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Why Are Galapagos Cruises So Expensive

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Booking A Last Minute Cruise: Cost Breakdown

Why are Cruises so Expensive? How to Book a Cheap Cruise in 2021

This approach works for those who are flexible with their trip duration and are okay with the possibility of not finding a last minute cruise. If you don’t find a last minute cruise, you can simply do land-based day tours/island hopping.

Here is a cost breakdown of finding a last minute cruise:

  • 5-night cruise: $800-$1700+ USD total . This is inclusive of accommodation costs.
  • Food: included
  • Tours and activities: included

GRAND TOTAL: $800-$1700+ USD

Note: Keep in mind you must also allocate extra costs for accommodation & /or activities before and after your cruise.

A Diy Island Hopping Example Galapagos Budget: Two Weeks

So what does a DIY Galapagos island hopping trip cost? Below shows sample prices that we incurred firsthand during our island hopping Galapagos trip in 2017. Update: costs in 2019 have mostly remained the same.

  • Roundtrip flights to/from mainland Ecuador: $364
  • Mandatory fees to Galapagos: $120
  • Breakfasts: $2-$5
  • Scuba, 2 dives including equipment: $150
  • Beer in a restaurant: $4
  • Budget accommodation with A/C: $30 per night

Below shows our complete Galapagos island hopping budget for a 13-day trip. Note that prices listed here are per person and accommodation is based upon double occupancy.

Day : Isabela To San Cristbal

We got up at 5:40 am to catch the boat to San Cristóbal, again with a four-hour stopover in Santa Cruz. In Santa Cruz we took a taxi tour of the highlands. There were five of us in the taxi, so the $25 total cost came out to $5/person. We went to the Fausto Llerena Breeding Center, Los Gemelos, and lava tunnels.

Fausto Llerena Breeding Center has various species of both turtles and tortoise from around the Galapagos, before they are released back into the wild at a young age.

Los Gemelos are are pair of craters formed by the collapse of magma chambers. They are very green, making them the perfect spot to view a variety of flora and fauna of the island.

The lava tunnels consist of long underground lava tunnels. You can experience the rich history of how the Galapagos islands formed.Flashlights are recommended, but the flashlight function on a cell phone is sufficient.

After the tour we had to go straight to the boat to San Cristobal, where we checked back into Hostal San Francisco.

Total cost day 5: $35 for two people + food

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And Dont Forget To Buy Travel Insurance

We always recommend travel insurance whenever roaming around South America. And for the far-flung Galapagos, it can prove to be particularly useful. There is even discussion in Ecuador politics about having mandatory health insurance and emergency medical coverage a mandatory requirement for entering the Galapagos. For now, such an insurance requirement has been delayed, although it is expected to potentially be enforced in the future.

Still, dont travel to the Galapagos without it. Given all the outdoor and water-based activities, theres certainly plenty of room for risk of injury way out in these remote islands. But having travel insurance will also protect you by covering other unexpected heavy expenses such as tripping on a rock, dealing with lost baggage, emergency evacuation from way out there, trip cancelation, an unexpected illness, missed connections, theft, and so much more.

During our trip, we thwarted off a sea lion attack Thankfully we were not injured and I departed the Galapagos with all my fingers. But medical expenses from a sea lion attack would add up quickly if we did not have coverage from travel insurance!

We use World Nomads as we find they tend to have the best mix of coverage and cost. Weve been happy with the outcome of the many claims we filed with them too. For the Galapagos, we recommend their Explorer plan, since snorkeling is not a covered activity in their Standard plan. Just enter your travel dates here to get a quick quote.

Considerations When Deciding On A Last

Cost &  Travel: Why Is it So Expensive to Travel to Galapagos?

Some of the last-minute cruise deals will seem very enticing on the surface, but its important to scrutinize the deal carefully to decide whether its worth it for you.

Our best offer for a last-minute Galapagos cruise a 5-day cruise for $750 is normally priced around $3,000. So we found $750 to be a great deal and we seriously considered booking it. But its important to take a closer look at such bargains to fully understand what is involved.

Consider Ship Class, Configuration, and Cabin Location

Having a nice cabin with a window could be worth splurging on, compared to a tiny interior room with some bunk beds. Be sure to ask lots of questions about the ship itself. Here are some questions to ask about a last-minute Galapagos cruise deal:

  • What is the bed configuration ?
  • Is there a private bathroom?
  • Is there air conditioning?
  • Is the cabin an upper or lower deck?
  • Does the cabin have a window?
  • What additional expenses can be expected?

Enquire About Galapagos Cruise Additional Expenses

Its also important to factor in additional expenses. Its customary to tip the crew $10 per person, per day. So add that into the total liveaboard cruise budget. Also, some cruises will charge extra for snorkeling equipment and wetsuits. This hidden fee can reach $30 per day for these rentals. So mask rentals would add $200 to a week-long cruise. Be sure to understand exactly what is included and what is not.

