How To Get To The Galapagos Islands

How Much Does A Trip To The Galapagos Cost?

How Much Does A Trip To The Galapagos Cost?
By Jon Jared

A five day cruise of the Galapagos Islands on a mid-range (Tourist Superior) ship might cost between $2,000 - $3,500 per person, if booked direct with the ship operator.

If you’re happy to sacrifice on amenities and space, you can secure a spot on a Tourist / Economy class ship for as little as $1,500 per person. Prices change frequently so make sure to ask about your options when enquiring.

At the other end of the spectrum, a 15-day cruise in the Grace Kelly Suite on the super exclusive M/Y Grace could set you back a cool $19,000 per person.

Note that prices vary according to the season, ship class and trip duration. Some ship operators allow you to book direct via their website, others are retailed via travel agencies. While booking direct is normally cheaper, a travel agent will organise your cruise along with your airfare, mainland accommodation, ground transfers and, most importantly, peace of mind. For many this is a worthwhile investment.

Typically the price includes your accommodation for the duration of the cruise, all meals and snacks, and all guided excursions. Higher classes of ships will include equipment like snorkelling, wetsuits and kayaks, whie economy classes may charge extra (or not have them at all!)

Land-based tours on the Galapagos are priced according to length of stay and the accommodation standard. A six-day island hopping trip visiting Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristobal Islands might cost between $4,000 and $5,000 per person

Why are Galapagos cruises so expensive?

There’s no denying that a Galapagos cruise can be a pricey vacation. When weighing up how much to spend it’s useful to know where some of the costs come from.

Firstly there’s the guides and staff. All cruises must be accompanied by at least one certified guide, this is as much for the protection of the ecosystem as for your own benefit. Your guide is a major component of the overall experience, you’re paying for highly educated, in-depth professional expertise—make sure you get full use of it and ask lots of questions!

Top-end cruise operators also pride themselves on the quality of onboard cuisine, with highly trained chefs and three excellent meals per day. Some cruises can be as much about the food as the wildlife.

Consider too that much of the food, along with the fuel, fresh water (which is very scarce on the islands), and all other supplies, has to be imported 600 miles from the mainland.

Covid-19 advisory

Under current restrictions, visitors to the Galapagos are required to present a Ministry of Tourism safe passage document (Salvoconducto), issued by either a tour operator or pre-booked accommodation. This limits the options for visiting independently, please check current regulations before you book any airfare.

Can you visit the Galapagos without a tour?

Covid restrictions notwithstanding, it is ordinarily possible to visit the Galapagos without a tour.

There are hostels and budget hotels on Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, and Isabela. (In ordinary times you could get a walk-up room without pre-booking, note this is not currently possible due to Covid-19 restrictions.)

There are also reasonably priced, mid-range hotels and guest houses on the inhabited islands which can be booked in advance via the main hotel booking sites.

Public speed boat ferries cost around $30 each way and travel between Santa Cruz and San Cristobal, and Santa Cruz and Isabela. There is no public ferry to Floreana. Speed boats leave in the morning from each island and return in the early evening. Schedules change, your accommodation should have the current schedules.

There are a number of activities you can do independently on the inhabited islands. You can rent snorkelling equipment, bikes and kayaks in the towns of Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, and Isabela. Surfboards and SUP equipment are also available from tour operators on San Cristobal and Isabela Islands. There are short hikes or bike routes along the coast and inland on all three islands.

Note however that you’ll need to be accompanied by a certified guide to visit the uninhabited islands and see the best of the islands’ wildlife.

You can eat relatively cheaply by finding the places that the locals eat. Binford St on Santa Cruz is lined with food kiosks selling local seafood. Playa Mann beach on San Cristobal is close to town and home to a daily food court that offers local fare for less than the tourist restaurants. The main square in the town of Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island has several restaurants that serve set menus.

If your hostel has a kitchen, you can find fruits and vegetables and basic ingredients in markets on the inhabited islands. Seafood is available where the fishing ships come in, and there are a few grocery stores offering basic staples.

Are cheap Galapagos cruises a good idea?

Cheap Galapagos cruises are advertised by many agencies on the mainland. This is a buyer beware situation. While everyone wants to stretch their travel money as far as possible, booking a cheap boat without doing your homework could prove a costly mistake. When costs are low it means corners have been cut somewhere, most often with the quality of the guides, the condition of the boat and the operator’s environmental credentials.

Cruise-based tours operate within the national park and are very tightly regulated. Hotels and land-based development is

Cruises add to the pollution of the Galapagos’ waters (although the good ones are certified with the Smart Voyager scheme), while hotels and land development in general encroaches upon the islands’ natural habitat and contributePay attention to certifications, awards, and ecological credentials and ask about the projects they support. Good tours focus on the natural highlights of the islands and giving back to the archipelago.

How Much Does A Trip To The Galapagos Cost?

Jon Jared

Jon is a travel writer and guidebook researcher based in Quito, Ecuador. He has authored the Moon guides to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands and contributes to Delta Sky Magazine and the Happy Gringo Travel website.

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