Traveling to Galapagos Islands
What is the time zone of the Galapagos Islands?
The Galapagos Islands are 6 hours behind GMT (equivalent to USA Central Standard Time)
What language is spoken in the Galapagos Islands?
Spanish is the official language of Ecuador and its provinces such as the Galapagos Islands. English is spoken in the main tourist centers, important hotels, on our yachts, by our guides but not by the general population. If you require a guide in a language other than English you should let us know well in advance and an extra fee may apply.
How are the local people in the Galapagos like?
In general, people in Galapagos and in Ecuador are very friendly but we suggest you proceed with caution when interacting with locals. Please follow your guide's recommendations as to your conduct when relating to the local population, Some guidelines include: do not photograph people, products in local markets and food in restaurants or in the street without obtaining previous consent.
Are there any inhabited towns?
97% of the Galapagos Islands is national park. There are only 5 inhabited islands. Puerto Ayora is the capital and largest town with a population of 12,000 located on Santa Cruz Island. Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is the second largest town with a population of 5,600 located on San Cristobal Island. These two towns offer the services of any large city. Puerto Villamil in Isabela Islands is the third largest with a population of 2,000. Puerto Velasco Ibarra in Floreana Island has a population of 100 inhabitants. The last inhabited island is Baltra, which was used as a US military base during WWII and now serves as the airport for Santa Cruz Island.
What currency is used in the Galapagos?
Since the Galapagos Islands is a province of the country of Ecuador, the official currency is the US Dollar, which was adopted in the year 2000.
Does the equatorial line cross the Galapagos Islands?
The equatorial line does pass through the Galapagos, just north of Isla Santiago. Please refer to our Itinerary page to see which itinerary passes through the equatorial line.
How safe are the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador? Will my safety/security be in harm’s way?
Like most places around the World, Ecuador’s cities have good and bad areas. Many of the best hotels are located on good, safe areas. You should take the same precautions as you would if you were to travel to a major city such as New York or London. Be mindful of pick pocketers when walking in the street or in crowded public areas. Don’t walk around with expensive jewelry or with a lot of cash on hand as the vast majority of stores accept major credit cards. Use only registered and certified taxi cabs. Be wary of people who randomly approach you. Don’t venture into places you have not previously asked about. It is not recommended to walk in the streets after dark.
The major towns in the Galapagos Islands such as Puerto Ayora and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno are generally quite safe. You can walk on the streets after dark but you should always be mindful of your surroundings.
What is the climate and weather like in the Galapagos Islands?
The Galapagos enjoys fair weather almost year round. Please refer to our Seasonality page to learn more.
When is the best time to visit the Galapagos?
Good weather allows the Galapagos to be a year round destination. Please refer to our Seasonality page to learn more.
What are marine currents like the Galapagos?
The Galapagos Islands waters have the Humboldt Current's influence that brings cold waters especially during the mist rainy season (cool weather) from July to December. The warm season is during the months of January to June. The southeast trade winds become weaker and the water from the Panama Basin remains warm. During this season there is more of a tropical climate with some occasional rains. "El Niño" current may cause a much greater flow of warm waters, making the surface warmer and rainfall increase.
What is the water temperature in the Islands?
Average water temperatures in Galapagos:
January - June: 70°F - 80°F (20°C - 26°C)
July - December: 65°F - 75°F (18°C- 23°C)
Is there an entrance fee to the Galapagos National Park? If so, what is it?
The Galapagos National Park charges an entrance fee of US$ 100 for adults and US$ 50 for children under 12 to be paid at the airport upon arrival. You can choose to pay this fee through Quasar or you can pay yourself at the airport. Please be sure to carry the above amounts in cash. No credit cards are accepted. Please note that the above amounts are subject to change.
What are the rules and regulations of the Galapagos National Park? How strict are they?
Although Quasar hires only the best, level 3 naturalist guides, their job is not only to guide, teach and serve but also to enforce all Galapagos National Park regulations. For instance, no person can set foot on the Galapagos National Park unless accompanied by a certified naturalist guide. There are steep penalties for breaking the rules and regulations of the Park. We strongly recommend you follow and obey your guide’s discretion.
Can you snorkel in the Galapagos? If so, is snorkeling available during the cruise?
Snorkeling equipment is available onboard all of our yachts and is an activity on all of our Galapagos Cruises. All water sports convey a certain risk. Guests participating in these activities do so under their own responsibility and will be asked to sign a waiver on their Registration Form.
Note: Quasar is not responsible for personal items that may be lost or damaged while swimming, snorkeling or kayaking.
Can you scuba dive in the Galapagos? If so, is diving available during the cruise?
Scuba diving is possible in the Galapagos Islands. Please inquire for full details on how to book a dive trip with an island based diving outfitter at extra cost. Quasar does not carry insurance coverage directly associated to scuba diving, reason for which at the moment we are unable to organize this.
Cash and Dollar Bills
Currency in Ecuador and Galapagos is the US Dollar. Small denominations should be brought when shopping. Avoid bringing $100 dollar bills as these will not be easily accepted except at banks.