Look Closely at the Galapagos Cruise Itinerary

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Galapagos Airport Tax On Arrival: $100

The other major sting in transport prices is the requisite Galapagos entrance tax of $100 unless you can prove youre Ecuadorian national, when its $6.

But I dont recommend attempting the identity fraud method unless your passport looks suspiciously like an Ecuadorian one. The last thing you want is to be thrown back on the plane without having seen a single sea lion.

Why Is Galapagos So Expensive

First off, if you are on the fence about Galapagos, let me say this: Galapagos is one of the best experience I had in South America and even though, it was expensive, there is no other place on earth like it.

The reason why it costs so much is because most of the money we paid goes to the protection and maintenance of this fragile ecosystem so that the future generations can experience the true beauty of nature unaffected by mass tourism. There are few places on earth that shows that we can really both enjoy and protect wildlife sustainably and Galapagos is one of the best example. The animals there perceive us as simply guests, and go on with their days without being interrupted and that is how we should be traveling.

Imagine the south of Thailand with all the beaches, marine life and nature but without the crowds, loud parties, obnoxious tourists and trash all over the place.

Galapagos is not for everyone but if you have a chance to do, do it proudly and without regret!

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Diy With Day Tours In The Galapagos

This is the way I did it since I wanted to visit some islands I couldnt do on my own. While this type of trip allows you to go to more islands, you still cannot visit the islands further from Santa Cruz, due to the lack of time to tour them in a day.

If youre going during the low season, you can play it by ear and wait to get to Galapagos to book your day tours. Bargain with the tour operators, especially if youre doing more than one tour. This is what I did.

Day tours prices range from $80 to $200+.

The only time Id advise to book online is if youre going during high season since the number of tours running is limited to minimize the potential damage to the ecosystem .

In that case, Id recommend checking Viator, which has a few day and multi-day tours available, but yes, they are slightly more expensive than if you bargain in person.

Why would you pay for a day tour?

As beautiful as Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Floreana, and Isabela are, there are other islands that are even more beautiful or that provide other snorkeling/diving and wildlife spotting opportunities.

I enjoyed my day tour to Bartolome, which has the iconic view that represents the volcanic nature of Galapagos. It is not great for wildlife, but it is quite nice for snorkeling and diving.

I also visited North Seymour to see the Blue Footed Boobies, Frigate Birds, and other animals found there.

Other Islands you can visit with day tours are Isabela, Floreana, Santa Fe, Pinzon, and San Cristobal.

Special Galapagos Law And Restrictions

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In the Galapagos Province, there is a special law, by which not all the inhabitants of Ecuador can live or work on the Islands. The reason why the labor force in any job is limited and exclusive for the colonists or permanent residents.

However, there are certain exceptions only and exclusively only when it is shown that there is no qualified labor for a certain job, companies can hire people from Continental Ecuador.

Likewise, due to this law, each year a study of the consumer price index is carried out, which allows setting the salaries of the province, which in consequence of what we have explained about supply and logistics, and due to other circumstances, they are higher than in mainland Ecuador.

Regarding the restrictions, it is important to mention that there is a list of products that, due to conservation issues, or for the protection of the island producer, are not allowed to be transported from the mainland. The list is long, however, we can mention some of them: coffee beans, fruits with seeds, dairy products, any type of meat for human consumption, among others. More details here.

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Check The Trip Details

Now that we have narrowed down our research that leads to the best Galapagos Islands cruise, we need to look into the details.

Check the boat details -Is it big enough that guarantee a stable cruise if you are subject to seasickness? Or is it too big that can hold too many people and you dont like big crowds?

Check the itinerary is there everything you want to see in the Galapagos Islands included in the itinerary? Sometimes we need to be flexible if we dont find the exact same itinerary that we have in mind. But probably there are must-see places that are non-negotiable for us. Or maybe we find exactly the itinerary we want but we dont like the boat or its too expensive for our budget. So make sure go through the itinerary properly.

Check the previous customers reviews it is always important to see what previous guests opinions are, but keep in mind that we have all different experience based also on personal expectations. So read the reviews but also make sure not to let one bad review prevent you from booking. If you are undecided about a negative review, ask the operator if what has been described is the truth.

Check the final price the rate that you see on the front page is approximate. You will need to simulate a booking if you want to see the real final price. In fact, you need to first select the cabin and each cabin a different price and then the system will calculate the taxes.

Day 3 Galapagos Islands Cruise

South Plaza Island -> Santa Fé Island

Long night cruising. Arrival at South Plaza Island in the morning where we went on a couple of hours walking to see Red-billed Tropicbirds, Swallow-tailed Gulls and a large colony of Galapagos Land Iguanas.

After South Plaza, we cruised to Santa Fé Island. This is a great place for snorkeling and hiking the hill top among the palo santo trees and cactus. Santa Fé is the habitat of one endemic species, the Barrington land iguana. Sea lions can be seen all over the beach at Barrington Bay. Snorkeling is amazing, and you can swim with marine iguanas, sea lions, and whitetip reef sharks.

