Thinking of visiting the Galapagos Islands whilst in Ecuador? We’d highly recommend it. These volcanic islands dotted around the equator are known worldwide for their unique flora and fauna, incredible wildlife, beautiful beaches, and abundant surfing opportunities.
The islands also have an impressive history relating to Darwin’s theory of biological evolution. It was after Darwin’s trip in 1835 that he observed species living on the island, later coming up with Darwinism to explain how they’d adapted over time to survive in their surroundings.
Whether you’re keen to learn about the history leading up to this momentous event, experience the geography of the islands, or simply relax on a sandy white beach, the Galapagos Islands are a must!
Are the Galapagos Islands expensive to visit?
This is one of the first questions that travellers in Ecuador usually ask. Many people have a perception of the Galapagos as an unaffordable luxury destination, accessed online by expensive cruise ships.
While it’s true that visiting the Galapagos Islands can be costly, it’s not all bad news. Flights and entrance fees are a little steep but you’ll find plenty of DIY activities and budget-friendly accommodation when you arrive. If you’re a backpacker or long term traveller, you’ll be happy to learn that it is possible to visit the Galapagos Islands on a budget.
You CAN visit the Galapagos Islands on a budget
How much does it cost to visit the Galapagos Islands?
Let’s look at the basic costs so you can get a better idea of how to visit the Galapagos Islands on a budget.
Return flights from Quito to the Galapagos Islands typically cost around $500. If you’re already in Ecuador, it makes your trip much more affordable. If you’re flying from another country and need to factor return flights from your home country to Ecuador, this can be more costly.
Unfortunately for those hoping to visit the Galapagos on a budget, there’s a mandatory entrance fee on arrival of $100 USD in cash. This money goes towards conservation efforts so at least you’re doing your bit for Planet Earth.
Despite what you might expect, accommodation on the Galapagos Islands is quite reasonable in price. Dorm rooms start from $8 and private rooms begin at $15.
If you eat where the locals do, you can bag a meal for as little as $3. If you eat in more touristic restaurants, you can expect to pay up to $20 for a basic dinner and drinks for two.
Which islands to visit for a Galapagos budget
There are four Galapagos islands which travellers can stay on. These are called Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela and Floreana. If you want to save money and avoid expensive Galapagos cruises, your best bet is to stay over on one of these.
Santa Cruz: The beautiful beaches and friendly locals are just two reasons to visit this island. This is one of the largest Galapagos Islands and a good place to stay for those on a budget. Puerto Ayora has accommodations for all budgets (including hostels), restaurants, bars and tour agencies. From here you can take easy day trips to Isla Daphne, a volcanic island rising 120m out of the sea.
San Cristobal: Named after the patron saint of seafarers, St Christopher, this is the island you will likely arrive on from the mainland. San Cristobal is less developed than Santa Cruz but you’ll still find accommodation for all budgets. It’s also the departure destination for most cruises. While these aren’t recommended for budget travel, you might catch a last-minute discount by staying on San Cristobal.
Isabela: This is a great island for exploring on a budget because you can see it by yourself by acquiring a map. The highlights include Concha de Perla, a pool for snorkelling and swimming with sea lions and Las Tintoreras, a lagoon known for seeing sharks.
Floreana: This is another island where it’s possible to stay locally and explore yourself. Here you can snorkel cheaply or go diving, although you’ll need to extend your budget for this. You can also visit Post Office Bay where whalers sent letters to their home countries in the 19th century.
Galapagos tours and activities: what budget travellers should know
Many Galapagos cruises can cost up to $20,000 for a couple of weeks. Many of us budget backpackers would need to save for a lifetime!
Instead, you can find day tours from as little as $40 per day. As well as including transport and local guides, these often also include food and equipment hire.
There are also ways to explore the Galapagos Islands for free. From many of the beaches, you can grab a snorkel mask and hit the ocean. With so much abundant wildlife to be seen, you may glimpse seals and colourful sea life from the shallows.
Should you book in advance to save money?
Quite the opposite! Many people book in advance when visiting the Galapagos Islands using tour agencies to secure spots on cruises and tours. However, the prices online are far higher than those quoted by local tour companies on arrival. If you’re looking to visit the Galapagos Islands on a budget, consider booking your tours after you land. Ask your hotel for advice and compare prices at a few different agencies.
So what about total costs?
Top travel bloggers predict you can visit the Galapagos Islands from $500 for 5 nights including all your expenses. Add flights and you’re looking at around $1000. This includes staying on one of the islands rather than a cruise boat and taking land-based day tours around the local sites. This also includes all your food and drink. For cruises, you’ll need to up your budget!
Avoid these to keep your Galapagos budget down!
More tips for visiting the Galapagos Islands on a budget
- Pick a hostel with a kitchen and prepare your own meals
- Bring a reusable water bottle so you don’t need to buy bottles (this is also better for the planet). You can’t drink the tap water but you can fill up from filtered water stations in hostels and hotels.
- Stay in dorm rooms if you’re travelling solo
- Take this one step further and consider camping while in the Galapagos Islands
- Download offline maps from MapsMe so you don’t need to rely on data when getting around
- Haggle where possible!
Thanks for reading our Galapagos budget guide!