Galapagos on a Budget, leon dormido

How to visit the Galapagos on a Budget – Your practical Galapagos Trip Cost Guide

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Our trip to the Galapagos Islands was a little dream that finally came true. Even though the Pacific islands are not precisely cheap, we have realized that your Galapagos Trip cost doesn’t necessarily have to force you into bankruptcy. On the contrary, a trip to the Galapagos on a budget is totally doable.

Therefore, in this article, we have listed all our Galapagos islands trip costs cent by cent so that you get an idea of the Galapagos prices on-site and what the Galapagos cost. Besides that, you will find a lot of helpful savings tips that will help you travel to the Galapágos Islands without breaking the bank.

Galapagos Trip Cost

Great Tortoise on Santa Cruz, Galapagos
A Great Tortoise in Galápagos

In the following section, we’ll check the approximate Galapagos travel costs that you can expect on an average day in the islands. Of course, how much you’ll really end up spending all depends on your personal travel style.

Author’s note: The following travel expenses for Galápagos reflect the approximate prices for a trip on-site. They do not include cost information for a Galápagos Cruise.

 

Average Galapagos Vacation Cost per day

The Galapagos prices can differ greatly depending on the travel style and planned activities. Those who only do activities on their own instead of joining tours, and cook for themselves can even stay just under € 47.77/ $ 53.88 per day. If you only visit one or two islands, it can get even cheaper.

However, we recommend you not to be too stingy, because, believe me, the tours are the real highlight of a Galapagos trip – because there are a lot of exciting and unique sea creatures to discover.

If you follow our 10-day Galapagos Itinerary and eat out on average once a day, you will end up with around € 82.33/ $ 92.86 per day, which is a total of € 822.30/ $ 927.51 for the ten days.

Author’s note: The daily prices listed do not include the outward and return flight.

Our total trip to Galápagos Islands Cost

For 10 days in the Galápagos, we, therefore, spent € 1,125.26/ $ 1,269.23 per person (including the flights).

Our Average Galápagos Travel Cost by day

Food: 11.30 €/ $ 12,74 (Of which are: Breakfast: 1.98 €/ $ 2.23, Lunch: 3.18 €/ $ 3.58, Dinner: 6.14 €/$ 6.92)

Accommodation: 13.26 €/ $ 14.95

Activities:  46.17 €/ $ 52.07

Transport:  9.17 €/ $ 10.34 (+ 302.96 €/ $ 341.72 Flights to/from Guayaquil)

Other Expenses:  2.33 €/ $ 2.62

Author’s note: The expenditures were, of course, made in the national currency, US dollars, and are only listed here in euros for better understanding. The exchange rate corresponds to that at the time of our trip (1 euro = 1.127 USD). Any discrepancies are caused by rounding.

We have tracked our costs with the Trexpense Pro * app. A great way to keep track of your spending while traveling.

* Disclaimer: The pro version of the app was made available to us free of charge for testing.

Galapagos Prices – What costs what

  • Budget accommodation (private double room for 2) from € 20 per night (depending on the island and season)
  • Private double room Airbnb (for 2): from € 20 per night (depending on the island and season)
  • Budget accommodation – bed in a hostel: from 10 – 15 € per night (depending on the island and season)
  • Lunch in an inexpensive restaurant (menu): from about $ 4-5 (about 3.5 – 4.50 €)
  • Dinner in a cheap restaurant: about $ 8-10 (about 7-9 €)
  • Dinner for 2 in a good restaurant: approx. $ 20 (approx. € 17.50)
  • 1 liter of water in the supermarket: approx. $ 2.5 (approx. € 2.20)
  • A boat trip between the islands: $ 25 (about 22 €)

How to visit the Galapagos on a Budget

Sea horses, Galapagos, Los Tuneles
Unbelievable underwater world

Now that you’ve got a small overview of what costs how much in Galapagos in this section, we will now tell you how you can save a lot of money during your Galapagos trip with a few ridiculously simple tricks.

