HOW TO FLY TO THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
Due to the strict regulations for entering the Galapagos islands the only direct flights from the Galapagos are from Ecuador mainland, there are no international flights directly to the islands.
This way the Ecuadorian Government can complete the necessary checks to allow you to fly. You may fly from Europe or America, but you will need to stop on mainland Ecuador to complete checks.
You also need to fly back to the mainland before flying home or to another country, again so they can do their checks and check that you haven’t stolen one of the many giant tortoises on offer.
Depending on your length of stay on the islands, we recommend flying into one of the islands airports and flying out of a different one.
Doing this will help you avoid an extra ferry crossing if you’re not taking a cruise and believe me you will want to do as few ferry crossings as possible.
Read our guide here on the best times to visit the islands.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO FLY TO THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS?
There are two mainland airports in Ecuador that have flights to the Galapagos islands:
Flights from Guayaquil to Galapagos
Guayaquil has daily flights to the islands all of which are direct.
Some flights are direct from Quito but most will have a layover in Guayaquil. Flight costs from Guayaquil to either island range £200-£350* ($260-$460) with the average price around £270 ($350).
The average journey time takes around 1.5 hours.
José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport in Guayaquil (GYE) receives flights from:
- U.S. cities of Miami and New York,
- European cities of Amsterdam and Madrid,
- Major cities of Central and South America.
Flights from Quito To Galapagos
Flights from Quito are approximately £50-100 ($65-130) more, take around 2.5 hours and most will have a stop in Guayaquil for 50 minutes.
The Mariscal Sucre International Airport of Quito (UIO) receives flights from:
- The U.S. via Atlanta, Houston, Miami, and New York
- Europe via Madrid and Amsterdam
- Many major cities in Central and South America.
WHICH GALAPAGOS AIRPORT SHOULD YOU FLY TO?
Visiting the Galapagos islands and knowing where to fly into can be a bit confusing as there are so many different islands.
There are three main Galapagos islands that you are likely to want to visit on your trip: Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isabella.
Of these, two of the islands have airports you can fly to from the mainland: San Cristobal (SCY) or Baltra Island (GPE) which is where you will fly to reach Santa Cruz.
You can’t fly to Isabella directly from the mainland but there are internal flights once you are on the islands, however, most people take the ferry crossing.
Flying into Santa Cruz Airport
Once you land on Baltra Island you will take a bus to the Itabaca channel (5 minutes) and from there take a ferry to Santa Cruz Island (10 minutes).
After this you need to take a taxi ($15) or bus ($1.80) into Puerto Ayora town. This will be a personal preference on how you like to travel and budget.
The bus is obviously more crowded and will drop you at a station, compared to the obvious benefits of a taxi but of course these come at a price.
Flying into San Cristobal Airport
The airport is right next to the main town of Puerto Baquerizo and only a 5 minute taxi ride away. If you are looking to fly in and out of the same island we would recommend flying to San Cristobal.
However, if flying into one island and out of another you will need to make both journeys above.
PREPARING FOR THE FLIGHT: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
You should arrive at least 3 hours before your flight departs to the Galapagos.
You’re required to complete additional forms and checks before the normal fun and games of boarding begin so make sure you plan accordingly.
STEP 1 – Before Check-in
Before checking in you need to complete a pre-check of your travel documents, complete the entry form/declaration, and pay for your transit card.
Before travelling to the Galapagos islands make sure you have a return ticket booked to the mainland. The immigration office will check this before you’re able to proceed.
You will need to pay $20 to the INGALA (Galapagos immigration office) for a Transit Control Card (TCC).
This is a small fee that authorises you to visit the Galapagos Islands, and ensures that you return at the end of your trip. You have to hand the card back in when you return from the islands so make sure to keep it.
You must do this step before anything else.
Don’t make the same mistake we did and start queuing up for check in only to realise there is a different massive queue we should have been in first.
This process was excruciatingly slow for us as there were only three people working and the process of completing forms and checking travel documents was taking a long time.
We only left about an hour and 45 minutes before our flight to do this and arrived at the gate about 5 minutes before it closed.
There were a lot of other stressed out travellers jumping the queues, running off to the cash point or going to buy a return flight as they hadn’t fully prepared making the process even slower. 3 hours before people – trust us.
Avoid delays by ensuring the following:
- You have a return flight and your flight documents are to hand
- Bring cash to pay for the transit card as well as the environmental fee ($100) – minimum $120 cash but take more as withdrawing cash on the island is expensive. (BCP bank does not have a fee when withdrawing with Monzo)
STEP 2 – Environmental controls
After the office check your documents and you pay, they will scan your bag to satisfy the environmental controls of the Galapagos Islands.
You can’t bring any food (including snacks) or organic matter, including wooden carvings to the islands.
You will be made to remove these before travelling. If you do need to bring these things or can’t leave them anywhere make sure you declare them before you travel to avoid any fines or being stopped from travelling.
Clean your shoes (especially hiking boots if you have them) as they may well be checked before you leave and if they’re dirty with mud it will raise concerns for environmental control.
This is not helpful especially if planning on doing some walks on the islands which is a big attraction.
After the scan, a tag will be placed on your bag to show that It’s been checked, and you shouldn’t put anything more into your bag after that.
STEP 3 – Standard Check-in
Once you’ve completed the pre-flight checks you are free to complete the normal check in and security procedures.
The airline will check all your documents and will make sure you have paid the fees and scanned your bags.
Finally make sure you keep all the documents safe for your arrival as these are checked again once you land.
UPON ARRIVAL: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
The admin isn’t over yet guys. All tourists visiting the Galapagos Islands must pay an entry tax to visit the archipelago.
When you arrive, you will join another queue for checking your travel documents and to the pay the $100* environmental fee.
It feels steep but as this goes to good causes such as contributing to the sustainability and protection of the islands you feel less aggrieved.
There were card machines available in the airport on the mainland, but none once you land so make sure you withdraw enough before you leave.
In the towns of Santa Cruz and San Cristobal there are ATMS, but we recommend using cash for your entire trip on the Galapagos as withdrawing money incurs fees.
The fee contribution is broken down as follows:
- 10% – INGALA (Galapagos Immigration)
- 5% – Ecuadorian Navy
- 10% – Consejo Provincial de Galapagos
- 25% – Galapagos Municipalities
- 5% – Galapagos Marine Reserve
- 5% – Inspection and Quarantine Services
- 40% – Galapagos National Park
The experience may feel onerous compared to other flights, but you won’t think twice about it when you leave following your amazing experience on the islands. You are now free to start exploring!
TRAVELLING BETWEEN THE ISLANDS
There are two main ways to travel between each island: flying or taking the ferry.
We found an option for four flights for $165 when booked as a package. We expect individual flights to be more expensive.
Either way flying is more expensive than taking a boat. Instead, we took ferries in between each of the islands.
Similar checks occur when travelling between the main islands. Your bags will be checked for organic material such as food, plants etc and your shoes will also be checked.
These checks weren’t that rigorous, just a slightly bored looking official opening the top of my bag and giving it a quick once over without any digging around. Once the officials are happy a tag will be placed on your bag as before.
Each ferry costs $30 and is between 1-2 hours long depending on which journey you are taking. Word of warning here, the word ‘ferry’ isn’t exactly an accurate description. The ferries between each island are more like speedboats, taking around 30 people each.
The journey can be very bumpy if the sea is rough so if you are prone to sea-sickness we would suggest looking into flying.