Galapagos Islands Traveler Information

Galapagos Islands Traveler Information

If you have booked or are considering The Galapagos Meetup Tour, this is where you will find the practical information you need from travel insurance and safety protocols to a suggested packing list for the combination of rugged land and salty sea excursions we’ll embark on.

Is this trip right for you?

  • As an equatorial destination, the sun can be quite strong in the Galapagos. Come prepared with a high SPF sunscreen, a hat, and clothing that covers more skin, especially if you’re more sensitive to the sun. 
  • This tour involves several day trips by boat so don’t forget to pack some Dramamine if you’re prone to seasickness. 
  • The landscape of the Galapagos is a combination of sandy, rocky, and often slippery terrain. As we will be doing some short hikes and walks around the islands, we do recommend packing a pair of Tevas or Keens, or something similar that can stand up to the terrain and get wet. Even better if they can stay on your feet, as protection from sharp rocks, while you’re in the water too.

Arrival

For most countries, a visa is not required to enter Ecuador and the Galapagos for trips under 90 days. You will just need your passport with at least two blank pages and your negative COVID test. If you are from a country that requires a visa to enter Ecuador, please contact your local Ecuadorian Embassy or consulate for more information on the visa application process. For more information, go to Ecuador’s official website: https://www.consuladovirtual.gob.ec/en/web/guest/visas

As rules and restrictions are constantly changing, please check your government’s foreign travel advisory and visit the following website: https://ec.usembassy.gov/covid-19-information-ecu-2/

Requirements currently include either your vaccination certificate (completed at least 14 days prior to travel) or a negative RT-PCR test result taken 72 hours prior to travel. Antigen tests are not accepted. 

Closer to departure, we will update all travelers on the current requirements via email, but it is always your responsibility to stay up to date and comply with government requirements. 

Please also ensure you have a travel insurance policy that covers you for travel to and from the Galapagos Islands as well as medical or COVID-19 related expenses within the country.

On the final day of the Meetup Tour, we can arrange for testing to be conducted on site at the hotel. Our team will ensure that results will be available before you depart for the airport. This is payable in cash to your tour leader or medical professional. Our team will handle the logistics and be sure your results are in on time and printed before you depart Ecuador. 

Upon arrival we have an escort meeting you at the airport, just look for the sign with the SoFe logo! After you collect your luggage and exit customs and immigration look out for our driver holding a sign with our logo. The driver will take you directly to the hotel where they will meet our leader.

You need a valid passport to travel internationally. Most countries require that your passport does not expire for at least 6 months after the date you enter. We require your passport details 45 days before departure. When booking your Meetup Tour, please enter your name as it appears on your passport and contact us immediately if there are any errors.

Optional Activities

For this tour, we offer a selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travelers. We recommend to pre-book these activities, to be sure there is availability. It’s rare that only one person signs up for an activity, but you will never have to go alone. A leader or our guide will go with you if no one else has signed up. Last minute booking of optional activities is possible, but depends on availability. Should you choose to book an optional activity while on the tour, we will charge the card we have on file.

We have worked with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed, especially those that are medium to high risk. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator, and therefore, we are unable to help book these activities. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

Health

It is not safe to drink the tap water in the Galapagos Islands, even in the hotels. All accommodations will have drinkable water, sometimes for purchase and sometimes provided with your room.

Your tour leader will do their best to accommodate any dietary restrictions, but sometimes gluten free and vegan can be a little trickier in every meal, especially breakfast. We suggest bringing supplemental snacks like protein powders and bars just in case. It is ultimately your responsibility not to consume anything to which you are allergic. You may wish to speak to your tour leader at the beginning of the tour to make your requirements clear and ask your options throughout the tour. 

As of April 1, 2021, we have updated our policies to require all travelers to show one of the following upon meeting the group on day 1:

-Proof of COVID-19 vaccination, or
– Proof of negative COVID-19 test conducted no more than 72 hours before day 1 of your trip

Accommodation

8 nights in hotels

Rooms are twin share with an ensuite unless you upgrade to a private room, based on availability.

The accommodation indicated on the webpage is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to lack of availability. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.

