Ecuador and Galapagos Islands Pre-Departure Information

ECUADOR AND THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

Time Zone
Ecuador is in the Eastern Standard Time zone. Daylight savings time is not observed. Galapagos is one hour behind Ecuador’s continental time. GMT-5 in the Galapagos Islands. GMT-6 in mainland Ecuador.

Language
The official language is Spanish, English is spoken by most people with whom you will deal with in the tourism industry. Even so, English is widely understood in hotels, restaurants and shops you will visit. It is advisable, if you are the adventurous type, to carry a small Spanish phrase book with you.

Currency
The currency is the US Dollar

Electricity
110 volts, 60 cycles AC

Bank hours & ATM’s
Banks are open to the public from 9:00am to 5:00pm. Some ATM’s are located throughout the cities and towns. Please inquire with your hotel staff about which ATM’s are most reliable.  In the Galapagos, there is one bank with an ATM in Santa Cruz.  The ATM is not entirely reliable either, so it’s only good as an emergency back-up.  Make sure to bring plenty of cash with you to the Galapagos.

Shopping hours
Shops are generally open from 9:00am to 1:00pm and from 3:00pm to 7:00pm. Few shops stay open at lunch time. Malls are opened from 10:00am to 8:00pm. We strongly recommend that you buy jewelry, antiques or artwork at specialist stores to guarantee authenticity.

Air transportation
Please be sure to reconfirm your international flight 48 hours before departure.

HEALTH

For the most up to date information, please read the Center for Disease Control’s page on Traveler’s Health in Ecuador.

As for every trip you take abroad, general good health is required. If you are under medication, be sure to bring enough for the entire length of your trip.

No immunizations are required for your trip to Ecuador, however, for travel to the rainforest prevention against malaria & yellow fever may be considered.

Recommendations
– Do not drink tap water
– Avoid ice in your beverages while traveling in Ecuador (Consult with your guide)
– You can use ice on board the yachts in Galapagos and in main hotels & restaurants
– Try to avoid eating raw vegetables and salads or any raw foods while traveling in the continent. Always prefer cooked food.
– If you wear prescription glasses, it is advisable to bring an extra pair
– Always use sunscreen lotion even in cloudy days
– We recommend eating lightly the first day (if arrival city is Quito). Due to altitude you might suffer some digestive problems, as well as light dizziness

ARRIVING IN ECUADOR

Check your Passport Expiration Date
If you are an American citizen, you must have at least six months remaining validity for your passport past your departure date in order to enter Ecuador.  For example, if you are traveling in Ecuador and departing on March 5, your passport must be valid through September 5 of the same year.  If you are a citizen of another country, your passport must be valid for 90 days past your departure date from Ecuador, but we highly recommend traveling with at least 6 months of passport validity at all times.

Visas
Most travelers (citizens of the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and many others) are not required to obtain a visa if they are staying for less than 90 days in Ecuador.

Arriving in Ecuador
Upon arrival you will go through customs and immigration. Be sure your entrance papers are officially stamped showing the number of days allowed for your stay in the country: and you will be given a copy of these papers. Keep them in a safe place, as you will need them to leave the country.

If you require assistance with your luggage at the airport, there are porters who can help you. Standard gratuity is US$1 per bag.

Taxis
Quito – It is a 1.5 to 2 hour drive (depending on traffic) between the airport and the Quito city center.  Taxis from the airport are between $25 and $40 per way (depending on the hour).

Guayaquil – it is a 20 to 40 minute drive from the airport to the Guayaquil city center.  Taxis usually cost about $10 to $20 per way (depending on the hour).

If you are taking a taxi to your hotel, we suggest you to make sure that it has a taximeter running. If the taxi does not have a taximeter, you should arrange the price before getting in the vehicle.

Registered taxis in Ecuador are usually yellow, display matching unit numbers on their windshields and doors, feature a taxi cooperative name on the door, and are identified with an orange license plate.  Only registered taxis are allowed at the airport.  When you are in the city, it is best to ask your hotel staff to arrange a taxi for you so you can be sure to get a reputable taxi service.

Normally, if you are arriving on a flight late at night and do not feel comfortable in a foreign country by yourself, we suggest a private transfer which can be arranged through us.

