🐒 Galapagos Trip Cost Review: How Much to Budget in 2024

Galapagos Trip Cost: How to Budget for Galapagos blog post cover graphic.  Text overlaying an image of a young woman in a bikini sat on a white sand beach next to a large marine iguana.

The cost of a trip to Galapagos can be as affordable as $50 per day or as lux as $1000+ per day, depending on how you like to travel!

In fact, Sophie and I managed to spend less than $1000 on a two-week Galapagos vacation in April 2023.

While the Galapagos Islands are thought to be an expensive holiday destination, they can actually be visited on a backpacker budget. Accommodation can be found for as little as $15 per night, local food is just $5 per meal, and beaches are free!

Conversely, those dreaming of something more luxurious can visit the Galapagos via an extravagant cruise, spending anywhere from $500-$1000+ per day!

In this guide, we will explain the average Galapagos trip costs, including airfare, meals, accommodation, inter-island transport, tours, activities, and more.

Whether you visit via a group tour, cruise ship, or self-guided adventure, you will find information and breakdowns for standard pricing.

πŸ’° How Much is a Trip to the Galapagos Islands?

Sunny day photography from Isla Bartolome viewpoint captured on a vacation to the Galapagos islands.

The average cost of a visit to the Galapagos Islands varies based on which of the three trip types are being considered:

  1. Galapagos by Cruise: $500-$1000 per day on average (+ flights & entry fees).
  2. Galapagos by Land Tour: $200-$500 per day on average (+ flights & entry fees).
  3. Galapagos Self-Guided: $50-$200 per day on average (+ flights & entry fees).

Note that you will also need to factor into your budget the cost for roundtrip flights from Quito or Guayaquil on mainland Ecuador to/from Galapagos, as these are the only two cities that service the islands!

Additionally, you may need to consider elective costs such as travel insurance.

Continue reading for a thorough breakdown and better understanding of these average costs.


πŸ—ΊοΈ Map of the Galapagos Islands

A color coded map of the Galapagos Islands showing inhabited islands and those accessible by day trip or cruise, plus ferry routes custom made by We Dream of Travel.

The map of the Galapagos Islands above shows the archipelago in its entirety.

It has been color-coded to indicate the islands that are inhabited and can be stayed on, those accessible by day tour, and those that are accessible via cruise ship only.

In addition, ferry services and airports are indicated by the appropriate symbols.

While there are 16-22 Galapagos Islands (depending on your definition), only three of these are viable options to stay on. In order of population, they are Santa CruzSan Cristobal, and Isabela.

This is worth keeping in mind as you start planning your Galapagos vacation.

*Note: Floreana is the 4th inhabited island and technically offers accommodation and services for tourism, but it is extremely limited.


πŸ›³ Galapagos Trip Costs by Vacation Type

Self-Guided Galapagos Trip Cost

A lone swimmer enjoys the crystal clear water of the Galapagos islands on a self-guided holiday.

Contrary to popular belief, you do not require a guide, permit, or tour to visit the Galapagos islands!

A self-guided trip to the Galapagos islands is the most cost-effective method of travel, and also allows the greatest flexibility of budget and time once you are on the islands.

On the flip side, traveling to the Galapagos islands without a guided tour or preset itinerary requires substantial planning and preparation that could otherwise be avoided by letting a tour operator take care of everything for you.

The average per-person costs of a self-guided Galapagos vacation breakdown as follows:

Roundtrip Flights to Quito (or Guayaquil) from the US$400$1300
Roundtrip Flights to Galapagos Islands from mainland Ecuador$450$550
Galapagos National Park Entry Fee
*children 12 and under are half-price*
INGALA Transit Control Card$20$20
Travel Insurance$75$250
Meals @ 3 per day$15$75
Taxis / Transport / Misc fees$5$25
Day Tours & Activities$5$200

Based on these numbers, you can expect to spend as little as about $1500 or as much as about $6500 per person for a 7-day self-guided trip to the Galapagos Islands.

Continue reading to better understand what factors create such a wide discrepancy in the low and high-end range of the Galapagos vacation costs highlighted above.


Land Tour to Galapagos Trip Cost

A curious giant tortoise pokes his head up at tour group visiting Charles Darwin Research Station on a land-tour of Santa Cruz the Galapagos islands.

The average cost of a land-tour to the Galapagos islands is between $200-$500 per day, but it is important to note what is included in your package.

A land-based tour will often be a surprisingly good value and comes with the massive benefit of removing all other time and budgetary planning requirements.

This is the option we recommend for most people.

There are a plethora of tours available with unique itineraries, islands visited, and daily activities. These include Galapagos-specific tours as well as hybrid tours that also include highlights of mainland Ecuador.

Note that many tour packages do not provide the flights to Galapagos from Ecuador, the $100 entry fee upon arrival, nor the $20 INGALA Transit Control Card.

You will want to check this carefully when booking and be prepared to factor these costs into your budget.


