Ecuador is full of friendly people, the country is much smaller than its neighbors around but equally interesting and that is where the scientist Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution in the famous Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Don’t even think of stepping in the country without visiting the islands, as they are for sure one of the great wonders of the world. Do not miss it!
Unfortunately we didn’t visit everything we wanted in the country. Due to a misfortune occurred in our boat in the Galapagos we had to leave the country earlier than planned. So, to not happen to you what happened to us (a complete tragedy for choosing a bad boat) on this page we will focus only on tips for Galapagos. Yes, it is expensive, but it worth every penny!
What was worth it: The incredible paradise of Galapagos for its nature and animals and the unique and charming colonial town of Cuenca.
What was not so paid off: Guayaquil (just a big city, just stop there if you want to catch a flight to Galapagos).
What we wanted to do but we didn’t: A walk through the old center of Quito, the trek to see the magnificent lagoon of Quilotoa loop, the region of Cotopaxi Volcano and the amazing animals market of Saturday in Otavalo.
Tips for Galápagos:
- COST: For sure this will not be a cheap destination, but there are two options: boat trips or visiting from island to island on your own. Boats can cost from 1,000 USD to 6,000 USD per person for 8 days and from 500 USD to 3,000 USD per person for 4 days, depending on the boat category. To visit the islands on your own you will spend at least a 100 USD per day for the couple, not including daily boat tours for snorkeling or visiting isolated islands.
- BOAT’S CATEGORIES: There are 4 categories (tourist, tourist superior, first and luxury) and the differences are: size and age of the boat, size and quality of the rooms, food (one dish at every meal for tourist and superior tourist and full buffet for luxury and first), quality of naturalist guides and inclusion or not of the snorkeling equipment and wetsuits. The boats have very similar itineraries, including the islands of the north, south and west, but the small boats generally don’t visit the most isolated islands. The disadvantages of small boats: they move much more in rough sea (which is bad for who gets seasick), the common area is small and you won’t have much privacy, the accommodations are very small and you will use basically for sleeping and bathroom structures are very basic. If you will take a tour of 4 days it will be ok, but for the 8-day tour you will already be fed up before the end.
- CHOOSING YOUR BOAT: If luxury is not relevant to you for sure you can find good boats in the two cheaper categories. In the end all boats end up seeing 95% of the same things. But to avoid falling into a trap we recommend doing the following: purchase the boat at an reputable agency (because they won’t do business with bad boats), ask for options to the agency within the range of money that you have and evaluate each one with detailed information about the boat, updated photos and itinerary available, do a google search with the name of the boats to see references from other travelers, before confirming your reservation confirm every information with the agency (if you have AC, room with private bathroom, double bed or twin beds, etc) and ask them to put all this information specified on your voucher.
- LAST MINUTE PRICE BOATS: In Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz island, you can easily find last-minute boats offers. But we doubt if you can find really good stuff, because the best boats usually fill up with more advance. Remember that the cheapest class you will save from 100 to 200 USD per person with a maximum, but still the total investment will be very high, so do not fall into a trap. But if you still decide to do it, never buy from strangers at the port (we have seen cases of people on the internet who have paid and never got in the boat!) and not fall into the small agencies talk trying to push you an offer. Reputable agencies also have last minute offers and even if it is a little more expensive, it may be more worthwhile. On our boat, everyone had last minute price and everyone got screwed!
- VISITING THE ISLANDS BY YOURSELF: You can easily visit on your own the islands of Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isabela, as there are daily boat transfers, accommodation and restaurants in all these islands. Just visiting these islands you will already see a lot of the amazing wildlife and beautiful nature in the Galapagos, but there are some fantastic islands that are more isolated and that the only way to visit is on a daily boat tour: North Seymour (with an exuberant colony of birds and incredible frigates that blow its chest, besides being a great snorkeling spot), Isla Bartolome (for the amazing scenery and also for snorkeling), Puerto Eggas in Santiago island (to see all the different critters living in harmony) and Kicker Rock (for the incredible opportunity for snorkeling, specially to see the hammerhead sharks). Perhaps a good option is to do part on your own and part on a 4 days boat tour with an itinerary to the isolated islands.
- SEASON: You can visit the Galapagos all year. Everything will depend on your goal, especially if you want to go diving. So search well before leaving. Attention to the lunar calendar, during moon changes the waters are much more agitated and murky, leaving the boat trip heavier and visibility for snorkeling and diving worse.
- GETTING THERE: The only way to get there is flying from Quito or Guayaquil. A good way to profit from displacement is to do Quito-Galapagos-Guayaquil or Guayaquil-Galapagos-Quito, because the price difference is very small. There are 3 companies operating these flights(TAME, Aerogal and LAN) and they usually don’t charge any fees for changing dates and just a small fee for changing itinerary (we paid only $ 10 per person to change our flight from San Cristobal to Baltra with Aerogal).
Our itinerary (15 days)
We crossed the border from Peru with Ecuador along the Pacific coast, passing through Tumbes, and we went directly to Cuenca. After 4 days we took a bus to Guayaquil, where we took our flight to the Galapagos, and after doing 8 days boat tour in Galapagos we took another flight to Quito, from where we left by bus to cross the border with Colombia.
The best of the country
- All year (weather graphics).
- 50,00 – 60,00 US$ for the couple (without Galápagos)