What are the Rules Governing Travel the Galapagos Islands? The Galapagos Islands are the most safeguarded place in the Ecuador National Parks program.
The Galapagos National Park works with the Charles Darwin Foundation to regulate travel and activities in the archipelago-the tip of the iceberg when it comes to conservation efforts in the islands.
Regulations start at the airport-bags are screened for invasive species, and a travel card is purchased that necessary to enter the islands.
When you reach the islands your bags are screened two more times-in important measure that has helped eradicate the spread of plants that take over the native species of the Galapagos Islands.
The Galapagos National Park’s list of personal rules for travelers can be found here. The list includes regulations for respecting the wildlife and terrain and includes the permitted methods of exploring the islands. All travel in the islands is dependent on these measures; as does the well-being of the island’s amazing flora and fauna.
There are a handful of procedures in place that go beyond having a valid passport and health insurance when traveling to the Galapagos Islands.
• As of 2018, travelers are asked to have reservations in place for land-based hotels or cruise ships before leaving for the islands.
• As mentioned, your bags go through screening before you leave for the Galapagos. You also are required to purchase an INGALA Transit Control Card that you will keep for the duration of your trip and turn in when you leave the islands.
• After clearing immigration and two more checks for invasive species, you must pay the entrance fee of $100 for the national park in cash.
Conservation when Traveling
Preserving the Galapagos Islands is of great importance as each year, the number of visitors to the islands rises. Water is a scarce commodity, food is shipped in daily from the mainland, and conservation is at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
All visitors are asked to realize that travel in the islands is different than in other international destinations. People are asked to limit the time of showers, use refillable water containers, and take great care when traversing the trails and beaches of each of the sites visited.
The Galapagos National Park limits each cruise ship from visiting any visitor’s site in the Galapagos more than once in a fifteen day period. To accommodate these rules-tour operators divide the time into a variety of cruise routes.
Some offer two different seven-day itineraries, others divide their journeys into three five day trips. Two four night schedules and a six-day trip are other options, as are two four-night excursions and two three-night journeys.
For more information about the routes that these trips follow and the different choices that you have for traveling by cruise ship in the Galapagos, contact a member of our team.
What to Bring
When traveling in the Galapagos Islands you will be exploring on land and by sea. The archipelago is in the tropics, the sun can get hot and rains can roll in at a moment’s notice. Packing for this kind of adventure means bringing light-weight, versatile clothing and gear that keeps you comfortable while exploring. Here are a few things to put on the list to get you started.
• Hiking or sturdy walking shoes
• Rain jacket
• Fun sun hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses
• Quick-drying travel pants or shorts
• Day Pack
On or under the Water
• Water shoes or sandals
• Snorkel mask
• Rash Guard
• Swim Suit
• Motion Sickness Pills
For more information about packing for the Galapagos, see this blog post.
Health, Money, and Precautions
There are adequate basic medical facilities on Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, and Isabela Islands. Bear in mind that these are often staffed by first-year doctors-being assigned to the public hospitals in the Galapagos isn’t a glamorous position for most-and the quality of care reflects this. Many boats have their own physicians, and there are a handful of private doctors working from the above-mentioned islands.
The same applies to find prescriptions drugs when in the Galapagos. There are basic pharmacies with Latin American brands of pharmaceuticals. It is a good idea to bring extra medication from home to avoid complications with alternative brands.
Money can be an issue in the Galapagos Islands as there are only a few banks and a limited number of ATM machines. Make sure to contact your bank and let them know that you are traveling in the Galapagos and Ecuador. Having a backup card always helps in case of automated blocks on your card.
There are banks and ATM machines on Santa Cruz Island and San Cristobal Island. If you travel to Isabela, take enough cash for the entire trip as there are no ATM machines on the island.
For the most part, safety in the Galapagos is a matter of watching your steps when hiking on rugged and sometimes slippery terrain and avoiding sunstroke and motion sickness.
Many cruise ship cabins don’t have locks-leaving expensive jewelry and unneeded valuables at home isn’t really a precaution but a good idea. Most of the time in the islands is spent exploring and not at gala dinners.
While for the most part robbery isn’t an issue, it’s wise to watch your belongings when out in busy parts of the major towns and to avoid walking alone on beaches during the night time.