frequently asked questions about the 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. Pleasea 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 pickpocketers 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 Expeditions or you can pay yourself at the airport. Please be sure to carry the above amounts in cash. No credit cards are accepted.
What are the rules and regulations of the Galapagos National Park? How strict are they?
Although Quasar Expeditions 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. For more info please refer to our Galapagos National Park page.
*Source: Galapagos National Park Rules & Regulations. More at galapagospark.org
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. Passengers participating in these activities do so under their own responsibility and will be asked to sign a waiver.
Note: Quasar Expeditions 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. We do not offer diving on our cruises but we can help you hire diving services from local operators to complement your Galapagos cruise.
What are Quasar Expedition’s booking and cancellation policies?
Our booking and cancellation policies can be found on our Booking Terms & Conditions page.
What are Quasar Expedition’s pricing and payment schedules?
Our pricing is based for an 8 day/ 7 night cruise on a per guest basis depending on the yacht and cabin you choose. The payment schedule for your booking will depend on how far in advance you book. If you book well in advance of your cruise departure date, you will have to make a deposit to confirm your booking and the balance will be due closer to your departure date. If you book very close to the departure date, you will most likely have to make payment in full to confirm your booking. Be mindful that should you decide to cancel, refund of your payments will be subject to the date of your cancellation based on our cancellation policies. We accept all major credit cards or you can also pay through bank wire transfers. Please refer to our Booking Terms & Conditions page to get exact dates and figures for payment schedules and cancellation terms.
Travel documents Required
According to Ecuadorian Immigration regulations, every foreign passenger entering the Galapagos and Ecuador must have a passport valid for up to 6 months counting from the return date to your country of origin.
Travel and Medical Insurance
All passengers should have full medical insurance and trip-cancellation insurance. Be mindful that the Galapagos is a remote location with very basic medical facilities at hand. Emergency medical evacuation can cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars. Your Insurance company should be able to assist you with the best options for your particular trip. We can also recommend a proper insurance policy for you by clicking here.
Quasar Expeditions’ Emergency phone number
The most important recommendation is: always carry with you Quasar Expedition’s local emergency phone number. In case of an emergency, this should be your priority contact in order to receive immediate assistance. You will be given our emergency phone numbers when you book any trip with us.
Tipping / Gratuities Guidelines
We are often asked what gratuity is appropriate to leave your guide and crew while in the Galapagos. Of course the quality of service should determine the extent of any gratuity. As a recommendation, if the service received has been excellent, the suggested tipping guidelines are:
US $80 - US $100 per passenger, for the week, which can be divided per guide as you see it according to their expertise and service provided. For charters, US $1,400 - US $1,800 for the week (on the M/Y Grace) and US $2,500 - US $3,200 for the week (on the M/V Evolution).Your Crew*:
US $180 - US $200 per passenger, for the week. For charters, US $3,200 - US $3,600 for the week (on the M/Y Grace) and US $5,700 - US $6,400 for the week (on the M/V Evolution). This will be divided evenly between the crew. If you would like to give an additional, separate gratuity to any particular crew please feel free to do so.
Please understand that this is a suggestion only: tipping and gratuities are a very personal matter.
What is not included in the cruise price?
Meals not mentioned in the specific itinerary, alcoholic beverages, tips/gratuities, laundry service, satellite phone calls, spa treatments, international departure taxes and other expenses of a personal nature.
How much money/ cash should I bring to the Galapagos Cruise?
This is up to you. Here are some guidelines per guest if you decide to pay most things with cash: Tips/Gratuities $200, Galapagos National Park Fees: $110, alcoholic beverages in Ecuador are heavily taxed (~$10 per drink on board), there are souvenir stores in the Galapagos and some do not accept credit cards.
Duration of your Galapagos Cruise
All our Galapagos Cruises are 7 nights / 8 days, from Saturday to Saturday. The trip can be extended with hotel stays in Santa Cruz and San Cristobal Islands. Please inquire with us about extending your Galapagos stay.
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.
Good general health is required for your travel to Galapagos. You will take long walks in hot weather if traveling from Dec - June. If you take medication regularly, we advise you to take enough for the length of your trip. Please advise us if you have any medical condition, which may require attention, so we can be prepared should an emergency arise. If you are vegetarian, allergic to any food or under a special diet, please let your travel agent, tour operator or us know in advance, so we can comply with your requirements.
