Galapagos Packing List
Let’s face it, nobody likes packing before a vacation. It feels like a chore, and we either forget something important or can’t squeeze everything we want into a suitcase. To visit the Galapagos islands, packing can be even more stressful than usual – you’ve never been before, so how should you know what to pack? What you really need is a Galapagos packing list especially prepared by a local expert.
Fear not, Happy Gringo to the rescue. We have prepared a comprehensive Galapagos packing list for all types of traveler. The author has been to Galapagos more than 15 times, and shares all of his top Galapagos 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 - so just print it out and tick each item off for a stress-free Galapagos packing experience.
Keep reading for full details of our recommended Galapagos packing list, including clothes, footwear, travel documentation, camera gear, essential items, and optional extras.
Practicalities About What to Pack for Galapagos?
Before diving into our definitive Galapagos packing list, you'll want to know about a few important practicalities first.
- Passengers are allowed to take one checked bag of up to 50 pounds (23 kg) to the Galapagos Islands. In addition, you can carry on a backpack or bag of maximum 22 pounds (10 kg), and a small personal item.
- Inter-island flights on Emetebe small jets have stricter limits of just 20 pounds (10.34 kg) for your checked bag. Excess luggage fees can be paid but are quite expensive.
- The finer details of your Galapagos packing list will depend on which type of tour you take (Cruise, Land tour, or Dive tour), as well as the Galapagos weather season.
- It’s easy to pick up extra Galapagos packing items in Quito or Guayaquil shopping malls, or at the tourist shops in Puerto Ayora town (Santa Cruz island).
- Don’t forget to leave some space in your suitcase for souvenirs!
The Perfect Galapagos Packing List
So, with those practicalities out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. What should you pack for Galapagos?
Galapagos Packing List - LUGGAGE
Suitcase or Backpack – for starters you'll need somewhere to put all of your travel gear. Wheeled suitcases are fine for guide-assisted cruises or tours. Backpacks are usually better for adventure travelers if you'll be on the move.
Day Pack – a smaller day pack is perfect to use on daily excursions. Preferably look for a pack that's lightweight, comfortable to carry, and waterproof.
Galapagos Packing List - CLOTHING
Long pants – we recommend trousers that are suitable for trekking. Ideally, they should be of lightweight and quick-dry material. Pants with zip-legs that convert to shorts are especially handy and flexible.
Shorts – for everyday 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, and to cover you up at night.
Light sweater or hoodie – 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 – for 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 – no Galapagos packing list would be complete without preparing you for fun in the sea. You'll want swimwear that's suitable for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing. 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 a nasty red sunburn, trust me - I’m an Englishman. The tropical Galapagos sun burns skin quickly, even on cloudy days, so wide-rim hats or a cap offer the best protection.
Smart evening wear – this packing list item is optional, in case you wish to dress up for dinner aboard your cruise or in town.
Galapagos Packing List - FOOTWEAR
Shoes – a pair of hiking or regular sports shoes are fine. They should be comfortable for trekking, and in sturdy condition to tackle rough terrain.
Walking Sandals – for me this Galapagos packing item is indispensable! Flexible and comfy sandals for both trekking and the beach will keep the air flowing to keep your feet nice and cool.
Flip flops – an optional extra for easy use around town or at the beach.
Galapagos Packing List - DOCUMENTATION
Passport – you need to bring along 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.
Covid Entry Requirements –In line with Ecuador's mainland entry regulations, NO COVID DOCUMENTATION is required to travel to the Galapagos Islands at this time. We do, however, recommend that tourists travel with their proof of vaccination, just in case rules change. You can also stay informed with our Ecuador & Galapagos Covid blog post.
Reservations – it’s a good idea to have a copy of your reservations (cruise, tour, or hotel) on hand – sometimes you’ll be asked to show them at the airport.
Insurance documents – take them along with you and keep the emergency numbers to hand just in case you have an emergency. We strongly recommend either medical or full travel insurance so you can travel with peace of mind.
Cash – on arrival the $100 national park fee is payable in US$ cash, so go prepared. It’s 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. But don’t be caught out - some ATMs have lower cash limits than you are used to back home.
Galapagos Packing List - ESSENTIAL PERSONAL ITEMS
Sunglasses – a good pair of sunnies are a must! Aim for proven UV protection from a recognized brand to reduce the sun's glare and protect your eyes.
Sun protection cream – don’t underestimate 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 Galapagos coral reefs, fish, or other marine critters.
Toiletries – most Galapagos cruise ships and hotels will include disposable toiletries. Of course, though, it’s always nice to use your regular toiletry products to hand when you travel – your hair and skin will thank you for it.
First aid kit – Most importantly, don't forget to pack your prescription medicines. Also travel with some first aid basics like plasters, Ibuprofen, Aspirin, Imodium, etc.
Water Bottle (refillable) – help to keep the Galapagos islands plastic-free by using a refillable water bottle throughout your trip. Hotels and cruise yachts provide safe drinking water dispensers, so it’s easy to fill up your own bottle each day and avoid having to buy plastic water bottles. Happy Gringo has designed metallic water bottles which we include for passengers on our Galapagos land tours. Not only are they the perfect way to keep your water cool, but also stylish to boot.
Galapagos Packing List - ELECTRONICS
Camera – the Galapagos islands are a photographer's dream. Whether you are a wildlife or landscape photography buff, or like to post your experiences on social media, your friends will be wide-eyed with jealousy when they see your snaps. But what is the best camera to pack for Galapagos? 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 accessories – remember to pack your camera charger, plus plenty of memory cards - you’ll be surprised how many photos you end up taking! Optional extras: a polarising filter to reduce ocean glare, a 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 it can also be rather cumbersome, especially when traveling in a group.
GoPro Underwater Camera – a highly recommended extra for snorkelers and divers! The underwater action at Galapagos is truly world-class, so don’t miss out!
Travel adaptor – Ecuador and Galapagos use the same two-prong 110V plugs as the US.
Cellphone & Charger – 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.
Galapagos Packing List - RECOMMENDED PERSONAL ITEMS
Insect repellent – yes, the Galapagos islands are home to some mosquitos and bugs, so pack some repellent 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 Dramamine (or similar) just in case your sea legs desert you.
Clothes soap – I never travel without it. Being able to wash clothes along the way means you can pack light.
Snacks – don’t worry, you'll be well-fed during cruises and tours, but a few granola or chocolate 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.
Galapagos Packing List - OPTIONAL EXTRAS
Snorkel gear – Galapagos cruises and tours either include the 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.
Trekking poles – some Galapagos treks take you over uneven and rocky terrain, so trekking 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 insect bites.
Books – there’ll be plenty of downtime for bookworms to dig into a novel, so a good book 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 plastic easy id guides.
What you cannot bring to Galapagos:
So, we’ve 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 the Galapagos Islands?
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 Galapagos packing list and check each item off as you pack. Did we forget to include something important? Write to email@example.com to let us know.