. This is a little strange to get used to at first, but is common throughout Latin America as their pipes and sewage system can’t cope with toilet paper.
Electricity: Ecuador is on the 110V system, the same as in the US so you will need a travel adaptor – the electric plug is flat (American style). You will have places where you can charge your electrical devices in all the yachts we work with in Galapagos and lodges in the Amazon. Most places in the cloud forest also have electricity, but just double check with us for that – currently El Monte doesn’t have electricity.
Biodegradable Shower Gels and Shampoos: In many of the Galapagos yachts and some of the Amazon lodges they will provide biodegradable shampoos and shower gel in the bathrooms. If you could use those where provided that would be great. If you want to take along your own, the Body Shop do a good biodegradable range.
Time Zones: Mainland Ecuador GMT minus 5 hours Galapagos minus 6 hours
Communication: Telephones and internet access are available at your hotel in Quito and Guayaquil. You will also have internet access when you reach the town of Puerto Ayora during your Galapagos trip and in the Amazon at The Napo Wildlife Centre. Smartphones (3G) mobiles do work in the main cities and on the inhabited islands in Galapagos. International calls from Ecuadorean land-lines can be very expensive.
Hair driers: The good news is that they are provided in almost all of the hotels and yachts we work with, certainly everywhere that guests travel on our escorted group trips will have them, and most of the places we work with would have access to one even if not provided in each room (please do ask if this is important so we can double check for you.)
Towels: These are provided at all the hotels, lodges and yachts we work with so you don’t need to take them along.
Shopping: Quito is a great place to buy Ecuadorian handicrafts. Not only is Ecuador the home of the Panama hat, but there is a wide selection of locally made woven goods such as sweaters, hats, gloves, wall hangings, rugs, and shoulder bags. There are also leather crafts, woodcarvings, intricate basketry, and Ecuador’s famous baked-dough ornaments. Quito also has some fantastic silver jewellery. The artisans market in the Mariscal area of Quito is definitely worth a visit if you have time in Quito and like handicrafts, if it isn’t already included in your city tour, ask Rachel to organise this for you or you could walk there yourself. Guayaquil has some good shops, but you will need to ask your guide to show you them as they aren’t easy to find.
Do I need flight or hotel vouchers?
No. Everything will be taken care of by our team in Ecuador from the moment you arrive regardless whether you are on an escorted or tailor made trip. You will be picked up from the airport by one of our guides, and from that moment on they will take care of everything, advising you of the next stage of the journey, exact pick up times for transfers and giving you flight tickets as and when you need them.
6. Arrival at the new Quito airport
For those arriving to Quito, your guide will be waiting for you as you exit the baggage claim area. There will be a lot of agencies waiting to meet their guests, so please walk slowly and look for your guide carrying our Think Galapagos sign. If you don’t find your guide straight away, go to a place close to the door you came out from and wait a few minutes for your guide. If you don’t find your guide after this time, go out of the crowded arrivals area to the area where the Car Rentals area is which you can see clearly marked and your guide will come to meet you there. It very rarely happens (we can count on one hand in all the years we have been doing this that it has happened), but we are aware that with the new airport which has only a single lane access road from Quito there is a risk your guide could be stuck in traffic if there is a broken down vehicle or something unforeseen.
The new Quito airport that opened in 2013 is located roughly 60-90 minutes away from your hotel in the city of Quito.
7. Whilst in Quito
Quito was already an Inca capital when the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, but nothing from that era remains (the residents put a torch to the city rather than let it fall into the hands of the conquistadors). The current city was founded on the ruins of the old city in 1534. Quito’s old colonial quarter has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which means that its centuries-old, red-tiled, whitewashed buildings will be preserved. This is the town centre where the legislative buildings and beautiful old cathedrals are located. Quito also has a modern, bustling downtown city centre, which is where most of the hotels, businesses, airline offices, and restaurants are located. The Equatorial Monument is located about 40 minutes north of the city centre with a museum, shops, restaurants and view of the city. The city’s 9,500-foot altitude makes it a cool, comfortable place to visit and, on a clear day, there are spectacular views of the snow-capped volcanoes that rise around it. Much of Quito’s population is made up of transplanted Europeans and Quechua-speaking Indians.
8. Whilst in Guayaquil
Guayaquil is Ecuador’s largest city and busiest port. It is a steamy tropical bustling city full of energy, with charming colonial buildings hidden amongst the skyscrapers and modern developments. In the heart of the downtown and a couple of minutes walk from the Grand Hotel, Parque Bolivar has the unique attraction of being home to a colony of tame land iguanas whose prehistoric appearances contrasts wonderfully with the surrounding shopping malls. Nearby, the Malecon is a waterfront park skirting the wide, Rio Guayas which was rebuilt in 2000 is now home to modern shops and cafes.