Banks and Bank Hours
Banks are open to the public from 9:00 hrs to 17:00 hrs. Monday to Friday. Most banks in Galapagos will allow you to make a transaction with your National bank.
Automated Teller Machines can only be found on San Cristobal Island and on Santa Cruz Island. You will have access to an ATM only at the beginning and end of your cruise and once more during your cruise. Most ATM's accept international ATM cards.
Shopping hours in San Cristobal and Santa Cruz Islands are from 10:00 (AM) to 19:00 (7PM), Monday to Saturday. Some stores are open on Sundays.
These tours are intended for persons in reasonably good health. By forwarding the deposit the passenger certifies that he/she does not have any physical or mental conditions or other condition or disability that may create a hazard to himself/herself or other passengers. Please remember to take your personal medications, vitamins, sea sickness medication (as a precaution), aloe vera, hand sanitizers, insect repellent or anything else you may need. For travelers who wear glasses, we recommend for you to bring either contact lenses or a prescription mask for the snorkeling activity.
Are any vaccinations/ immunizations required?
The Galapagos form a part of Ecuadorean territory. It is your responsibility to ensure that your health (vaccinations, insurance, etc.) and other travel documents meet the entry requirements for all destinations on your itinerary. Visit the World Health Organization’s website that has the most up to date information on required health and travel vaccinations for all countries that you visit before, during or after your trip. To view this information, please visit: https://www.who.int/ith/vaccines/en/
What type of medical services and facilities are available?
Modern hospital facilities are not available in the Galapagos. The towns of Puerto Ayora and Puerto Baquerizo have small hospitals and drug stores. We recommend to bring your own medicine as brands may change from one country to another, or a specific medicine may not be available. Due to the lack of services and medical facilities we strongly recommend you get emergency medical evacuation insurance.
If you need medical assistance please inform your Cruise Director immediately. They will assist you in a timely fashion by setting up an appointment with our onboard doctor or contact the closest doctor. Our Naturalist Guides and most of our crew are well versed in First Aid. The yacht carries a limited selection of medical supplies oriented towards first aid and minor needs.
We cater all special diet requirements, except for Kosher food (which should be requested in advance).
Diet guidelines to avoid food poisoning and other complications
It is extremely important that you take the necessary precautions with the water and food you consume before or after your cruise to avoid diarrhea and several ilnesses or diseases. It is highly recommend that you avoid drinking tap water or use it for brushing your teeth, ice (unless aboard our yachts) and food from sources that are unclean. Always stay hidrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Always use purified or bottled water and reduce your risk of diarrhea, ilness or disease by sticking to safe food habits.
Ecuador is just beginning to apply mandatory facilities for special needs i.e.: wheelchair ramps, wide doors, etc. BEFORE you book a particular tour you should inquire about the possibility of attending your particular disabilities. You will provide you with accurate information and will do our best to accommodate you.
Gear and Clothing
The average temperature in the Galapagos is in the 19-27°C (68-82°F) range. For this reason, it is best to wear light clothing. The suggested clothing for Galapagos is walking or hiking shoes, shorts and pants, teva style sandals, comfortable shoes to wear on deck, t-shirts, polos, light (long sleeve) shirts or blouses, swimsuits, regular underwear, wind shell, medium to light fleece jacket and cotton sweat shirts. You will also need a hat, sunglasses with high UV protection and more formal attire for the evenings.
Bring a set of a slightly nicer safari casual attire for meals and cocktails. We encourage comfortable attire such as dress shorts or skirts for women and a shirt or blouse. Men don’t need to bring long pants or a dinner jacket unless they wish to do so (if celebrating a meaningful event for example).
We suggest you bring a photo or video camera, binoculars, small back pack, additional batteries, SD cards for your camera with ample disk storage or bring a laptop to transfer your images. Do not pack a hair dryer as we offer these onboard.
We offer the complete set of snorkeling gear onboard for all shapes and sizes: masks, snorkels, fins and wet suits. We strongly recommend you bring a prescription mask if you need glasses for everyday tasks. If you so choose, you can bring your own snorkel gear. Not offered onboard are neoprene or lycra shirts.
Other items to bring
Insect repellent, sun lotion (we recommend high factor: 50+), personal medication, personal toiletries, resealable bags such as zip-lock bags to keep cameras and equipment dry during excursions
Sea sickness pills or patches (Dramamine)
If you have a tendency to get seasick, please inquire with your doctor about taking seasickness pills or patches. You should not take these without consulting a doctor. You can bring your doctor prescribed medicine with you.
Baggage specifications for your Galapagos Trip
We recommend that clients avoid expensive luggage that is easily damaged. We also strongly recommend that clients take out a luggage insurance policy that covers the loss of luggage and the cost of repairs or replacement in case their luggage is damaged.
