5 Tips When Visiting the Galapagos on a Budget
The Galapagos Islands are well known for their beauty and serenity. The famous up-close-and-personal encounters with exotic wildlife and the astounding variety of flora and fauna makes this place an particularly attractive one for eco-travelers and nature lovers. Ever since the Galapagos inspired Charles Darwin to develop his theory of Evolution, this group of islands has been known for their majestic beauty and the unique creatures that exist only here. And due to the remoteness of the Galapagos Islands, it would seem obvious that a tour to a place like this would require a big budget.
For the average traveler, a Galapagos Islands tour has long been seen to be an expensive proposition. Thus, we come across many people who often think twice before booking a Galapagos holiday tour. But even though it may seem costly, a Galapagos tour can easily be altered according to one’s budget, if you know the right travel secrets. Here are a few savvy travel tips that can help you have an unforgettable Galapagos experience without worrying about your wallet.
1. Book during the “Shoulder Season”
Like every popular travel spot, the Galapagos, too, has a shoulder season when a few select activities or sights that you may wish to experience may not be available. These rare events actually are responsible for the higher prices during the Galapagos’ high seasons. The period between April and June and from September to December are said to be shoulder seasons for the Galapagos. When traveling on a budget, booking your holiday package during this time can save you as much as 30% off on cruises and other activities. But, you need to make sure that the attractions that you are looking forward to are available during the shoulder season. Consult your travel agency or cruise company for the latest information.
2. Avoid Early Cruise Bookings
A commonly held misconception is that early bookings will save time and money. But for a Galapagos Islands cruise or tour, a last minute booking can actually be much cheaper. Last minute cruise bookings can often save you up to 50% of the cost of an advanced booking. Care should be taken while scheduling the tour, however, as it may be difficult to book a cruise last minute during the peak season.
3. Purchase Non-Organic Items before you reach the Islands
As with most islands groups like Hawaii or French Polynesia, the Galapagos Islands must import much of t from elsewhere. This means that many common items, such as batteries and clothing, are priced at an outrageous premium in the Galapagos. You can save on these expenses by simply carrying your essential non-organic items with you, particularly sunscreens, sunglasses, swim wear, photography accessories such as memory cards or film, etc. Most of these items can be picked up while you are in Quito or Guayaquil for up to 75% less than in the Galapagos. This will save a ton of money that you can instead spend on activities, meals or beverages during your island tour. Just keep in mind that you cannot bring or carry any organic items — fruits, vegetables, meats, etc. — to the Galapagos.
4. Book Budget Hotels
There are number of excellent hotels and resorts that deliver outstanding hospitality throughout the Galapagos Islands, some of which are ranked among the world’s best. However, when your travel dollars are tight, be sure to book your stay at one of the many “budget” hotels in the Galapagos. These 2- and 3-star hotels deliver excellent accommodations and often provide many of the same services promised by the luxury resorts, yet at a price that will make a savvy eco-traveler smile. Many of these hotels offer outdoor pools, air conditioning and on-site restaurants and bars, so you can enjoy the wonderful environment and climate of the Galapagos at a luxury resort. Selecting the right budget hotel can reduce your total trip costs by up to 60% — a significant savings for backpackers and less “well-heeled” travelers.
5. Opt for Free Activities
Activities are plentiful in the Galapagos, from world-class snorkeling and scuba diving, to hiking the Galapagos National Park, to unbelievable close-up photography of sea lions and marine iguanas, to pleasant day trips to pristine islands. Some of these activities can strain your budget; but for the savvy Galapagos traveler many activities can be had for free. A few among them, along with the places they would be found, include:
- Interpretation Center: This center is a museum that offers historical and ecological information about Galapagos. The site also has some excellent nearby hiking trails.
- Jacinto Gordillo Breeding Center for Giant Tortoises: Here you can see the giant tortoises that the Galapagos Islands are famous, as well as a few baby tortoises wandering amongst the big guys. At certain times of the year you may also find these tortoises in the process of mating.
- El Junto: The beautiful cerulean-colored lake inside an active volcano is the attraction here. You can also hike the rim of the volcano while enjoying the lush forest trails.
- Charles Darwin Research Center: This world-renowned research center reveals the history of evolution as seen through the lens of Charles Darwin. They also have a giant tortoise and iguana breeding center as well.
- Bahia Tortuga: The white sand beach here acts as a home to marine iguanas, crabs and many different bird species. It is also one of the favorite beaches for surfers.
- Garrapatero Beach: This beach can be a great outing for the swimmers. It also has mangroves, marine iguanas, poison apple trees and a plethora of birds. You can also camp here.
- Laguna Salinas: This is a beautiful place that is full of wildlife, including flamingos.
- National Park Tortoise Reserve: The national tortoise reserve has a large number of giant tortoises, as well as many species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
- Laguna Concha Perla: This is an awesome location for snorkeling. One can see comical penguins, lazy sea lions, majestic sea turtles, colorful fish and more.
A little bit of research and preparation can go a long way in helping make your trip to Galapagos Islands a magical one. The actual money spent on a Galapagos Island holiday can be a lot less than most people commonly think. Choosing the right season, and the right budget hotels, activities and tour operators can help you create a trip that will be memorable and cost effective.
There are many tour operators offering you great services depending on your budget and schedule. They allow you to select the appropriate Galapagos vacation package that suits your needs, and most are also ready to customize your trip according to your budget. Now that you know a few travel secrets, there is nothing stopping you from exploring these wondrous islands, home to some of the rarest species on the planet.