Getting to the Galápagos
Flights to the Galápagos are usually bought separately, although agents can arrange them for you. TAME (Quito tel. 2/397-7100, Guayaquil tel. 4/231-0305), Aerogal (Quito tel. 2/294-2800, Guayaquil tel. 4/231-0346), and LAN (tel. 800/101-075, www.lan.com) all offer round-trip flights to San Cristóbal and Baltra.
Prices for foreigners are usually about $350 round-trip from Guayaquil and $400 round-trip from Quito, although there are occasionally promotional fares. Censo holders (foreigners with residency status) pay less: about $260–300 round-trip, and for local Galápagos residents it’s less than $150 round-trip. Check-in is at least 90 minutes before departure.
The flight takes about three hours from Quito, and you’re allowed to bring one main piece of luggage up to 20 kilograms. All flights originate in Quito and stop in Guayaquil for at least one hour, where passengers usually disembark while the plane is refueled.
Tour operators should reconfirm your flights for you both ways, but if you booked independently, you should do this yourself. Independent travelers must also make sure they fly to the correct island at the correct time to begin the tour; do this before booking the tour.
The National Park entrance fee is $100 pp for foreigners, and a measly $6 for Ecuadorians. It’s payable in cash only on arrival in the Galápagos airport. The new migratory control card costs $10 for both Ecuadorians and visitors. Be sure to keep both the receipt for the park fee and the control card—if you lose them, you may be required to pay again.
If you’re arriving in the Galápagos on an organized tour, you don’t need to worry about transfers because you’ll be met at the airport by guides who will direct you to the transfers to your hotel or yacht. For independent travelers, it depends which island you arrive on. San Cristóbal is very easy because the airport is very close to the main port, Baquerizo Moreno. You can walk, but most people take a taxi ($2).
For Santa Cruz, it’s more complicated: Flights arrive on the tiny island of Baltra, just north of Santa Cruz. Reaching the main port of Puerto Ayora is a three-stage process. First, take a free 10-minute bus ride to the south, followed by a 10-minute ferry crossing ($0.50), and then you can either wait for a bus ($2.50) or take a taxi directly to the port (45 minutes, $15). The entire journey from the airport takes over an hour, although you’ll likely be too excited to complain.
To return to the airport from Puerto Ayora, take a taxi to the bus terminal north of town, but note that the last bus usually leaves at 9:30 a.m., after which a taxi or private transfer is the only option.
© Ben Westwood and Avalon Travel from Moon Ecuador & the Galápagos Islands, 5th Edition