Galapagos Transport on a Budget

In the following section, you will find a lot of helpful Galapagos travel tips, with which you can save a lot of money for the transport to and between the Galapagos Islands.

Getting to Galapagos Islands

Even before you even step foot on the Galápagos Islands, you can already save some money – because the journey is often one of the most expensive factors of a trip. The more flexible you are in terms of time and departure airport, you can really save some bucks. Compare prices between the two airports on the island (Seymour Airport and Airport San Cristóbal) and the two departure airports in Guayaquil and Quito.

When you ultimately choose a flight, it is essential to book your flight well in advance and compare prices. I prefer to use flight comparison sites like Skyscanner.

It’s cheaper in a group

If you arrive at Seymour Airport (Balta Island – near Santa Cruz), you either have to take a bus or a taxi to get to Puerto Ayora. Since the price of the taxi is calculated per car and not per person, you can save money by teaming up with other travelers.

But also in general, the prices are often lower if you are traveling with several people. Whether taxi rides, accommodation (cheaper from 2 people), or even tours. If you are traveling in a group, many tourism agencies are happy to give a discount if you’ll choose their tour.

Rent a bike instead of going by taxi

Another great way to save some money in the Galápagos Islands is to take a bike instead of a taxi. Of course, this doesn’t apply to the journey from the airport, but if you want to move around the islands, e.g., the El Muro de las Lágrimas tour.

A bike is particularly worthwhile if you’re going to make several stops during your trip.

Walk as much as you can

Of course, it is even cheaper than by bike or taxi if you simply walk all the way. Destinations that are not too far away, such as Tortuga Bay on Santa Cruz or the port on Isla Isabela, can also be easily reached on foot.

An app like Google Maps or Maps.me can be helpful to find your way around the Galápagos Islands.

Gálapagos Accommodation on a Budget

Accommodation is probably one of the most expensive aspects of any trip. However, your Gálapagos accommodation doesn’t even have to be that expensive. In this paragraph, you will learn how you can save a few extra dollars for your accommodation here and there without ending up in the last descent.

Book your accommodation in advance

If you start looking for accommodation early enough, you not only have more places to choose from, but you may even find a bargain or two. I use Booking.com to find the best accommodation. At Booking, you can find accommodations of all price ranges with numerous helpful reviews from other independent travelers worldwide.

Check Galápagos Accommodation on Booking.com

Or check your accommodation just on-site

Some backpackers swear by this tip: Always find your accommodation personally on-site. Often you can negotiate a better price face-to-face at the accommodation, especially if you stay for several days or if you are in a group or as a couple.

Of course, this trick only works if there are still enough rooms in the accommodation available, and you are good at negotiating. However, some property owners might not go down in price, i.e., there is no guarantee that you can really get a good discount. Thus, if you have little time, you should book your accommodation in advance anyway.

Travel outside of the high season

Even if the difference in Gálapagos between high and low season is not really big, you can still save a few bucks if you arrive in the low season (September – November). At this point, fewer visitors come to the island so that you can get a few discounts not only on accommodation but also on tours.

Use Airbnb

airbnb app, Rent a room in Galápagos

We love Airbnb. This platform not only a great way to find a bargain or two but also gives you the opportunity to get to know the life of the locals up close. Here you will find many locals that rent their guest rooms to travelers. Especially if you are traveling as a couple, with Airbnb, you can often find a lot of interesting places for a small price.

What’s even better is that Airbnb gives you an absolutely unique insight into the culture of a country, since you’re at home with the locals. Moreover, your hosts are able to provide you with the best insider tips and answer many of your questions.

Important: To support the locals, please only rent rooms in a local’s private flat and not an entire apartment. Renting the apartments to tourists increases the rental prices in the tourist regions for everyone and expels the locals from the area. Because they can no longer afford their own apartments due to increased rent. But if you stay in the guest room of locals, you will help them pay their rent and benefit from tourism in their city.

Check available rooms on Galápagos on Airbnb

Or how about staying in Galápagos for free while hanging out with locals?