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Further Advantages Of Traveling Galapagos Independently

There are even a few additional benefits that come with forgoing a liveaboard cruise tour to travel the Galapagos independently:

  • Price: This is the biggest advantage, as a DIY island hopping tour will always cost less than taking a liveaboard cruise.
  • Flexibility: Independent travelers can do whatever they want, when they want. Sites are picked and chosen based on personal preference or how youre feeling that day. Theres also no strict agenda to follow.
  • Sites Visited: Day tours often visit some of the same amazing sites that cruises go to. Naysayers will mention that there are further flung islands liveaboard cruises can reach, in which day tours do not. That is true. But there are also some sites day tours visit that the liveaboard cruises do not go. Los Tuneles on Isabela Island is one example of that and it is an incredible place! Just take a look at our video below:

Endemic Animals Of Galapagos

Cost &  Travel: Why Is it So Expensive to Travel to Galapagos?

Visitors to the Galapagos Islands will hear their guides talk about three different types of animals and plants. The terms used to describe them are endemic, native and introduced. Whats the difference?

Endemic animals are only found in Galapagos: the marine iguana is one example. Native animals are found naturally in Galapagos and elsewhere: the Frigatebird is a good example

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How Should I Book My Galapagos Trip

Now that youve read about the options and are excited to travel to the Galapagos Islands, you must make sure you book your trip the right way.

You can contact your local travel agency or try buying directly from an Ecuadorian tour operator in terms of booking options. We recommend you try these options before booking through websites. After all, theres nothing more reassuring than talking to a travel expert that will tell you what exactly you are paying for.

Galapagos Day Trips: Approx $70$100 Per Trip

Without a doubt, the bulk of your Galapagos Islands budget will be spent on day trips.

Day trips from Puerto Ayora allow tourists already staying in land-based accommodation to catch a small tour boat in the early morning, spend the day at sea and return to Santa Cruz in the early evening.

The downside to day trips is that many of the most popular islands to visit arent that close to each other, so its only possible to see a few via the day tour method hence why so many visitors take multi-day cruises instead. just make sure youre getting a good deal. And be sure to check the accommodation youll be using on board!

Read more: How to find a Galapagos cruise on a budget

However, the upside of a day trip apart from the much cheaper cost! is that youve got the freedom to decide exactly when and where you want to go.

If you fancy a full day of snorkelling in the waters around San Cristobal, followed by a day off exploring Santa Cruz, and then a day on land at Isla Isabela, its perfectly doable.

As a general rule, all day tours should include:

  • transport to and from the island
  • a guide
  • lunch either on board the boat or on the island
  • depending on the company, they may also include snorkel gear for free / for a rental price

NB: Bear in mind that Isabela island charges you a $20 tax upon arrival which is never normally included in the tour price i.e. youll have to pay it as an extra.

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Price Comparison: Last Minute Galapagos Cruise Deal Vs Diy Island Hopping

The agent who offered us the last-minute 5-day / 4-night cruise deal for $750 claimed: it would cost more to stay on Santa Cruz and take day tours than it would to take his last-minute Galapagos cruise deal.

So we decided to examine this claim more closely.

Lets assume you stay in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz for four nights, five days, in a decent hotel room with air-conditioning. On Days 2, 3, and 4, you take expensive day tours on boats that return to Santa Cruz each night. This would be comparable to spending Days 2-4 snorkeling and touring islands during the 5-day liveaboard cruise tour. Meanwhile Days 1 and 5, you visit the tortoise sanctuary, go to a beach, tour the lava tunnels, check-out museums, free snorkeling, etc. .

Heres what this 5-Day Galapagos independent travel budget looks like, as based in Puerto Ayora:

This would be an action-packed 5-day Galapagos itinerary based in Puerto Ayora all for less than $500 per person.

Now lets compare that to the 5-day cruise itinerary, which was priced at $750. On the liveaboard cruises, its customary to tip the deserving crew $10 per day, so that adds another $50 to the $750 cruise. The last-minute cruise tour deal included snorkeling gear but not wetsuits. That would add even more to the total cruise tour price, but lets assume we could get by without any wetsuits. This totals a price of $800 for the last-minute Galapagos cruise tour.

How Many Islands Should I Visit

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Because seeing and experiencing the variations in species from island to island is a big part of visiting the Galapagos Islands, we dont recommend only visiting one island on your trip.

Recommended number of islands to visit:

  • 2 to 4 Islands if you want to see most of the species, but only want to see a bit of variation between islands. More islands means more and different species, so 4 is generally better than 2.
  • 5 or more islands on a shorter cruise or a land-based trip with day-trips to other islands to see more species and more variation.
  • 6 or more islands if you are really interested in exploring the variations between species and want to see more of the different habitats and the adaptations they have brought about.
  • If you are really fascinated by this, you should definitely take a cruise of even more than 8 days to get to experience as many islands as possible.


97% of the Galapagos Islands are in the Galapagos National Park, and the Park regulates where you can go and what you can do so as to limit impacts to the endemic flora and fauna on the islands.

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