Galapagos: a remote archipelago of the Pacific Ocean, 1000km from Ecuador, home of fearless blue footed boobies, playfull baby sea lions, giant tortoises, funny iguanas and inoffensive sharks. The Galapagos islands are unique. What if you could make the dream come true for $150 a day?
What everybody tells you: Galapagos is expensive
Many claim that the only option to really enjoy the islands is to board an expensive cruise. Add to this flights from the mainland (around $400 return from Guayaquil) and entrance fees to the National Park ($100 + $10). These are never included in package deals, and you will understand why lots of travellers cross Galapagos off their vacation list.
If the starting cost remain the same for all visitors, you have in reality more than one option to explore the fantastic archipelago, depending on your priorities and your budget.
What to go for: cruise, land-based or island hopping?
Cruise: the best option if you are short on time
I see two main benefits of taking a cruise: you will save transportation time between islands (move from island to island during the night) and be able to visit some remote islands. Be aware that you must love life on board -hello small spaces and bumpy rides- and be ready to spend a minimum of 1700$ for 8 days, or 700/800$ for a last minute 4 days cruise.
Land-based: the most comfortable and the best way to avoid spending money
Many budget travellers decide to be based on Santa Cruz for their entire stay and to take a few day tours. Having a base, means you won´t need to pack and unpack and you should be able to negotiate a good price for your accomodation. Some tour operators offer last minute package deals starting at 1100$ for 10 days. If organized independently, it can be cheaper.
Islands hopping: your freedom and the best value for money
A hybrid solution is to organize your itinerary by yourself, to sleep on different islands and to take the speed boat ferries between them. This is your best option if you have a bit of time (7 days minimum i.e 5 full days on the islands), want to limit your expenses but still visit many islands. Oh, and I forgot to mention: you keep your freedom and can always adjust your plans.
10 days in Galapagos for $1500 per person, lifetime memories included
We didn´t want to be cheap on Galapagos. The archipelago is so unique that we decided to allocate a decent budget for this destination. We visited 5 different islands and slept on 3 of them, rented bikes twice, snorkelled several times with turtles, sharks, sea lions, iguanas, and climbed dead and active volcanoes. We had a blast! And the surprise was… we didn´t even spend all our budget.
Choosing the island hopping option, we spent $2000 for 2 persons for 10 days/9 nights once in the Galapagos. With flights from the mainland and entrance fees, the total cost for our Galapagos dream was of $3000 – a cost of $150 per day per person.
Detail of a backpacker budget on Galapagos
- 40% of the budget went to activities: national parks fees + 3 snorkelling tours ($80-110) + expedition tour to Bartholome ($170) for Amandine while Adnan went diving ($170 as well)
- 10% food: We tried a few restaurants and we were not blown away by the quality. As the prices in Santa Cruz´s supermarket are decent (+30% compared to the mainland) cooking a few times is an easy way to save money. Remember to buy food before getting to Isabella as there is no supermarket.
- 10% accommodation: there are plenty of budget options on Santa Cruz, Isabella and San Cristobal. Just don´t expect hot water ($35 for a double room with private bathroom).
- 35% transportation: a 2h speed boat ferry between islands cost $30+$2 of taxi boat. There are 2 airports in Galapagos, one on Santa Cruz and one on San Cristobal. Flying in and out from different islands will save you time and more than a few bucks! Also, keep in mind that the plane ticket will cost the same if you stay for 4 or 20 days.