Let’s face it, nobody likes packing before a vacation. We either forget something important, or can’t squeeze everything we want into a suitcase. To visit the Galapagos islands, packing can be more stressful than usual – you’ve never been before, so how should you know what to pack?
Fear not, Happy Gringo to the rescue. We have prepared a comprehensive Galapagos packing list for all types of traveller. The author has been to Galapagos more than 15 times, and shares all of his top packing tips and recommendations. Never before will you have been so well prepared for a trip.
We’ve even made it into a free printable Galapagos Packing List - for a stress free packing experience.
Keep reading for full details of our Galapagos packing list, including clothes, footwear, travel documentation, camera gear, essential items and optionals.
• Passengers are allowed to take one checked bag up to 50 pounds (23Kg) to Galapagos, plus one carry-on of maximum 22pounds (10Kg) and a small personal item.
• Inter island flights on Emetebe small jets have stricter limits of just a 20 pounds (10.34Kg) checked bag. Excess luggage fees can be paid but are expensive.
• Don’t forget to leave some space in your suitcase for souvenirs!
So, with those practicalities out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. What should be included on your Galapagos packing list?
Suitcase or Backpack – for starters we’re going to need somewhere to put all of your travel gear. Wheeled suitcases are perfectly suitable for guide assisted cruises or tours. Backpacks might be easier for adventure travelers on the move.
Day Pack –a smaller day pack for use on excursions. Preferably light-weight, comfortable to carry, and waterproof.
Long pants – trousers that are suitable for treking. Ideally they should be of lightweight and quick-dry material. Pants with zip-legs that convert to shorts are especially handy in all weather.
Shorts – for every day use when the sun is shining.
T-shirts – quick-dry sports t-shirts are ideal, otherwise cotton is fine too.
Long sleeve light shirt – something light to protect from the sun, or cover you up at night.
Light sweater or fleece – for the occasional chilly evening, especially in the cool and dry season from May/June to December.
Underwear & Socks – no explanation needed I hope .
Waterproof Jacket – protection from Galapagos showers, especially during the warm and wet season from January through to May. It’s especially sensible to take waterproofs along for visits to island highlands where rain clouds tend to roll in quickly.
Swimsuit – suitable for swimming / snorkeling and sun-bathing. It’s worth bringing along a spare too as you’ll be in the water every day.
Sun hat – nothing spoils a vacation more than red sunburn, trust me - I’m an Englishman. The tropical Galapagos sun burns skin quickly, even on cloudy days, so wide-rim hats offer the best protection.
Smart evening wear – this one’s optional, in case you wish to dress up for dinner aboard your cruise or in town.
Shoes – a pair of either hiking or tennis shoes are fine. They should be comfortable for treking, and in sturdy condition to tackle rough terrain. Walking Sandals – for me these are indispensable! Flexible and comfy for both treking and the beach. They also keep air flowing to keep my feet nice and cool.
Flip flops – optional extra for easy use around town or at the beach.
Passport – you need your original passport to travel to Galapagos. It’s also a good idea to carry a copy just in case you lose the original. If you are an Ecuadorian resident then take your cedula ID card instead.
Return flight tickets – either print out your flight reservation, or keep the e-ticket saved on your cellphone.
PCR Covid Test or proof of vaccination – either a negative PCR test result taken within the past 96 hours, or your proof of covid vaccination is a pre-requisite for Galapagos travel since the pandemic. Without one or the other you won’t board the plane.
Safe Conduct Certificate (Salvo Conducto) – another important document for Galapagos travel in times of Covid. Request this certificate from your travel agency, tour operator or hotel in advance. Print a copy out to present at the airport before check-in.
Reservations – it’s a good idea to have a copy of your reservations on hand – sometimes you’ll be asked to show them at the airport.
Insurance documents – take them along with you (if you have insurance which is always recommended). Keep the emergency numbers to hand just in case you ever need to use them.
Cash – on arrival the $100 national park fee is payable in US$ cash, so go prepared. It’s highly recommended to carry plenty more cash with you too – for souvenirs, meals, tours, tipping etc. Not all Galapagos businesses accept credit cards, so cash is king.
Credit cards / ATM cards – both Santa Cruz and San Cristobal islands have ATM machines for cash withdrawals. Don’t be caught out - some ATMs have much lower cash limits than you are used to back home.
Sun glasses – a good pair of sunnies are a must! Aim for proven UV protection from a recognised brand to reduce the glare and protect your eyes.
Sun protection cream – don’t under estimate the strong equatorial sun. I opt for 50+ SPF to protect my skin, and still manage to come home with a nice tan. We recommend a Reef-Safe product that can be used in the water without causing damage to coral reefs, fish or other marine critters.