Left Luggage facility at Guayaquil airport
They have (finally!) got left luggage services at Guayaquil airport if you need to leave things there whilst you go to Galapagos and pick them up on your return – cost at the time of writing this was $7 per case per day.
As with all big cities of the world you have to be aware of security in Quito and Guayaquil and you’ll be wise to follow some simple safety precautions. Leave valuables such as traveller’s checks, passport, cash, jewellery and air tickets locked in the hotel safe or locked in your case - don’t carry them with you because of pickpockets and don’t leave them lying in the open in your room.
- Never leave your handbag or backpack unattended, even in the hotel lobby.
- Carry just a reasonable amount of spending money and credit cards stashed in a money belt or hidden pouch (bags and purses attract attention).
- If you visit the old colonial city, visit only on a tour and take no valuables, as it is not a safe area to walk around alone (the exception is La Ronda area, which many of our guests staying in Quito now stay in).
- As a precaution if you would like to walk to a restaurant near to your hotel in Quito – we recommend that you ask someone from reception to walk you to the restaurant, and someone from the restaurant will then walk you back to the hotel (or the same person from the hotel can come back to meet you.) If it is further away (as is the case definitely for those staying in Guayaquil) the hotel reception can order you a taxi, and then for your return – ask the restaurant to organise for you a taxi to take you back.
- Don’t ever flag down a taxi on the street there are numerous cases of fake taxis – so please always ask the hotel reception or the restaurant to organise your taxi for you. If you are out and about, go to the nearest hotel and ask the reception staff to help you – they are usually very good at doing this.
- If you are getting money out of an ATM, please ask your guide to accompany you.
10. Galapagos flights & controls
If you are flying from Quito, the plane might stop in Guayaquil first before proceeding to Baltra, Galapagos. Total travel time from Quito – Guayaquil – Baltra is approx 3 hours. If you fly directly from Quito or Guayaquil to Galapagos, you will arrive in Baltra approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes after take-off. During the flight to Galapagos they will spray the aircraft with a mild insecticide approved by the World Health Organisation in order to prevent insects such as mosquitoes, moths, flies or wasps travelling to Galapagos where they could become an invasive and potentially very destructive species. They usually spray the aeroplane around 15 minutes before landing in the Galapagos.
We want to stress the importance of keeping safe your luggage ticket given when you check in for your Galapagos flight. Several guests have had problems getting their luggage without the ticket due to security measures at the airport
For most guests, our team in Ecuador will be organising your airport transfers and will co-ordinate with you regarding your pick up times – but it is useful to have this general information. Similarly for most of you your Galapagos Migration Cards will be processed by our team in Ecuador for you – but for some guests this may not be possible – so again it is useful to have this information.
Galapagos Migration Card
Before you check in, in the event that we haven’t prepared in advance for you your Galapagos Migration Card, you then need to go to the ‘Consejo de Gobierno de Galapagos’ (Galapagos Migration Authorities) counter to purchase a migration card where you will have to give your passport number, nationality, age and other personal information and then you have to pay $10 per person for the INGALA migration card which contains details about your visit. They are very clearly marked at both the Quito and Guayaquil airports. In Quito it is directly to your left as you go in, in Guayaquil it is a counter close to the check-in desks. Where possible we do always get this for our guests in advance, but there are some cases where this isn’t possible. If we haven’t got your Galapagos Migration Card in advance you need to ensure you are at the airport in plenty of time. As an experiment during a recent Galapagos trip we went in the queue get this paperwork ourselves to see how long it would take – we were in the queue over 35 minutes and it could easily have been longer !
Important: Your Galapagos Migration Card needs to be retained to show also when you are departing Galapagos so keep it safe in your passport otherwise you may need to pay the US$10 again!
Quarantine and Inspection
After you have processed your migration card you need to go through the quarantine and inspection system, Sicgal. They will x-ray your luggage checking for any live organic matter (soil, seeds, plants, some foods or any animals). Granola Bars, chocolate and other similar snacks are fine as long as they are packed and processed. Before packing, please give your clothes, shoes and other luggage a good clean.
Once you have completed these two stages, you will be able to check in. As your flight ticket is an e-ticket, you just need to present your passport and your reservation code and copy of your reservation (if you have it). The person at the counter will give you your boarding pass. Following this you need to go through security. Please remember not to carry sharp metal objects in your pockets or hand luggage as they could be confiscated. Carry those objects in your checked bag. The last time we checked – water in plastic bottles is allowed through security in Ecuador (though this could change at any time, you should be fine).
