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Galapagos Travel Information, Tips and More

Passport and Visa:

Most travelers who want to visit the Galapagos can do so without applying for a visa if your trip will not exceed three months. However, is it essential that all travellers arrive with a passport that is valid for at least six months from the time you enter the Galapagos.


Currency:

The US dollar is the currency of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands and they request that you take clean dollars bills with you, particularly a stack of one dollar bills, which come in handy for tips, taxis and other small expenses. We suggest that you take either cash or travellers cheques with you for payments in Ecuador as there is a universal 10% service charge on any credit card  payments.

 

Galapagos Fees:

* Galapagos National Park - $100 Entrance Fee

* Migratory Control Card - $20

* Isabela Dock Fee - $10.00

* Extra luggage pound will have a surcharge of $2 each (if flying within the Galapagos) so check your baggage restriction

* Tips - recommended $100 (Covers drivers, guides, hosts, hotel staff) for one week

 

Water:

Do not drink the water or brush your teeth with tap water - bottled water only!

 

Time:  

Mainland Ecuador is 5 hours behind GMT and the Galapagos are 6 hours behind.

 

Electric Plugs

On the Galápagos Islands the standard voltage is 120 V and the frequency is 60 Hz. You can use your electric appliances on the Galápagos Islands, because the standard voltage (120 V) is the same as in the United States of America.


Weather

The time period between December and May is considered the "warm season." During this warmer season, the Galapagos' climate is more tropical with daily rain and cloudier skies. Also, the ocean temperature is warmer for swimming and snorkeling. Temperatures range from the low 80s to the low 90s

During this season the tourists may observe a large number of species around the islands such as marine iguanas, sea turtle, land iguanas, flamingos, white-cheeked pintails, masked boobies, marine iguanas, albatross, and blue-footed boobies.

From June to December the southern trade winds bring the colder Humboldt Current north to the Galapagos. This means that the water is cooler, and a layer of high atmosphere mist pervades the island skies.

In effect, the highlands of the larger islands are kept green and lush while the sea level islands and shorelines have little precipitation. Thus, June to December is generally called the "dry season" which is known for its blue skies and mid-day showers.

During this season the tourists may observe a large number of species around the islands and in the sea such as giant tortoises, humpback whales, blue-footed boobies, cormorants, oyster catchers, lava lizards, Galapagos hawks, masked boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, sea lions, lava herons, brown noddies, and penguins.

From June to September temperatures vary from the low 60s to high 70s. This is the garua season (misty in the morning). From October to December temperatures range from 70 degrees to 80 degrees F.

 

What to Pack for Your Galapagos Vacation

Taking a vacation to the Galapagos is not like taking a trip to see the sights in Europe or elsewhere. You should try to pack as lightly as you possibly can, bringing only the items and clothing that are essential. In doing so, you will be much freer to enjoy your time exploring the beauty that awaits you.

 

For the daytime in the Galapagos, you will most likely want to be in shorts and a loose comfortable t-shirt or tank top. A wide-brimmed or long-billed hat and a pair of sunglasses are essentials for protecting face, eyes, ears and neck from the bright and scorching equatorial sun.

 

Besides the bare essentials, you’ll also want to bring some gear to make the memories from your trip last. Make sure to bring your camera, video camera and additional memory cards to capture everything you see. Also, bring a camera that you can use underwater to catch the stunning array of sea life while snorkeling. Some plastic totes are sturdy for protecting your phone for underwater photography & filming. A small pair of binoculars will be helpful for seeing birds and wildlife that are further away. It’s also a good idea to bring a small pack to use during the day to carry your water bottle, sunscreen and binoculars. It’s important to stock plenty of sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, as the sun’s rays are stronger in the Galapagos Islands. Bring your sunglasses, but also bring a strap to keep them on during windy conditions.

 

A lot of you island exploration will be done on foot. This means it’s important for you to bring either light hiking shoes or walking shoes (“trainers” or “sneakers” are ideal). They should preferably be comfortable shoes that you have had for a while, as you don’t want to endure the discomfort of breaking in new shoes while hiking the islands. Pairing your shoes with thick socks can help prevent blistering. Water shoes or sports sandals that have good grips are useful but not necessary for wet landings when you’ll need to step out into the water to get to shore.


Internet

The most inhabited Islands do have access to the Internet such as Baltra, Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isabela. These are the main islands with the fastest internet service. You won’t have a problem connecting online or making an international call. There are many cyber cafes and internet centers where tourists can use public computers. There are also local operators that can connect you using Skype for around $2 (USD) an hour. In Santa Cruz, on Main Street and Charles Darwin Avenue, you will find several shops that provide souvenirs, as well as restaurants, hotels and shops that offer free WiFi connection to their customers.


Shopping
Though shopping is perhaps not the first activity that comes to mind when visiting the Galapagos, you’ll find several souvenir stores where you can pick up some interesting mementos of these wonderful islands. T-shirts, many with ethnic-style drawings or paintings of Galapagos birds, turtles and other animals, are the most popular items on sale. Books, posters, postcards, straw hats, hammocks and weavings are also available. Objects depicting the myriad wildlife of the islands – particularly wooden birds – are prevalent. Quality of souvenirs does vary, and items range from the ordinary and relatively cheap to high-quality crafts and jewelry. You can also find a number of items made by local Galapagos artists. There are several pharmacies selling medicines and basic toiletries, including sun-block.