In the base cost of the tour, a shared room is included. You may choose to upgrade to a private room for an extra charge as long as there is availability. 

Upgrading to a private room once in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands is more difficult and may result in a higher cost than advertised on the webpage.

Our Galapagos Islands tour is considered premium accommodation, however, when we stay in 5 star hotels, the standard may be less than what you are used to in terms of design, facilities, and inclusions. If there is a problem with your accommodation, always alert your tour leader so it can be remedied if possible. 

Sometimes it is not possible to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels, especially if you arrive before check in time. We can store your luggage and you can explore the surrounding area.  Standard check in time is 4:00pm.

Check out is at 11:00am on the last day. 

Extra nights at our hotel are available. You may have to switch rooms at the beginning or end of the tour.

All of our accommodations have air conditioning. Should it not work, we will attempt to replace your room or the unit, dependent upon availability. Most accommodations in the Galapagos do not have heating, nor is it necessary as temperatures rarely dip below the high 60’s (21°C). If you do tend to run cold, it may be a good idea to be prepared with extra layers or thermals.

Transportation

Private air-conditioned vehicle, commercial airline domestic flight, trips by boat.

Money and finances

Spending money is a personal choice, and everyone will have different spending habits and needs. It is best to budget a reasonable amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities, tipping, and laundry. It’s always better to bring a little more than you think you’ll need. Please have a thorough look at the itinerary and at what is included so you will be prepared for what isn’t included. Our Meetup Tour is very inclusive, however some meals, tips, and extras are not included. This guide should make budgeting a little clearer.

Many meals are included in this tour, but some are purposefully left out so you can experience different restaurants and dishes to your liking.

Lunch at a local restaurant could cost around $5USD to $10USD. However, local street food is relatively safe to eat and is normally much cheaper.

Your leader and guide will help you find local options. Meals will cost between $5USD to $12USD, depending on the restaurant.

Food prices in the Galapagos range widely from cheap street food to more expensive dining. If you have a strict budget, be mindful of your choices and let your tour leader know the type of food you are looking for, so she can direct you to the best places.

ATMs are not as widely available on the Galapagos Islands as they are on the mainland. There are two banks with ATMs on Santa Cruz Island and one more ATM on San Cristobal Island, but they will limit your cash withdrawal to $300 per day and occasionally they may be out of cash. Beyond the hotel, upscale restaurants, and some tourist shops, credit cards are not widely accepted on the islands either. If you do bring a credit card, we recommend having either a Visa or MasterCard handy. We also recommend that you use the ATMs in Quito before your flight to the Galapagos to ensure you don’t run into any issues at the ATMs on the islands. Be sure to alert your bank that you will be traveling before departure to avoid being locked out of your account while abroad, as they may suspect fraud.

If you want to bring cash from your home country and exchange it, the best place to do this is at the airport. We can not guarantee that there will be time to visit a money exchange place on the tour. The best way to get local currency is by using an ATM with a debit card.

Tipping is not obligatory in Ecuador or the Galapagos Islands at restaurants and hotels. However, If you are satisfied with the services provided, a small tip is appropriate and always appreciated. It is customary, however, to tip the boat crew at the end of the trip. 

While tipping is infrequent, the amounts are small. Please budget about $3USD per day on average for small tips (not including tips for your guide and the boat crew). Tips for your driver and porters at hotels are included in your tour price.

To help you understand tipping culture, we have provided some ideas for amounts. These are suggestions, as tipping is always a personal choice and at your discretion. 

Restaurants: It is courteous and polite to leave a tip of 10%, or maybe a couple of dollars. In upscale eateries look for a 10% service charge. If there is a service charge, there’s no requirement for tipping. Otherwise, 10% of the total bill amount is appropriate.

Drivers: Our drivers’ tips are included in your tour cost.

Island Boat Trips: We suggest a tip of $11USD per day for the boat crew. We’ll collect this tip after the last boat tour of the trip and give it to the crew. 

Your Tour Guide:  You may also consider tipping your tour guide for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is completely at your discretion, however as a guideline $5USD per person, per day is standard practice. Of course, you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.