Customs
According to Ecuadorian law, any person that enters the country temporarily is exempt from the payment of any customs duty. You will not be required to pay taxes or duties for your luggage, new or used articles that you will use during your trip, and portable items such as photo cameras, video cameras, laptops, radios and CD players.

GALAPAGOS INFORMATION

Climate (average temperatures)
The Galapagos Islands have a subtropical climate regulated by the cold Humboldt current and the warm El Niño current. Weather varies during the year. From December until May temperatures range from low 80°s to low 90°s (with possibilities of rain). From June to September temperatures vary from low 60°’s to high 70°’s. This is the garua season (mist in the mornings). From October until December temperatures range from 70°s to 80°’ (dry season).

Marine Currents
The Galapagos Islands waters have the Humboldt Current’s influence that brings cold waters especially during the mist rainy season (cool weather) from July to December. The warm season is during the months of January to June. The southeast trade winds become weaker and the water from the Panama Basin remains warm. During this season there is more of a tropical climate with some occasional rains. El Niño current may cause a much greater flow of warm waters, making the surface warmer and rainfall increase.

Average Water Temperature
January – June: 70°F – 80°F (20C – 26C)
July – December: 65°F – 75°F (18C- 23C)

Galapagos National Park – Rules and Regulations
Galapagos National Park rules are very strict and a way to keep the Islands intact for your enjoyment and that of future generations. You might think some of those rules excessive, but have in mind, that only in this way this unique archipelago will last for years to come. As one of the rules of the National Park, a naturalist guide will be with you at all times. He or she will tell you what you can and what you cannot do while visiting the islands. Please obey their instructions on this respect. The most important rules are the following:
– Always follow the marked trail and never leave it
– Do not touch the animals
– Do not take souvenirs from the islands
– Do not get too close to animals
– Do not litter
– Do not smoke on the islands
– Do not take food to the islands
– Clean your shoes soles before disembarking in the islands. You may have carried some seeds endemic to one island and would not want to introduce them to another
– Always stay together with your group
– Trip itineraries in the Galapagos are subject to change at any time due to National Park regulations or weather

Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee
The Galapagos National Park of US$ 100 per person (US$ 50 for children under 12) is paid upon your immediate arrival in the Galapagos, at either the Baltra airport or the San Cristobal Airport. This fee is subject to change at any time. Please be sure to carry the above amounts in cash. No credit cards are accepted.

INGALA Transit Control Fee
The INGALA Transit Control card is $20 per person.  This fee is subject to change at anytime.  This is usually purchased at either the Quito or Guayaquil Airport before you check in for your flight to the Galapagos.  It may also be pre-purchased through your trip operator.  Please check with Detour to see if you can pre-pay this fee.

Health / Medical / Diet in the Galapagos
Good general health is required for your travel to Galapagos. You will take long walks in hot weather. We advise you to start to get into shape by bicycling, walking or swimming as this will help you to enjoy your trip. If you take medication regularly, we advise you to take enough for the length of your trip. Please advise us if you have any medical condition, which may require attention, so we can be prepared should an emergency arise. No immunizations are necessary to travel to the Galapagos. If you are vegetarian, allergic to any food or under a special diet, please let your travel agent, tour operator or us know in advance, so we can comply with your requirements.

PACKING LIST

Luggage
It’s always a good idea to travel light by bringing only what you need for your trip. Being over burdened with luggage can make transfers and travel difficult. For your flights, always wear or carry on the items that are absolutely necessary to your trip.

Luggage Restrictions
Keep in mind that flights between mainland Ecuador and the Galápagos limit you to a maximum of 20 kg or 44 lbs for your checked luggage. You are allowed one carry-on, which is limited to a maximum of 7 kg or 15 lbs.  If you are traveling in the Galápagos on a land-based trip (not on a cruise), you may have a flight between two or more of the islands.  Please check your itinerary. These flights operate in much smaller airplanes, and have different luggage restrictions.  On these flights, you are limited to a maximum of 11 kgs or 25 lbs in one bag for your checked luggage, and you are allowed one small carry-on, such as a purse or day pack.

These allowances should be enough for what you’ll need to bring, but if you have extra items you wish to leave in Quito or Guayaquil during your trip to the Galápagos—such as items you may have acquired at Otavalo—arrangements can be made to leave extra bags at your hotel.

