I could visit the Galapagos Islands again and again…and again. The unique wildlife and scenery are amazing. Every day I found something incredible that I’d never seen anywhere else. The islands are such a universal bucket list trip that they need little introduction.
Don’t let the high cost of cruises to the island scare you off. Visiting the Galapagos can be affordable without them. Even on a budget, I was able to see the Islands and absolutely fall in love.
Heading: Getting to the Galapagos Affordably
Bundling your trips can help make the most of your money. Ecuador is not only the gateway to the Galapagos Islands, but also a fantastic destination in its own way. There is so much to do and love there. It’s definitely my favorite destination on mainland South America.
All flights to the Galapagos depart from Guyaquil, but Quito flights (that layover in Guyaquil) are usually just as affordable. You can also get a great deal on these if you buy your tickets a few days beforehand. This lets you snag a steep discount on the leftover tickets that airlines need to offload.
Honestly, even then, flights aren’t cheap. Getting onto the island from Ecuador is going to run you at least $350. It’s still very worth it. The cheap cost of travel on the island itself lets you have that flexibility on flight price without blowing your budget.
Travelling from the Baltra Airport to Puerto Ayora
After leaving Ecuador, you’ll arrive in either of the two airports on the island: Baltra or San Cristobal. Since mine arrived in Baltra, I’m going to stick to what I know.
The only thing on the island of Baltra is the airport, and Baltra is one of the most developed. Puerto Ayora, the capital of the Galapagos Islands, has the most options for things to do and places to stay. It’s your best bet whether you’re on a cruise or keeping costs low.
Make sure you have $100 on you when fly in. You’ll need it on hand to pay the entry fee to the National Park. From there you’ll head to the mini-busses (or cabs, if you’re feeling fancy) that take you to the ferry terminal. A mini-bus will run you just $1. The 10-minute ferry ride is also a buck.
Getting from the ferry port to your hotel can also be done by bus for cheap. Ten dollars will get you on a big bus that runs every hour or so. Both of the companies that run on the island make the last leg really simple. If you’re in a rush, taxis are available for a bit more.
Picking the Right Place to Stay in Puerto Ayora
One of my favorite things about travelling is experiencing the local culture and people. Staying at Galapagos Best Hostel was a great choice for this. It was right in town where there was great nightlife, tons of tasty cuisine, and plenty of options for things to do. The super friendly Canadian owners of the hotel even gave you an area tour on arrival!
Launching off from Puerto Ayora
It’s common for travelers to end up on the Galapagos without much of a plan. I’d even recommend it! Arranging a short 1-2 day cruise is actually cheaper when you buy it last minute from a local agency. Book in Puerto Ayora for the best deals.
My excursion cost just over $90 and included a guided tour, lunch, and snorkelling. You can choose your own adventure though, as there are so many things to do on the islands. Tours usually run $80-$150, depending on what you choose. The smaller your tour, the more likely it is to get out and see the less frequented, tinier islands.
I chose to go to Isla Plazas, one of those tinier islands, and had the chance to explore with less than a dozen other people. It was amazing. The wildlife and scenery made it feel like I was on Mars. Blue-Footed Boobies are not as easy to spot as you’d think in between the red rocks!
Setting your Budget for the Trip
Based on my trip, I’d anticipate spending about $800 (including the flight). Even though food is 70% cheaper there than in Europe, it’s going to be your biggest expense. Skipping the cruise is your best bet for traveling affordably.