It is not necessary or expected to tip your Tour Leader, but small, sweet gifts, even handwritten notes, are very appreciated if you feel that your Tour Leader improved your experience.

The currency in Ecuador is the U.S. Dollar. Denominations come in notes of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 dollars and American and Ecuadorian coins of 1¢, 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, and 50¢. 

We recommend always having small denominations for tipping and small purchases.

Packing

Our tours are comfortable and very inclusive with premium accommodation. This means you can pack a little lighter. In fact, you will be carrying your own bags to the lobby or at the airport, and you will need to be able to manage. Also, our domestic flight to the Galapagos has a maximum luggage allowance of 15kg or 30lbs.

This is a general list to be used as a guideline. If you think you need more items, pack them.

  • Sunglasses
  • A towel
  • Dramamine for the boat trips
  • Copies of your travel documents- passport, flight itinerary, travel insurance policy and contact info.
  • A hat for the sun
  • A rain jacket if your traveling during the rainy season
  • A light fleece or sweatshirt for the slightly cooler mornings and nights
  • A pair of sneakers or comfortable walking shoes like Keens or Teva (our favorites)
  • A pair of water shoes, 
  • A pair of flip flops or sandals
  • Light and breathable shorts and tees good
  • Some activewear for short hikes
  • A casual dress or nice outfit for a nicer evening out (nothing fancy)
  • A swimsuit and bathing suit cover-up
  • Don’t forget underwear 
  • Earplugs and an eye mask
  • High SPF sunscreen
  • Body soap
  • Shampoo, conditioner, hairbrush
  • Body wash
  • Period essentials
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste

As the Galapagos Islands are located on the equator, expect a warm climate year round (69°-84°F / 21°-30°C). The rainiest months are December through May while the driest months, which also happen to be a bit breezier, are June through November.

Please try to avoid bringing unnecessary valuables. We recommend that you photocopy all important documents e.g. air tickets, passport, vaccination certificate, etc. and keep the copies separate from the originals. While not valid, a photocopy makes it much easier to obtain replacements if necessary.

Leave your drone at home. Drones are not permitted to be flown by tourists in the Galapagos Islands, however, they will not be confiscated at the airport or upon arrival at the islands (unless you’re found to be flying it illegally). Only bring it with you if you are planning on continuing your trip elsewhere after the Galapagos. 

For the Galapagos Islands there are two associated plug types A and B. Plug type A is the plug which has two flat parallel prongs and plug type B is like type A but with an extra prong for grounding. The Galapagos Islands operate on a 120V supply voltage and 60Hz. We always suggest bringing a universal adaptor if you’re not from the states. 

Phone and internet access

Wifi is not widely available on Galapagos, and even when available, it will not always work. We suggest purchasing a prepaid sim card at the airport in Quito. This option only works on unlocked phones. Right in the airport, you’ll find kiosks for Ecuador’s main mobile phone providers are Claro and Movistar, however it said that Claro has better coverage on the Galapagos Islands. 

Plans and prices can change but expect to pay between $5-10USD for a plan that will provide you 1-2GB of data. You will require your passport to purchase and register your new sim.

Alternatively, ask your home service provider for international plans. 

Group leader and guide

All tours with The Solo Female Traveler Network are accompanied by a guide who is with the group for the whole trip. The guide’s role is to be the local expert of the destination and coordinate a lot of the on the ground logistics. They are not always a native of the country, but they are always experienced expert guides. 

Most of our tours also include a leader, whose role is to enrich the experience socially. She will help bridge any cultural differences, manage group expectations, and capture the tour in photos and videos for marketing purposes. Some tours will not include a Tour Leader, and in this case, our local guide will act as both guide and leader.

