The Galapagos Islands are located in the Pacific Ocean 926km off the East Coast of Ecuador, the country to which they belong.
If you are a citizen of the EU, USA, Canada or Australia do not require a visa for stays of less than 90 days. If you are a citizen of any other country check the visa requirements with your nearest Ecuadorean consulate before you travel.
The first thing to be aware of is that you can only fly to the Galapagos Islands from two airports in Ecuador (Quito and Guayaquil) as there are no direct international flights.
The second thing to note is that all the flights from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos Islands leave in the morning which often means an overnight layover is necessary on mainland Ecuador before transiting to the Islands the following morning.
The third is that you need to check in an hour and a half before your flight leaves mainland Ecuador.
There are two airports you can arrive at in the Galapagos Islands, San Cristóbal & Seymour Airport on Baltra, from where you take ferries or local planes to transit further. Note that to protect the fragile ecosystem baggage is always and thoroughly inspected on your transit to and from the Islands so allow extra time for this when planning connections.
José Joaquin de Olmedo International Airport
This is the airport located in Guayaquil and its international code is GYE. There are daily direct flights to the Galapagos Islands of Baltra (Seymour Airport) and San Cristóbal. All depart in the morning.
Mariscal Sucre International Airport
This airport is located in the city of Quito and the airport code is UIO. There are direct daily flights to the Galapagos Island of Baltra (Seymour Airport) but no direct flights from this airport to San Cristóbal. Again all flights leave in the morning.
This airport is on the island of Baltra and its airport code is GPS. Baltra is a tiny island that only houses the airport and the Seymour Passenger Dock. A short ferry from Baltra to the large Island of Santa Cruise allows you to access the Puerto Ayora dock. Tours leave from both the Puerto Ayora and Seymour docks.
San Cristóbal Airport
This airport is on the island of San Cristóbal and its airport code is SCY. The airport is close (walkable) to the town and the Puerto Baquerizo Moreno dock from where tours depart.
Flying From Europe
Most flights from Europe will transit through Madrid or Barcelona from where you can get direct flights to Quito (Mariscal Sucre International Airport) or via a transfer in Bogota. Transfers from London Heathrow also fly to Bogota so this is a possible connection point. From Quito there are direct flights to Seymour Airport. If you want to fly to San Cristóbal you have to make another connection in Ecuador to the other mainland airport of Guayaquil.
From Berlin or Paris the fastest route is about 22 hours, from London about 24 hours and from Madrid about 19.5 hours. However, journey times can be significantly longer based on the time of departure and the layover for connecting flights.
Flying From the USA
Travel times can be as short as 11 hours from New York and Miami. From Washington, you are looking at around a 16-20 hour trip, Texas about 18 hours, and Los Angeles 16-18 hours.
From New York JKF you can get flights directly to Guayaquil. Other journeys have an additional transfer in Bogota.
From Miami, you have to change in Bogota or Panama City to get a connection to mainland Ecuador.
From Washington, three flights are often necessary, connections are typical via 2 of San Salvador, Bogota & Panama City. However, two stop trips are possible if you can take a flight to Fort Lauderdale International where direct flights leave for Guayaquil.
From Dallas Texas, take flights to San Salvador or Fort Lauderdale where you can take direct flights to mainland Ecuador.
From Los Angeles, take flights to San Salvador, Lima or Panama city where you can take direct flights to mainland Ecuador.
Flying From India
From India, the best routes all connect through Europe so in addition to the flight times discussed above, there are additional flights to get you to an appropriate airport in Europe which are sometimes via an intermediary location such as Dubai or Doha. This significantly increases the total flight transit time.
In general, flight connections to South America work better from London Heathrow or Barcelona than Madrid. The quickest flight times are; Mumbai around 42 hours, Ahmedabad 41 hours and Dehli 38 hours.
Flying From China
It will take over 48 hours and flights connect through Europe or the USA. The best route is highly dependent on the time of the year, departure airport, and day of the week but some common routes are as follows;
1) Bejing (PEK), Taiwan Taoyuan (TPE), New York (JFK), Ecuador.
2) Bejing (PEK), Shanghai Hongqiao (SHA), Incheon (ICN), Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS), Ecuador.
Sailing to the Galapagos Islands
There are no ferry routes to the Galapagos Islands. You can only arrive by plane. Once you have arrived however traveling by boat is one the easiest and most effective ways to get to most of the land and water-based tourist spots. There are some great Galapagos cruise tours of varying length, ship size, and budget. These tours not only provide you with most of your accommodation but they ensure you have access to licensed locations and guides and get you, trouble-free, around the best beauty spots.
The Galapagos Islands have banned large vessels from their water. The largest ships allowed hold a maximum of 100 people and most are far smaller than this. There are no large vessels or cruise ships at all. This decision was taken to reduce the damage caused by large vessels and large surges of tourists and to ensure that the tourist experience is as unspoiled and tranquil as possible.
Tourist numbers are strictly limited and in most areas, you must be accompanied by a licensed Galápagos National Park guide. Camping is tightly licensed and controlled. As a result, most people choose to book an organised trip from licensed tourist firms where access to tourist spots is pre-planned and authorised. These tours have specific start and end dates and times which can complicate arranging flights.
Most tour package prices do not include flights but the organising firms will normally offer to help you book your international flights. You should probably take advantage of this offer as the tour operators will know what a safe connection time is and will also be able to assist you should you experience a delay. Many operators block book flights from Ecuador to the Islands so they can ensure that they have access to enough inbound flights to fill their tours. This can make it difficult and expensive for you to get flights independently.
You simply need to retrace your steps. However, note that all flights leaving the Galalpos and flying to mainland Ecuador leave late morning to early afternoon arriving late afternoon early evening.
There is an hour’s time difference between mainland Ecuador (GMT -5) and the Galapagos Islands (GMT -6).
Entry and Fees
There are costs you will need to pay to be allowed to enter the Galapagos Islands as a tourist. If you are using a tour company check as many include these fees in their prices. If the fees are not covered take cash with you to cover the fees.
There is a $20 ‘INGALA transit control card‘ fee you need to pay on arrival in mainland Ecuador at the airport before you check-in for your flight to the Islands. You need to provide information about your stay, your accommodation, arrival, and departure. You can provide most of this information online before you travel.
Every tourist must pay $100 ($50 for those 11 or under) for the Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee on arrival in the Galapagos.