Following are our recommendations for luggage for this trip:
Daypack or Fanny pack: This bag stays with you at all times, will most likely be your carry-on and is where you will keep such Galápagos necessities as your camera—unless you have a camera bag—sunscreen, glasses, windbreaker and other similar objects during your hikes. Some people prefer both a daypack and a small fanny pack. Because you will be the one to carry this bag(s) you’ll want to keep the weight down.
Duffel Bag: In addition to your carry-on bag you should only need one duffel bag to serve as your main luggage for the trip. This can also be a carry-on but check with your airline to insure it meets specifications. Your duffel or suitcase should be well made and durable to take the punishment the airlines and traveling can dish out. A medium size duffel or suitcase of 30” X 15” X 14” with a capacity of 110 liters or slightly larger should be sufficient.
Spare Duffel: It’s a good idea to carry a spare duffel rolled up in your main luggage piece. This is not only good in case you want to leave belongings in Quito while you are in the Galápagos or Amazon, but it comes in handy for those who like to do a good deal of shopping.
Small Padlocks: These are always a good idea when traveling and discourages anyone inclined to zip open your bag to see what they might find.
Plastic Bags: Sturdy zip lock bags are great to keep important items dry while in the Galápagos or Amazon.

Footwear
• Comfortable walking or hiking shoes with good traction
• Teva or Chaco style sandals are good for hiking the island beaches and you do not have to worry if you get your feet wet. Thongs are acceptable but are not good for hiking though they are good on deck. A security strap is a good idea in the surf.

Note: The shoes you wear during landings are kept in a bin on the yacht. If you want to wear them on board the yacht we can wash the bottoms but you may want to have a light pair of deck shoes or thongs for the yacht. Bare feet are also acceptable.

Outerwear
• Wind shell (ideal for the islands) and or rain jacket or poncho with hood
• Medium to light fleece jacket or fleece sweater (wool is fine too)
• Cotton sweat shirt
• The above are frequently needed when it gets cooler in the islands during the evenings, which is the time you will experience more breezes as we cruise to another location. Also remember that Quito can be cool and it can get downright cold if you go higher into the mountains.

Shirts & Blouses
• T-Shirts / Polo shirts / Light blouses (can be purchased along the way)
• A long sleeve shirt or blouse for cooler evenings and sun protection

For Swimming
• Two swimsuits
• Women report getting a lot of mileage out of swim suite wraps that can be worn as a dress or skirt
• Lightweight neoprene wetsuit: Optional. This allows you to spend more time in the water. A less expensive substitute is long underwear made from a water resistant fiber such as capilene. You can also inquire about renting a wetsuit or body glove.

Trousers & Skirts
• Hiking shorts
• Lightweight full length pants either synthetic or cotton is fine and great for cooler nights in the highlands or islands
• Pair of dressier shorts
• Women may want to bring a casual dress or skirt (see below)

Head Gear
• Sun hat or cap. Wide brim hats should have chin strap in case they blow off your head. Unless you have a really thick head of hair and never burn sun visors are out.
• Bandana (great to shield your neck)
• Sun glasses with security strap (polarized lenses will help you to see more when looking in the water to spot turtles and rays). It’s a good idea to bring two pairs, especially if you need prescription glasses.

Socks
• Comfortable athletic type socks for walking and hiking

Travel Accessories
• Snorkel gear:  Most trips include the use of snorkel gear (fins, mask, and snorkel) in their rates.  If this gear is not included, it will be available to rent (please check the included / not included information of your trip).  However, you may want to bring your own mask, so you will be sure to have a mask that fits you.
First aid Kit:  While we do carry first aid kits on our yachts, you are responsible for bringing along your own personal medical kit including medications, especially prescription drugs, or vitamins you regularly take (fill prescriptions BEFORE you travel), including any over the counter drugs you might take such as pain relievers, motion sickness pills or indigestion tablets.
Seasickness medication:  While Galápagos waters tend toward calm, there are at least two crossings during the typical cruise, and on a land-based tour you will find yourself on a speedboat more than once. In case you are susceptible to sea sickness or if the seas do get high please bring along medication for seasickness if you are susceptible.
• Toiletry kit: Tooth paste, toothbrush, shaving kit, etc.
• Insect repellent (for those going to the Amazon see above / Galápagos travelers sensitive to bites)
• Sunscreen with SPF rating of 15 or higher (you are on the equator so bring a full bottle)
• Aloe gel of a high quality
• Lip gloss with sunscreen of SPF rating of 15 or higher
• Hand sanitizers like Purell for a quick way to keep hands clean when traveling on your own
• That book you have wanted to read and the stationery for the letters you have wanted to write
• Binoculars: Even though you can get up close to much of the wildlife in the Galápagos you will still want a good pair of binoculars. Water resistance is a plus. A REQUIREMENT IN THE AMAZON.
• Water resistant travel alarm watch
• Water resistant compass
• Small flashlight or headlamp (good for searching in your duffel and when in Amazon)
• Spanish / English pocket dictionary or electronic pocket translator
• Batteries