Cruise to Galapagos Trip Cost

Aerial photo of a Galapagos cruise ship docked off the volcanic shoreline of San Cristobal island.

At an average cost between $500-$1000 per day, cruises to Galapagos are typically the most expensive way to visit.

However, cruises are also the easiest and most time-efficient method of travel around the Galapagos islands.

With a cruise, you do not waste time with multiple hotel check-ins nor ferries and inter-island transport. You also don’t lose any time planning your trip – everything is taken care of for you!

Visiting Galapagos by cruise is the best option for anyone who enjoys this style of travel and can afford it. It is a poor option for the adventure-minded or budget-conscious traveler.

Similar to land-based tours, most cruises do not include the flights to Galapagos from Ecuador, the $100 entry fee upon arrival, nor the $20 INGALA Transit Control Card. Therefore, you will need to factor these into your budget.

🐒 Galapagos Trip Costs: Each Budget Item explained

This section will better explain the factors that contribute to the major variable costs for a Galapagos vacation.

Understanding these items will help you figure out how much you need to budget for your specific vacation. Some of these costs will be covered in tour packages, but many will not.

Flights to Galapagos

A view of the coastline from an airplane window flying over the Galapagos islands on a sunny day.

All flights to Galapagos depart from either Quito or Guayaquil on mainland Ecuador.

Accordingly, you will likely need to book two separate flights to get to the islands from the US or any other international location:

  • Flight to Quito (recommended) or Guayaquil.
  • Flight to Galapagos.

From the US, the cheapest roundtrip flights to Quito can be found for as little $300, but most tend to be in the $500-$1000 range.

UK travelers are looking at a range of $1000-$1600 USD on average, not including bags.

Once you are in Quito or Guayaquil, roundtrip flights onward to Galapagos are typically around $450-$550.

There are two Galapagos islands with airports you can fly in and out from. Those are San Cristobal (SCY) and Baltra / Santa Cruz (GPS).


Be cautious of accidentally booking a locals-only fare!

Flight comparison sites may pull up cheaper flights than those listed above, but these are for locals only.

As a foreign visitor, you must book the higher price point or you will be charged an additional $150-200 at the airport.

The fares you need to purchase for each airline are:

  • L” fare for Avianca
  • Top” fare for Latam
  • Cacao-Premium” fare for Equair

Unfortunately, this is not clear on airline websites and we met many people on the islands that had made this mistake.


Galapagos Islands Entry Fees

A photo of the main pier and entry to San Cristobal island in the Galapagos.

While you do not need any permits, visas, or guides to visit, there are a number of fees charged by the Galapagos National Park Directorate that protects the islands.

The INGALA Transit Control Card (often abbreviated as TCT or TCC) must be purchased for $20 USD at the airport in Quito or Guayaquil prior to your flight to Galapagos.

Once you have arrived in Galapagos, you will also need to pay a $100 per adult entry fee ($50 children 12 and under) to officially enter Galapagos National Park.

Additionally, each island charges a small pier fee upon arrival from another island. This ranges from $1-$10 dollars.

Accommodation Costs

A view of the pool from our hotel room at Hotel Silberstein on Santa Cruz island on a Galapagos vacation.

Accommodation in Galapagos is surprisingly affordable, albeit mostly basic.

There are two options for budget accommodation that tend to run as little as $15-$30 per night.

The first option is booking a local “hostals” or homestay, which is essentially a large family home with separate guest spaces. You will likely have a room to yourself but may share a bathroom, kitchen, and living spaces.

The other budget option is a standard backpacker hostels with shared dorms.

Quality hotels tend to start around $100 per night, with the most expensive topping out around $300 per night. These guarantee a bit more privacy and amenities but are more basic than what you would expect to find at a similar star rating in the US or Europe.


Meal Costs

Night photo of the affordably priced Los Kioskos food stalls on Charles Binford street on the Galapagos island of Santa Cruz.

You will find mostly local Ecuadorian food and restaurants in Galapagos, though there are plenty of options for American, European, and other niche fare as well.

Local food (known as “comida tΓ­pica“) will typically be a flat rate of $5 for lunch or dinner and include local fruit juice, soup, rice, beans, and your choice of protein. It is actually quite tasty, though you tend to grow tired of it after a week or so.

International foods are also available, but come with higher price tags. A hamburger, for example, will likely be in the $8-$10 range. Meals at a proper restaurant will typically be in the $20-$30 range per plate.

Keep in mind that most of the food has a long journey to get to these remote islands and manage expectations accordingly.

Day Tours & Activity Costs

A sea lion pops out of the water to greet a tour group enjoying a guided kayaking excursion on Isabela island.

The biggest item that can quickly swing a Galapagos vacation budget is the day tours and activities you wish to participate in.

While the islands are all small, infrastructure is also limited. Beyond that, the entire archipelago is part of a national park which means most places will require a park guide or ranger to visit.

In other words, self-exploration options are extremely limited. It is possible to get to some of the beaches by walking or taking a motor taxi, but most of the highlights require an organized day tour.