Traveling as a woman

We believe that every woman should dress as she chooses and should feel free to experience the world without extra worry for her safety. Unfortunately, the rest of the word does not practice gender equality as we wish. It’s important to adapt to local customs to be safer and to respect not only the locals, but also your fellow travelers. The likelihood of anything happening on your trip is quite low, but we recommend being aware of the following safety tips:

Street harassment such as cat calls, stares, invitations to get in a car/bar/restaurant/home are possible on the Galapagos Islands. These are our tips for responding to this unwanted attention:

  • Ignore. Don’t even bother smiling. Just keep about your business.
  • Wear sunglasses to avoid eye contact.
  • Ignore. We mean it, so we said it twice! Ignore them but also ignore your internal commentary on it all. Let it roll off your back and walk on focusing on all the amazing things around you.
  • Dress respectfully and you will find both men and women will respond to you in a more respectful manner.
  • While it very unlikely to happen, do feel free to stand up for yourself if you feel threatened. Ecuadorian men you do not know should not be touching you at all and if you’re in public, people will come to your aid if you make a fuss.

How to dress for the Galapagos has more to do with the heat than for modesty purposes. We suggest loose fitting clothing that protects your skin from the sun, but feel free to wear sleeveless tops, skirts, and whatever else you feel most comfortable wearing. 

When not with your guide, we recommend the following:

  • Do not walk in isolated areas or at night by yourself
  • If hotel staff need to enter your room, arrange to be either on tour or in the lobby, so you are not alone.
  • Respect the local customs, which may mean dressing more conservatively than you do at home.
  • Do not hire a driver or guide for tours from the street. Always go with a reputable company or ask us to help you arrange any pre or post experiences. 
  • Do not accept any invitations for anything from random people on the street.
  • Always carry your tour guide’s contact information and hotel address with you during solo time.
  • Alert your guide of any inappropriate behavior or perceived risk to your safety.

Safety

We recommend that you stay up to date on travel safety updates on your home country government website. Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, but they are not required to accompany you on solo time, where you can relax, choose an optional activity, or explore on your own. During solo time, we do not vouch for the safety of the experiences you choose, even if our guide or leader recommends them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Our team on the ground is always monitoring the safety situation and reserves the authority to cancel or change experiences at their discretion if deemed unsafe.

Seat belts are always provided and must be worn in accordance with local law. 

In the Galapagos, cars do drive on the right side of the road. Practice extreme caution when crossing the street. Also note that traffic may be much heavier and road rules may be very different from what you are used to. Be careful and aware that pedestrians do not have the right of way.

While most of the tour, especially in major cities, will be with your guide and the group, petty theft is common in any tourist area. Do not walk around alone at night if it can be avoided and hold your belongings close on public transportation. Your local guide will give you some safety tips throughout your tour, and we suggest heeding this advice.

Please do not enter the water without a life vest and a buddy if you are not an experienced swimmer. Alert the leader and guide to your ability level before participating in water activities. Lifeguards are not on duty and our staff are not trained in water rescue. 

We suggest checking your government’s advice in relation to the areas you will be visiting for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers.

Travel insurance

Travel insurance is mandatory on all our Meetup Tours. We require that at a minimum you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. If you are travelling within your home country or region please confirm before travel that you are entitled to access the public medical system easily should an accident occur. We strongly recommend all travellers have a policy that also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage or personal effects. For international trips, you will not be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company’s 24-hour emergency contact number has been sighted by your leader.

If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number, and emergency contact number rather than the bank’s name and your credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.

Group rules

With almost all of our travelers coming on the Meetup Tour solo, we have women from different countries, backgrounds, perspectives, and opinions. This is part of what makes our tours so special and what often leaves our travelers with couches to crash on around the world and even long time friendships. Like any group, especially one consisting of people of different ages coming from all corners of the world, this can also cause clashes in culture and disagreements. We promote an environment of kindness, empowerment, and communication, so certain behaviors will not be tolerated for the benefit of everyone’s experience. 

A great group dynamic takes effort, patience, and compassion from every member. Bullying, threatening, and violence of staff, locals, and fellow participants will not be tolerated on our trips.

Use or possession of illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. If you choose to consume alcohol while traveling, we encourage responsible drinking and expect that you’ll abide by the local laws regarding alcohol consumption.

The group guide and leader have final say on all matters that affect the safety or well-being of any traveler or staff member participating in the trip. If you fail to comply with a decision made by a group leader, or interfere with the well-being or mobility of the group, the group leader may direct you to leave the trip immediately, with no right of refund.