CAMERAS AND VIDEO

Photography is a highlight of any trip to the Galápagos. With the transition to digital, the best advice is to bring a camera and a format that you are familiar with and know will give you the results you are looking for. If you want to try something new, take time to become familiar with your gear before you head out on the trip. A good rule is to always bring more film or memory space than you think you will need. If you are looking for the results of those glossy catalogs, look into a high color saturation slide film or more mega pixels. While a good zoom lens can come in handy and render excellent up-close results, you probably don’t need anything larger than a hand held lens that does not require a tripod in the Galápagos, and that’s because it’s fairly easy to get close to wildlife. However, if you are looking for professional results you may want to bring both a long lens and tripod. If you plan to visit the Amazon to get shots of wildlife a telephoto lens and tripod are musts.

The Galápagos is a great place to bring along a disposable underwater camera as well.

Sand and seawater are the enemies of any optical or electronic instrument. Keep this in mind when considering what to bring. A good measure to take for any photographic equipment is to bring large high quality zip lock bags with a zipper locks to keep your camera in, especially when crossing to shore. Bring a few, as they are hard to dry out or clean once wet. Whether photographing wildlife in the Galápagos or people at Otavalo, please be respectful and considerate. Your guide will advise you on the “do’s and dont’s”.

TIPPING & EXTRA COSTS

While you’re preparing for the trip, it’s good to keep in mind the typical extra costs that need to be paid in person once in Ecuador.  Keep in mind that your trip may differ a bit from this.  If you have any questions specific to your trip, please don’t hesitate to ask us.

First, we should point out a few facts about money in Ecuador and the Galapagos.  Ecuador uses the US dollar as its currency, which is handy for folks coming from the US.  ATM’s are abundant in Quito and Guayaquil, but certain ones are not exactly reliable.  Ask the front desk at your hotel for an ATM suggestion nearby, they can give you the best advice.  In the Galapagos, there are a handful of ATMs, and they are limited to two towns. There are one or two in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, and one in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristóbal Island. However, we recommend that travelers don’t rely on the ATMs as there is a chance the machines will be out of order, or they won’t have cash when you need it.  So, bring enough cash to pay for your Park Entrance Fee, tip your guide and crew, and pay for personal expenses (such as alcoholic beverages and/or snorkel equipment rental). You can also use credit cards in many shops and in some restaurants.

1.  Everyone must to pay the Galapagos National Park Entrance fee; most of the time, this is done in person upon arrival in the Galapagos.  The cost is $100 per adult and $50 per child under the age of 12.  This must be paid in cash and you should carry it on your person during the flight to the Galapagos.  This is because there is not an ATM in the Baltra airport and it’s a huge pain to fish it out of your checked baggage (we have made this mistake and can speak from person experience!).  It is also possible to prepay this fee through your Galapagos trip operator.  Please inquire.

2. Everyone must also pay the INGALA Migration Control fee of $20 per person.  This is done in person at either the Quito or Guayaquil Airport before you check in for your flight to the Galapagos.  It is also possible to prepay this fee through your Galapagos trip operator.  Please inquire.

3.  If you are flying into or out of Baltra airport in the Galapagos (most trips), you will need to pay the $10 per person ECOGAL transportation fee. This covers the public buses that transport passengers from the airport to the docks.

4.   If you would like to rent a wetsuit for snorkeling, the cost is approximately $25 – $40 per person for the week, if it’s not included in the trip.  On some trips, the snorkeling gear needs to be rented in person; this is approximately $15 per person for the week.  On most trips, snorkeling gear is included in the rate.