Toiletries – most cruise ships and hotels do include disposable toiletries. Of course though, it’s always nice to use your regular toiletry products when you travel – your hair and skin will thank you for it.
First aid kit – Most importantly, be sure to remember all of your prescription medicines. Also pack some first aid basics like plasters, ibuprofen, asparin, imodium etc.
Water Bottle (refillable) – help us keep the Galapagos islands plastic-free by using a refillable water bottle throughout your trip. Hotels and yachts have safe drinking water dispensors, so it’s easy to fill up each day and avoid buying plastic water bottles. Happy Gringo have specially designed metallic bottles which we include for passengers on our Galapagos land tours. Not only are the
Camera – the Galapagos islands are a photographers dream. Whether you are a wildlife or landscape photography buff, or like to post your experiences onto social media, your Friends will be wide-eyed with jealousy when they see your snaps. But what is the best camera to take with you? On different occasions I have taken simple point and shoot cameras, a DSLR with multiple lenses, and more recently a Sony RX10 IV bridge camera. In each case I was delighted with my images, but my personal preference today is the bridge camera. This for me offers a flexible combo of image quality, ease of use, and no heavy lenses to carry around.
Camera accesories – camera charger, and plenty of memory cards - you’ll be surprised how many photos you end up taking! Optional extras: a polarising filter to reduce ocean glare, camera cleaning kit and an extra battery. If you have a DSLR camera then both a prime portrait lens and telephoto are your most important choices. A tripod can be useful but I find them rather cumbersome, especially when traveling in a group.
GoPro Underwater Camera – a highly recommended extra for snorkelers and divers! The under water action at Galapagos is truly world class, so don’t miss out!
Travel adaptor – Ecuador and Galapagos use the same two prong plugs as the US, with a 110 V current.
Cellphone – to capture photo / video action, keep up with your social media, and stay connected with folks back home. Galapagos hotels do have wifi access (albeit rather slow), but you’ll be disconnected aboard most cruise yachts.
Insect repellent – yes, the Galapagos islands are home to some mosquitos and bugs. So it’s a safe bet to carry repellent in your day pack just in case.
Sea sickness medication – there’s a very high chance you’ll be on the sea at some time during your Galapagos vacation. Cruises, day tours and speed boat ferries are standard transportation, so pack some dramomine just in case your sea legs desert you.
Clothes soap – I never travel without it. Being able to wash clothes along the way means I can pack light.
Snacks – don’t worry, tourists are always well-fed during cruises and tours, but a few protein snack bars never go amiss if your stomach starts rumbling. It is permitted to travel to Galapagos with packaged and processed foods, but not fresh fruits or unprocessed foods.
Snorkel gear – Galapagos cruises and tours either include use of snorkel, mask and fins, or rent them out at a reasonable price. The alternative is to make space in your pack for your own personal snorkel equipment.
Treking poles – some Galapagos treks take you over uneven and rocky terrain, so treking poles can aid stability if you are accustomed to using them.
Flashlight torch – if you plan to enter lava tunnels during your itinerary then a flashlight is a good idea.
Dry bag – useful to keep expensive electronic gear safe and dry.
Travel Towel – a small fold-up quick-dry travel towel can save the day after a dip in the sea, although many hotels / cruises will also provide beach towels.
Sarong / Beach blanket – something to sit on at the beach.
Binoculars – often Galapagos wildlife watching is a close-up and personal experience, but sometimes binoculars come in handy for a better view of distant creatures.
After sun / After bite cream – to repair red, burnt skin or stop the itch of inesct bites.
Books – there’ll be plenty of downtime for book-worms to dig into a novel, so a good read or kindle is well worth packing. If you’re really keen then try to pick up a Galapagos themed book on Amazon. A few that we recommend include: “The beak of the finch” (Jonathan Weiner), “My father’s island” (Johanna Angermeyer), “The Galapagos – A natural history” (Henry Nicholls) and “The voyage of the Beagle” (Charles Darwin)
Wildlife guide – to help you identify and learn more about the amazing wildlife that you encounter at Galapagos. There are lots of options available, from thick wildlife books to light plastified easy id guides.
So, we’re covered a long list of everything you should or could include on your Galapagos packing list … but what about things that you cannot bring to Galapagos?
This list is much shorter (sigh of relief). The only items that should not be included on your Galapagos packing list are:
• Agricultural or plant materials
• Unprocessed food
Remember, the Galapagos islands are a pristine natural environment. So, we need to do everything possible to keep it that way, and protect the archipelago for future generations to enjoy.
In conclusion, we hope that you find our Galapagos packing list useful. Preparation is vital for a successful trip so print out a copy of our free PDF and check each item off as you pack. Did we forget to include something important? Write to [email protected] to let us know.