There is another cheap option, or even free of charge, to stay in the Galapagos Islands. This option is called Couchsurfing. Eduardo and I absolutely love Couchsurfing and have already used it in various countries on three continents and only had great experiences. (We actually met while using Couchsurfing, but that’s another story)

However, note that you should only couch surfing if you plan to spend a little time with your host and offer him something in return (e.g., you can help him learn your language, cook something delicious, etc.). Please do not use Couchsurfing just as a free overnight stay but as an opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture of the country and get to know the locals.

Check Couchsurfing Hosts on Galápagos

Gálapagos Food on a Budget

Avoid Tourist Restaurants & Compare Prices

Just have a look around where the locals eat and compare prices. Instead of eating directly in the tourist center, try the side streets – the prices often look very different.

Extra tip: If you want to try fresh seafood, this is your perfect chance. Even if you might up spending $ 15 on a lobster, just think about how much you would pay for it back home. 

Menu del Día

Especially those who are out for lunch can make a great deal by ordering a menu. Depending on the restaurant, the menus contain 1-2 courses, dessert, and a drink (often a fresh juice). Prices vary, but with a little bit of luck, you can find them for as few as $ 4.

Our recommendation: The cheese soup (Sopa de Queso) is a popular dish in Ecuador and is included in many menus as a first course. Definitely try it!

Eat out for lunch instead of dinner

As already mentioned above, there are many restaurants on the islands that offer a menu at lunchtime. In the evening, most of these restaurants are closed or only offer à la carte dishes.

Therefore, it can be far cheaper if you go out for lunch and instead, only prepare something in your accommodation in the evening.

Shop groceries in supermarkets

If you want to save money on food, you should eat and shop where the locals do. Of course, the residents of Ecuador don’t go out to eat every day, but shop in supermarkets and then eat at home. Also, the various bakeries on the island also offer bread and pastries at relatively low prices. Just have a look around.

Author’s note: Not every supermarket offers cheap prices and some products can be surprisingly expensive in spite of everything. This is because the products first have to be delivered from the mainland, which causes high transport costs.

Bring food from the mainland

Another great tip to save money is to bring as many products as you can from mainland Ecuador. In Quito and Guayaquil, you will usually find much lower prices than on the Galapagos Islands.

Important: However, note that you can only bring processed foods to the Galápagos Islands. Fruit, vegetables, or food from which plants could develop are prohibited.

Have breakfast in your accommodation

Some accommodations offer their guests breakfast. The breakfast is often already included in the room price; some offer it with an additional charge. It is often worth taking such an offer instead of having breakfast outside.

Breakfast was not included in our accommodations, but there was a refrigerator in which we could store food. So we had the opportunity to make our own breakfast every morning instead of eating outside. Even if the yogurt in Galápagos is rather expensive at first glance, it is still worth buying instead of eating out. Add a bit oatmeal (which you can buy here to pretty affordable prices) and fruit, and you have a fast, delicious, healthy, and, above all, inexpensive breakfast.

Cook yourself

One last way to really save money on food in Galápagos is to cook yourself. Book an accommodation where you have access to a kitchen (e.g., at Airbnb or hostels with a shared kitchen). So you can prepare something warm instead of eating in an expensive restaurant. You can find everything you need in the supermarket or at a market (well almost everything, but for a couple of days, it’s definitely going to be enough)

It gets even cheaper if you bring the packaged food (e.g., pasta, rice, and ready-made sauces, etc.) from mainland Ecuador.

Refill your bottle

In almost every accommodation in the Galápagos, there are water dispensers where you can refill your water bottle for free. With this method, you not only save money, but you also help the environment by avoiding plastic waste.

It is advisable to add a refillable bottle to your packing list instead of using plastic bottles.

Make use of the Happy Hour

Alcohol and drinks in Galápagos can often not precisely be described as cheap. It helps to make use of the Happy hour. Many of the bars on the islands offer a happy hour at which you can save up to 50% of the actual price (e.g. with 2 for 1 offers).

Happy hour times differ from bar to bar.