5.  Tipping is an important part of any trip.  On cruises, most people tip their main guide $10 – $20 per day / per person / per guide. For the rest of the crew tip about $10 – $20 (depending on the class of trip) per day / per person in your group.  If you are on a luxury cruise, there are more crew members, so you should tip more. The crew will divide your tip amongst themselves.

For land based trips (either in the Galapagos or on mainland Ecuador), most people tip their guide $10 – $20 per person / per day / per guide.  If you have a driver or a boat captain on your trip, you can tip $3 – $5 for their service.

This is of course voluntary, but most passengers tip around this amount.  Tips are paid at the end of the trip or at the end of the day, and usually an envelope is usually provided to travelers for this purpose.

6.  Some meals may not be included on a land-based trip, so make sure to have enough cash on you to cover these meals.  Credit cards are accepted in a lot of places, but make sure you also have the cash on hand.  Prices in the Galapagos are higher than in mainland Ecuador, but not outrageous (i.e. probably not more than you would pay for the same type of meal in the US).

7.  Beverages, outside of meals, are not included in your trip cost.  Alcoholic beverages are not included at all in your trip cost.  Make sure to plan on a little extra for these items.

7.  Finally, you will have to pay approximately $40 per person to exit Ecuador.  Normally this exit tax is included in your international flight, please check with your airline to find out.  If not, this is paid in cash in the Quito airport before boarding your international flight back home.
Apart from these costs, make sure to have some extra cash on hand for personal expenses.  You may want to buy souvenirs, take a taxi in Quito or buy your guide a pisco sour.

RECOMMENDED READING

Guides
• A Field Guide to the Birds of Galápagos, by Michel Harris
• A Field Guide to the Fishes of Galápagos, by Godfrey Merlen
• A Guide to the birds of the Galápagos Islands, by Isabel Castro and Antonia Phillips
• Flowering Plants of the Galápagos, by Dr. Conley K. McMullen
• Galapagos Wildlife, a Visitor’s Guide. David Howell & Pete Oxford
• Lonely Planet Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands, by Rob Rachowiecki (Lonely Planet Publications)
• Marine Life of the Galápagos, by Pierre Constant
• Reef Fish Identification, by Paul Humann
• Subtidal Galápagos, by James Cribb

Photography
• Galápagos, Islands Lost in Time, by Tui de Roy
• Galápagos, A Terrestrial and Marine Phenomenon, by Paul Humann
• Galápagos, Discovery on Darwin’s Islands, by Steadman and Zousmer
• Galápagos, Back to Nature, by Steve Lu
• Galápagos, by Nathan Farb

Other Recommendations
• The Voyage of the Beagle, by Charles Darwin
• Charles Darwin, A Biography, by Janet Browne
• Floreana, by Margaret Wittmer
• The Beak of the Finch, by Jonathan Weiner
• The Encantadas, by Herman Melville
• The Galápagos Affair, by John Treherne
• My Father’s Islands, A Galápagos Quest, by Johanna Angermeyer

Becoming a friend of the Galápagos

Many of our travelers are moved to continue their relationship with the Galápagos long after their first visit. We encourage you to support conservation of the creatures and habitats of these magical islands by joining one of the following organizations:

Charles Darwin Foundation, Inc.
Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island
Galapagos, Ecuador
Phone: +593 (0) 5 2526-146
www.darwinfoundation.org

The Nature Conservancy, Ecuador Division
Calle Los Naranjos N44-491 y Azucenas, Sector Monteserrin
Quito, Ecuador
Phone: +593 (0) 2 2257-138
or
4245 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 100
Arlington, VA 22203-1606
Phone: +1 (703) 841-5300
http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/southamerica/ecuador/index.htm

Galápagos Conservation Trust
Charles Darwin Suite
28 Portland Place
London
W1B 1LY
United Kingdom
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7399 7440
http://www.savegalapagos.org/

WildAid
Juan Leon Mera s/n y Escalesia
Puerto Ayora
Galapagos, Ecuador
Phone: +593(0) 5-527-412
or
744 Montgomery Street
Suite 300
San Francisco, CA 94111
Phone: +1 (415) 834-3174
http://www.wildaid.org/ecuador

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