Half-day tours, such as the highland tours of San Cristobal or Santa Cruz, are typically between $60-$100.

Full-day tours tend to begin at around $150 per person and cap out at around $250. These include trips out to the smaller sister islands, as well as snorkel or dive trips.

The local activities are much cheaper, but add up when you factor in taxi or transport costs.


Tipping & miscellaneous costs

This photo from the balcony of Santa Cruz brewery shows a full beer in front of the main drag of Puerto Ayora.

You may be surprised at how quickly the “nickel-and-dime” expenses begin to add up. Tipping is the biggest culprit, especially for non-US tourists who are not expecting it.

Due to the high volume of US travelers, most locals have grown accustomed to receiving tips and largely rely on them for income. Expect to tip your day tour guides, servers at even basic restaurants, drivers, and hotel staff.

Additionally, you should expect to lose a couple of dollars here and there each day on miscellaneous items.

Take our journey from Santa Cruz island to Isabela island as a real-life example. We paid $30 for a ferry from one island to the next and thought we were done…

In addition to the $30, we paid the water taxi driver who took us from the dock to the ferry $1 each, then paid another $1 to take us from the boat to the dock upon arrival on the new island. There was a dock fee on Isabela of $10 per person, and another cab fee to get to our hotel from the dock of $3…

By the time we were settled in our new location, our $30 voyage had grown another $15 per person! This is not much in the grand scale of things, but these types of expenses will add up over the course of your vacation.


Travel Insurance

A female snorkeler is seen with a camera photographing a sea lion in this underwater photo from Kicker Rock on San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands.

Travel insurance is highly recommended for anyone visiting Galapagos.

If you’re traveling by tour or cruise, you will most likely be required to have comprehensive travel insurance.

The Galapagos islands are remote and have limited medical facilities on the islands. Ensure you have an adequate plan to cover medical evacuation, as well as any specific activities you’ll be doing.

There are many benefits to using travel insurance beyond health care.  It will also often cover unforeseen circumstances such as missing bags, damage from natural disasters, stolen goods, or even trip cancellation.

Always read your policy carefully when booking travel insurance to ensure you have one that suits your needs.


πŸ™‹β€β™€οΈ FAQs About a Galapagos Trip Cost

A Galapagos giant tortoise with a mouthful of grass poses for the camera.

Hopefully, we have answered all of your questions regarding what you can expect to spend on a vacation to the Galapagos islands.

Below are quick answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about budgeting for a trip to Galapagos. Simply click the drop-down arrows to reveal answers!

How much is a trip to the Galapagos islands?

The average cost of a visit to the Galapagos Islands varies based on which of the three trip types are being compared:

  1. Galapagos by Cruise: $500-$1000 per day on average (+ flights & entry fees).
  2. Galapagos by Land Tour: $200-$500 per day on average (+ flights & entry fees).
  3. Galapagos Self-Guided: $50-$200 per day on average (+ flights & entry fees).

Note that you will also need to budget for the cost of international flights, flights to Galapagos, INGALA Transit Card, National Park Fee, and travel insurance. These add approximately $1100-$2200 total to these prices.

How much should I budget for one week in Galapagos?

If you are budgeting for a self-guided trip to the Galapagos islands, you should expect to spend about $1100-$2200 for flights, entry fees, and insurance, plus $350-$1400 on the islands during a one-week visit.

Are the Galapagos islands expensive to visit?

Visiting the Galapagos islands can be surprisingly affordable for those willing to eat and stay locally. Rooms can be found for as little as $15/night and local food is typically only $5/meal. Flights are the most expensive items to budget for, which will typically cost $1000-$2000+ in total to get to mainland Ecuador, then over to the Galapagos islands. Finally, you will need to budget $120 for entry fees and consider travel insurance.

What is the cheapest way to visit the Galapagos islands?

The most cost-effective way to visit the Galapagos islands is with a self-guided visit that limits day tours and includes only local food and budget accommodation in its itinerary.

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to visit the Galapagos islands without a tour or cruise!

πŸ“š More Galapagos Islands Travel Guides

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Hopefully, this guide has answered all of your questions, now it’s time for the rest of your planning!

These guides will help you through the process step-by-step, providing insight on everything from finding flights to top activities and so much more.

Planning Guides

Local Guides

Things to Do Guides

πŸ’¬ Final Thoughts on a Galapagos Trip Cost

A visitor of Bartolome Island in Galapagos is seen photographing Pinnacle Rock and Playa Dorada from the iconic viewpoint.

The two of us work very hard to create these free travel guides to help you plan your dream vacation. If you think we’ve done a good job and would like to say thanks, please consider clicking the donate button below πŸ™‚

We truly hope you have found this guide on budgeting for a trip to the Galapagos islands useful as you continue to plan the vacation of a lifetime!

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Adam Marland is a professional travel blogger and landscape photographer from Oregon. After over a decade of experience as a freelance travel photographer, Adam found national acclaim when he became the National Park Foundation's β€œChief Exploration Officer” in 2021.

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