Are any vaccinations/ immunizations required?
No vaccinations/immunizations are necessary to travel to the Galapagos and Ecuador. If you have extended your trip to include a visit to the Amazon, we strongly recommend you get vaccinated for yellow fever. We also recommend that the normal routine vaccines should be up to date: Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR Vaccine), Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (DTP Vaccine) and Polio vaccine.
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.
M/V Evolution has a doctor on board 24/7. M/Y Grace does not have a doctor on board but any emergency requirement can be coordinated with Evolution’s doctor.
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
As a general recommendation, DO NOT drink tap water anywhere in Ecuador. Drink only bottled water. We have desalination plants onboard which generate fresh water but as this water comes from the ocean, we do not recommend you drink it. Instead, we provide fresh, purified water bottles onboard. Also, avoid clams (which are served uncooked) and any uncooked or unpeeled products. Do not eat in any place or restaurant not recommended directly by us. Do not eat at local markets.
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 accomodate you.
Mobile Phone Communication Services
During your Galapagos cruise you will have cellular reception around the perimeter of the port of Puerto Ayora in Santa Cruz Island, in the port of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno in San Cristobal Island and sometimes nearby Floreana and Isabella Islands. Data/3G roaming reception can only be guaranteed when anchored at the port of Puerto Ayora and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Make sure you activate a Data Roaming Plan with your mobile phone provider prior to your trip. Please check your boat's itinerary to see on what day you will visit the port.
Satellite phone service
We offer satellite phone services onboard at a cost of $5 per minute.
Internet and WIFI Access
There is no internet access onboard. You will be able to have internet access while on the port of Puerto Ayora through an internet cafe. Some internet cafes offer WIFI.
Electricity on all yachts and on the mainland is 110W, 60 cycles, AC, (2 flat prongs), which is the same as in the United States. Travelers coming from Europe should bring their own converters as it is not easy to find them in Galapagos.
We will provide you with a Quasar Expeditions’ emergency phone number which you can use in case of any emergency during your trip. You can also share this number with friends and family so that they can reach you in case of emergency.
Gear and Clothing
Sunglasses, hat/baseball cap, rain jacket/poncho, lightweight cotton pants, shorts, a couple of t-shirts, swimming suits, waterproof sandals or tevas, thick sole tennis shoes, regular underwear, cotton socks and a sweatshirt for breezy nights. Suggested by not necessary are neoprene or lycra shirts to keep you warm while swimming and also to avoid getting a sunburn. Tip - if you bring polarized sunglasses, you will be able to see underwater life much clearer.
Dressing up is not required, though most of our guests prefer to dress up for diner. As a guideline dress up not too fancy, rather casual formal: a nice dress or pants and blouse for women and pants and shirt for men.
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 perscription 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 toiletteries, 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 perscribed medicine with you.
Baggage specifications for your Galapagos Trip
We recommend you take a soft sided bag to the Galapagos. You will only need the essentials in clothing and personal items and space is limited on board yachts. A duffel works best as it can be stored into a small drawer or closet. On flights to Galapagos you are allowed a maximum of 20 Kg (44 pounds) of luggage (excluding your hand-bag and carry on).
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 retreive 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?
Our cruise directors and naturalist guides speak fluent English. Most of them are multi-lingual. Please inquire with us to see if we can provide staff in your native language.
Are alcoholic beverages offered onboard?
We have a full bar available to you. Our experienced bar staff will be happy to prepare the drink of your choice. We offer a selection of fine scotch whisky, gin, vodka, and cocktails. Our fine wine selection is mainly from Argentina and Chile. Remember that alchoholic drinks are not included in your cruise rates and must be paid separately. We accept all major credit cards, cash in US Dollars and travelers checks.
What is available onboard and how can I pay for stuff?
We have a small boutique that offers t-shirts, polo shirts, jackets, hats, scarfs 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, cash in US Dollars or travelers checks.
Do I need to dress up for dinner?
Dressing up is not required, though most of our guests prefer to dress up for diner. As a guideline dress up not too fancy, rather casual formal: a nice dress or pants and blouse for women and pants and shirt for men.
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, lectures/presentations by naturalists. You will have the opportunity to do sea kayaking on a couple of occasions. Scuba diving is not offered but we can help you squeeze in a dive or two during the cruise through a third party diving operator.
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 sneak
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 indeginous 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