The town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island offers the best shopping in the Galapagos. You’ll find plenty of souvenir shops on and close to Avenida Charles Darwin, including some excellent jewelry stores. There’s a pleasant craft market at Avenida Charles Darwin and Tomás de Berlanga. The town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island also has several souvenir stores, and you’ll find a few in Puerto Villamil (Isabela Island).

Remember that nothing comes cheap in the Galapagos Islands though, and that also applies to souvenirs. You may need to pick up some sunblock or shorts while you’re here, but in terms of price and variety it’s generally advisable to buy souvenirs on the mainland, and since all flights to the Galapagos Islands go through either Guayaquil or Quito you can easily do your shopping there. In particular, the towns of Otavalo, Ambato, Saquisili, Riobamba, Latacunga and Cuenca – all located in the highlands of Ecuador – have excellent markets. However, owning a piece of art or a craft made by a local Galapagos artist really is a unique opportunity, so it’s worth at least having a look.

 

Local Foods

In the Galapagos, fresh seafood is always available, but food  can be imported from the mainland. The isolation from the mainland that allowed such unique species as the blue-footed booby to evolve also means that a great deal of the food consumed by both visitors and island inhabitants has to be brought in. As the islands’ plant species are mostly confined to cacti, orchids, mangroves and grasses, very little of the native vegetation makes its way to people’s tables.

A typical Ecuadorian cuisine, usually lunch and dinner will begin with a traditional Ecuadorian soup, all of which are highly nutritious. The main course will consist of a meat dish, with rice and raw vegetables. Corn is also a main crop in Ecuador, and comes to your plate in many different forms. Choclo is the most well-known variety of cultivated corn. You'll want to top your meal with ají, the Ecuadorian hot sauce, at some point during your trip, if not during every meal, if you like spicy food.

 

Wildlife

The sheer number and variety of wildlife both on land and in the water of the Galápagos is quite remarkable. Because of the islands’ isolation and remoteness, many of these species are found only in the Galápagos and have not changed much since prehistoric times. The Galápagos’ famous marine iguanas, albatross and giant tortoises continue to amaze scientists and delight tourists. Many unique species occur in great concentrations. Anywhere you look in the Galapagos Islands, there's amazing animals to be seen. Here's the lowdown on what to look for in the air, land, and sea.

 

Galápagos Finches
There are 13 species of finches spread across the Galápagos Islands. Darwin theorized that they were all descended from a single mainland ancestor, and had adapted over time to the unique environments of their island homes.  

Giant Tortoises
There used to be many species of giant tortoise in the Galápagos, but exploitation for food (pirates kept live turtles in their ships in order to have fresh meat during the journey), resources (turtle oil was once used to light lamps in Quito), and invasive species have made three species extinct, with a fourth close behind. Early Spanish visitors called these animals galapago, and the entire archipelago eventually took the name.

Lava Lizards
There are seven species of Lava Lizards in the Galápagos, and they’re found on all but three of the islands in the archipelago. They’re the most common reptile in the Galápagos, and you will surely see the males doing “pushups” to warn off rivals.

Red-footed Boobies
Spaniards who sailed through the Galápagos hundreds of years ago dubbed these birds bobos, meaning stupid, because their behavior can seem ridiculous. Bobos became boobies somewhere along the line. Red-footed Boobies are seen less often than the other types of boobies in the Galápagos because they feed and nest far out at sea.

Blue-footed Boobies
These birds nest on the ground in shallow depressions that they meticulously clean and keep ringed with white guano, or excrement. During a trip to the Galápagos, watch out for male blue-footed boobies performing an elaborate mating dance that includes lifting and showing off his blue feet, and “sky pointing,” during which he partially opens his wings and points his beak skyward.

Nazca Boobies
Sometimes called Masked Boobies because of the coloration around their eyes, this bird lays two eggs at a time. The weaker hatchling is swiftly killed by its stronger sibling, leaving just one surviving chick each year.

Galápagos Sea Lions
These are the largest animals in the Galápagos, with males pushing 600 pounds (that’s even heavier than the Giant Tortoises that max out around 500 pounds). Galápagos Sea Lions live on each of the islands, in the archipelago and are commonly seen sunning on beaches, while snorkeling or swimming, and even in towns.

Galápagos Penguins
These are one of the smallest penguins in the world, and the only penguin species that lives near the equator. In certain areas of the Galápagos, it’s not uncommon to see them darting through the water in pursuit of fish while you’re snorkeling or swimming.

Marine Iguanas
This is the only iguana in the world that swims in the ocean and, as a result, it’s developed an impressive ability to hold its breath underwater for up to 30 minutes while grazing on algae and seaweed. Marine iguanas also have an elaborate system for purging salt from their bodies.

Land Iguanas
Large, yellow land iguanas are found on six of the Galápagos Islands where they’ve developed special techniques that allow them to digest all parts of the prickly-pear cactus — including the spines. Less common is the Santa Fe Iguana, which only lives on Santa Fe Island. A third species of pink iguana is found only in the northern part of Isabela Island.

Waved Albatross
This enormous bird, sometimes called the Galápagos Albatross, has a wingspan of up to eight feet and spends most of its life in flight over the ocean. Hundreds of mating pairs, however, return to Española Island in the Galápagos Archipelago every year to nest and hatch their young.

Flightless Cormorants
To survive in the Galápagos, this species of cormorant didn't need to fly — but it did need to swim. Over hundreds of years of evolution, their wings shrunk, making them flightless but amazingly streamlined, fast, and agile in the water.

Otherwise get ready for the adventure to begin, for great memories and amazing new single travel friends!

Don’t Leave Home without your Passport!

 

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