Made up of a group of volcanic islands and an immensely diverse marine ecosystem, the Galapagos Islands almost seem mystical and far from anywhere else on Earth. You almost feel as though it’s your personal duty to preserve these humble, yet astonishing islands.
Because it’s known as one of the world’s top destinations for viewing and interacting with wildlife, many people automatically associate it with large dollar bills.
While there are many opportunities to travel luxuriously on lavish yachts and overnight cruises, it is also completely possible to fully experience the islands on a backpacker budget too.
I’ll admit it was quite intimidating and overwhelming when I first started planning my trip. But trust me it gets easier, especially after arriving on the island.
In the end, I spent less than $1000 USD for 7 days on the islands. My costs were a bit lower because I had a travel buddy to split with, but I was far from scrooging my pennies!
My cost breakdown for 7 days
$260 round trip from Quito to Isla Baltra
$107 (divided in half with my travel buddy)
We did four day-trips
Ferry rides to other islands:
$60 round trip
Lunches are usually included with the tours
This part can be pretty standard in terms of pricing, as getting to and from the islands are highly regulated. There are only a couple options you can take.
You can fly from Quito or Guayaquil to Isla Baltra (which is an airport island just north of Santa Cruz. When you fly into this airport, you’re essentially going to Santa Cruz) or San Cristobal.
I found a TAME flight for only $260, round trip from Quito to Isla Baltra. I bought it right away and within a couple days, the prices were back at around $400 round trip. From what I’ve heard, $400 is the typical price for flights, but do hunt around. You never know!
On Santa Cruz, the airport provides a complementary shuttle to the other side of the island. There you can board a small ferry for a couple dollars to cross to the other side, and either take a taxi or a bus right into the main town. It was a couple dollars for us to take the public bus and it took around an hour.
I didn’t book any accommodations before hand, as most of what I found online was expensive and very limited.
Instead, I decided to go straight to the tourism centre when I arrived in town. There I got maps and suggestions for cheap accommodations.
After inquiring at several establishments, I settled on Hotel Flamingo. Opting for their cheapest room, my suite was actually located behind the street-front luxury hotel building and didn’t offer any hotel perks. There’s a clear difference between the main building and my room, but for the price, it was well worth it.
To get an inexpensive room, ask reception for their cheapest rooms. It’ll usually take a couple tries before they actually show you their cheapest rooms. They always offer their top rooms first, but just keep asking. I realized a lot of hotels actually had these cheap rooms in the back, they just didn’t advertised them.
To limit my spending, I decided to embark on single day tours. I shopped between many tour companies, but found most offered very similar activities and costs. Turns out there are a lot of restrictions on tour companies, and many only act as a middle person with another company actually operating the tours.
I did find prices were different depending on which island the tour was purchased from. Learning from other travellers, Santa Cruz was the most expensive to book tours from, as it’s the main island.
Day tours typically cost around $50 – $100. Which is completely reasonable, as tours include lunches, drinks, equipment, wet suits and if you’re travelling far, ferry transfers.
Along with expedition tours, there are also a lot of free activities to partake in. The Charles Darwin Research Centre is free on Santa Cruz. As well, every island has a multitude of free beaches.