Galápagos Tours and Activities on a Budget

sea lion in Pinzon, Santa Cruz
Join the tours to discover amazing wild life

The tours in the Galapagos Islands are probably the most expensive of the entire trip. It can be challenging to find half-day tours for under $ 100. Of course, that is quite a bit of money.

It helps to think in advance about which tours you want to take during your Galapagos trip. On TripAdvisor and similar portals, you can find many helpful reviews and tips from other travelers about the offers and tours of each island. We decided to take a tour on each island and were thrilled by every single one of them. We can, therefore, highly recommend the following tours (if you like snorkeling and are interested in the marine life of the Galapagos Islands):

  • Pinzón (Santa Cruz)
  • Los Tuneles (Isla Isabela)
  • Kayak rental/Tintoreras tour (Isla Isabela)
  • León Dormido/Kicker Rock (San Cristóbal)

It doesn’t always have to be a tour

On each of the tourist islands, tours are offered for seeing almost every attraction. What many visitors are not so aware of is that it doesn’t always have to be a tour. You can discover many of the attractions of the islands on your own. Looking at how much the tours usually cost on the islands, you can save quite an amount of money by doing things on your own.

Some of the attractions can be reached on foot, for others, you have to rent a bike or take a taxi. In the following, you can find a few examples of activities and sights that you can discover without a tour.

Santa Cruz

  • El Chato
  • Los Gemelos
  • Tuneles
  • Rancho Primicias
  • Tortuga Bay
  • Las Grietas
  • Playa de Los Alemanes
  • Columpio Mágico
  • Darwin Research Station

Isla Isabela

  • Tintoras (with rented Kayak)
  • Playa de la Concha
  • Posado de Flamengos
  • Pozas Salinas
  • El Muro de las Lágrimas
  • Arnaldo Turpiza Breeding Station

San Cristóbal

  • San Cristóbal Interpretation Center
  • Playa de Oro
  • Cerro Tijeras
  • Loberia Beach
  • Puerto Chino Beach
  • La Galapaguera Tortoise Habitat

Bargain

Those who have been traveling in South America for a longer time may even be used to it already: negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. Although negotiating in the Galápagos Islands is not as extreme as you might know from Southeast Asia or Morocco, you can ask for a few bucks off anyway – they worse that can happen is that they say no, am I right? 😉

Especially if you are interested in more than one tour or you book it together with several people, you can usually get a few dollars off your tour.

Bring a snorkel and an underwater camera

Another practical way to save money on Galápagos is to bring a snorkel and an underwater camera with you. Bringing it saves you money on every snorkeling trip because you don’t have to borrow snorkeling equipment. The same applies to an underwater camera. You certainly want to have photos of your adventure, don’t you?

Author’s note: If you go on snorkeling tours, the equipment is usually provided free of charge. This tip is rather for if you want to go snorkeling on your own.

An underwater camera usually costs you around 25$ rent for every day.

Bring sunscreen from home/from the mainland

We were shocked to see that you sometimes have to pay $ 20 for a tube of sunscreen. Generally, sunscreens are not cheap in South America – but less so in the Galápagos. That’s why it’s worth buying it on the mainland, or even better at home.

Galápagos tip: No matter how tanned you are: Good sun protection is incredibly important. As the sun so close to the equator is clearly not walk in the park. If you are prone to sunburn quickly, we recommend a sunblock with sun protection factor 90 or 100. Surprisingly, in South America, these are usually far cheaper than a sunscreen with SPF 30 or 50.


Were you able to find some helpful Galápagos savings tips that you would like to try out on your trip? How much did you spend on your trip? Or maybe you have some great savings tips for us yourself? Let us know in the comments below!

More Galapagos

Perhaps one of our other Galápagos articles can help you plan your trip as well

about-the-author

About the AuthorVicki

Hi, we are Vicki & Eduardo, an international travel couple on a mission to help you save money for priceless travel experience. Follow us through the miracles of this world and you will be rewarded with a bunch of practical travel tips.

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