Once you arrive you will have to go through customs procedures. Please show the Galapagos Migration Authorities your migration card. And, you will need to pay a Galapagos National Park entrance fee of $100 cash (this is US$50 for children under 12 years) , per person .
* Remember to adjust your watch when you arrive
- Galapagos time is one hour earlier than mainland Ecuador.
Once you have paid the US$100 and given your Galapagos Immigration Card to the officials, you then proceed to collect your luggage and then form another line to get your hand luggage inspected (to ensure you are not bringing in any live matter as detailed above).
After this final check you come to an area where you will be met by your guide who will be holding a sign for the yacht (or in the case of guests with a stay on the island before the cruise, with your name or our Think Galapagos logo). At this point your luggage will be taken care of by your guide or the crew from the yacht and you can start your Galapagos trip!
11. Galapagos National Park Rules
The Galapagos Islands are governed by the rules of Galapagos National Park. Fortunately for the environment of the Galapagos, these rules are strictly enforced by the naturalist guides. Many rules are common sense, but we discuss them here so you’ll be aware of them. All groups who visit the Galapagos are, by law, accompanied by trained naturalist guides, and the guides will advise you further about these various rules.
- Don’t remove or disturb any plant or animal or remains of them (shells, bones, pieces of wood).
- Don’t transport any live material to or from the islands or from island to island. Check your clothing before landing for seeds or insects. In particular, check your boot soles for seeds or dried mud before you leave the boat. Inadvertent transport of these materials represents a special danger in the Galapagos, as each island has its own unique fauna and flora, and introduced plants and animals can quickly destroy this uniqueness.
- Do not take any food to the islands. Food may introduce organisms that might be dangerous to the fragile island ecosystem. Because of their seeds, fresh fruits or vegetables are especially dangerous.
- Don’t touch the animals. It is harmful to them and they will lose their remarkable tameness if thus treated by human invaders.
- Don’t feed the animals. This can destroy the animals’ social structure and can affect their reproduction.
- Don’t startle or chase any animal. Be extremely cautious when you are walking through breeding colonies of sea birds and be sure you don’t frighten the birds off their nests. This exposes the eggs or chicks to the sun and predators.
- Don’t step off the prescribed trails. This is important, particularly because the islands’ trails are heavily used. It may be tempting to walk a few steps off the trail to get a better photo, but don’t. The trails are there to make sure visiting humans have the least possible impact on these fragile islands.
- Don’t dispose of anything while you’re on the islands. Litter of all types must be kept off the islands. Keep all your film wrappers, chewing gum, and so on, in a plastic bag in your pocket for proper disposal on the boat. While on the boat, don’t throw anything overboard. All trash items will be properly disposed of by the crew.
- Don’t buy souvenirs or objects made from plants or animals of the Galapagos Islands. The best way to discourage this trade is not to buy any of these articles. If someone offers you such a souvenir, inform your naturalist guide. You will see items for sale in Puerto Ayora made of black coral, but we ask you to refrain from buying them, as black coral is slow growing and the resource is limited.
12. Recommended Reading
You’ll enjoy your trip so much more if you are well informed about the places you’ll visit and the wildlife you’ll see. For those of you who live close enough to get to our office in Beverley we have a large library of books and are always very happy to loan them out to guests, so you can get some reading in before your trip!
- Michael Jackson’s Galapagos, A Natural History (*if you read one book this is it!)
- Jonathan Wiener’s The Beak of the Finch, A Story of Evolution in Our Time
- Johanna Angermeyer’s My Father’s Island for background reading.
- The Galapagos - A Natural History – Henry Nicholls (he has written some great guest blogs on our website which are worth checking out!)
Your naturalist guide will have a selection of field guides but you may want to bring your own. We especially recommend
- Collins Safari Guide to The Wildlife of the Galapagos by Julian & Daniel Fitter & David Hosking
(available in Ecuador)
- A Guide to the Birds of the Galapagos Islands by Isabel Castro
- Reef Fish Identification Galapagos by Paul Humann.
For a great historical novel giving an account of Darwin’s journey to Galapagos – This Thing of Darkness – Harry Thompson (it was long listed for the Man Booker Prize)
Special Interest Books
For those with an interest in the natural history of the Amazon region, a great book is A Neotropical Companion by John Kricher. The same author also has a great natural history guide to the Galapagos (Galapagos: A Natural History). This is more in depth than Michael Jackson’s book, though Michael Jackson’s remains our favourite for an introduction to the natural history of the islands. For those with a special interest in birding, The Birds of Ecuador (Field Guide) by Robert R Ridgley and Paul Greenfield is a great book with beautiful plates, though is very heavy and relatively expensive, and you will have access to a copy whilst at most lodges (you can double check with us if it will be at the lodges you visit).
Telephone 01964 552292 for more information or email us today.