Are The Galápagos Islands Expensive?
Yes, the Galápagos Islands are an expensive place to visit, whether on holiday or as a backpacker. In comparison to mainland Ecuador expect to pay more for food, accommodation, and tours.
- Average cost of a day tour – $100-150
- Average minimum cost of accommodation – $25 per night
- Average cost of a meal – $10-15 (at a standard restaurant)
The added expense of return flights, entrance fees add up to make it an expensive trip.
Can You Visit the Galápagos Islands On A Budget?
Yes, you can easily visit Galápagos island on a budget.
You can avoid booking tours as there are loads of great free activities to do on each of the islands. Each island has a couple of hostels and cheap hotels where you can find rooms from $20-25 a night, and like the rest of South America, you can find cheap restaurants serving ‘menus of the day’ for $5-6.
We’ve detailed all of this and more great tips for visiting the islands on a budget here:
How Much Does A Weeklong Trip To The Galápagos Islands Cost?
A weeklong trip to the Galápagos Islands costs less than $1,000 if you avoid the expensive cruises and tours and follow a DIY itinerary.
Firstly, there are non-avoidable costs, and then you need to factor in a daily budget. Here are the costs:
- $440 of non-avoidable expenses for flights and entrance fees.
- $40-50 a day budget for food, accommodation, and transport.
For perspective, if you wanted to book a cruise, the cheapest liveaboard cruise ship tours start at $2,000 for 5 days and will increase in price for better cabins, vessels, and more days. And this doesn’t include the flights or entry fee costs.
Non-Avoidable Costs When Visiting The Galápagos Islands
Certain costs can’t be avoided if you want to travel to the Galápagos Islands and these will make up a sizeable chunk of your total expense. These are the costs that often put people off, but some go toward the conservation efforts on the islands, which makes it palatable.
- Return flights from Guayaquil – approx. $320* (flying from Guayaquil is cheaper than Quito)
- Transit Control Card – $20
- Eco payment on arrival – $100
- Total – $440
*Our flights cost us $320, you may find cheaper ones. If you remain flexible on dates, there will be better deals.
Daily Backpacking Budget On The Galápagos Islands
Your daily backpacking budget for the Galápagos islands should be $40 maximum per day.
This is just for food and accommodation. Taking advantage of all the free activities on the islands means you can save a lot of money and still stick to a budget.
|Expense||Average Cost (Per Day)|
$18 - 25
$10 - 15
Average Cost Of Accommodation On The Galápagos Islands
There are only one or two hostels or cheap hotels on each island, but this is all you need. The average daily cost for a multi-bed dorm is around $8-10 in Ecuador. It’s more than double that on the Galápagos Islands and will vary depending on the high or the low season.
Budget between $18-25 a day for accommodation. This price will afford you a comfortable room with breakfast.
Here are the cheapest places we found on each island:
Average Cost Of Food On The Galápagos Islands
If you really want to stick to a budget, you need to search for the local restaurants advertising a set menu of the day.
When checking out a restaurant just ask for ‘almuerzo’ (pronounced ‘al-moo-air-zo’), for lunch and ‘cena‘ (pronounced ‘sen-ah’), for dinner. Or you can simply ask for the ‘menu del dia’.
Depending on which restaurant you go to, the price ranges from $5-7 and will include a soup, a main dish (usually meat or fish, rice, and salad) and a drink (juice).
- Average cost of meal at mid-range restaurant – $10-20
- Average cost of meal at a fancy restaurant – $15-25
Most days we stuck to eating at local places to save money, but it gets boring after a while. We treated ourselves on our last day to a nice meal. The seafood on the island is incredible. Make sure you budget in extra for a nice dinner or two while on the islands.
Cheap Eats On Santa Cruz
- Fusion Grill – pumpkin soup followed by choice of Tuna, Grilled Beef or Grilled Shrimp and a drink for $7
Cost Of Transport On The Galápagos Islands
Ferries between the islands cost $20-30 depending on the trip.
If you stick to the shortest itinerary possible (5 days), you will only need to take two – one leaving the first island you land on to your next destination, and then a returning one. You could even fly out of a different island you land on to save on this cost.
Check out our land-based DIY itinerary here:
Taxis are expensive, but you will hardly need them as most things are within walking distance of the main towns.
If you can, fly into San Cristobal as the airport is only a 5-minute drive from the airport. If you fly to Santa Cruz first, then it’s a 45-minute drive by taxi which will cost more (or take the bus to save money).
On each island, taxis will offer ‘tours’ of the islands for a set price.
For example, on San Cristobal, a taxi tour will take you to the far side of the island to see Puerto Chino beach, El Junco Lagoon, and the Giant Tortoise Sanctuary. This costs $60 and can be split between passengers.