Due to the nature of the expedition, and as stated in our Terms and Conditions, Quasar cannot be responsible for any damage to a customer’s luggage. At certain points during the expedition there are third parties who handle your baggage and, at other times, you will be required to handle your own luggage. Furthermore, we highly recommend that you bring rolling duffle bags and any valuables or fragile equipment are taken with you personally at all times.
How do I get to the Galapagos Islands?
You will need to fly in to Ecuador, either to the coastal port of Guayaquil or to Ecuador’s capital in the highlands, Quito. From there, you will take a domestic flight to the Galapagos Islands, which lasts 1 hour and 45 minutes from Guayaquil (add 35 minute flight from Quito to Guayaquil). Domestic flights are best handled by Quasar Expeditions. You will receive your flight itinerary when you book your trip. Please refer to our How to Get There Page
Customs for Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands
You will have to clear customs upon arrival to Ecuador. All of your personal baggage will be scanned for items such as fresh fruit and or other fresh plant and animal foods. The Galapagos Islands does not have customs since there are no international airports. In the airport your personal luggage will receive a short inspection for things like fruits or seeds that might be introduced to the islands.
Airport Greeting upon arrival to the Galapagos Islands
After you disembark your flight, you will proceed to immigration control and entrance to the Galapagos National Park. After immigration control, your personal hand bags and carry-ons will be inspected for fresh plant and animal foods. Finally, you will go to baggage claim to retrieve your baggage. Once you clear these proceedings and exit baggage claim, your cruise naturalist guide will be waiting. He will identify himself to you by holding a sign with your yacht’s name. Your guide along with other Quasar Expeditions’ staff will take care of your baggage and will safely take it onboard to your cabin. Your guide will inform and coordinate the boarding process to your yacht.
Is English spoken onboard?
While Spanish is the official language of Ecuador, the official language of our expeditions is English. The voyage will take travelers to remote destinations where the interaction with our guides is essential. In the interest of safety and for the enjoyment of the experience we strongly recommend that travelers who do not understand English are accompanied by someone who does, such as a friend, family member or a Tour Leader.
Are alcoholic beverages offered onboard?
While on board the yacht you will have the opportunity to purchase wine, beer and spirits, including mixed drinks, from the bar. Guests are not permitted to bring alcoholic beverages on board. Alcoholic beverages must be presented upon boarding and will be secured by the yacht’s crew up until the conclusion of the cruise. No Guest under the age of 18 may possess or consume alcohol. You may purchase an Open Bar package which includes local beer, red & white house wine, spirits & cocktails. For complete details and rates, please see our Onboard Wine & Spirits Menu.
What is available onboard and how can I pay for stuff?
We have a small boutique that offers t-shirts, polo shirts, jackets, hats, scarves, etc with your yacht’s theme on them. You can also purchase suntan lotion, insect repellent and things of that nature. You can settle your bill at the end of the cruise by paying with any major credit card or cash in US Dollars.
How challenging are the walks, hikes? Is the terrain difficult?
The terrain is different on each island. Most islands though, have rough, rocky terrain. You will have to walk on rocks and gravel and go over large rocks and boulders. Lava trails can be slippery when wet and are very harsh. If you feel you need special assistance for difficult walks, one of our staff members will be glad to assist you during the walk. We offer walking sticks should you require them. We always offer you the possibility to do a longer or shorter walk depending on the difficulty of the terrain.
What activities are included in the cruise?
On a daily basis you perform the following activities: Nature hikes, snorkeling, swimming, dinghy (panga) rides, lectures/presentations by naturalists. You will have the opportunity to do sea kayaking on a couple of occasions.
How rough are the seas when the yacht is cruising? Will I get seasick?
It is hard to predict the weather and how rough the seas will be. Generally speaking, the central (Santiago and Santa Cruz ) and southern (San Cristobal, Floreana and Española) islands have calmer seas than the northern (Genovesa) and western (Isabela and Fernandina) islands. Nonetheless, the yachts will rock when traveling. If you generally get sick in a car or plane, you will get seasick in a yacht. Please consult your doctor about taking seasickness medicine.
What is the difference between a wet and dry landing?
Getting from your yacht to the islands is done by dinghy or panga. There are some spots where the Galapagos National Park has built small docks that allow for a dry landing on the island. There are some places, like the beaches, where you will have to disembark the dinghy directly onto the water. These are called wet landings. We suggest you bring waterproof sandals or shoes for the wet landings. You can wear normal hiking boots/shoes or sneakers.
Special Excursions on the Galapagos after your cruise
Special excursions may be organized after your cruise. These include hikes to volcanoes on Isabella, diving around dives sites close to inhabited islands, kayaking, horseback riding and snorkeling. Please inquire with us about special excursions after your cruise.
Extensions to your Galapagos Trip
We offer a series of extensions to complement your Galapagos Trip. You can extend your stay in Ecuador to visit Andean markets, colonial haciendas, local indigenous cultures, or the Amazon rainforest. We also offer trips to Machu Picchu and the Inca Culture in Peru and the Patagonia of Chile and Argentina. Please refer to our Trip Extensions Page.