Visiting Galapagos islands on a budget

Giant tortoises, iguanas, pelicans, sea lions, colourful crabs. These are just some of the animals that can be admired on land. But when you put snorkelling goggles on, even more unique animals are waiting.

Visiting the Galapagos islands was one of our biggest wishes. And it came true. 🙂

We hoped to go on a cruise, but with so many months of travelling to go, this time it was out of our budget. But we promised to ourselves to come back and to spoil ourselves with a cruise next time.

Next time: cruise :)
Next time: cruise 🙂

Here are a few tips for a budget friendly visit to heaven on Earth – Galapagos ❤

Booking a flight
As a few years ago the price of the flight was fix, this is not the case anymore. If you are a little flexible, good deals can be found. We paid for our Quito-Baltra round trip ticket with Avianca 227 USD per person.

From Baltra airport to Puerto Ayora
Once on Baltra a free airport bus takes passengers to the canal, where ferries (1USD) are available for Santa Cruz island (on Baltra is only the airport, it’s the former USA airbase). On Santa Cruz you have to get to the other side of the island, to Puerto Ayora, where the most hostels, tour agencies and shops are. To get there, you have 2 options – by taxi (around 18 USD) or bus (2USD). Guess which we took? 🙂

Hello Galapagos - as seen from the airplane
Hello Galapagos – as seen from the airplane

Accommodation in Puerto Ayora range from budget to luxury, but you have to know that everything is more expensive than on the mainland. Our big double room with private bathroom in a newly renovated hotel, which has FREE laundry, wi-fi, FREE drinking water, a kitchen and a lovely garden with hammocks for 35 USD per night.

Because the food in Puerto Ayora is pretty expensive for South American standards, we decided to stock up with food in Quito and to cook. We went to have dinner twice to the, let’s say, night market – a street full of restaurants where all the tables are in the middle of the street and gorgeous smells come from the hot grills. We had shrimp in coconut sauce and octopus in coconut sauce – for both we payed 20 USD. Many bars on the main Charles Darwin street have happy hour at the evening; but only on cocktails – two for 6 or 7 USD.

In the city you’ll also find numerous tour agencies. We went to many, asked about prices and got pretty much the same answers. The tour to Santa Fe is around 100 USD, Pinzon island 120 USD, Isabela 120 USD, Seymore 150-170 USD and Bartolome about the same.

We took 2 tours: Pinzon island and Isabela island

Things to do on Santa Cruz:

  • Tortoises bay is about 1 hour walk from Puerto Ayora. Once on the beach be prepared for the most powdery sand ever, it’s like flour! When you come to the beach, on the left side are the surfers (surf boards for rent in Puerto Ayora) and on the right are the swimmers. But beware of big waves and strong currents.
  • Tortoise bay
    Tortoise bay
  • Darwin centre is also in walking distance from Puerto Ayora. Just follow the main Charles Darwin road and you’ll get there (ask in your hostel in which direction you have to go). Right now it’s being renovated, but we could see the big tortoises, iguanas, the shade house and info centre. The renovation should be finished in February 2016.
  • Darwin centre
    Darwin centre
  • Playa de la Estacion is a beach on the way to the Darwin centre. It’s a small beach, which you’ll be sharing with iguanas, crabs and sea lions.
  • Playa de la Estacion
    Playa de la Estacion
  • El Chato is a private farm with even bigger tortoises than at the Darwin centre. It’s like a huge park where these giants are walking freely and you can get really close. Some of the tortoise there are 100 and more years old. Two tortoise shells are on display and you can crawl into it and be a tortoise for a minute or two. Entrance fee is 3 USD, but you’ll get rubber boots and at the end a cup of tea or coffee.
  • El Chato
    El Chato
  • Lava tunnels are right next to the tortoise farm. We went into three and in none of them was light – usually it is in the biggest. Bring a flash light or borrow one at the farm.
  • Entrance to Lava tunnels
    Entrance to Lava tunnels
  • Craters can be visited right off the main street from Puerto Ayora to the Port of Baltra, high in the middle of the highlands. Fairy tale trees and birds can be seen, as well as two huge craters – one on each side of the road in the forest. Don’t worry, a well walked path will lead you there.
  • Crater

    You can combine the tortoise farm, lava tunnels and the craters in one “tour” – just ask a taxi driver to take you to all these places. Including waiting time the price is around 35 USD.

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