This is expensive for basically an extended taxi ride so if you want to save money, rent bikes instead. Riding a bicycle will be a lot more strenuous and will take around an hour, but you will save a lot of money and have more freedom.
We have a list of free activities along with renting bikes here to help you keep costs low on the Galápagos Islands:
Weekly Backpacking Budget For The Galápagos Islands
Here’s what your budget should look like for a week on the Galápagos Islands:
Ferry Transport and Taxis
Daily Budget ($40) x 7
Avoiding tours and doing free activities is the best way to stick to a budget like this. There are so many free activities on the islands that we only booked one day tour.
We reckon factoring in $100-150 for one tour is worth it. There are some incredible one-day tours on each of the islands, so it would be a shame to miss out having come this far.
When it comes to food though, this would be a very frugal trip, and that’s entirely fine if you have strong will power. We couldn’t eat rice and meat dishes twice a day for a whole week. Therefore, we’ve added on another $100 as extras. This will include a nice meal and the odd snack, beer, or ice cream.
So to be on the safe side, round up your total budget to $1,000, and you’ll be comfortable when you’re there. Alternatively, if this is too much money for one week you can see two islands and stay for five days to save more.
5-Day Backpacking Budget For The Galápagos Islands
Five days is the minimum amount of time needed to visit the Galápagos Islands. Any less than that and it’s not worth paying the money for flights and entrance fees.
This budget based on our 5-day itinerary we linked to previously (2 days San Cristobal, 3 Days Santa Cruz).
Ferry Transport and Taxis
Daily Budget ($40) x 7
Again, this budget assumes you book the hostels mentioned above and only eat set menus in restaurants.
You will only need to get two ferries with this itinerary so you save money there, and you can take a little less for extras as you don’t have as many days.
On the 5-day itinerary, there’s no need to book a paid tour as you can fill your days with free activities.
Round it up to $800-850 to be on the safe side and you have a reasonable low-end budget for 5 days on the Galápagos Islands.
Our Actual Spend
Budgets are great for planning but sticking to them is another thing. We kept a good record of what we spent on our trip to the Galápagos islands to include in this article. Here’s our actual spend below so you can see we aren’t making it up.
We spent three days on San Cristobal island and four on Santa Cruz island during the low season (October 2019).
Every cost noted here is for a single person:
San Cristobal Total Spend
Hotel (3 nights - twin room)
Food (4 meals*)
Taxi Driver Highland Tour
Total Spend (3 days)
Cost Per Day
Santa cruz Total Spend
Hostel (4 nights - twin room)
Food (7 meals)
Ferries (x2) and Taxis
Pinzon Island Tour
Total Spend (4 days)
Cost Per Day
*we cooked our own breakfast, ** eggs, coffee and bread, *** water, chocolate and fruit
As mentioned, most days were spent doing free activities, but we paid for a Pinzon Island full-day tour on Santa Cruz costing $100 per person. We thought it was well worth it as we got to swim with baby sharks and turtles and food was included. But as you can see, it increased your daily budget by a fair bit.
So, in total:
Total 7-Day Galápagos Islands Spend
San Cristobal (3 Days)
Santa Cruz (4 Days)
Flights + Entrance Fees
Average Cost Per Day
Even with flights included (which account for half the cost) our total cost for a week came to $908 which we don’t think is too bad – remember this is the Galápagos Islands, one of the most sought-after travel destinations in the world.
We paid for one full day tour and a half-day taxi tour ate at a mid-priced restaurant a couple of times and bought the odd snack here and there. We aren’t great budget travellers, so if we can stick to $900 for a week, then the savvy travellers out there can easily spend around $800 mark.
We hope that our own budget breakdown gives you an idea of what to plan for and show you it’s possible to stick to a reasonable budget on the Galápagos Islands. However, we understand that everyone travels differently. This isn’t an exact breakdown and guide to be followed religiously, it’s more to show you what’s possible with real pricing.
If $900 is too much for you, then simply drop down to 5 days and skip the tours and fancy restaurants and you should be able to see the Galápagos Islands for even less.
If you avoid spending money on tours, eating at fancy restaurants all while choosing the cheapest accommodation and the Galápagos Islands are well within a backpacker budget.
How Much Should I Budget For A Month In Ecuador?
Travelling around Ecuador before or after your trip to the Galápagos Islands?
Mainland Ecuador is significantly cheaper than the Galápagos Islands. With everything included, hostels, food and activities, you should budget for between $30-40 day whilst backpacking through Ecuador.
If you decide to do an entire month, then you can manage it on $900 at the low end, but we would suggest taking $1,200 to be on the safe side.
Check out our full backpacking Ecuador budget:
Check out our backpacking itineraries and routes for Ecuador to help you start planning:
- Ecuador 1 Month Backpacking Itinerary
- Ecuador Three Week Backpacking Itinerary
Or our 1-month South America Itinerary if you want to include some other countries.